In every crisis, there is opportunity
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.
Perspective is hard, especially in this moment of time when the clouds of darkness have descended like a blanket of fog. But when times are darkest I find it useful to step back and consider outliers, black swans. The crazy, wild, out of the box notions usually relegated to late night harangues.
I’ve had some dark things happen to me in my life: living on the street, single digit odds of me or my daughter surviving health crises and divorce. Each time it was hard to breathe, and it seemed the sun would never shine again.
The bad things likely to happen under a Trump presidency will be well publicized – my social channels are already filled with speculation – but it’s worth taking a few minutes and contemplating some of the positive things that are now possible. As Rahm Emanuel said about the 2008 recession: You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that, it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.
I’m not being Pollyannaish. Things I care deeply about are likely to get bad under Trump (there will be plenty of time to drill down on that later) but today let’s open our minds to positive things that are possible now.
Like the candidate Trump, President Trump will likely remain addicted to controversy. He can’t resist it – it’s part of his DNA. Thus, the next four years will be filled with serial crises of his creation. Expectations are high for change, but his supporters are ideologically diverse and don’t agree on much policy-wise. Keeping them unified will be nigh impossible; exploiting the massive differences will present myriad opportunities to hive off unusual allies.
Ironically, Trump and Trudeau’s victories reaffirm democracy. Charismatic long shots that tap into a cultural zeitgeist can overcome all the elite’s advantages and win.
The Trans Pacific Partnership is dead. No uber ‘Investor State Dispute Resolution’ rules will be foisted on Canadians, undermining our sovereignty and democracy.
The GOP is not unified; there are major splits between the Trumpites and Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz, Mario Rubio etc. that will not heal quickly. Trump is enough of a bully that he will require them to prostrate themselves, to grovel on bended knee — but many won’t. Trump’s inability to be a team player means fireworks are likely to ensue, which could destroy the GOP for a generation.
Massive backlash is inevitable. Because Republicans control all three branches of the U.S. government, Trump will have no one to blame when problems develop. He has portrayed himself as the “wizard” — that the buck stops with him — so the risks are very high for massive disappointment. If the resulting recoil is properly channeled, a truly grounded progressive machine could be built.
There will be an epic battle for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party. The neoliberal wing will likely come under aggressive attack. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren will be ascendant, and if they are smart and fight hard, the Democrats may finally rid themselves of the Reagan-lite forces that have so undermined the party’s grassroots connection to real people and real problems.
Democratic leaders are less likely to be obsequious and less likely to acquiesce to Trump as they did with G.W. Bush. Expect GOP-like intransigence against his more extreme nominees and policies, forcing Trump to react and creating more crises.
There will be no Trump honeymoon. People will take to the streets immediately creating opportunity for people-centred approaches to solving big problems like climate change, inequality, etc. Hillary was never going to take the drastic steps needed. With Trump, the needed mass movement is more likely to form since distracting half-measures won’t be an option.
Trump is a populist, not an ideologue. He has spouted policies that cross-traditional right/left categorization. If people build sufficient momentum behind particular policies, he will adopt them even if they conflict with other policies or the traditional GOP dogma.
Given all the sleazy deals Trump is involved in he is unlikely to make it through four years without being arrested or impeached. Malcolm Gladwell predicted he would be in jail within a year.
Financial markets hate uncertainty and are likely to remain unstable throughout what I predict to be Trump’s impetuous presidency. Once Trump and the Republicans have to balance the budget perhaps some sacred cows will get gored. For example, I could see Trump slashing the military budget to the extent no other living U.S. politician would ever be able to.
As the decider-in-chief, Trump will have difficulty keeping both the anti-elite rust belt voters and the evangelical-southern voters within the same tent. The expectations are too high and his consistent demonization of “compromise” means that each of these constituencies want to have their cake and eat it too. That would take a deft hand to manage, something Trump doesn’t have.
So, as we grieve the election outcome and buttress ourselves for a difficult four years, let’s remember President Kennedy’s famous words in the lead up to the Cuban missile crisis: “When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis‘ is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.”
Ultimately, we all get to choose how to respond to the crisis of a Trump presidency. We can lament the woulda, shoulda, coulda’s, or we can take a day or two to grieve and gripe, maybe even howl like a wolf at the moon, then take a cold shower, put on work boots and thinking caps, and go out to find like-minded people who share our aspirations for the world we desire. And when we find those people, we need to help them organize themselves into a formidable political force that can’t be ignored.
Our task is no different than it was a few days ago. In fact, the path may have become clearer. No president in Washington D.C. or prime minister in Ottawa or premier in Victoria is going to voluntarily make changes at the pace and scale needed. Ultimately it’s up to us – concerned citizens organizing community-by-community – who wrestle the powers that be to the ground and force the changes needed. That was the truth on November 7, and it is still the truth on November 9, so let’s not despair for too long. There’s lots of work to be done, many opportunities to grab, and we are the ones who are going to do it.