Saturday, November 12, 2016

America: A Reinvention

It's taken me some time to process this week's election results, and I'm not sure I've fully processed everything, but I want to share what I hope to be a unique and helpful perspective.  Just to be clear, I fall on the republican side of many issues, but also believe strongly in the need for sustainability, and therefore am often turned off by republicans' love affair with oil; I did not vote for Trump or Hillary, and I am not here to debate the merits of voting for a third party.  My reasons to not vote for my party's candidate are many, but racism and brash, thoughtless commentary top the list.  I count myself among the many Americans who expected Hillary to win, if by default only, and went to bed Tuesday night very surprised and disappointed by what we were seeing on TV.  But, I think I was among a much smaller population who preferred a clear winner over a tie or even a narrow margin.  I don't think there is any question that, had Trump lost, especially if by a small margin, he would have fought it and the election news coverage would have continued dragging on and on.  If it was a tie, which was a real possibility by my calculations, I worried that the bottom would fall out of the stock market and we'd enter another awful recession, or perhaps an even more sudden, violent recession, leading to rioting and raiding and chaos and anarchy.  Call me dramatic, but I am a forecaster by profession now, so it is my job to anticipate the future. 
So here we are, a terribly divided country, who have elected a President with implications that scare so many.  Scare!  Not annoy, not piss off (although both of those apply as well), but SCARE!  I mean, there is legitimate fear because of who we elected.  And don't give me that "Not my President" crap; we were appalled when Trump wouldn't agree to peacefully accept the results of the election, so if you don't accept the results, you are just as bad as he is.  Indeed, this country, with the electoral college that we invented, put into place and have been using, we elected Trump.  I'm not saying the electoral college is perfect, far from it actually, but until we can design and agree upon a better way to handle fair and equal representation in the voting process, that's all we've got.  It doesn't matter if you didn't vote for Trump, he is the President-elect.  Hillary acknowledged it, Obama acknowledged it, and I assure you its not because they think he's a great guy.
It's because we as a country believe in a peaceful transition to the elected President.  And we all know the popular vote isn't what matters, so don't whine about that either.  You can move to Canada (if their immigration website comes back online), but that won't change the fact that Trump is the next President of the United States.  In fact, I wouldn't advise moving to Canada because if he has his way, business is going to get bad in Canada.  Anyways, while Wall Street rallied back up after the pro-business nominee was elected, there is still a lot of uncertainty, anger and fear around Trump's victory.  But here's the thing: it isn't actually that bad.  Let me tell you why. 

Shortly before election day, there was a number of articles posted about this professor who predicted that Trump would win based on what he calls "The Keys to the White House."  I read one such article (and am considering reading the book now, especially considering the results), intrigued from both the analytical perspective on forecasting and from the perspective of emotional disbelief.  Surely, I thought after the reading article, his prediction model probably works well for typical elections, but Trump would certainly be the exception to this "science."  Right?  I mean, nobody would have believed Trump would even be a candidate two years ago, and especially not if you told them the things he's said and done through this election.  This can't be a typical election, therefore, the rules outline in the professor's forecasting model don't apply, I thought.  Forecasting, afterall, is not a perfect science; as a rule, numerical forecasts are always wrong, the goal is simply to get as close as possible and correct the reasons for missing to improve the forecasting model going forward.  But the election really only had two highly probable outcomes, and the professor, against many readers' intuitions, effectively nailed it.  What this tells me is that Trump, with all his belligerent Tweet-rants, ignorant racist and sexist outbursts and overall childish demeanor were not enough to stop the course of history.  That is to say that the professor's model didn't predict Trump particularly, his model said that the Republican candidate would win, or more accurately, that the party of the current President would lose.  So it was always going to be a Republican win.  We may say that it's unfortunate then, that the Republican candidate is Trump, but technically the Republican voters put him there, so that's also a senseless debate.  If the keys to the White House had broken because of Trump, Republicans, or at least I myself, would have been outraged: "This was the year for Republicans to take back power, and we blew it!"  But somehow, despite everything, Trump didn't blow it. 

What this means is, change (in party) was inevitable, and this is simply history repeating itself.  That alone might be a more positive spin on the doomsday dystopian fears of some.  We've gone through party changes in contested, emotional, and controversial elections before, and there will be an America not too much different than the America we know today, after Trump's presidency.  More significant, though, is that not only was change inevitable, but roughly half of our country was basically asking for this kind of extreme change.  We were divided before the election, let's not forget that.  In fact, we were more than divided.  All the shootings that led to the Black Lives Matter movement happened while we had our first black President.  I remember being so proud that our country could overcome racism enough to elect a black President 8 years ago, but clearly, there is still a significant amount of racism in this country 8 years after that historical election.  This demonstrates, among some very sad realities, that there is no reason to believe the country as a whole will

reflect the beliefs and characteristics of the man in the Oval Office.  It sucks that we still have a racist country despite having elected a black President, and it sucks that our President-elect also appears to not only be racist, but sexist and xenophobic, too.  But it serves to show that no matter what Trump says, his words do not reflect the beliefs of America as a whole, anymore than Obama's election obliterated racism. 

Furthermore, as many reassuring articles can more eloquently and specifically describe, our country has a system of checks and balances, and Trump cannot do all the most insane things he promised to do on his campaign trail, and many of those things can only be done with an approval from Congress.  "But, Laura," I hear you say, "Congress is mostly Republican, too, so Trump can push anything through, right?"  No, I don't think so.  Maybe I'm being overly optimistic, but what we saw in the weeks and months leading up to the election was that many Republicans had a hard time backing Trump, and some went so far as withdrawing support.  I believe that the other Republicans we put in office, at least as a whole, will do what they can to prevent Trump from instigating World War III.  Here I am not an expert, as I did not research all the Republicans on every state's ballot, only my own ballot, but I hope my logic holds true.  The fact that we have a Republican-dominated Congress also speaks to the fact that this country demanded change.  And it could be a very productive four years, in all actuality, because so many acts of Congress have been held up by basically an endless game of tug-of-war.  With Trump supposedly supporting Republican policies, Republicans could actually get
things done, like revisit Social Security, a hot-button issue in George W.'s election that never was addressed due greatly to the 9/11 attacks.  Guys, we could balance the budget!  We could do the things we're supposed to do as a country.  Our leaders might actually lead us forward, and not just collect salaries from our tax dollars. 

I've been thinking a lot about the idea that we can reinvent ourselves lately.  It first came up in a reflection of my life as I wrote a very personal narrative.  I realized that, at certain milestones in life, I've seized the opportunity to reinvent myself; moving to a new state with a new school and new friends to make, starting college, changing jobs, shedding bad relationships.  I've drastically reinvented myself at least a half a dozen times, and my boyfriend and I are now facing another huge opportunity to reinvent ourselves and our way of life as we look towards our move from Arizona to Connecticut.  If you grow up and live your whole life in a small town where everybody knows you and remembers when you popped out of your mother's womb, you can't really do those kinds of drastic makeovers to reinvent who you are, because people's perceptions of you are harder to change when they've been ingrained.  But when you face a whole new audience of people who don't know you, you can practically reinvent yourself in just the first impressions; then you just have to maintain some semblance of the person they think you are, and you effectively become that person.  In the same way, Trump could take this grand opportunity to reinvent himself as an American leader, a hero, an advocate for minorities, an economically-proficient superpower.  In just a couple days after the election, there are no indications he will do so, but one can hope.  With or without Trump, America can reinvent itself.  We already have, in a sense; we are now a country where really, truly, anyone can become President, whether you're a woman no prior political experience required.  The Govenator, I think, may have paved the way for celebrities to get into pretty substantial political offices, and I think most people are impressed with what he's done there.  The fact that Hillary got so close I think already has proven that a woman can become President, we just didn't elect a woman this time around. 
When I reinvent myself, I usually fall short of being perfect, but I strive to become a better version of myself; ridding the things I don't like and keeping or expanding upon the things I do like about myself.  In the same way, our country is far from perfect, but it's pretty damn good to be an American, and this election shows both that we have work to do but that this is a place where anything is possible.  For that reason and the one stated earlier, I am not moving to Canada.  Everyone can reinvent themselves and reinvent and reshape America.  We don't need to scrap the whole thing or bail altogether; we just need to do our part to make America a better version of itself.  Spread love and humor and education and good work, squash hate and anger and drama and judgment, and let's reinvent this great country of ours and make it a better America. 

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