Donald Trump made history Tuesday night, blasting through the speculation and past the punditry to become the 45th president of the United States — and he did so fairly easily. For his opponents feeling downtrodden, I can only suggest you learn to be resilient, for now comes the hard part.
Democrats, who mere days ago enjoyed haughty projections of coasting to an easy presidential victory and Senate majority, are now faced with a stark reality: a Republican majority in the House and Senate, a GOP gubernatorial majority, Republican control of most of America’s state legislatures and, of course, the possibility of two, three or even four new conservative Supreme Court justices. In other words, a red wave has washed over America, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
Rather than lament this fact or book the next flight to Canada, liberals should take this moment to listen rather than analyze, to reflect rather than rage. This is always the best strategy to follow after losing an election.
I am neither a Democrat nor a liberal, but I’ll readily admit that I was the doubter-in-chief when it came to Trump’s prospects of winning this election, and I’ve long been a vocal critic of his proposals. I, too, have much to learn. I think we all do. So what did Tuesday’s results tell us?
For the past eight years, everyday Americans have felt stifled by a distant authority in Washington that was out of touch with them and unmoored from reality. Americans overwhelmingly believed before this election that our country was going down the wrong path. The average person felt frustrated and silenced by the perpetual grinding of the cogs in what they saw as a machine rigged against them.
To Democrats who have enjoyed these past eight years of President Obama’s leadership, this will be worrying — and it should be. Millions of Americans have been let down by unfounded promises, beguiled for the last time by politicians who promise the world while seldom delivering more than paltry soundbites.
More so than a victory for Trump, more so than a loss for Clinton, this election was a repudiation of these last eight years and the policy brought with them. Even more than the first election of Obama, this is a moment in which the message is crystal clear: It’s time for change.
Perhaps President-elect Trump will shock the world and prove to be a grand leader who solves all of our economic woes, as he has claimed. Yet more likely than not, he’ll fail to come up with reasonable solutions and find himself incapable of bridging our divides. More realistically, it will be the job of everyday Americans to lobby their elected officials and shoulder the burden of work to be done if we are to “make this country great again”, as it has always been.
Americans would be better served to channel their money, time and spirit into grassroots movements — like Mr. Trump’s and Sen. Sanders’ — than to entrust our current crop of leaders and rely on our clearly failing institutions. Waiting for a single man in the Oval Office to make this country great (or to destroy it) is the singularly wrong way to go forward. Rather, take note of the success of what this undeniably was: a people’s movement that rejected elites and status quo and took its destiny into its own hands.
None of this even begins to touch upon the drastic re-evaluation of the polling industry and political forecasting necessitated by an unforeseen loss of this magnitude, nor addresses the looming leadership crisis the Democratic Party will face going forward. These are challenges that our democracy will need to address in the coming years, but they are not insurmountable.
Contrary to the hair-tearing and tear-shedding so prevalent following our electoral results, a President Trump doesn’t necessitate the end of America. This is instead an opportunity (and a warning) to make some much needed reform, and to look at who we are as a people.