Everyone has their own analysis of what happened, some informative, some frightening, some reassuring.
Scientific illiteracy. We just elected a president who doesn’t believe in global warming; there’s no denying now that our school system fails at teaching scientific literacy. This is not an issue of “educated” versus “uneducated” (I know many college graduates who are scientifically illiterate), it is an issue of our country’s inadequate primary and secondary curriculum. When we reform our education system, in addition to scientific literacy, I hope we include a renewed emphasis on ethics, logic, and anti-bias curricula.
Educated Elite. Somewhere along the line, we began to place an excessive value on college education. Maybe this began in the 60s when going to (or staying in) college meant less chance of being drafted; this was the start of grade inflation as well, making academic success easier in order to protect students from failing out and being sent to Vietnam. The message was clear: the college-educated were more valuable members of society than the uneducated. As a result, society has come to place in an increased value on academic learning and a decreased value on vocational skills. Postsecondary degrees are a requirement for success, regardless of whether academic study is relevant to a particular job or career. Higher-level academic learning is perceived as more important than the vast range of practical skills our society relies on.
This shift benefits the wealthy who can easily obtain a higher education with no financial consequences, but burdens the middle and lower classes, who have to take on great debt in order to compete with the upper class for jobs. It also ensures the wealthy maintain positions of power in our financial, educational, and political systems. Excluded all together from the self-proclaimed “elite” are the people for whom college was not an option financially and/or people with skills not learned in college classrooms. This group has been penalized financially and socially, their contributions to society grossly undervalued, and their voices ignored by the educated elite. I’m pretty sure this divide played a role in the election.
Liberal Bubble. I have to start this one out with Michael Moore’s words:
Everyone must stop saying they are "stunned" and "shocked". What you mean to say is that you were in a bubble and weren't paying attention to your fellow Americans and their despair. YEARS of being neglected by both parties, the anger and the need for revenge against the system only grew. Along came a TV star they liked whose plan was to destroy both parties and tell them all "You're fired!" Trump's victory is no surprise. He was never a joke. Treating him as one only strengthened him. He is both a creature and a creation of the media and the media will never own that.
We all love our echo chambers where we self-righteously preach to the choir. How many of us left our safe havens to take a look at what others were thinking and feeling? If we did step out of our echo chambers, did we really hear and try to understand what they were saying? Or did we just reject what we perceived as offensive opinions without exploring where they come from or what they might really mean underneath?
As an educated, straight, white woman whose skills and education are valued by society, the current system generally works for me, at least compared to many other groups of people, namely people of color and the LBGTQ community, but also poor working class white people. Just driving the six miles on back roads to my kids’ school, I see several homes whose state of dire disrepair indicates the system is not working for the inhabitants. Being in my sweet, safe, liberal bubble, I’ve never had to acknowledge their struggles even though they are my neigbors. The rage they express about our system? I guess we should have listened.
The Republican Party. Before the rise of the tea party, I could at least relate to my republican friends. We generally agreed on social issues (social justice, women’s rights, etc.), and disagreed on the role of the government and taxation. Our biggest difference seemed to be our weighting of the issues. The social issues I thought should take precedence were not their priority when it came to electing officials. Unfortunately, the party was so successful at convincing their people that less government is better that the only candidate they could get support for was an anti-establishment reality show business man.
As for the conservative republicans? Their agenda has always been to preserve white male privilege and power, something an effective government that values basic human rights and justice for all would threaten. This is often disguised under the veil of Christianity. Our country was built on white male privilege; it’s certainly not a new phenomenon.
The Democratic Party. I stepped outside my echo chamber for a minute the other day and saw a Trump supporter’s post about whiny liberals… the post hurt, but there was truth in it. We are whiny. And entitled. For those who didn’t get the democratic candidate they wanted, the response was to whine and fuss instead of jumping on board and supporting with full force our party’s agenda, or if you prefer, fighting against the republican agenda. We know now that there was no room for wavering. We needed all hands on deck to prevent Trump from winning. The way our elections are set up, we are not in an era where we get to vote for the independent progressives - or not vote at all - because Hillary wasn’t the first choice. There was so much at stake, and we lost.
Racism. My initial reaction was shock at the blatant racism in our country. But really, we’ve been experiencing blatant racism for a long time. How can we be shocked that people tolerate and, even worse, agree with Trump’s racist views when black children are regularly shot in the streets? We should have known. Then again, as liberal white people, the racism and violence people of color experience haven’t been truly perceived as our problem. As ashamed I am by our country’s racism, I’m equally ashamed that we’re only now tuning in to how very racist our country is… now that it may actually directly affect us.
Hope. The damage Trump will likely cause to our country is enormous – both socially and fiscally. But perhaps nothing would reunite our divided country better than a severe depression, in which we are stripped bare of all we have. When it comes to watering the potato plants for our survival through the winter, I bet we come together. There is hope in that.