What Now? What Next?

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Gage Skidmore / CC BY 3.0
November 23, 2016

Like many Americans, the election victory of President-elect Donald Trump has shaken me personally as well as professionally. As a Buddhist and a Stoic, I spent little time feeling despair. As an introvert, I didn’t join a crowd to share my thoughts. As a policy analyst who is committed to constitutional democracy, I didn’t join a protest. So I went inward. I asked myself: What now? What next? This post is a statement of my personal commitment.

After a few days of soul searching, I still stand by my prediction that the best days of America are still yet to come. Even though diversity is our collective destiny, we must learn to work together to achieve our collective prosperity. Given the current political climate, to realize this prosperous future, we must act with a sense of urgency and purpose. I plan to do my part to find ways to work together across political and social divides. I cannot think of any worthier goal for myself.

Even though my vision and goals didn’t change as a result of the victory of President-elect Trump, I realize that my tactics have been flawed and need to be corrected.

Since the day he announced his candidacy, I warned my close friends and colleagues that he could win. However, I considered the victory of President-elect Trump improbable because my imagination was bounded by available data and the information I consumed. I failed to be inclusive in my consumption of information. The publications I read and the experts I listened to lacked diversity. They provided me with redundant information that blinded me from the reality on the ground. I need to break away from this intellectual bubble. I plan to seek out President-elect Trump’s supporters and learn about the desires and fears that motivate their actions.

I have considered President-elect Trump a perfect negative example of a public leader. I have viewed the way he has gained power to resemble the way tyrants have gained power in history. His victory was fueled not by hope and sound policies, but by fear of a declining majority who wants to keep their dominance, disgust at stagnated and corrupt established institutions, and anxiety of Americans who feel left behind by the emerging economy. But I realize that my opinions of his victory are based on information I learned from the sources that have misled me about the outcome of the election. I must not depend on these sources to gain more complete understanding of the reality on the ground.

We cannot build a diverse, inclusive, and prosperous future without finding ways to address these strong feelings of President-elect Trump’s supporters. If we are to build a bright future, we need a broad and inclusive coalition that includes a sizable number of President-elect Trump’s supporters. Building this coalition will be difficult, some may even say impossible, as it requires overcoming identity-based policies and practices and finding ways to compromise. I must resist divisive ideologies from all fronts regardless of their party affiliations.

To be an effective policy analyst and an informed trainer of public leaders, I must expand how I gather data and consume information. I need to appreciate fear and understand the anger of President-elect Trump’s supporters. Failure to address their fear and anger will result in the continued success of President-elect Trump and his political allies in state and local governments. They now control the federal government and two-thirds of state governments.

Some may say that the task of forging coalitions with President-elect Trump’s supporters is impossible given the political climate. Some may say that the required compromise would not be morally acceptable. Some may even insist that it is the responsibility of people who are in power and positions of privilege to reach out to those who are powerless and underprivileged. But I am convinced that without a broad, diverse, and inclusive coalition, we will drift further and further away from the collective future that we all desire. The task will require fundamental changes. The change must begin, as late Michael Jackson sang, with the “man in the mirror.”

Fels Institute of Government

The Fels Institute of Government
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