Some thoughts on the election
At the polling booth yesterday I could not help but be terrified by the sight of Donald Trump’s name on the ballot. His campaign seemed like it was clearly a publicity stunt so for the months leading up to the election I was never too concerned about him becoming president, but seeing his name as an actual option that some people could choose, even if accidentally or as a joke, was a reality check that this could actually happen. Then the votes started to come in and it looked bad for Hillary, and for the first time this election I could feel myself filling with dread.
Overcome with this new emotion I began to wonder exactly why I was feeling this way. Was it because my Twitter timeline was filled with comments about how the world is ending? Was it because my foreign friends were saying they would leave the country if Donald Trump was president? Was it a genuine concern for the influence President Trump would have on a generation of young people, American policies, and how America is viewed by the world?
Then I remembered I grew up with George W. Bush as president, who was the butt of so many jokes it was even commonplace for my teachers in California to make fun of him. So I grew up with an idiot as president, although he was an adorable idiot, and I don’t think it really had much of an effect on me. I didn’t think to myself that I could end up being successful by slacking off in school because it worked out for George W. Bush. I understood he was only in his position because of his family and that he was an exception to the rule.
And even before George W. Bush — perhaps my earliest memories of American politics — was the Lewinski scandal. So I grew up with one president swearing he “did not have sexual relations with that woman” only to be followed by the next one exclaiming “fool me you can’t get fooled again”. Needless to say I do not hold the oval office in very high regard, so I’m not too concerned about its reputation and what effect Donald Trump may have on said reputation.
So what about policies? Well we had the closest person in the world to Darth Vader in Dick Cheney basically running the country and deceiving us into invading Iraq so how much worse could it get than that? And besides, we have a do-nothing congress that prevents anything from getting done. When President Obama was elected I was filled with hope that change would finally happen. Democrats had a super majority so it seemed like anything was possible. Obama promised during his campaign to close Guantanamo Bay and appeared to deliver on that promise when he signed legislation his first day in office. Guantanamo Bay is still open.
I then started to realize that if Hillary would have won Republicans would have felt the exact same way that I am feeling. Their Twitter timelines are probably filled with comments about how the world will end if Hillary is elected president. So who’s right? If both are right we’re screwed either way. Let’s just hope both sides are wrong.
Although I do think Hillary is more qualified to be president, I understand why she is disliked. In fact, I don’t like her and I never thought I would vote for her. My first impressions of Hillary Clinton were formed during the 2008 Democratic primaries, in which she pledged along with the other candidates to not campaign in Michigan or Florida and to have those states stripped of their delegates. And yet she campaigned in those states, had a victory party when she won Florida, and then tried to get the delegates reinstated even though Obama didn’t campaign in the states and his name wasn’t even on the Michigan ballot. So she basically tried to steal the Democratic nomination from Obama, and if she did maybe McCain would have been president and who knows how many wars we would be involved in right now. And this time around it appears she may have colluded with the DNC against Bernie Sanders to secure to the nomination. So I don’t really see her as much of an improvement over Trump in terms of image. Would we be telling children it’s okay to lie and cheat your way to the top, just make sure to do it behind the scenes?
So why did I vote for Hillary Clinton then? It was because Donald Trump reminded me of so many people that I have interacted with in academia. I’ve seen academics behave EXACTLY like Trump, and although I don’t have sound bites or tweets to prove it, I do have plenty of emails and if I recorded conversations I would have plenty of sound bites. So I find it pretty ironic that most researchers find Trump such a threat to America when we have so many Trumps in academia and no one does anything about it or sees it as a problem. But I didn’t like it so I left.
Trump is a brand that uses threats and fear to get its way. Similarly research institutions, journals, and individual labs are basically brands that do whatever they can to maintain the status quo that keeps them in power and relevant. And these three work together and are basically the modern day Axis powers. Journals take advantage of institutions and faculty by charging ridiculous subscription fees and using faculty as free labor, but institutions and faculty are happy to be screwed over because the journals are what give the institutions and faculty the prestige they need in order to obtain grant money. Institutions are quick to get rid of new faculty that are not obtaining grants, but the faculty put up with this because tenured faculty are protected by institutions regardless of whatever scandals they may get themselves in. Individual labs can abuse researchers as much as they want because without a good letter of recommendation the researchers’ careers will be over. I could go on.
So yeah, we have terrible people in positions of power throughout this country and those institutions survive so hopefully we’ll be okay. Yes, America’s reputation will take a hit, but that’s only because Obama raised it from the depths it was at. And in many ways America’s reputation is pretty fixed. We are already seen as privileged and ignorant, so I guess this is our opportunity to finally embrace the villain role which may or may not have been deserved by our meddling in other countries and the beliefs of sections of our population. And I’m still not convinced Donald Trump is interested in running the country. Hopefully like George W. Bush he’ll let his vice president do all the work.