By Yousuf Ali, Opinions Editor
Yousuf Ali is the Opinions Editor at the Michigan Journal. Yousuf’s views do not necessarily represent those of the Michigan Journal.
Like countless people around this country and the world, I stayed up Tuesday night watching the as the results of the presidential election, and like many of those same people, I felt sick to my stomach because of the outcome. Donald Trump will be sworn in as president of the United States on Jan. 20, 2017. Even though he did not win a majority, or even a plurality of the over 120 million votes cast, he won a clear majority in the electoral college, securing the presidency. Out of desperation, some have appealed to electors to go against the the will of their state and cast their vote for Clinton in hopes that she becomes president instead. I admit that this idea is tempting given all the poison the president-elect has spewed on his path to victory; however, I am against this idea. It would only confirm all the outrageous claims of the system being rigged that he made during his campaign. Given the president-in-waiting’s previous gestures to “the second amendment people”, such a ploy would not end well. Rather than plotting ways to prevent a Trump administration, some serious soul-searching and reflection is in order from not only democrats and progressives, but the entire nation.
From the beginning, pundits and pollsters dismissed Donald Trump’s candidacy since he was an outsider; ironically, it was that very perception that allowed him to win. Put simply, there is a sizable number of white-working class voters who feel left behind by the policies of the establishment who became instrumental in the outcome. When such people see a candidate railing against that establishment and promising the return of their jobs, they will naturally gravitate towards that candidate, even if he offers no coherent set of solutions. This effect compounds when the person on the other side embodies the very meaning of establishment. When considering all these factors, it becomes clear why previously Democratic states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Ohio and even Michigan voted for Trump. They are finally seeing a major party candidate give a voice to their grievances. If the Democrats want to win the presidency, they have to understand this point.
The central problem of the Democratic campaign was that they failed to provide an inspiring alternative that countered the demagoguery of the Trump campaign. Across the past three presidential elections, the number of votes the Republicans received has been about the same (60 million). In fact, Trump received less votes than Mitt Romney who lost in 2012. Democrats failed to rally the votes that allowed them to win the previous elections. This was because the Democrats focused most of their campaign on, rightfully, pointing out the dangers a Trump presidency would create; however, successful campaigns must provide some sort of solution to the challenges ordinary people face. Yes, it profoundly disturbs me that so many otherwise good people would back a candidate who demonizes their fellow countrymen because of differences in race, religion, mental status, or sexuality, but that doesn’t excuse the failure of the Democrats to provide a genuine alternative. The Democratic Party cannot depend on the same faces of the past that brought about this disastrous outcome. Thankfully, there are signs of the Democrats taking the message to heart in their seeming to coalesce around the progressive congressman Keith Ellison who is from the same wing of the Party as Bernie Sanders which brings me to my next point: the role of third parties.
It is no secret that the overwhelming majority of Americans, including myself, were not enthused by either of the two major party candidates. This created an unique opportunity for third parties to appeal to American voters. While the vast majority of such discontented voters, including myself , adopted the “lesser of two evils” logic, enough of them voted in a way that may have changed the election results. In several key states, Trump’s margin of victory was so slim that had protest voters chosen to vote for Hillary, she would have won these states and possibly the election itself. Despite what such voters may say, I cannot imagine any of them are pleased with the consequences of their votes. Above all, this election has been like none other in living memory, with many lessons to be derived from it.
Like many others, I have spent the past week trying understand exactly what happened on Tuesday. I cannot claim to be among the the intelligent few who saw this coming. That said, in hindsight, the factors that led to this upset have become somewhat more comprehendible to me. There was only one major candidate who inspired those left behind in the globalized economy, whereas the other candidate symbolized everything that they despise. Furthermore, the sheer unpopularity of the candidates allowed third parties to play a role in the outcome of key states. All of these factors culminated in the victory of Donald Trump, shock in this country and around the world.