OPINION – If you count yourself among the many who were shocked when Donald Trump won the election, you just weren’t paying attention.
From the time Trump announced his candidacy, many thought it was a joke, a stroke of his ego, that all he was doing was looking for attention, so much so that The Huffington Post, a liberal newszine, relegated coverage of his campaign to the entertainment section.
It was a stupid mistake, so much so that you can bet that if, indeed, Kanye West follows through with his threat to run in 2020 he will be taken seriously.
Liberace, perhaps the greatest showman of the 20th century – certainly the highest paid – would respond to his fiercest critics with the simple line: “My brother George and I laughed all the way to the bank.” Donald Trump, today, is laughing all the way to the Oval Office.
Guys like Trump may be a lot of things, but don’t ever give them the position of the underdog because they will, as we saw a week ago, turn it to their advantage.
So the most important thing Democrats can take from this election, if they are paying attention, is the hard-learned lesson that you should always respect your opponent.
Whether you think of Trump in the nastiest of terms or are one of those who bought into his schtick, he was always in it to win it.
While it is impossible to determine where the Trump administration will finally land – he has already backtracked on a number of campaign promises – one thing is certain: we are on the threshold of some interesting times.
Perhaps the most telling result of this election seems to be the rebirth of political activism.
We saw it from the right of course, during the campaign.
We saw it from the left as young people flocked to Bernie Sanders.
We have seen it in the aftermath of the election with the demonstrations and protests that revive flashbacks from the ‘60s.
While I’m not quite at the place where I think we can officially claim the rebirth of the hippies, I think we are pretty darned close.
We were, back then, a passionate segment of a very dissonant culture.
There was no middle ground, no compromise, no watering down of philosophy. You were either on the left or the right, as Hubert Humphrey, the moderate candidate for the Democrats, so surprisingly learned when he was defeated by Richard Nixon by less than 1 percent of the vote.
It was that 1968 election when the seeds of Republican radicalism were sown, which led to the landslide Nixon win over George McGovern and the ultimate Republican coup of the Ronald Reagan years. The Democrats, embarrassed by all of this – including the improbable candidacy of Michael Dukakis, who was stomped by George H.W. Bush – were forced to the center and had an eight-year run by Bill Clinton. Republicans were forced to go mainstream with, first, John McCain, who was thought to be a shoo-in against the first black man to ever run for president, then Mitt Romney, who they thought would be more “presidential,” only to fail again to the moderate Barack Obama.
When a lackluster band of Republican hopefuls assembled this year, the only one who stood out was Trump, with his brash, often crude, language and inflammatory ideology.
The Democrats, meanwhile, went centrist again and, even though she continues to build a mounting lead in the popular vote as the final ballots are counted, Hillary Clinton finds herself sitting at home instead of appointing cabinet members and preparing to take the oath of office.
It is highly probable that the core of those taking to the streets today are the progressives who stood with Sanders through an apoplectic Democratic primary. And even though, to some, hindsight might lead them to believe Sanders could have been a more formidable candidate, we’ll never really know. Personally, I doubt it.
Still, I am encouraged by the passion of the demonstrations.
It means that all was not lost in this election, that the liberal wing of the Democratic Party did not go quietly into that dark, good night, that it retains some principle instead of simply folding its hand.
Thus, may the protests and demonstrations continue, for they are a vital part of our process; an integral element of democracy, which isn’t always neat and tidy.
Yes, we are forced, as believers in our system, to accept the fact that Donald Trump has won the presidency.
But, that doesn’t mean we roll over and play dead, that we join in lockstep with the Trump minions and forsake that which we hold dear to our hearts.
Yes, Donald Trump was the declared winner in a system that can use some fine tuning – like the elimination of the Electoral College, which served no purpose except to prolong the horror of slavery.
Yes, it was Donald Trump who refused to commit to accepting the results on election night until he saw them first. I don’t like the results, but I accept them. It’s our process and to deny it is to deny the foundation of our liberty, our nation.
Yes, Donald Trump will be the one, barring some truly unprecedented and unforeseen development, placing his hand on The Bible and taking the Oath of Office on Jan. 20, 2017.
But Donald Trump must realize that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by more than 750,000 ballots at this point of the count and that he does not have a mandate and that the same people who put him into office can just as surely take him out.
Look, the bottom line is that the United States has been blessed with good presidents and endured some extremely bad ones.
How we fare with Donald Trump is still anybody’s guess.
My gut, however, tells me he’ll be lucky if he lasts a full term.
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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