As a liberal who voted for Hillary Clinton, whose friends and family are all liberals who voted for Hillary Clinton, I’m not exactly happy about the 2016 election, but I’m trying to stay optimistic.
A few reasons for hope:
1) We’re going to face America’s biggest problem head-on.
The problem isn’t Donald Trump: it’s Donald Trump voters.
A huge part of America feels left behind. A huge number of Americans are either bigots or people who are willing to associate with bigots.
Perhaps you were hoping those people would just disappear. I was: that a long-enough string of progressive leaders would spread education and liberal values and make America good enough that they would fade away. Still, that option had its own perils, and anyway we’re stuck with a different path.
Instead, liberals will be forced to confront the ugly truth and deal with it head-on. We’re going to have to reach out to people who don’t share our values and work with them.
To be fair, that’s something liberals are supposed to be good at. If we really believe in liberalism, then we should trust that our values will win out in the end.
Meanwhile, conservatives may be forced to govern, to come into the fold and do more than just seethe and complain. In the end, that could be a good thing.
2) Donald Trump isn’t entirely bad.
Yes, he is a disgusting person. He’s a chauvinist pig and racist who is often obnoxious and rude. The thing is, being a disgusting person can do only so much damage (as the inspirational character of Barack Obama did only so much good).
Yes, he opposes liberals on important issues: among them, health care, sexual rights, immigrant rights, education, gun control, and globalization. The thing is, America, with its long history of progress, can handle a step backward here and there (we survived George W. Bush). Thankfully, we’ve got checks and balances, even with a Republican-controlled Congress and Senate, including often-powerful state and city governments.
Yes, the idea of him controlling nuclear weapons is terrifying, but it’s not clear that he would be more dangerous than Bush or other past leaders (his followers, for what it’s worth, would contend that he will keep us out of war better than Clinton).
So what’s good about Trump? At the very least, he brings a fresh perspective to Washington: a belief that we can do better as a country if we get past politics as usual.
That is what excited people most about Obama and Bernie Sanders. The truth is that many of us, liberals included, are disenchanted by the political establishment.
Will Trump’s brash and intuitive style be helpful in dealing with ISIS? Russia? Economic growth? It’s hard to say.
Maybe he won’t screw things up too badly. Maybe he’ll get a few things right.
3) The world is getting better.
In exit polls on election day, 59% of Clinton supporters said they believed that life would be better for the next generation of Americans. Sure, that was when they thought Clinton would win, but let’s imagine that optimism runs a little deeper. There is, in fact, a lot going right.
Globally, we’re on track to eliminate poverty by 2030.
World life expectancy rose from 34 in 1913 to 71 in 2015.
World literacy increased from 21% in 1900 to 85% in 2014.
War has been declining for decades, with the global deaths in conflict falling from 22 per 100,000 in 1950 to 1.4 in 2014.
Internet access is spreading around the world, creating unprecedented opportunities for global collaboration and culture, even if it comes with high risks too.
The value of international trade has increased by about 3,000% since 1950, promoting global productivity and peace.
Technology is unlocking all sorts of wonders: electric, self-driving cars, universal translators, smarter medicine, a golden age of entertainment, and more. Silicon Valley generally embraces liberal values, too.
Finally, civil rights have come incredibly far. For example: a little over 50 years ago in America, racial segregation was legal. Today we have a black president. 100 years ago in America, women didn’t have the right to vote. This week we almost elected a female president.
In the long run, we hope, it will take more than Trump to stop these trends.
This is an editorial. The opinions and conclusions expressed above are those of the author.
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