The American déjà vu

Trump’s victory was a complete shock. In the run up to the election I kept repeating to my friends and colleagues that I was terrified by the possibility that he could win. For a long time in 2016 I believed that he actually would. But all the recent polls insisted in one voice that Hillary had a comfortable lead. And so I expected her victory.

But right now my most acute emotion is the distinct sense of déjà vu. After a successful two-term Democratic president, a robotic and nerdy heir-apparent is pitted against a bigot adept at sending dog whistles and speaking in dumbed down sentences but who somehow connects. The outcome? The nerd wins the popular vote but loses the Electoral College and the Presidency. We’ve seen it all before. Clinton vs Trump is but a repetition of Gore vs Bush. The consequences of 2000 were horrific. I’m afraid the consequences of 2016 will be even worse.

On the eve of the election, I wrote down the argument describing how the system is rigged, how the House, the Senate and the Supreme Court do not reflect the will of the people. As is now apparent, I missed the most glaring rigged arrangement of all. For the second time in the last 16 years, the Democrats won the popular vote and lost the Presidency.

Trump’s victory is disheartening in two ways.

First, it is disturbing to consider the far-reaching and dark consequences in terms of policies that he is likely to implement, for America, but also for the whole world. He will reverse climate change agreements. He will pass huge tax cuts for the rich. He is likely to roll back Obamacare, depriving millions of people of healthcare. He will double down on fossil fuels. He will spend massive amounts of money on unnecessary projects, the famous wall but one of them, probably personally enriching himself. He may well attack press freedoms. He will appoint a conservative Supreme Court judge, perhaps several, extending the right-wing dominance of the Court. All this will be done by a guy who has no popular mandate. Who lost the popular vote. This is maddening.

But his win is even more disheartening in its vast symbolism. What kind of signal does it send? You don’t have to prepare, you don’t need to work hard, your personal efforts do not matter. You can be a bigot and a bully, you can insult everybody in sight, you can behave like a teenager, you can abuse women. No need to be truthful. No need to be modest. No need to be hard-working. All that matters is that you are born with a silver spoon in your mouth, preferably as a man, and that you project boundless self-confidence. And then you can just lie your way to the Presidency.

A con man is the most powerful man in the world.