When Donald Trump was formally nominated earlier this year by the Republican National Convention to run for president, to the dismay of many Republicans nonetheless, an article appeared on my Twitter feed. It was a long read about how J.D Vance’s new book Hillbilly Elegy encapsulated the silent yet steady brokenness of the white working class in American small towns due notably to globalization, which neither GOP nor Democrats have offered solutions beyond, respectively, capitalism mantra and smug condescension. It went on to explain how Trump swiftly scooped this forgotten basket by the lingo and mannerism they could relate to.
As Brexit had just happened, where older and less-cosmopolitan citizens outvoted their counterparts for a more insular Britain, I couldn’t help feeling a chill down my spine. Yet I consoled myself with the thought that Americans, equipped by a solid political education, would rise above. I posted the link and moved on.
I had to repost that article earlier this week as the world was grappling with the unthinkable reality of President Trump of the United States. I suppose the friendly, curious, brave, egalitarian Americans I lived next to during some of the best years of my life have indeed changed, or at least outnumbered by the exact opposites. The so-called Rust Belt—Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania—industrial states populated by working class that have traditionally voted Democrat since the late 1980s, yet saw their jobs increasingly lost to cheaper immigrants or overseas outsourcing in recent years, all went for Trump. I can only imagine Andy Warhol turning on his grave demanding his Pittsburgh museum to be relocated.
Yes, certainly Hillary Clinton’s staunch support for Planned Parenthood alienated the devoutly religious, as Benghazi and email scandals angered many while the leaked campaign memos soured her for Bernie Sanders’ millennial supporters. Yes, there are still men and women who aren’t ready for a female Commander-in-Chief, however qualified. No, I’m not blind that Ku Klux Klan issued a formal support, drummed up continuously on its newspaper Crusader that believes the USA was founded as a White Christian Republic.
Yet I think the seething anger in feeling marginalized in one’s own country that has given the initial and perpetual fuel to the nationalistic, racist and xenophobic rhetoric that Trump has tirelessly trumpeted about and eventually sold politically as the return to the great old American identity. Because how else can you explain that after repeated insults on Latin-American immigrants enough Latinos voted for Trump, that after blatant misogyny enough women voted for him, that after the public mockery of a disabled person enough human-rights-championing Americans voted for him, or how Florida as one of the first states to suffer greatly in climate change apocalypse actually delivered the sufficient electoral votes for the man who was adamant it was all a Chinese-made hoax?
Trump even only lost out a hairline to Clinton in popular votes, pocketing 25.5% to her 25.6%, while 46.9% of voters didn’t exercise their rights, which means out of 231.56 million eligible voters approximately 59 million Americans consented and 108.6 million Americans couldn’t have cared less for Donald Trump dragging the US to the right while holding access to its nuclear codes.
Eight years after Americans were toasted as a great nation to have risen above 9/11 to elect an African-American named Barack Hussein Obama, Donald Trump managed to convince enough Americans that they’re not all that great and that only he could show the way to be great again.
Around the world the sentiment has echoed. After enjoying abundant freedom and 2-way bridges to colorful exposures, people who don’t feel they can shine the brightest retreat to their true color—burning bridges and building walls. I have no political science background but a political pundit pointed out that over 2,000 years ago on its masterpiece The Republic, the great Greek philosopher Plato already warned that just as democracy would rise out of failed oligarchy, tyranny would come out from liberty when passion overwhelmed wisdom and a populist autocrat seizing up the masses. Sounds familiar?
Brexit, Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders in Europe, Pauline Hanson in Australia, the election of Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines. In varying degrees in 2014 both Prabowo Subianto and Joko Widodo rode on the nationalism wagon with a sprinkle of jingoism. Trump’s election handed the hardest blow not only due to the size of America’s economic influence but also to its nonchalant slap on the country’s history built by brave immigrants and its promise, written on the Statue of Liberty, to welcome the huddled and tired masses to the land of the free.
As American parents are struggling even more to teach their kids not to be a bully and bigot while fearing for the future, borrowing the eloquent words of CNN commentator Van Jones, the world including today’s Indonesia keeps leaning inward and to the conservative right where, I’m afraid, right or wrong, as long as propagated by the tyranny of masses, will always be right. You fear ISIS? Then you should fear this.
Perhaps while waiting for the pendulum to swing back to the center, I’ll find a hideout and reread The Republic.
As published: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2016/11/12/urban-chat-as-world-keeps-tilting-right.html