It has been about 3 weeks since the 2016 election concluded. Donald Trump is currently the President-Elect, though Clinton and Stein have filed for recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. It appears that they will have to achieve reversals in all three states in order to alter the Electoral College outcome. That is highly unlikely, so I will assume that the outcome will not change, and Trump will be sworn in come January.
American voters have rejected “establishment” candidates the past several elections. Obama was an inexperienced outsider. There were numerous mainstream candidates among the large Republican field. None of them came close to defeating Trump, an outsider. Bernie Sanders almost defeated Hillary Clinton, the ultimate insider. The election result does not represent a choice of Republicans over Democrats. Rather, it reflects the choice of an outsider, over an insider. Republicans need to ask if that outcome would have been different if Sanders had been the Democratic candidate.
Based upon what has happened since the election, it appears that Donald Trump isn’t going to change much from what we saw during the campaign. He is unorthodox, and outspoken. Some of that goes with coming from New York City. Some of it indicates impatience with how both major parties have betrayed their heritage. Trump is a pragmatist, rather than an idealogue. He promised to bring jobs back to America, and to give us back our pride as Americans. Clinton and Obama have preached “inclusiveness” while ignoring the fact that most mainstream Americans feel neglected and betrayed by our government. If Trump can deliver on his promises to restore America to its greatness, then he could transform American politics.
The Democratic Party has to figure out why it lost this election, and what to do about it. It appears that many in that party are claiming that they need to become more liberal and activist. I believe that is precisely the wrong conclusion to draw from the outcome. They need to go back to their roots and reclaim the traditional middle class values that made them the majority party in American politics for almost 50 years. Pursuing their extreme “activist” agenda could destroy that heritage and marginalize that party.
The Republican Party also needs to figure out how they won this election. Speaker Paul Ryan correctly noted that Donald Trump heard a message from American voters that most other Republicans missed. By appealing to the frustrated and disenfranchised middle class, Trump managed to win states (Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania) that Republicans have not won in several decades. Republicans need to become the party of the middle class, not the party of Big Business. They also need to learn to work together. They need to get along with each other better than they got along with Democrats over the past 8 years. If they fail to do so they will have a very short honeymoon in Washington.
Americans want change. However, it isn’t something new and different that they want. It appears they want an America that their parents or grandparents would be comfortable with. That may be troublesome to some with activist agendas. However, that vision has the advantage of having proved that it works. It succeeded in making America the envy of the world. President Obama has spent much of the past 8 years apologizing for America’s success and prosperity. Ironically we have less success and prosperity than in several generations. There is room in America for immigrants, minorities and non-mainstream viewpoints. However, for a democracy to work, it must appeal to a majority of the population.
I am cautiously optimistic that Donald Trump will pull off this political upset. However, success isn’t guaranteed. There are many ways that the politicians and media can get this wrong. Hopefully they will recognize that politics is ultimately about the people, and not about the leaders. If they figure that out, then there is hope for our nation’s future.