24% got it right and voted for change but is it the right change or Russian roulette?
Four things you might not know
- Only 24% of Americans elected Donald Trump as President of the United States. The other 76% didn’t want him or didn’t bother to vote. Half the people not voting is a problem. But maybe it’s a silver lining or at least a thread of hope.
- 7 of 10 Trump supporters still prefer the 1950’s culture of America – the times of Ozzie and Harriet, Father Knows Best, “Whites Only” bathrooms, and the power of the pulpit. But trying to retrofit America into being “great again” might sound good but it’s a losing proposition.
- 63% of all voters
[124 million] said Trump lacked “the temperament to serve effectively as president” and yet, 20% of the 63% supported him. That’s approximately 13 million of his supporters voting against their own rational reasoning. That’s troubling. That’s desperation.
(5 minute read)
“Be careful what you wish for, you might get it.” – Spanish proverb
First, everyone should take a deep breath, exhale slowly and look for the truths behind what we all witnessed, experiencing unprecedented emotions of either joy or sorrow, not to mention disbelief. As Kahlil Gibran says in his poem Joy and Sorrow, “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.”
November 8th exposed the joy (attention, hope, yearning) and the sorrow (pain, angst, anger) in 120 million American hearts, and left a huge question mark in most minds, which will only be determined in time. During these most troubled times is America in for more sorrow or new joy?
Everyone is shocked, stuck in limbo, somewhere between outright fear and desperate hope. But we should not be surprised. Amid the ad nauseam of the post-election pundits there is a common theme: We should have seen this coming. They’re right. And even with just 48 hours of hindsight, much of what happened should have been a blinding glimpse of the obvious. Psychology 101 teaches us that anger trumps reason, always (pun fully intended).
You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. – Abraham Lincoln
Politicians have applied and hedged Lincoln’s historic principle throughout the 20th century and Trump mastered it. He knew, or sensed, that all he had to do was fool some of the people some of the time (24% of the people for 12 months). And he did it. He fooled 1-in-4 Americans, which was enough to win.
There are approximately 241 million people of voting age in the United States (200 million of those were actually registered to vote in this election), and about 124 actually voted. The number is likely to settle somewhere around the 51 or 52 per cent mark. Of that total, neither candidate got more than 50 percent of the vote: As of noon Wednesday, Clinton stood at 47.7 percent and Trump at 47.5 percent. Therefore, about 24% of the voters voted for Trump (124 million X 47.5 = 58 million or 24% of 241 million available voters).
This is not a majority
Many commentators have referred to Hillary getting the majority of votes (Clinton: 60,026,197 votes; Trump: 59,766,418), but they fail to point out that her majority is only in reference to Trump’s numbers and, in fact, each of them only received 1/4 of all available votes. This is not a majority. Or a mandate. It is the myth of democracy.
The President of the United States has been elected by a minority for more than a century. The voter turnout has not been more than 65% since 1904 when 65.2% turned out and Teddy Roosevelt got 56% to vote for him (about 1/3 overall). FYI: In Lincoln’s time it was 81% (1860); for FDR 62.5% (1940); and Lyndon Johnson had 61.9% turnout in 1964.
According to Pew Research, America’s abysmal turnout rate is one of the lowest in the developed world. For comparison: Belgium (where voting is mandatory), had a turnout rate of 89.4 percent in its last election. Other high turnouts are: Australia 81% (mandatory); Italy 90%; Denmark 87%. Canada had 68.5 % in 2015, 61% in 2011 but has not been above 70% since 1993. The United Kingdom had 66.1% in 2015 but hasn’t been above 70% since 1997.
America’s turnout is not only shameful, it undermines the basic principle that in a democracy the majority rules. The silver lining, more a thin thread of hope, is that there’s an upside potential to get 80-85% of citizens to vote. But it will require courage, dedication and a grassroots uprising.
Community matters as never before
If a nation does not want to invoke mandatory voting (why not?) then the only hope for significantly increasing interest and participation of citizens is at the grassroots. Unfortunately, we have a problem at the local level too.
Voter participation in most small communities is lower than national, state, and provincial turnout. In Canada, municipal voter turnout is consistently below 50%. In the US, it’s even worse, ranging between 20-50%, and declining.
America and Canada’s problem is not a national problem, it’s a community problem. When a country is divided and fractured, you aren’t going to fix it with big, national band-aids nor with an ignorant, narcissistic, irresponsible person who thinks leading and bullying are the same thing. Of course, fiscal and monetary policy, infrastructure building, healthcare, immigration and regulations are crucial but the real fix has to happen in each and every community, in each and every neighborhood.
Across America there are over 19,000 small towns with 85% having a population under 10,000 (US census, 2014). In Canada, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities represents more than 2,000 municipalities, of which a large portion are small towns. It is here, at the in-touch-with-real-lives level, where true change must begin. And it requires the antithesis of a Donald Trump. However, the alternative cannot be what is commonplace in most municipalities, average, best-available people. It must be the best people. True leaders.
“It takes a village to raise a child.” – African proverb
Every small town is the foster child of a state or province and nothing more than an abandoned child to national governments. Nobody pays much attention to them. And yet, in the ongoing experiment called democracy, if it doesn’t flourish in small communities where “everybody knows your name” and where neighbors elect neighbors, and where the whole village needs to take responsibility for raising values, standards and well being, then our communities become the seeds of a declining society, and eventually a failed state.
After 240 years it’s quite possible the American empire is in decline. Canada, coming up on 150 years, might have a little more time to implement a turnaround.
All great leadership is personal
The problem is systemic; the solution personal.
People in leadership need to understand and accept that every village, town, city and nation depends on their personal dedication to light the fire of indomitable human spirit in every citizen. It is this collective power that is needed, born from, and anchored in, inclusion, mutual purpose and a shared belief in human compassion, respect and dignity.
If the roots are not nourished the tree does not flourish.
Until leaders understand this, they cannot lead – perhaps manipulate and bully for a short period but not lead. And they cannot connect to their neighbors and fellow citizens and the real-life frustration, anguish, pain, exclusion and desperation felt by so many. It is here, at ground level, where the seeds of change grow. Or revolution festers.
America’s simmering fire of discontent has just exploded into an all-consuming wildfire and it is unlikely to be contained any time soon. The fireman-in-chief – inexperienced, ill-informed, ignorant – will not be able to control the fire, he’ll fuel it with ego, hubris, idiocy, mendacity, prejudice, intolerance, injustice, racism, misogyny.
A leopard doesn’t change its spots and so far, based on what we have experienced with Trump, he’s a leopard who will not find compassion, humility, discernment, reciprocity and inclusiveness in a teleprompter. These human traits come from the heart, expressed through an artesian well of values and character. This applies to every leader, everywhere – mayors, legislators, governors, premiers, prime ministers, presidents, kings and queens.
“We the people”
Citizens everywhere are being conned into accepting a malfunctioning, non-democratic system that has nothing to do with delivering democracy or equal representation. In the US, we have just been eyewitnesses to the “rigged” system, not the one Trump blathered falsehoods about, but to the one that allows 24% of the people to elect a reckless reprobate, an ignorant blowhard, a bigoted sociopath – did I mention a braggadocian misogynist – to the most powerful office in the world.
There are dark, untraveled roads ahead and in the United States the genie – idiot – is out of the bottle so we will all have to proceed with much caution. But in the interim, let us begin to address the problem in our hometowns, in every community, in every country, and start rooting out the misrepresentation, misconduct, malfeasance and corruption.
Think about it.
[To add a comment click on “Read More >” below and scroll to comment section at bottom of page]
Thank you, David. A comprehensive and rational review of the crisis intersection and apprehension in which we feel stalled. I think it is safe to say practically everyone feels stalled, including those who voted, and those who did not. And I certainly agree with your recommendations for a community (and discerningly personal) strategy for resolution!
You’re right. It starts with a community strategy. We have to stop shouting at and whining about the national politicians and take our voice to our local elected officials. If we can’t get our friends and neighbors, and their friends and neighbors, and their friends and neighbors to give a damn and turnout then … we simply perpetuate the myth of democracy.
The Trump camp wanted a revolution – they’re going to get one! The ignorant against the informed! There was a revolution in the sixties – that changed the world for the better – this one, by comparison, will bring back all the issues that have already been fought and won.
Gary, I agree it is “ignorant against informed” as the great battle but I am not sure that one ever gets resolved, “won.” This is a deep cultural divide that is getting wider as the world shifts to more and more urbanization, huge mega-cities, declining education of “the many,” and the draining of small town and rural life. By 2050, 70% of the world’s population will be living in urban areas (see earlier blog: “Empires decay from within, at the grassroots.”).
This was a fascinating read – so well stated by a Canadian. Bruce Fritch shared this on his FB page earlier today which is how I stumbled upon it. I did some editing on Bruce’s website and he mentioned you fondly many times. Thanks for this article
Gail: Thank you!. We Canadians have much interest in America and its well-being is, in large part, our well-being.
Readers often send me emails directly rather than post their comments so here I want to highlight a few common threads in some of the emails. Although this post was primarily about the failure of American democracy, many readers still addressed the pros and cons of what Trump would do and why that was a good thing.
According to these readers, there were three main Trump pluses: 1) He would get the environment “off the agenda of the US government for at least the next four years;” 2) He would “reopen the 9/11 investigation” into it being a US government conspiracy; and 3) He would “take on … and stop the hemorrhaging of the US borders … or we will not have a country to save anymore (see Europe).”
My comment is simple. All of these thoughts and ideas are rooted in a divisive, ideological abyss in American politics, and they tend to ignore two much bigger problems – neither of which is anchored in political ideology.
First, all change coming from a political system that elects a president with only 20-30% of the citizens voting for he/she cannot ever fix the bigger problems. Just look at the last 35 years since Reagan (20 years of Republicans and 16 years of Democrats) and America still has the same fundamental problems (the list deserves a fuller discussion). The second problem that I have tried to focus on is Trump’s human flaws, not his politics or programs. I do not think he can overcome his personal impediments and be the leader America really needs. As I said earlier, a leopard cannot change its spots and a chameleon only changes temporarily for expedience. Now that he is President, only time will tell. I truly hope he proves me, and 3-out-of-4 Americans who did NOT vote for him, wrong.
We live in Canada which should be our main concern but the infatuation with Trudeau and his band of inexperienced rookies dismiss the real effect his policies are having on Canada’s welfare and economic situation .Photo ops, feminism emphasis etc appear to be of most importance with public adoration being enough to satisfy too many Canadians.
If we’re comparing percentages of voters ,consider that Trudeau got only 39% of the Canadian vote to win,so both country’s leaders in essence don’t reflect the true choice of the people slthough US voting laws are quite different from those of Canada.
.Consider Trudeau’s “accomplishments ” to date.in two years : budget deficit out of contro and increasing ,military budget delayed until 2029, welcoming thousands of “illegal “refugees” crossing open borders and actually paying them more money per month than our Canadian seniors and needy ,with the monetary cost to date so many millions and still climbing..
The above examples are just a tiny sampler of what this government has done to date,and it has two years to go with its goal of caring for its own citizens last in its attempt to be solve the problems of the world.
Canadians should be focussing and more concerned with our government pie in the sky initiatives and extreme waste of taxpayer’s money,not to mention broken campaign promises than what is happening in the US.
With the assistance of a fawning biased Canadian Press what can possibly go wrong ?
The inmates are in charge of the asylum.
@Bill: much of what you say is an accurate reflection of the underlying problem with our democratic system – it isn’t democratic. And here in Canada the first-past-the-pole system perpetuates rule by minority and oligarchies. We put up with the first-Trudeau for years, then Chretien, then Harper, now another Trudeau and yet, are we any better off? If we want to get rid of the “inmates,” we have to change the system and if there is no will of the people, by the people, for the people, nothing will change. And the best place to start, perhaps the only place a “peoples'” vanguard can be effective, is at the local level. Rally the local people, muster the will and determination, overthrow the local inmates, replace them with true leaders. And after we’ve accomplished that, elevate it to the provincial and federal level. And a good place to start in on the voting system – change it.