Stanford Professor, Francis Fukuyama, who taught me last summer, wrote a seminal book titled “The End of History and the Last Man” in 1992. The West and East (read USSR) have been locked in a battle of ideas for years – Cold War – and the Berlin Wall and the USSR just crumbled. Francis advanced that we have come to the end of history; Western Liberal government was the only way ahead. This is the end of history. The Last Man is here to distribute the ideals of freedom and globalizations to the world. It was not wrong for a period. Russia moved into democratic systems and China liberalized its trade with the world.
It is clear that we have not seen the end of history, we are actually accepting the “interesting times” that lie ahead. There is a roll-back to nationalism and regional power balancing and we are going to witness another set of “men” opening new chapters of history.
When I thought Brexit was unbelievable, believe me it was the trailer to the epic episode that would become of Donald J. Trump. I have limited Trump’s win to four things and I hope we take the lessons again. Let’s go there:
The “R” word: A lot of people have openly spoken this was just the “white-lash”, I just think this point is just too simplistic. Hilary is also white, why did they not warm up to her? Hillary lost votes not of those in white male but also the white female category. In fact, the places where Obama thrived, – Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin – Hillary lost such demographics. We might sniff it but the bigger issue lies in the next points.
The Outsider Narrative: I have been studying to the American elections. Who actually gets the elections? Whoever poses himself as the outsider. Start from Jimmy Carter mopping up the Nixon Era as a decent Baptist parishioner, to Reagan sticking it in that “government was the problem”, to even Bill Clinton from a small town in Arkansas. You would have bet that Albert Gore would lead the US after Clinton balanced the books, but enter George W. Bush. Even Obama came from across from that point –a good speech at a US election and a one-term Federal Senator. It was always a question of who could place himself as the anti-establishment. Most Americans feel the “Washington” is broken. People always come forward with the messianic thinking that they could resolve the issues. Sadly, the issue at stake here even in Europe with Brexit and US has been the unrestricted move of migrants. Donald Trump played his card from the blast. He kept saying it – “this is not a campaign, this is a movement”. It was a fight against pluralism and it comes to which candidate whipped that line so hard.
A tide that does not lift all boats: When you look at the Brexit map, the people who mainly voted “no” are just between the London and the Scottish axix. The folks who voted Trump also mainly belong to the middle – The Rust Belt. Most of us assume globalization works for all. We forget that it wrecking a constituency that we are yet to address. The Romanians and Polish in UK, the Hispanics and Africans in US, putting the “natives” in pains. There’s a tide that has not lifted all boats and we think these are shining cities on the hill. The anger has been lashed at the immigrants. This class that has found its voice risen through the ballot, it is the year of rebellion.
Hillary was not just perfect: On every moral stand, you will not place Hillary and Trump on the same stand. Never. However, check the momentum for Bernie Sanders movement. Same anti-establishment thinking around US tuition and an economy that works for all. Hillary could not conquer their email issues reinforced with the deletion of emails after been subpoenaed, the speeches to Wall Street that Democratic Party idealist loves to demonize and the quick cast as the establishment candidate. You could Trump weaving his last line as “Drain the Swamp”.
In end, US did not surprise itself. The issue that prevailed was of immigration and Donald Trump promised to bring the jobs from China, talked of how China gamed the entry to WTO, spoke undocumented immigrants, ending the NAFTA and budding TPP bids. Globalization has been stopped in its tracks, the nationalism mast is pushing higher. Everything you could fear in Trump has taken a back seat to make a room for this. The anger of the left-behinds has been fully pushed in the polls. Will Trump fix this? I won’t bet that there are quick solutions. Time will tell but another politician just rode on the message, he will be the 45th US President.
Maybe we can pause and reflect more. I really looked forward to Hillary as President. There are new lessons and insights for today. Only if we pick them.