This morning, Britain awoke in disbelief to Donald J Trump as the President-elect of the the United States. Emotions are high, the markets can’t decide how to respond and a good portion of the American electorate feel scared, disheartened and embarrassed.
But this blog post isn’t about Trump, or about Clinton. It’s about the significance of this vote. As I scrolled through social media today, most of what I read were hateful, offensive and divisive comments from those who were disappointed by the result. And that is understandable. The last year has revealed Trump’s character as sexist, racist, manipulative, deceitful and offensive, but I want us to focus our attention on capturing the significance of this vote and how to respond.
The lesson for the university-educated millennial elite, is not that Americans are stupid or racist. It’s not that they’re all raving fans of Trump’s character and his comments. The significance for us to take away, is that when the ruling class continually and perpetually ignore the cries of working-class and middle-income voters, it is to the detriment national unity.
In our response to the election result, we must listen carefully to the real concerns regarding what this vote represents. Those who voted Trump are really angry, because they feel left behind in the global race and the arrogance with which many have responded to these cries is abhorrent.
Whether or not Trump has the solution to their frustrations, the West has to listen carefully and genuinely to those who feel abandoned and excluded from a globalised society. We must listen to everyone, not just the educated, privileged or popular. And listening to everyone, includes listening to those who chose to respond to their frustration in ways you may despise.
Listening doesn’t have to mean we support the solutions they espouse, but they need to be identified with and persuaded of the merits of what we believe in – not judged, condemned and hated. Only if someone is big enough to reach out the arm of compassion, tolerance and solidarity to all, will the disenfranchised ever want to experience unity with society at large.
If you can’t tolerate Trump’s character and attitude, fine. But we’d be similarly arrogant to fuel the fire of division and hatred and fail to sympathise with their struggles – after all, love is supposed to Trump hate!
Whether or not one’s anger is misplaced, it is the responsibility of each of us to absorb that frustration and identify with their genuine sentiments. We cannot judge, ridicule, demean or isolate those who feel excluded, but persuade and unify by setting an example of compromise, tolerance and unconditional respect.
As for Trump, I agree with Clinton – “We owe Trump an open mind”. Now the frustration of much of the working-class has found an embodiment in Trump, let’s hope that he uses the next 4 years to diffuse it by confronting the driving forces of division, and begin to sow the seeds of mutual solidarity, freedom and justice for all. I suggest that’s a better expectation to set out with, than cynicism.