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.

Here goes:

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.

19 Responses to “In every crisis, there is opportunity”

  1. Emilie says:

    Thank you! This is exactly what I needed to read today. Time to get to work.

  2. Don Barthel says:

    Wow, powerful predictions, good food for thought. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

  3. Jim Sprague says:

    “The bad things likely to happen under a Trump presidency will be well publicized”. Trump has made mysogyny, racism and hate acceptable so the bad things will not be publicized. They will become part of normal discourse. I fail to see the upside.

  4. Peggy Lalor says:

    Very well put. Thank you!!

  5. Brigitte Rathje says:

    Reading this brought a smile to my face on this grey and gloomy Sunday morning…thank you!

  6. Jane H Beattie says:

    Trump will force us to deal with issues,because his personality is so unlovable, even for those who voted for him that ther is no other choice. Maybe not a bad thing.
    Gandhi said somethung like, My people are moving, and I have hurry and get out front to lead them.” Trump can’t.

  7. Judith Brock says:

    Im saddened that you failed to discuss, like so many other one of the key reasons but less discussed reasons why Trump won. Speaking as an American living in Canada for the last 30 years and still having relatives in California, I have been disheartened and worried to see the decline of the social order, the racial devide with all the illegal immigrants and races, and falling apart infastructure. I have been a democrat all my life but the Obama administrations foriegn policy, which was a continuation of the Bush administration is the most dangerious direction a country could go. The George Soros of the world have been set loose to radicalize Americans against each other.
    Trump has been the only one to see that its best to develop good relationship with Russia, which insidently left in Clintons hands were destined to World War 111. For this reason alone we should all count our blessings that she lost. Americans are sick and tired spending all their tax dollars and losing loved ones fighting the Globalists Wars while they fall into poverty and create terrorists and immigrants all over the world.

    Jill Stein from the Green Party who would have been my first choice, encouraged everyone to vote for Trump for this very reason. I dont make any excused for Trump at all but I think he can be readoned with. His acceptance speech tried to express how he would govern. I believe he is humbled by being elected. TPP was a big issue for me and proposed mandatory vaccines was another. I believe we needed a radical shift and we got it. Lets all try to give him the benefit of the doubt and pray fot the best outcome.

  8. Gary S says:

    “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.”

    Let’s see. Trump got all the marbles with less votes than his opponent. Justin Trudeau got all the power with 39% of the vote. What democracy?

    The article makes some good points but at the same time, Occum’s Razor tells us that Trump will do exactly what is expected of him by the business and Republican Party elites. Massive tax cuts are coming. What spending cuts will compensate? I just don’t it being the military which Trump has promised to throw more money at. Trump’s appointment of global warming denier Myron Ebell to head up the EPA transition team is another sign of just whose interests Trump will be serving.

    The one big opportunity that Horter does not even acknowledge is the possibility of putting the Electoral College itself on trial and to build a movement to democratize or eliminate it.

  9. Eleanor Wright says:

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments. We strongly support the idea of working in our communities and then community-to-community to bring about the changes needed at this time. We’re on it!

  10. janethudgins says:

    Her big mistake was taking his bait. Had she ignored him it would have made him furious, behave even more badly, while making her a stateswoman. But if she had won, the US would have been just as sorry as they are with himself and the Dems must be kicking themselves for their big mistake; endorsing the wrong candidate.

  11. Fred Kay says:

    This is a very thoughtful, and realistic analysis of the challenge that lies ahead. We should not for a moment doubt that Donald Trump has already sowed the seeds for his own demise. The tyrants always fall. Always.

  12. Jerzy says:

    very good analysis… yes, I am more hopeful than I’ve been in many years; good things are coming…. because we’ll create them together.

  13. Thank you for your thought. No one knows exactly what will happen, or how it will happen, but we do know that this has accelerated the need to step up, take action, join together, build bridges and do the work in oneself when we recognize our own prejudices and desires to keep the ‘business as usual’ mindset – be that from left or right wing consciousness. Like you, I see this as such a great opportunity to finally walk the talk of unity and be kind to each other. Even though I live in Canada, and this might appear to not be ‘my problem’, I have felt deeply the effects of this election and it has been a call to action like I have never felt before. There will be hard times for sure, but the only way we can create the world we all long for is be creating it NOW.

  14. Mary Rose Cowan says:

    Thought provoking and you’ve certainly made some excellent points. Matters of grave concern are now far more out in the open, and the status quo has been shaken to the core. Many vulnerable and disenfranchised groups are coming together to create a stronger sense of democracy. Yes, crisis, fear & suffering have escalated but we do have choices in how we respond.
    Your post reminded me of a feminist saying which I think came into public consciousness (at least my consciousnesses) during the devastation of the Montreal massacre: first we weep (grieve, mourn), and then we work (fight, persevere) for change.

    Thank you again for your hard won insights.

  15. Catherine says:

    Thank you. I’m right at the brink of being both old enough to retire AND no longer concerned about being thrown in jail for exercising my rights and freedoms 🙂

  16. Diana Mc says:

    Well put. Lots of interesting ideas. Thanks for this clear perspective.

  17. Ken Collier says:

    Malcolm Gladwell predicts Trump will be in jail within a year. He’ll needan advisor for that. I nominate Conrad Black.

  18. emmryss says:

    This is fairly typical of what I’ve been seeing across the board — a split between the head and the heart, you could say. Commentary by white males tends to be fairly dispassionate and analytic; that by people of colour, Muslims, many women, attests to deep personal fear and a feeling of no longer being safe (or as relatively safe as they used to be) within their own communities. While those with little to lose wait for their predictions to come through, others are desperately seeking strategies and allies to make it through the days to come, day by day.

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