“The worst thing that can happen in a democracy — as well as in an individual’s life — is to become cynical about the future and lose hope.” Hillary Clinton.
Erring in errors
Two month ago I wrote a piece on President-elect Trump. At this time I was full of hope and still unable to think a populist could become the master of the free world. I have been a Hillary supporter since the beginning of her campaign because I thought she was the only one to embody measure and the only one to have such experience of the institutions. Now, I can only be full of despair as it is the second time in a year when populistic, irrational speeches won the heart of the People. I say heart and not brain because politics is now, more than ever before, a matter of feeling.
Of course, we could discuss for long of what mistakes Secretary Clinton did to loose this promised run. Even if we doubt her sincerity, even if we doubt her ability to manage an email account, she was still the most reasonable candidate for the post. Some would have said the less worst fitted to the Oval Office. So, what does this failure of Hillary’s bid mean for the US and for all of us?
The American people decided on November 9th for the future of the whole world in only one shot. They decided to which direction the world will move in the following years. With interconnectivity in economy, culture and politics, such a powerful country’s decision has an impact all over the world. Brexit will have an impact on all of Europe, if not in America too. Mr Trump’s election as the 45th President of the United States of America will have an impact everywhere as America has a major influence on our public policies from climate change, security policies or economic governance. For instance, it is now legitimate to be worried about our partnership through NATO as the President-elect Trump has stated that he may reconsider article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty—which provides mutual assistance between its parties—if needed.
But this elections remained in the hands of the American People. And what is striking here, in the same way as it was for Brexit, is the lack of discernment in voter’s minds. Personally, I am getting lost through the fact that public policy experts were not listened to, and might not ever be in the future.
Living in a vacuum
I might be in the wrong but I am strongly addicted to press vision of politics. And here, The New York Times’ forecasts went wrong. By a huge margin. I remember Anderson Cooper in the middle of the night asking his counterpart of CNN why have the polls going so wrong while imagining the lurking results. But this does not mean the New York Times or CNN are biased liberal media, it only means that, from now on, accuracy of polls are questioned by a new phenomenon: a social shift which decided an America of the margins to vote, a social fracture that means the media and the politicians have not been able to listen to the poorest and the disadvantage Whites. Media needs to be more aware of who the voters are, and messages as those sent by Sulzberger to Times’ readers show the shock in which Mr Trump elections has lead the media sphere. It is too early to analyse precisely who voted for whom—and if we consider the total of votes, it is clear that Mr Trump won the support of educated and middle-class Americans too—, but still, the fracture of the American society emerged on public eyes.
We should all be afraid of this shift as of today there is no more middle ground between right wing closure and left wind progressive vision. There is no more common ground, no more shared values, even those we considered as the most consensual. There is no more room to heal the wounds between both sides, and wounds will stay open for long. Even on social media, interaction between Clinton and Trump supporters is almost non-existent as algorithms proposed only the things you are interested in or agree with. This has to be a brand new concern for democracy as we live unaware of the thinking of our adversaries. Dialogue, the inner principle of democracy, has disappeared.
But more than media and social media, what is striking in this scission of the society, is the rejection of the experts. For long, the candidate who can use facts, grounded analysis and bring a good working knowledge of the institutions and international relations was the most supported in the polls. Today, we live in an era where people have little confidence in the ‘expert cast’. This fear of experts biased the democratic debate (as did the lies of Mr Farage during Brexit campaign) and means that knowledge and reason are no more synonymous with power. This will be damaging. The political system and institutions are becoming more and more complex and the world more and more difficult to understand. Experts voices are today more necessary but also, paradoxically, more rejected than ever. Strikingly, fact-checking and deep analysis pieces were disregarded by half of the voters.
All of this can lead to non-sense politics and increase the ratio of manipulation in populistic speeches. Some would have say that President-elect Trump is not a resurgence of much more dramatic situations (here we are, Godwin). And even if President-elect Trump is a player more than an ideologist, his ideas might be theorised by others or give bad example to foreign rightist leaders.
This election is a milestone at the beginning of a new era. I was shocked and affected when some European leaders sent their ‘congratulations’ to Mr Trump whitout issuing some warnings. European leaders of today are the guarantors of freedom, peace and progressive values and they should protect us from the expansion of President-elect Trump’s ideas.
But Mr Trump’s victory has set the grounds of a more profound breakdown of politics. Our future is at stake through numerous elections this year, from Austrian presidential election to France’s one.
Marine Le Pen (leader of the National Front) as a President should no more be considered as a single eventuality, but as our almost certain future. And I am saying this as a convinced European. I used to consider myself as optimistic. But today, I did not find any other way to figure out the outcome of the French presidential elections: our society is so shifted that we are not even able to see the suffering of the other half neither to consider seriously the eventuality of such a result, nor to propose any viable solution. I am not saying that our current politicians have no ideas that could bring us better lives, I just think that they will not be able to convince the other half facing populistic and irrational speeches.
The only way we can decide to move on for the next few years—or perhaps for the rest of our lives—is to consider a far right future as almost certain. We need to think of how we could resist and protect our values in what became a ‘new world’ of politics built by far-right and regressive ideas, when our ‘rigged system’ will fail to put extremists out of supreme positions. We should wish to our fellow progressive Americans and to us Europeans good luck for the following decades.
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