I feel a shock wave rippling through the country, and the world. An eerie silence has descended around me following last night’s election of Donald Trump. People at work are walking around each other without speaking, I assume because they don’t know what to say, because they don’t know what to think. His election started off as a protest and ended up a revolution, a rebellion. The order has been undone and no one is sure where we go from here. And when I say no one, I doubt even the Donald—President-Elect Trump knows.
The silence won’t last long. There will be a period of recrimination on one side and back slapping on the other. But eventually we’ll all stop and realize we’ve drawn a line in time. From this moment on, things will be very different. For better or worse, the values and tone of governance and America’s posture in the world will change, has changed. There has been a rebellion and the rebels won.
I heard a woman interviewed two days ago say she hoped for a Trump victory so he could “pull the country together again.” I laughed, thinking this was the most unabashedly divisive presidential candidate I’ve ever listened to. Could she really believe what she said? I think the answer is yes. She is one of the nearly half the population who feel left out, excluded, diminished. Whether the excluding condition is seen as economic, racial, urbanization, or elitist domination, we now know the feeling was stronger than many people realized, strong enough to fuel a successful rebellion.
Now what? Will the leader of this rebellion seek to heal the nation, as the interviewed woman hopes, by bringing excluded citizens into a more inclusive whole society? It’s a tall order for the best of leaders and the most gifted of politicians. Will he move to create more opportunity for those left behind, as his supporters hope and believe?
Clues will come soon as he assembles his leadership team and names his priorities. If his choices show empathy for the marginalized; if he seeks reconciliation and increasing opportunity for all, with emphasis on the many who have missed the benefits of and been punished by the changing economy, good will come. If he chooses to boost himself by dividing the nation by race, gender, religion, and national origin; if heads down a path of mean spiritedness, retribution, and selfish self-promotion, as those who believe he is driven by narcissism expect, the nation could be in deep trouble.