November 8 Shocks and Aftershocks


The unexpected result of the November 8 election in the United States continues to have aftershocks. And they will continue for a long time. Just as the implosion of the Soviet Union, September 11, 2001 attacks and the Arab Spring changed world politics, the election of Donald Trump represents a transformative event.

Although we are living through the tremors in real time – we hang onto all reports of interviews and nominations to see how profound the unfolding earthquake will be – we can only speculate about what the results will in the future.

Given my failure to have predicted Trump’s victory, I shall try to be more than prudent. Nonetheless, although I failed to predict the outcome of the election, I continue to be asked what the Trump presidency will mean for the world, Europe, Switzerland and Geneva. It seems I haven’t lost my legitimacy. My blog has not been cancelled. On the contrary, the comments on my last blog – “We Blew It” – were some of the most perceptive I have received.

When the Ought overwhelms the Is, it is time for serious reflection. There was collective cognitive dissonance, a collective failure to see what was going on. It was not enough for journalists to say they visited the Rust Belt. Maybe they were speaking to the wrong people? Maybe they were asking the wrong questions? Maybe they were just the wrong people to be writing about what was going on? In hindsight, they were wearing rose-colored glasses with the wrong prescription.

I have an excuse, my friends tell me. I have lived outside the country for over 40 years. That can easily explain my disconnect from today’s anger and frustration of the American people. I could excuse myself by saying that as a native New Yorker I missed the heartbeat of the heartland. After all, Donald Trump won over 80% of the votes across the geographic United States. Take away the Northeast, West Coast and some Democratic cities in between, the overwhelming geographic US voted Republican. But Clinton did win the popular vote. There may have been an earthquake; there was no landslide.

These ruminations have not come to terms with what is going to happen in the world, Europe, Switzerland and Geneva. Pardon my continuing lamentations. For Donald Trump continues to surprise in form if not content. In a world where facts seem to be less and less important, where YouTube statements by him replace interviews with the media, where he lambasts elite journalists with implications that there will be a very new relationship between the presidency and the press, when his promise to “clean the swamp” seems to miss the possibilities of nepotism and ethical duplicity in his own family, where his initial appointments of five white males to important positions reaffirms his nostalgia for “The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made” as described in a 1986 book by Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas about a group of US government officials and members of the East Coast foreign policy establishment after World War II – this time the “wise men” are outside the Eastern establishment – we are in for a roller coaster ride of surprises. (The appointments of Nikki Haley as US Ambassador to the UN and Betsy de Vos, sister of Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, as the Secretary of Education do not change Trump’s fundamental positions.)

How long do earthquakes last? When do we change from classifying a sudden, ordinary earthquake to a long-term extraordinary shifting of tectonic plates? Maybe instead of vising an optometrist to change lenses, we should be consulting seismologists who study massive earth movements.

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