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Friedman ’19: Trump’s victory was in the cards

By
Staff Columnist
Thursday, November 17, 2016

This summer, I engaged in a Twitter war with a conservative Brit about the Brexit vote. A couple hours after I tweeted, “May the Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s success be the last hurrah of rural white people worldwide,” this stranger had reposted my tweet on his own page with the reply, “Tribalism for white ppl is bad. For everyone else it’s like TOTALLY KEWL THO! #cuck.” (“Cuck” in this case meaning the husband of an adulteress.)

Taken aback and confused by his response, I attempted to explain myself by posting a map that broke down the Brexit results county-by-county. He then proceeded to call me an “interloping meddling scum” and told me to “go to Asia” because “my opinion means nothing” since I am not of British ancestry. When I reminded him that the United Kingdom’s history is in fact defined by interloping in the affairs of other countries, he replied “good, then leave.” Feeling as though I had won the argument, I took screenshots of the entire conversation and smugly posted it to Facebook (after changing my Twitter profile visibility settings from public to private.)

To my chagrin, Brexit was not the last victory rural white people would enjoy in 2016 at the expense of the greater good. In a similar come-from-behind outcome, President-Elect Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election by persuading rural, white voters to support him. These voters, for the most part, turned out in larger numbers than former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s racially diverse and urban voter base.

Unfortunately, unlike Parliament, Congress can’t nullify the result of the presidential election by simply forgetting about it. Though many of us wish he would, Trump cannot simply walk away from his landslide electoral college victory as Nigel Farage (former leader of the UK Independence Party) and Boris Johnson did from theirs. President Trump is here to stay.

Such is the global wave of ultra-nationalism, isolationism and xenophobia that fueled the victories of Trump and the UK Independence Party, the rising power of Marine Le Pen — president of France’s right-wing National Front Party — and the continued success of Vladimir Putin in Russia. As Professor of Political Economy and Political Science and International and Public Affairs Mark Blyth noted last week , electorates in developed countries are signaling to their elites that they have had enough. To me, it seems as if the modern world is entering a totalitarian age ruled by demagogue politicians who derive their success from fear-mongering and promises of future greatness. Yet many Americans dismissed Trump as an illegitimate candidate and projected a landslide Clinton victory in the general election. 

We were so wrong.

The United States is no longer exceptional, especially by moral standards; we are, in many ways, more like the rest of the world than we think. Many Americans are frightened by ISIS and preoccupied by the prospect of an influx of Syrian refugees fleeing from violence in their native land, as is much of Europe. Many Americans feel as though their jobs are being exported abroad; as do many Europeans, who arguably have it worse, as the unemployment rate of the European Union is vastly higher than ours. Globalization has effectively fused the fate of our country with those of our allies and trading partners. Intellectual elites (Brown students included) who claim that they now feel “homeless in America,” as Thomas Friedman claims in his article,  perhaps don’t know the current social and political state of our country well enough to call it their home.

For those of us who don’t get approved for a Canadian citizenship in the next couple of months, the United States under a Trump presidency will become home in January. Of course things would have been vastly better under Clinton, but  she would have largely maintained the status quo, leaving many of the problems that led to Trump’s success unaddressed. Trump won’t discuss the fact that he used fake conservative news outlets to inform his numerous tweets; insulted minorities, immigrants and a disabled reporter; and objectified women and somehow came away from these exceptional scandals a stronger candidate. Trump has been a political juggernaut for the past two years, and that reflects something sinister about the American — and global — moral conscience.

Judging from world events, perhaps Trump’s victory was predictable. Perhaps Democrats were not cynical enough to be realistic about the election’s outcome. Either way, we were shocked last week that roughly half of voters deemed Trump’s moral transgressions forgivable because of his promise to disrupt the political establishment epitomized by the Clinton dynasty. It is clear that the United States is long overdue for serious reconciliation of conscience that needs to occur regardless of who is president. If we are lucky, we may be able to set a model to prevent other nations from descending further into the same acrimonious, xenophobic frenzy that we (and the UK) have already experienced. Unless or until we are successful, we can no longer judge the political affairs of other countries from the moral high ground.

Andrew Friedman ’19 can be reached at andrew_friedman@brown.edu. Please send responses to this opinion to letters@browndailyherald.com and other op-eds to opinions@browndailyherald.com.

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