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How did we get here?

Kayley Reed

Donald Trump won the U.S. Presidential Election.

A man who has admitted sexual assault, a man who embedded racist and discriminatory statements into his speeches, a man who is "celebrated" as a successful businessman despite declaring bankruptcy 6 times, a man who disapproves of gay marriage and has said that women who get abortions should be punished for doing so... is now the President-elect of one of the most powerful nations in the world. 

It's taken me 3 days to process that. Three long, emotional days. And I'm not even American. But, I am a woman. And this affects me. This affects all of us. 

How did we get here?

I'll preface all this by saying that Hillary Clinton was not my first choice.

I started out as a Bernie supporter because (just like Trump) he exemplifies a lot of the changes needing to be made to "the establishment". The political system is f*cked up (for lack of a better phrase). But when Hillary won the Democratic nomination (fairly, or unfairly so) I decided to learn more about this woman, given that she would have to be the one to beat Trump. Being 23, I honestly didn't know much - I was only just being born as Bill Clinton was taking office, and didn't care much for US politics as a teenager when Hillary was Secretary of State. But, her impressive resumé speaks volumes to her abilities. For 30+ years she's been working to make the world a better place, as an advocate for women, children, and families. She's a human rights activist, and one of the most accomplished people to ever run for presidency. 

Granted, she has her flaws. Like, lots. But so does every other candidate, so you can't run that argument unless you're going to compare apples to apples (see first paragraph)

To anyone who didn't follow the election closely: 

It seems mind boggling that this is the result. Most people I talk to are in total disbelief of what has happened. Is the world really so backwards? 

The answer is yes. And no. I've followed the election super closely over the past year (like, watching-CNN-for-2-hours-before-bed-every-night closely) and have been reading endless articles around the results for the past 2 days (ten are referenced in this article).

While I admit and understand that my perception is skewed through the lens of the liberal media, most white, affluent, educated millennials do not see beyond their bubble. 

This is one of two problems. 

Photo: Fortune

Photo: Fortune

Problem #1: Implicit sexism still exists.

Key word: implicit. It's 2016: people generally agree that women are equal to men and that sexism is bad. But the reality is that gender bias still exists, whether we are conscious of it or not. 

"We, as a culture, do not take women seriously on a profound level. We do not believe women. We do not trust women. We do not like women. I understand that many men cannot see it, and plenty more do not care. I know that many men will read this and laugh, or become defensive, or call me hysterical, or worse, and that's fine. I am used to it. It doesn't make me wrong." - Lindy West, NY Times

But this isn't just an issue of men being implicitly sexist towards women. Women undermine each other, too. Numerous studies prove time after time that both men and women assume men to be better leaders, both boys and girls implicitly show more support for boys as leaders, and millennial men are just as (and in some cases, more) implicitly sexist towards women than men of previous generationsregardless of notions that millennial men are explicitly more accepting. 

"Blind gender biases are embedded in every facet of our life. They are reinforced by our educational institutions: men dominate the figures we study in history, the luminaries of math and science and technology about whom we learn, and the authors of political discourse we are taught to revere. We are inundated with tales of male superiority that blind us to the architecture of our own relationships." - Mila Kunis on gender bias in the workplace

Implicit sexism means that Hillary Clinton, by every academic sense, had the odds piled against her just by virtue of being born female. It means that both men and women automatically assume her to be less of a leader, and damnit she has fought tooth and nail to prove otherwise.

Implicit sexism explains why a loud-mouthed, overly confident man with zero experience in the job he was applying for, beat out a woman, who is one of the most qualified candidates, ever.

Problem #2: A lot of things suck for a lot of people in America. 

Yes, implicit sexism is an issue, but it's not the only reason Hillary didn't win. It would be ignorant to play that as the only issue here. 

Probably the strongest reason millions of people voted for Donald Trump on Nov. 9th is that a lot of things suck, for a lot of people in America. For millions of hardworking Americans, the system has failed them; the politicians meant to represent them, have failed them. 

This is something many of my affluent, educated, democratic friends do not see in their bubble. This is something I didn't bother to truly see either. 

Working families watch as politicians get campaign financial support from billionaires and corporate interests — and then ignore the needs of ordinary Americans. Over the last 30 years, too many Americans were sold out by their corporate bosses. They work longer hours for lower wages as they see decent paying jobs go to China, Mexico or some other low-wage country. They are tired of having chief executives make 300 times what they do, while 52 percent of all new income goes to the top 1 percent. Many of their once beautiful rural towns have depopulated, their downtown stores are shuttered, and their kids are leaving home because there are no jobs — all while corporations suck the wealth out of their communities and stuff them into offshore accounts.
Working Americans can’t afford decent, quality child care for their children. They can’t send their kids to college, and they have nothing in the bank as they head into retirement. In many parts of the country they can’t find affordable housing, and they find the cost of health insurance much too high. Too many families exist in despair as drugs, alcohol and suicide cut life short for a growing number of people. - Bernie Sanders, NY Times

What people really want is change. Just like Bernie Sanders' supporters, and progressives who were weary of Hillary Clinton: we're all fed up with the status quo. And yet Hillary Clinton, in the most plain sense, represents exactly that establishment which has failed so many ordinary Americans. 

The biggest mistake that the left makes, is in assuming that everyone who is not a liberal is  sexist, racist, stupid and backwards.

Dear democrats: Your argument isn't won by putting down anyone who doesn't view the world the same way you do. 

We have somehow decided that any other opinion, and any other way of looking at the world is unacceptable. We don't debate anymore because the left won the cultural war. So if you're on the right, you're a freak. You're evil, you're racist, you're stupid. You are a "basket of deplorables." How do you think people are going to vote if you talk to them like that?... That's why people wait until they're in the voting booth. There's no blame, no shame, and you can finally say what you really think and that is a powerful thing. - Jonathan Pie

Most of Trump's supporters aren't explicitly racist, or sexist (yes, some of them are, but not the widespread majority). Many of Trump's supporters know he's done and said shitty things. But people are much more desperate for change than they are caring of "political correctness" (and general decent character). People are much more frightened than they are bigoted. Specifically working men in America without a college education. 

Frightened because, for the most part, the economy hasn't gotten better (only about the top fifth of the economy saw growth under Obama). Jobs are being outsourced. People have lost their way of life, their purpose, and their ability to provide for their families. The income gap is real, and rural areas are struggling the most. 

But the relevant gap isn't in income. It's in dignity. 

Too many Americans have lost pride in themselves. We sense dignity by creating value with our lives, through families, communities, and especially work. That is why American leaders so frequently talk about dignity in the context of labor. As Martin Luther King Jr. taught, “All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.” Conversely, nothing destroys dignity more than idleness and a sense of superfluousness—the feeling that one is simply not needed. - Arthur Brooks, The Wall Street Journal

And who is not needed in the current turmoil of it all? Working men. Primarily, white, uneducated, men living in rural areas. Who by virtue of losing their jobs, their income and their ability to support their families, have also lost their dignity, value, and purpose. 

And Donald Trump is the answer. He promises jobs. He promises dignity. He promises an America in which white working men are valued again - like the good ol' days. 

"Make America Great Again" is, of course, a backwards statement to minority groups like women and people of colour, who fought long and hard for their voices to be heard and valued. Any group that is struggling, throughout history, has rallied together in a cry for help, opportunity, and value. There are movements that celebrate these cries - women have feminism, the lgbt community has Pride, and African Americans have Black Lives Matter. And now a significantly-sized group, who for years have felt like America is moving forward without them, have their own cry for change: "Make America Great Again."  

If and when you are, and if and when there are enough of you, fully frustrated with the system, feeling worthless, being looked down upon by the "elite", being called "racist, sexist, bigots" in sweeping statements by mainstream media - you will fight back. You will support anyone who promises real, radical change. Because if you don't, you're stuck where you are. In a f*cked up system that has failed you. 

Donald stood up and said, "You are the backbone of America, and I'm going to make sure your life is valuable again."

Donald Trump reminded a group of fed up, hopeless people that they mattered. 

And many of us can still look down and say "well, it's not that bad". And that some things matter more than the economy (and in turn, dignity). Some things like preserving basic human rights we've fought so hard for (like civil rights, gay marriage, and women's reproductive rights). But in saying this, we need to look at the current landscape, and the current effects of what half of Americans are pleading change for. It's not just about loss of jobs, and a sense of worthlessness. It's that those things combined lead to pretty shocking results: a 2015 paper showed that the mortality rates of middle-aged American whites have actually increased since 1999. They are the only demographic group for whom this is true. Two of the main causes being suicide (up 78%), and drug/alcohol related deaths (up 323%). These trends are mostly driven by those with less education. And in rural areas? Suicide rates among young men nearly double

We're all facing our challenges. Many of us don't see eye-to-eye. Many of us have opposing religious and political views. But at the end of the day, everybody is facing their own daily struggles. No matter who won this election, 50% of the people would still be frustrated, hopeless, and scared.

And that's what all of us need to open our eyes to. We're all struggling, in one way or another. Labelling each other, insulting each other, brushing aside each other's voices, values and political views... That's not how we get ahead. 

And if none of this has resonated with you, and you still can't understand why anyone in their right mind would vote for a blatant asshole like Trump to be their president, just take a look at popular culture. If you love Iron Man despite his rude, arrogant behaviour and total disregard for people's feelings (which is somehow still charming), it's because asshole's are still respected if they're on "your side", and if they promise to get shit done. Asshole men are still more widely accepted as strong leaders than the most qualified of women, so long as they promise change. 

That's why Trump won. That's how we got here. 

***

PS. As a Canadian, it's easy to sit on our side of the border with a sigh of relief that it's not us. Except that it could be. (Especially after Kellie Leitch's announcement) Stay informed, stay engaged. And please, above all, stay open minded to others who may or may not agree with your point of you. At the end of the day, we all want change. However it's wrapped up and presented to us is by preference of our political view (or lack there of).