Thursday 23 November 2017

Trump's victory a lesson in the need to engage with all

Editorial Comment

IT will be many months before we know what form Donald Trump's presidency will take and if his administration will actually follow through on the many controversial policies the firebrand billionaire pledged on the campaign trail.

It will be even longer, years perhaps, before we know if we are dealing with a new Reagan, a new Nixon... or worse.

In the meantime, even in the run up to Trump's inauguration in January, there is plenty to ponder. Particularly for those on the left wing of global politics.

Despite what many panicked liberal commentators have claimed, Donald Trump's victory was far more about the utter failure of the left than any great resurgence on the right.

While the Democrat's vote has collapsed since 2008, Republican support has remained relatively stable, a factor many pollsters and media experts utterly failed to acknowledge in the run up to Trump's, supposedly, surprising victory. In spite of numerous warnings - including several from Liberal icon filmmaker Michael Moore - few on the left took the threat of Trump seriously.

Even after Trump swept aside the challenge of serious establishment rivals in the Republican primaries, the left refused to take him seriously. He was laughed off as a joke candidate that would be easily beaten by Clinton.

This catastrophic lapse in judgement is rooted in the growing arrogance of the left and an increasing unwillingness on the part of many liberals to engage with anyone who holds a contrary opinion.

We can see this in many places - from the proliferation of, so called, 'safe spaces' on US university campuses where students are 'protected' from views opposed to their own, to the ever growing outrage-industry on social media. We now live in a world where people expressing even the most innocuous, non-mainstream opinions are subjected to vitriolic, sustained and over the top condemnation. Rather than debating issues, the go to position for many is now to label their opponents as uneducated, sexist, racist, misogynistic morons and then completely ignore their views. Is it any wonder those on the right are angry?

To be clear, Donald Trump has many racist and sexists supporters. However, to suggest that every one of the over 60 million people who voted for him are racists and sexists is ludicrous.

Around 53 per cent of white women voted for Trump over Clinton. Are they all misogynists? What about the estimated 29 per cent of Latino Americans who cast a ballot for Trump. Are they racists?

All this says far more about the calibre of Hillary Clinton as a candidate. Clinton's supporters failed, spectacularly, to engage with the real issues affecting many Trump supporters. The rust belt proved decisive but voters there - ravaged by the effects of recession and the global economy - were largely ignored until the last minute. If you were a blue collar worker, mired in enormous debt, with few prospects, living in an economically devastated region, what possible interest would you have in voting for the status quo?

Instead of voting for more of the same these voters chose to lob a bag of hand grenades into the political system. Their actions will have far reaching consequences but it is hard to say they aren't understandable.

If the left is to recover, the views of such voters cannot be ignored anymore. Rather than maligning them - as has also been the case with Pro Brexit voters in the UK - the left needs to embrace these voters and talk to them. We live in a divided world and the only way to end division is to talk to each other.

That's the real lesson we can take from President Trump.

Wexford People

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