I guess it’s time to break my radio silence since the election of Donald Trump as U.S. President. It’s been a lot to wrap my little brain around. Nearly everyone I work with is experiencing some form of PESD. But Post Election Stress Disorder is treatable—and may even be curable with frequent exposure to this blog.
Being a rosy-cheeked optimist, I already see a silver lining in this: good times for rock & roll! Especially for bright, trenchant social commentary that the best songwriters are capable of in times of national crisis. In my last post I predicted that a Presidential election shock would trigger a renascence of rock as a true political force.
Looking back at the last era of disruptive social change—which we are on the cusp of once again—we had Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Joni Mitchell, Marvin Gaye, Neil Young, Jimi Hendrix, and many more to guide us through the choppy waters. These artists spoke out—in different ways—for peace, civil rights, women’s rights, the environment, or, fundamentally, the right to protest.
Speaking of which, crowds—even school children—started hitting the street in cities across America, hours after the election was decided. (I know what you’re thinking: why did it take so long?) They've been protesting not only the election results but random acts of violence against minorities—especially Muslims—that have been recently occurring (including a record-setting 300 hate crimes in the last week).
Now, I believe in giving people a chance, but in this case I’d have to extend that to a President elect whose campaign was steeped in bigotry, xenophobia, nativism, misogyny, and islamophobia. Yet Donald Trump is impulsive and unpredictable enough to change course on a dime. He COULD propose Big Ideas that would actually be valuable and feasible and which COULD win approval from a fawning Congress. (A "yuge" stimulus program to rebuild roads and bridges would be one example.) A figure like Trump could conceivably blow open the ideological log jam and enable some new and productive alliances to be formed.
Unfortunately, as we go to press, Mr. Trump is already picking advisors from Crazy Town. His chief strategist will be a white nationalist, whose right-wing news site is unquestionably anti-Semitic and misogynist. With him guiding the next POTUS, it brings new meaning to the term "White House."
Then there’s the future National Security Adviser, a loose cannon and conspiracist who thought that Trump's Democratic opponent should be “locked up,” who says fear of all Muslims is "rational" and that Islam is a "cancer," and who appears on Russian TV advocating cozier ties with Russia and Putin.
Meanwhile Trump's picks for cabinet positions are equally unsettling, but they have to be approved by Congress. (This will be fun.) I keep falling back to my favorite adage, “Where there’s danger, there’s opportunity.” If so, great news, folks. In my lifetime I can’t remember a time of so much opportunity!
This of course includes business opportunity, for those who are sufficiently agile and opportunistic. Because the landscape is so uncertain—e.g., what will happen in the energy sector under a President who claims that climate change is a “hoax”?—entrepreneurs and organizations that thrive in volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity should feel right at home.
There is also hope for the industries or trades that predictably do well in times of national turmoil—including art, entertainment, publishing, and media.
Perhaps this will also catalyze the movement for stronger public and private elementary education as an antidote to adult illiteracy in history and civics.
On a lighter note, in recent months Canadian clients and friends have told me that in the event of a societal brain freeze on election night in America, I would be welcome above the border. A few weeks ago one of them, now an empty nester with his wife, offered me his son’s room, which he’s currently refurbishing and painting. After the election Tuesday he emailed me, “What color would you prefer?” But, alas, relocation would be difficult. I don’t know how my plants would handle the move.
On a more serious note, “fake news” sites appear to have played a significant role in the election by feeding information to a gullible populace—which I warned about in a previous post. In this post-truth world, bogus news sites (often run by single operators in remote corners of the world) offer fanciful conspiracy theories about U.S. politics, often on a theme that’s already familiar because it’s been stoked by alternative new sites (like the story of Hillary Clinton stealing the primary elections from Bernie Sanders) which then gets picked up a news aggregator that doesn’t filter its sources. This gives credibility to the original wacky story. A nice systems loop!
Much of the juicy political news that Facebook gave us can be ultimately traced to fake news sites. But lots of folks I know accepted it as gospel, influencing their vote or causing them to sit out the election. Of course Facebook disavows all of this, even though they “curate” the news they feed to each of us to suit our biases—as computed by algorithms. It's titillating click-bait we can't resist.
But after all is said and done, here we are. Our ship of state is badly stuck in shallow but turbulent waters.
What can be done? Well, to get any vessel free, some rocking and rolling is in order.