By Kenneth Tiven
Explaining how American voters went from the first black American president with high approval ratings, a Dow Jones Market Index above 18,0000 and global adulation to a president-elect with the backing of the Klu Klux Klan is not easy.
This is, in some respects, the second American Revolution, 240 years after the first. In that 1776 event the British were sent packing and a democracy created. This election sends the world packing—you are on your own now–and we don’t care what happens outside the walled enclave of North America.
Where is there joy now? Try Moscow and Beijing.
A narcissist with no grasp of truth who can’t be trusted with a Twitter account will shortly have the nuclear war codes in his small hands.
If this event is a prelude to global chaos there is plenty of blame to go round. In 1976 the movie “Network” about a mad raving anchorman was considered over the top by journalists, politicians, and most viewers. It came to be considered prescient with the arrival of news channels with ideological positions and scant regard for the truth. Prescient doesn’t do it justice, as a reality TV show host with an inflated net worth and more bravado than business skill attains the office of president of the United States.
Several state’s election count will have the recounted by law because the percentage difference is so close. Absentee ballots have to be counted in many cases. Lawyers will wrestle in state and federal courtrooms so the results will quite possibly not be certified for a month or more. It is doubtful that Mrs. Clinton and the Democratic Party will be a flaccid as when Al Gore was badly treated by the George Bush camp in 1990. That was settled arbitrarily, not as matter of law but convenience by a Supreme Court decision. An eight-member court is much less help for the Republicans this time.
This election was a reality show waged on social media, which one can conclude now has replaced mainstream journalism and media as the primary conduit of political discourse. The internet technology acclaimed as the great democratizer at its inception has proven to be anything but that. Scoring likes and dislikes has not proven itself a replacement for considered discussion of policy and its ramifications. In this election vague assertions of policy—build a wall, deport immigrants, fix the world’s biggest and most expensive military, descriptions that the nation is dystopian –were accepted as an adequate substitute for how to deal with domestic and global issues.
Immigration issues will be a major concern to India and other nations that have supplied several generations of new Americans helping breath innovation into our business and social life.
One of the initial reactions is how could polling of voter’s attitudes and leanings be so far off the mark. It’s not satisfactory to blame pollsters as biased. It has become increasingly difficult to get a representative sample together. People today in America are reluctant to talk about these matters. A friend told me he was unfriended on Facebook because he was a Trump supporter. More than that perhaps, phones are no longer land lines attached to a specific address. Ascertaining socio-economic data to balance the polling sample is difficult when so many people now use just a mobile smart phone. This may sound like a lame excuse, but it is a reality. Urban voter are probably oversampled compared to rural voters. All of this is a short and simplistic explanation of the polling issue; however, the actual voting behavior seems to suggest it is real.
Once the media organizations took Trump seriously and probed his taxes, his business affairs, his 3,000 plus law suits over treatment of vendors and contractors, stories appeared that would have discredited a candidate in the past. As an avatar for morality in person and business life, his appeal to evangelical Christians should have collapsed. It did not.
Once Donald Trump left the safety of the Republican primaries and started to rant about things, he would have disappeared in a previous generation. He did not. For many voters their feelings were more critical than facts. The trump approach treated opposing facts as lies and it worked.
It is easy to now package Trump in the same sentence as Hitler, Mussolini, Berlusconi although Trump seems like Putin as the ideal of a leader. Are there enough checks and balances in the Arena political system to prevent the worst excesses. Hopefully there are. Perhaps Trump has enough self-awareness to rise to the challenge in ways consistent with the leadership of a large nation, which is quite different from being a tax dodging landlord and builder.
Those of us in the USA who have a differing view will have to do our best to make sure it doesn’t spiral out of control. The rest of the world will have to be patient and emphatic in dealing with a government run by someone with no experience in public policy and land consensus leadership.
—Kenneth Tiven has worked as a reporter, producer and manager in American media for more than 50 years, including stints at The Washington Post, TV network news with NBC, ABC and CNN and involvement in the start-up of Aaj Tak and continuing work with several Indian news channels
Lead picture: US President-elect Donald Trump greets supporters during his election-night rally in Manhattan, New York. Photo: UNI