As I write this, trading has been halted across the world as markets enter a free-fall on the news of a Trump victory.
Some project that we just shed a trillion dollars of investment value in a few hours. That’s not an abstract number. That’s retirement savings that you saved and I saved and overnight, it’s gone.
It was supposed to fund the healthcare of people as they grow old and fund the trip of a lifetime that couples waited fifty years together for. Reform healthcare a hundred times or cut taxes another hundred — you’ll never make up for a full-scale stock market crash of your retirement fund.
It might come back and it might not.
As it turns out, actions have consequences.
Primarily, I view this election not in terms of fear, demagoguery, racism, sexism, or political positioning. Those elements are present, make no mistake. We have elected a misogynist authoritarian and for that, we will pay a dear price.
Know this: if you are a white, straight, Christian male and you think that cost is not yours to bear, give thanks and hide your shame, for others will pay your debt for you many times over.
This election was, when the story is finally told, a rejection of authority. Some have called it elitism and others have called it populism. Some people got lost in a changing economy; others got sick and tired of being called dumb and uneducated.
After a century of prosperity, we started to believe that we knew better than what newspapers told us, or scientists told us, or economists told us. We stopped believing in classical books by great thinkers and started believing in podcasts. In even the best cases, we fired articles at each other instead of arguments. What’s more, we thought that our skepticism of expertise was the fault of the expert and not our own. We built the Internet in hopes that it would foster the greatest exchange of ideas in human history. Hopes of that nobility have been diminished.
This election is a lot of things but above all, it’s cultural hubris boiled over.
There are cyclical patterns in history of course and the one thing that nearly always aligns with the collapse of great society is a belief that the citizens have somehow outgrown the need for great leadership.
Over the past ten years, we’ve seen a segment of this society rise up to reject expertise. Some have done this along the path to rejecting big government in the name of so-called liberty and some have done it as they’ve feared the power of large corporate interests. We’ve come to believe they we know better and we’ve come to believe that an Ivy League education and experience isn’t a qualification but, instead, a liability. This is wrong.
It came from liberal Silicon Valley and it came from the conservative coal mines of West Virginia. It’s a pervasive arrogance.
Great civilizations on the whole collapse when they become too rich and too unaware of their own weight. As Vonnegut would say: so it goes.
We’re about to learn, in the hardest possible way, that in a civic exchange of ideas, neither a hacked-together video nor an article from an un-sourced blog, nor a rejection of a mainstream media outlet because you don’t like its reporting — none of these are an acceptable rebuttal to a nuanced and well-crafted argument about policy. If those are the crutches you lean on, starting right now, your rejection of elitism will not save you. We are going to change the game and ultimately, you will lose.
If you are unwilling to accept facts that do not align with your view of reality, you are the most dangerous kind of coward.
Collectively, we rejected newspapers, nearly bankrupted them and then wondered what happened to the fourth estate. I’m not so sure that we should be as outraged as ashamed.
If your response to a good argument on either side of the spectrum is a response that’s a race to the gutter, you’re not being dismissed because elitists are pining to look down on you, but because you can do so much better than the cheap shot and it’s past time to stop pretending that isn’t true. No more sinking to your level.
There’s a lot of blame to go around and it’s hard to keep anger in check. I don’t know how to process it. I badly want to go around and tell people, “I told you so”. This feeling will pass, though. I hope so, at any rate.
So, if you want to be angry, be angry — for a while, at least.
When you’re done, though, go out and buy a newspaper subscription to every single publication that you can afford to support. Do this not just for papers which lean in your direction but any paper which has reputable, hard-working reporters who are dedicated to shining a light where it needs to shine. Read all of them. Every day.
When they report the facts, accept them as facts — not as a hypothesis which has its truth contingent on the institution which presented it.
And, too, when they editorialize, accept that as opinion from people who understand the world in a sophisticated way. Admire that sophistication, even if you do not agree with its conclusions.
Do not conflate facts and opinions. Even if you are wrong five percent of the time and bias sneaks into reporting, accept it and move on. Stop throwing babies out with bathwater.
Finally, find a friend, if you can, and see where there might be common ground to stand on.
The waters rise fast and we only survive if we hold on to each other.