Trump win not as scary as the forces that elected him

Back in late June, I wrote about Jason Kenney’s Progressive Conservative (PC) leadership campaign and expressed hope that he wouldn’t adopt the same kind of divisive politics we were seeing in the United States and Britain.

At first glance at Kenney’s Twitter feed, the former MP appears congenial with his PC colleagues, wishing them luck with their campaigns. But he’s also been accused of mounting a “hostile takeover” of the party by MLA and former leadership hopeful Sandra Jansen, who cited the alleged takeover as one of the reasons she was ending her campaign.

Jansen also claimed her presence in the race enraged a “socially regressive” wing, and she has been the subject of harassment as a result.

It’s extremely discouraging to hear of harassment towards women politicians so early in the race, and it doesn’t help that members of the media accused Jansen of effectively lying about the harassment and that the real reason she was withdrawing was due to lack of support. So I commend Kenney for making a statement on Nov. 9 condemning disrespectful conduct aimed at politicians.

Having said that, I can’t help but draw a magnifying glass to the increasingly nasty state of politics, especially with this week’s election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. We can only hope Trump’s win does not further embolden the trolls who have their existence validated by dragging down politicians who try to improve their communities.

Everything about Trump winning is surreal. The most powerful nation on Earth was supposed to transition from it’s first black president to its first female president. Instead, it got a man endorsed by the KKK.

But to simply state that racism and sexism were all that prevailed on Nov. 8 is to ignore the full picture.

It’s not hard to understand why Hillary Clinton lost. She was an extremely flawed candidate. Apart from the FBI investigation into her emails, she wasn’t particularly charismatic. She didn’t seem to have the ability to genuinely connect with people. Some questioned her health, while others questioned her reason for running.

In contrast, Trump recognized that American politics is essentially a reality show and exploited that for all it’s worth. Like a lightning rod, he channelled the nation’s anger and rode out the storm of xenophobia and resentment. A steep divide has emerged between those under and over 40, and those in rural and urban areas. It’s clear a lot of people felt shut out of the political discourse in America and saw Trump as the only way to make their voice heard.

On the positive side, the results show that even in an age where the slate of candidates is limited to those who can raise exorbitant amounts of money to sustain a presidential campaign (often with the help of so-called “Super PACs”), Americans still have the ability to enact sweeping, revolutionary change.

Some 50 million people voted for Trump. It would be unreasonable to say that all those people are sexist, racist, xenophobic, or just hate Washington elites. Clearly, there was something about Trump that was enough for millions to believe that he was the better option. Depending on how you look at it, it’s simultaneously depressing and inspiring.

In terms of Trump, I’m less concerned about the man himself as I am about the forces that propelled him to victory. I don’t think Trump is going to start World War 3 or turn America into Nazi Germany as some have suggested. In fact, I expect him to soften his tone going forward. But it’s still profoundly disturbing that so many people had no issue voting for a man accused of sexual assault, with a track record of lying and making dismissive, combative statements about entire groups of people.

The real question we should be pondering is not how Trump won, but what has America lost?

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