A lot of people I know are freaked out that Donald Trump’s electoral victory means that the country is swinging rightward to a racist, misogynist, xenophobic hell. I believe this assumption is tragically misinformed. While there are legitimate concerns about the likely policies of a Trump administration and its capacity to inspire fringe elements in the society, a close look at the actual electoral numbers involved (see the note at the end of this email) and other signs (as explored in the rest of this email) suggest that the real significance of this election is an uprising of meta-partisan protest against elite control of the country. This reality suggests that the time is ripe for change agents to engage with authentic empathy with the supposed “other side” and to join with them to realize creative alternatives that speak to the deep needs and frustrations of the overwhelming majority of American citizens and others on all “sides”. This does not, of course, preclude protests against government or corporate activities that endanger people and nature. It does suggest, however, that limiting ourselves to such protests will not only be counter-productive but will waste a truly significant opportunity revealed by our current crisis.
Much of the discussions about why Trump and the Republicans won 2016 elections and why Clinton and the Democrats lost – and what the implications of that are – have been based on the faulty assumption that there was some kind of landslide representing “the American people”. However, the facts suggest that this was a squeaker election, very likely manipulated, with dubious majoritarian winners in which the main political packages (Clinton’s neoliberal empire + social liberalism VERSUS Trump’s faux populism + arrogant intolerance) provided a really horrific choice in the first place. The choice of real populism + social liberalism (e.g., Sanders) was not offered by either major party and thus was not really tested in the final election. However, there were significant signs such an alternative would have won in a landslide had it come from one of the major parties.
But here we are now with the peculiar situation in which we find ourselves. I’ve seen many emails and web posts expressing predictable progressive horror at Trump’s victory and callling for resistance and battle. These are, of course, important pieces of the picture. I see them as the first part of Joanna Macy’s 3-part dynamic of “The Great Turning”:
(1) slowing down the degradation of life,
(2) creating and participating in emerging healthy cultures, systems, and practices; and
(3) nurturing a shift in consciousness from a sense of separateness to a realization of interconnectedness.
At the heart of and alongside calls for progressive action and for self-care and mutual support, I’ve also been seeing a lot of very insightful investigative reporting, empathic and visionary commentary, and calls for empathic reaching out, learning and listening that I think may be particularly useful during the coming months. These essays are too varied to summarize, so I am sending you here a collection of links – with some annotations and excerpts – that you can explore at your leisure.
I hope you find them as clarifying as I have.
PS: Before I get into all that, I want to note two additional resources for generating positive political change that were neglected in my last message and pointed out by readers. Thank you.
Robert Steele’s Electoral Reform Act
The Wisdom Council (a major democratic innovation based on Dynamic Facilitation)
Chapter 10 of my book EMPOWERING PUBLIC WISDOM suggests a strategy of establishing Wisdom Councils in 100 communities around the country and ways to engage the public with them.
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CLARIFYING AND INSPIRING PERSPECTIVES ON WHERE WE ARE NOW
Charles Eisenstein’s “The Election: Of Hate, Grief, and a New Story”
This essay covers many aspects of what just happened, but its main themes are these: Election 2016 removed the pretense that we could keep going like we were. That’s over. And “when normal falls apart the ensuing vacuum draws in formerly unthinkable ideas from the margins” – for better and/or worse. What’s most real now are uncertainty and possibility in “a space between stories” which calls for unprecedented humility and creativity. Among the most important starting places is empathy – recognizing that behind each instance of hate (including our own) is a real person and their suffering. So a primary question we need to ask of those we don’t understand or respect is “What is it like to be you?” Because we are all in this together and it hurts. From that starting point – which spreads into a thousand manifestations – life-serving transformation becomes possible.
Fran Korten’s “10 Ways to Cope with What Just Happened” (YES! magazine).
Concise wise advice for change agents and others who feel shocked and disoriented by the election results.
Paul Kingsnorth’s “The revolutionary moment”
An excellent description of the dynamics through which the leading power-story of our times is coming apart. It includes Trump’s last TV ad which – with some minor revisions – could be a Bernie Sanders ad. The tragedy is the extent to which Trump is likely to betray the promises of that ad.
Also fascinating is the Fox News equivalent article
Patrick Caddell’s “The real election surprise? The uprising of the American people”
“The conventional wisdom that America is absolutely divided into warring tribes is a tired falsehood. Overall, in the attitude structure of the American people, the elements of this new paradigm are commonly shared by upwards of 80 percent of the population – from the Occupy Wall Street movement on the left to the Tea Parties on the right. The political battleground is no longer over ideology but instead is all about insurgency” of ordinary people against self-interested, unanswerable elites who run the country without caring for others. The essay counters many of the existing theories of why Trump won.
The National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation’s program to “Bridge the Divides”
This is one clearinghouse for the many efforts rising to “heal the nation” in the aftermath of the bitter election season and a likely metastases of division, hatred, and violence that could become the dominant reality of the coming years.
One of the key players is the What is Essential group, who used to be the remarkable Public Conversations Project.
(I fully support such bridging and healing efforts, especially when they enable us to build coalitions with people we’ve seen as opponents to address our increasingly shared interests and, in particular, to reconceive ourselves collectively as a legitimate “We the People” beyond our political partisanship and our divided demographic identities. Such redefinition starts from a realization that our divided identities are far more illusory than real – despite the relentless battles, disrespect, and oppression associated with them. The differences have been magnified and exploited by powerful forces to divide and conquer us. “We the People” sensibility is supported by practices like random selection, shared visioning and choice-creating, and collective problem-solving by groups of community members and stakeholders embodying the full spectrum of diversity involved.)
Jonathan Haidt and Ravi Iyer’s “How to Get Beyond Our Tribal Politics”
Through a close analysis of the dynamics of tribal social psychology, Haidt and Iyer explore ways to get beyond its tragic limitations. “The disgust expressed by both sides in this election is particularly worrisome because disgust dehumanizes its targets. That is why it is usually fostered by the perpetrators of genocide—disgust makes it easier for ordinary citizens to kill their neighbors…. Is it possible for Americans to forgive, accept and carry on working and living together? We think that it is. After all, civility doesn’t require consensus or the suspension of criticism. It is simply the ability to disagree productively with others while respecting their sincerity and decency…. A healthy democracy features flexible and shifting coalitions. We must find a way to see citizens on the other side as cousins who are sometimes opponents but who share most of our values and interests and are never our mortal enemies…. Separate your feelings about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton from your feelings about their supporters. Political scientists report that since the 1980s, Americans have increasingly voted against the other side’s candidate, rather than voting enthusiastically for their own, and that is especially true this time. So don’t assume that most people on the other side like or even agree with their candidate on any particular issue. They may be voting out of fears and frustrations that you don’t understand, but if you knew their stories, you might well empathize with them…. [It is productive in such conversations to] admit right up front that you or your side were wrong about something. Doing this at the start of a conversation signals that you aren’t in combat mode. If you are open, trusting and generous, your partner is likely to reciprocate.”
Robb Smith’s “The Morning After”
“….if we want to work to foster significant multicultural values, we’ll have to do a far better job of listening to and engaging with those who have not had their fundamental needs met. Nothing less will do. Even as we band together in communities of shared meaning, equally important is getting out of our echo chambers and engaging outside of them…. We have an entire part of our body politic whose lowest levels of needs are not met. Is it any surprise when they support a populist who promises to take away the threats, to secure them against the unknown, and to give voice to their fury at the power structures that they feel have failed them?… if there are people whose values you find reprehensible, find out what’s motivating them. Discover whether their grievances are temporary and addressable or whether their anger has become metastasized in their identity. Ask them what their deepest fears are, and what would make them feel less fearful. Ask them what changes they’d support and how fast they’re comfortable with seeing changes made. Ask them what three things they’d change about how people to talk to them, whether it’s the criticism they hear or the assumptions that people make about them. Challenge them to paint their most optimistic, inclusive picture of the world a year and ten years from now. Ask them what support they wish they had for the life they want to lead. Do all this, and do it again. Keep learning, keep listening, and keep trying to understand these people who appear to be but may, or may not, be so very different from yourself.”
Michael Lerner’s “Stop Shaming Trump Supporters”
(The article’s posting at the New York Times cut out parts of Lerner’s original article. You may be interested in that original and Peter Gabel’s “Coercive Deference and Double Bind Politics on the Left”.)
White working class people feel shame at “not making it”. Republicans assuage that shame by shifting the blame to scapegoats (immigrants, Muslims, blacks, etc.). Liberals and Democrats (often wealthy or upper-middle class) – instead of helping the white working class identify with other oppressed groups and more clearly see the real sources of their hardship – intensify white working-class shame by blaming whites for all oppression and, especially, for the past crimes of slavery and genocide. This problem is exacerbated by secular liberal trashing of all religion, instead of acknowledging the shared spiritual crisis endemic in American society.
Joan C. Williams “What So Many People Don’t Get About the U.S. Working Class”
This is the best, most empathic and least patronizing description of the life struggles and perspectives of mostly white working class and middle class (not poor) men (and many women), a significant number of whom voted for Trump. It becomes easy to see why – and, for me, to see the potential for powerful coalitions among people who are currently being (kept) alienated by secondary divisions among them.
Evan Osnos’ “Trump’s America, Hiding in Plain Sight”
Another part of Trump’s support, from more wealthy folks…
Carole Schwinn’s “Crisis of Perception / Opportunity for Transformation”
“Simply put, that crisis is our inability to shift our view of the world as an unrelated collection of independent parts to one that sees the world as one unified and interconnected whole….” This essay explores some of the evolutionary psychological and social dynamics that are part of that dimension of our current situation.
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THE SHAKE-UP IN THE TWO MAJOR PARTIES
We don’t know what will arise from the shake-ups in both parties, but the extent of shake-up has opened up space for their transformation and/or alternative parties and/or movement beyond partisanship….
Bernie Sanders would probably have won against Trump
MANIPULATION OF THE ELECTORAL SYSTEM
Disturbing evidence that the election was stolen, including studies of manipulative laws and practices and overwhelming discrepancies between exit polls and reported election results (the gold standard for judging electoral propriety), which oddly almost always favor Republicans (the so-called “Red shift”). Note that this kind of manipulation is easiest to hide when the election is close.
THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE
Using the Electoral College to replace Trump (with another Republican)
A practical way to de-fang the Electoral College without a Constitutional amendment – The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact – “an agreement among a group of U.S. states and the District of Columbia to award all their respective electoral votes to whichever presidential candidate wins the overall popular vote in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.” It only goes into effect when it has been agreed to by enough states to deliver the 270 electoral votes needed to guarantee the election to the candidate with the most votes. Signatories so far provide 165 of those votes – more than 60% of what’s needed…
Here’s a petition to sign in favor of that.
SOME SERIOUS LEVITY TO PROVIDE AN OVERVIEW
A somewhat humorous review of a number of these factors by Steve Bhaerman (a.k.a., Swami Beyondananda)
THE MEANING OF TRUMP’S “WIN” – BY THE NUMBERS
1. In the November 2016 election, 57% of eligible U.S. voters voted. 43% didn’t vote. In other words, either major party who won would likely be winning with support from less than 30% of the electorate. This is a very surreal version of “majority rule”.
2. Those who voted were divided approximately 48%/48% Trump/Clinton.
3. So what percentage of eligible voters voted for Trump? That’s fairly easy to compute: 57% x 48% = approximately 27% of eligible voters voted for Trump.
4. Overall, 61% of all voters didn’t like either candidate. More specifically, a third of the voters who voted for Trump did not like either candidate. Although these two polls are hard to combine into one, it nevertheless seems clear that somewhat less than 18% of eligible voters actually liked Trump.
5. It is hard to find recent polls about the views of Trump voters on public issues, but there is definitely evidence that not all of them support all or most of his positions or his racist or misogynist views. One example is that 37% of Trump supporters don’t agree with his plan to deport all illegal aliens. In other words, only about 11% of eligible voters (who are also Trump supporters) support his deportation proposals.
6. One thing that is pretty clear from earlier polls is that many people who were planning to vote for Trump were basically anti-establishment populists and/or admirers of Trump’s “plain talk” and (to them) refreshing out-of-the-box outspokenness. He seemed more authentic than traditional mainstream politicians like Hillary Clinton. We can easily assume from this that less than 10% of the voting population embodied the kind of bigoted views Trump promoted. This is a far cry from the perception that “the country” has become seriously bigoted.
However, it is also almost inevitable that the small percentage of the US population that is seriously racist and misogynist will, thanks to Donald Trump’s behavior so far, feel more legitimate and able to express those views more publicly – and sometimes violently – and thus become a more visible force in American political and social life. This presents some real danger and demands a level of solidarity with people targeted by bigotry. However, in our various efforts to address that extreme energy, we’d be wise to acknowledge what a small percentage of Americans are involved in such bigotry and to rally the much larger body of our fellows to bring their tolerance powerfully into the public square and their private and community lives. Even those who hold implicit racist or misogynist views often wish to be and to seem more tolerant, and this desire can be called upon as part of the larger movement to constrain the more violent and ugly manifestations of bigotry. In general, appealing to the best in people – and not projecting out of our own pain and presumption – has more powerful transformational potential.
Tom Atlee, The Co-Intelligence Institute, POB 493, Eugene, OR 97440
Calling forth the wisdom of the whole for the wellbeing of the whole