aNewDomain — You know, 2010 was a really weird year.
That year marked the start of the Arab Spring, when young people rose up to overthrow dictatorship and champion democracy throughout the Arab World.
Except that was a mischaracterization. Arab youth never turned out for the cause of democracy. They did it for jobs and for food. Liberalism was never much a part of their agenda. And that world was too divided over tribal affinities, anyway.
Young protesters in Egypt did manage throw out Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. They held elections until the West cheered.
But then it all went wrong.
Egypt ended up electing Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi to power. And then he voided the its Constitution with his Morsi Decree, an amendment that granted him total and unlimited power over Egyptians. (A military coup followed, which is another sordid story you can read about here.)
Many Arab Spring revolutions were more successful and seamless. The movement easily tossed a Tunisian dictatorship. And it spurred Jordan to move to a far more democratic kind of government.
The trouble with democracy is this: Everyone doesn’t think the same way about the same things. For instance, everyone interprets incoming US president Donald Trump’s slogan, “make America Great again” differently.
In the US, democracy is a lot like this Brain Games demonstration where you have to guess how many gum balls are in a jar …
When we vote, we get something. It just isn’t always something we want.
What liberal American protesters rioting over Trump’s election don’t get is that voting is a compromise position.
It says: Because we can’t agree, let’s go through this process of arbitration and agree to accept the results of it.
In the end, sometimes you win and sometimes I win, and often we’re both disappointed.
Consider that, in this election, there were plenty of voters who wanted neither Trump nor Hillary Clinton.
If they headed to the polls at all on Nov. 8, they voted not for their candidate but against another one.
So why did people vote for Trump?
Look at this way.
In the Arab Spring, Egypt agitated for revolution. But it ended up with an even sterner conservative than the one they were rebelling against.
As for us, we had eight years of hope and change and a progressive agenda, even if conservatives blocked much of it from being enacted.
What you’re seeing now is the backlash against that, and also the reaction to what many Trump supporters correctly perceive to be an economy that’s failing them.
Trump supporters didn’t vote the man in because they hate you, or because they loved Trump’s incendiary commentary about African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims or women in general. They didn’t vote for him because they love the hateful white supremacists who support him, either.
They voted, as my colleague over at Cracked.com wrote in his excellent essay on the matter, despite of all that.
And, so far as Arab Spring goes, the same dichotomy arose in the minds’ of older, traditional Arabs. Trying to understand what would make their youth rebel, which seemed entirely illogical and decidedly non-Arab to them, they just labeled their movement as liberal.
They totally missed that the real driver among Arab Spring’s young protesters was toward economic justice — and away from tyranny.
That’s why I characterize our experience around the US right now as a kind of Arab Spring, one that began with the election of US President Barack Obama back in 2008.
Obama, you know, was pretty much a political outsider when he hit the national stage. Versed mainly in community organizing and direct action in Chicago, he’d only served briefly as a congressional representative before wresting the nomination from Hillary Clinton in a contentious primary.
Then he stunned the world by getting elected as a change candidate.
Obama, who won more votes than either Trump or Clinton this time, represented minorities in a strange new way. He was an African American who suddenly was in America’s highest office, making him the most powerful man in the world.
The heavy resistance to his platform didn’t just start during this election. It emerged the minute Obama announced his candidacy. And it snowballed from there.
The GOP, for the most part, thought this minority upstart was proposing too much change, using old-fashioned patronizing language like “too big for his britches.”
As early as 2009, white, male protesters started bringing guns and marching around obstinately at anti Obama rallies.
As for Obama’s supporters, conservatives just painted them all with a singular, broad brushstroke: They were corrupt, dastardly spendthrifts with too much power and too little moral sense.
They honed that bitter message throughout his presidency.
And there’s another reason so many Americans rose up to support Trump on Election Day.
That’s the economy.
Yes, I know that many of Trump’s most ardent critics think the economy is fine. But that’s only true for a certain point of view.
Rust never sleeps
Look, from where I’m sitting, there’s nothing rosy about the economy right now. It’s shit. I see why Trump supporters are so upset about it.
There are jobs to be had, yes. But they are part-time, low-wage service jobs. Even for someone like me, a trained professional psychologist who teaches college and grad students how to counsel clients in therapy, the situation sucks. Full-time professorships are at an all-time low. My psychology department just offered its first full-time opening in 11 years and I was not even considered.
Not everyone works at Google or some hot startup. Outside the bubble, people are suffering at both ends of the education spectrum.
And the poor get poorer. I know. I spend part of every week making sandwiches for homeless people, and there are more of them than ever.
The foreclosure thing has been over for a while, I know, but the policies that allowed the housing bubble to grow and burst in the first place are mostly back in place. And nobody went to jail.
And yeah, the Dow Jones is stratospheric, but some of my students at the community college are living in their cars or couch surfing, in other words, homeless.
Veterans are hurting in a major way, too. These folks get much of their daily needs met through charities, organizations who are well-positioned to scam them Take the Wounded Warrior Project. Earlier this year, a CBS News investigation showed that, in 2015, it passed along 60 percent of the $300 million it raised from donors the year before.
From non-tech educated professionals and academics, to students, veterans, middle class home owners and working class apartment holders, these are the voters who came out for Trump. They did it because he spoke to problems they faced.
Trump blamed greed and corruption in Washington for these problems. He promised to “drain the swamp” to wipe out the greedy, corrupt power-holders he demonized.
You can see why this idea might hold great allure.
In terms of the economy, the current state of things is anything but okay. Actually, it’s an all-out emergency.
So who, exactly, is the economy working for?
Set aside the idea that it really isn’t the Democrats who’ve been running our country. During the last two presidential terms, Republican obstructionists have been mostly in charge — of the Supreme Court, the Senate and the House. They also held most of the power in the congressional bodies of most US states. They occupied most of the governor’s mansions, too.
That’s why, after eight years of Democratic presidential leadership, much of this country is still in pain and wanting change. Most of us are still in the same situations, or worse, as we were back in 2008.
This is why, during the 2016 elections, many voters cast ballots against the institutions of governments and not, as is usually the case, against specific Democrats and Republicans.
This is an uprising and we all took part, regardless of whether you voted for Trump or Clinton. Even those of us voting blue told pollsters we’d lost faith in our government.
And remember, many of Clinton’s supporters only got to her by way of the socialist Democratic primary candidate, Bernie Sanders. The world’s oldest millennial, Sanders ran on a platform that demanded extreme change.
And another thing about rust …
Put it like this.
The Rust Belt is where capitalism has wreaked the worst havoc. As we moved from an industrial economy to an information-based one, small towns dried up.
But they didn’t blow away. They’re still there.
And the young people who grow up in those rusty small towns have nowhere to go and nothing to do. Jobs are scarce, schools are iffy and cheap drugs are easily and cheaply available.
The presiding atmosphere is one of hopelessness.
This explains why young urban Millennials and young rural millennials voted for opposite parties this cycle, but out of all the same principles: They want jobs, an end to corruption and a government for the people that cares about how their tomorrows turn out.
So okay, I’ll stop. I can hear you all retching right now.
And you are going to get to what you want
And the only advice I have for any of you is take a deep breath and struggle for great compassion. I trust you, and I know you can do it. You will bounce back and get through this, you must. We all must.
I can’t make any claims to reassure you about Trump’s sincerity. In fact, given what I’ve heard him say in public, on tape and on the social nets, I may never make such claims.
I also won’t soothe you by promising that Republicans will enact their change agendas any more than Democrats did. I won’t tell you that the failures of the Democratic party are its own fault. I won’t try to convince you that the critics who blame conservatives for manipulated average Americans are wrong, either.
But the election is over.
Look, we all want to get to the promised land.
Some of us wanted to get there in a Prius with an anti-vax bumper sticker, ala Jill Stein. Some of us wanted to make that trip in a non-descript sedan with a fat stash of weed in the glove compartment, ala Gary Johnson.
Many more of us opted for for the blandest blacked-out Escalade ever registered, and less than half of us told the world that their preferred ride was a limousine — with a gun rack.
In the end, and in probably not the final analysis of a really, really weird and unpredictable cycle, I’d ask you to remember that most of us did not vote for vote Trump.
And many of those who did were voting against Clinton. That’s why Trump lost the popular vote and why third party candidates’ share of the overall winnings was just about Obama’s margin of victory in 2012.
The thing is, all of us want the same thing: Revolution.
And don’t worry. Because you’re gonna get it.
p.s. If you’re as worried as I am about the major issue never discussed in this campaign season (climate change) consider reading my novel about its consequence: What Hope Wrought.
Cover image: Popo le Chien, Public Domain.
Inside images, in order of appearance: Tahrir Square on Nov. 20, 2010: Lilian Wagdy: , via Wikimedia Commons, All Rights Reserved; Anti-Trump protesters on Nov. 10, 2016: KUOW.org, All Rights Reserved; Anti-Obama protest: Vox.com, All Rights Reserved;