BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
November 8, 2016 treated the U.S. and the world to quite the earthquake, shock, upset, headscratcher, statistical outlier, unexpected outcome. Lots of analysis has been devoted to this outcome, and I’ll add my own brief take on the still-unfolding results (as of this writing, Donald Trump is the president elect with 306 Electoral votes to Clinton’s 232, but Clinton leads the popular vote with almost 63 million to Trump’s 61.5 million, and millions more to be counted).
First, a few words about California and local elections. From an Armenian perspective, the most important election was in the 43rd Assembly District. That ended up as a disaster and will take some serious analysis, over time, to decipher. By all accounts, it was an eminently winnable race. It didn’t help that one small faction of the community endorsed against our community’s “home-town” favorite, Ardy Kassakhian. Other Armenian-wise important elections had positive outcomes resulting in soon-to-be State Senator Anthony Portantino and re-elected Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian. Plus, the majority of ANCA’s endorsed candidates won.
Turning to the propositions (please see the tables in my piece two weeks ago), at the statewide level, twelve of the seventeen measures had outcomes that matched my recommendations. Four (Props 60, 61, 62, and 63) went in the opposite direction, and one (Prop 66) has a very small chance of not passing, as I had recommended. On the local ballot measures all but one (LA City’s SSS) went as I recommended.
Back to the presidential election which, coupled with wins in the House of Representatives and Senate have put the Republican Party in control of the federal government since George W. Bush’s time in office. Now, instead of being obstructionists with the singular aim of destroying any chance of a president’s (Obama) success, this party’s members will actually have to learn to govern. If they don’t, any negative outcomes in the economy and every other field of the public interest will be blamed on them since the have full control. That could lead to disastrous election outcomes two years from now.
But how did this happen? Based on all the polling and common sense, Donald Trump “should have” lost. He was extremely disliked. But, so was Hillary Clinton. Paradoxically, with millions of votes left to count, Clinton is already the second-highest vote-getter among all candidates for the office of president in all of American history. How is all this possible?
In addition to the typical dilemma faced by voters – the who-do-I-dislike-less as a basis for choosing, this year there was something more. There was disgust with political elites. There was disgust with the media. There was disgust with the tightening economic noose middle-class citizens have experienced for close to four decades. All of these led to a desire for revenge against those seen as responsible for the misery. There was, as a friend relayed from a conversation, a “heedless desire for change” that drove people’s voting decisions.
Bernie Sanders was able to tap into this sentiment in an affirmative way, but was (likely) cheated out of the nomination. Trump was also able to tap into this sentiment. But, his shady business background and wheeler-dealer ways led him to play to the darker side of human nature as well, attracting racists and other reactionary segments of the voting public. While by no means the majority of his supporters, this led to the now-indelible image of Trump as a racist/misogynist/immigrant-hater/etc. This gave Clinton a battering ram with which to cudgel Trump.
You probably see the perversity in all this. A billionaire who cheats the “little-guys” he has worked with is perceived as the guardian of the “little-guys” who have lost their jobs to very poorly structured international trade agreements made by the billionaires of the world. The let-down his supporters are likely to experience will be massive. This sense of being misled will lead to more chaotic, unpredictable, results in future elections.
Internationally, this presidential outcome is being seen as the continuation of an anti-establishment trend. Some have labeled it a “nationalist” trend, with a negative connotations attributed to nationalism. We will see if this is true in upcoming European elections.
A truly worrisome outcome of this election is the reaction of the winning side to the losing side’s demonstrations/protests. Forget about the likelihood that if the outcome had been reversed, there would have been protests, too. But now, there is a wave of anti-protester sentiment, with one senator proposing to make certain minor offenses into major ones, with criminal consequences. People are forgetting how fundamental the right to assemble is. That’s why it’s included in the FIRST amendment to the U.S. Constitution as part of the Bill of Rights.
Finally, our community’s seeming preference for Trump is worrisome. A bellicose world leader with no real governance or diplomatic experience could be become a real headache for Armenian issues. Plus, the rationales for selecting him over Clinton are specious or shaky. We know nothing about his stances on Armenian-related issues. Assuming he will clash with Turkey as some have, is not a very strong argument. Far too many of our community members have been imbued with the knee-jerk Clinton-hating that has poisoned the election. None of this is to argue that Clinton with her flip-flopping on the Genocide and close ties to the Turkish government and Gulen movement is any better.
I suppose we’ll see how things turn out. Of course, as Harut Sassounian has already recommended, we should be reaching out to Trump and others we did not support to begin relationships with him and them. Let’s get busy. We’re going to have a long, trying, four years, both as citizens and Armenians.