Monday, December 19, 2016

Further thoughts on Trump's election - Part 2

This post is the second in a series of musings about Trump's election in which I identify five concerns and then suggest a response to each (follow this link to read the first post).
2. Fears that the Trump appointees and policies will trample the rights of women to choose their own healthcare options, discriminate against the LGBT community, implement initiatives that worsen climate change and tear down important environmental safeguards, misunderstand the threats the US faces, favor the rich at the expense of the poor, etc.
Donald Trump is a narcissist with an oversize personality who likes to dominate whatever stage he occupies. As President of the US, he may experience a rude awakening.
The US political system is not a dictatorship and although the powers of the presidency expanded during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, those powers still face significant limitations. Congress consists of 535 politicians, each of whom has his/her own political base and agenda. The President may exert considerable pressure on a Representative or Senator but cannot control that person's vote. A President has even less control over the Supreme Court. As history repeatedly has shown, no assurance exists that a nominee, once confirmed, will continue to hold the same views or to vote as anticipated. A President has virtually no control over the Constitution, the written basis of our government and a document with which a President must comply or face the possibility of impeachment and conviction. The interlocking web of politicians, civil servants, lobbyists, interests groups that enshrouds our federal government can be intractable to presidential desires or manipulation.
In sum, Trump's administration may implement egregious policies and programs that harm many people. However, a politically active coalition of groups opposed to Trump's agenda can largely derail that agenda by fighting a thousand battles. Low levels of political engagement allowed Trump to prevail in the general election. Outrage over his election, unless it energizes intentional political engagement will similarly change little or nothing. The size, complexity, and design of our political system all favor organized dissent over central control.
  1. Anxiety that Trump's win will directly or even indirectly align itself with a freshly energized white supremacist movement, further exacerbating racial tensions
The US is on an irreversible trajectory towards becoming a truly multicultural society in which no single racial or ethnic group comprises a majority. Some of us eagerly embrace that shift, recognizing that diversity enriches rather than impoverishes life. Residents of Hawaii, San Francisco, and some other parts of the US already enjoy living in truly multicultural settings.
Unsurprisingly, the change from a white dominated culture to multicultural diversity may cause more fear than optimism among some people.
Evil flourishes when good people sit idle. Hard core white supremacists are unlikely to change their attitudes. However, the white supremacist movement attracts people on its periphery for multiple reasons, many not directly related to white supremacy. Advocates of diversity can beneficially reach out to these individuals. Diversity does not have to entail disadvantaging one racial or ethnic group at the expense of another group. Diversity can be a win-win proposition for all involved. Furthermore, achieving diversity is not merely a matter of legislation and judicial action but requires attitudinal change. While the US has made significant progress in mandating diversity, attitudinal change has persistently lagged and is now manifesting itself, at least partially, in the surging white supremacist movement.

Constructive steps forward include working to change attitudes, replace exclusionary identity politics with more comprehensive political agendas, affirmatively embrace the least and most vulnerable amongst us, and truly honor the dignity and worth of all.

1 comment:

Ted said...

We are becoming a country of fear, feeding off tweets, media inaccuracies, and perceived injustice. Our kids are told they can’t be wrong and we adults are getting the same attitude. Compromise is a lost word, as your last blog mentioned moderates are leaving the political system to extremists on both sides. You are correct the dynamics of our system can change the excesses of one branch or the other. Give our new President a chance to see what he has to do to make changes for all of our people.