OTTAWA—Donald Trump is now the president-elect of the United States. Whether you like it or not (I don’t), you have to accept the result. Democracies don’t always give us the verdict we want, and when they don’t, sulking isn’t the solution. Most of the world seems to be in a funk about Trump’s win, but to discredit his new political legitimacy simply because you don’t like the outcome serves to reinforce his value with those who elected him.
Howl at the moon if you need the release, then take the time to figure out why he won. Try doing that by actually talking to people outside your normal ecosystem who may see Trump as more of a disruptor than detestable. That doesn’t mean his misogynist, racist, belittling, and lying behaviour is now acceptable. It isn’t. But accept that he won because there are large swaths of people who are tired of Washington politics as it is now; are angry; feel their circumstances are in peril; and were willing to support a man who spoke to and stoked their fears.
Protesting Trump’s electoral win, as many have done, or blaming the FBI director for screwing you over, as Hillary Clinton did, is a recipe for ongoing political failure for Trump opponents. Try listening to people and come to an understanding as to why they are angry. Don’t tell them global trade is working and they just need to get with it because we elites know best.
Also, if you are a Democrat, perhaps it is time for the Clintons and some of their team to take a political time-out. Dynastic politics in America, unlike Canada, seems to be, for now, on the downward trajectory.
Pounding elites has always been a popular and effective political strategy the world over for centuries. It is back in vogue again. It has hard not to miss the irony in America that the man leading the populist charge is a billionaire and part of the world’s one per cent.
But people who voted for Trump don’t see that. They hear what they have heard before, when populism is propelling emotion: someone who speaks their language and who captures the raw nature of their frustration. To call people out on that is to be tone deaf to what they are saying, which is, “We are fed up! What you see as risk, we see as the kick in the ass you need.”
Finally, some counsel for those who now seek to channel Trump for their own political gain. Kellie Leitch, I am talking to you! You have to be viewed as authentic and in tune to the voices demanding attention. Being not of Washington, Trump with all his blemishes was seen as a real change agent.
Leitch is more Clinton than Trump. Though she may speak a recognizable language, her pedigree is nothing but establishment. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who has spent more time in party politics than Leitch. Never mind her impressive academic and professional credentials or Bay Street fundraising focus. Running against who you are is hard to do. Trump didn’t have to concern himself with that; Leitch does.
Based on contemporary definitions of elites, I am sure I’ll be defined as one and called out for the last challenge to Kellie Leitch. But we elites can see another one of our kind a mile or kilometre away; it is a special power we have. These days it might be the only power we possess. However, to paraphrase the old Bruce Cockburn song, “if an elite calls out, will anyone care.”
Tim Powers is vice-chairman of Summa Strategies and managing director of Abacus Data. He is a former adviser to Conservative political leaders.
The Hill Times
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