What I Learned from the 2016 Election
Until the election night, I saw myself and my group of “educated” people as the group that should lead society; that should show the way and the manners to do things; that should give our ideas to others to be implemented. In other words, I was part of the elite, like the Washington elite that propels the entire country forward. So were Hillary Clinton and his party; so were Paul Ryan and his party. But the election results screamed at us “we the white uneducated people don’t want you because you forgot us.” Yes, those who put one of them at the presidency of the most powerful country in the world loudly and emphatically complained because the “educated” people have been looking down to them for too long, axing the most important feeling that any human has: hope for a better future.
To me the lesson is simple: we all are humans.
We all breath, eat, drink, defecate, sleep, love, cry, laugh, have sex, but most importantly, we all have hopes of a better future. A better future for us, and for our children. All of that happen no matter whether our highest degree of education is a third grade of grammar school, or a doctoral degree from Harvard university, because again, we all are the same; we are bone-and-flesh humans. I bring up the people’s education level because according to the polls Trump won thanks to the uneducated white people (if you still trust polls check the Washington Post). Or we could flip the argument and say Clinton lost because there were not enough white educated people voting for her. Being in the group of educated people I, inadvertently, have trained myself to despise the uneducated because, I thought I would understand things that they wouldn’t; because I learned things that they didn’t; because I could explain things they couldn’t. But I am not alone. I know and I have seen how other educated people look down to the uneducated and believe in a superiority just because of the education level, when in reality the fact is we all are humans.
But now we have a problem. The concept of a representative democracy is that we elect our leaders to represent us, and to make decisions more wisely and expeditiously based on timely information that they have before us. Most of the elected officials are “educated” people, lawyers, doctors, and business people with government experience that should be able to propose ideas to guide the country in the right direction. Now we have a new commander in chief who we know has no experience on government at all; who knows little on macro/world economics; who insults minorities of all kinds; hence, we will have to help the new president during his time as the leader of this country while we find a solution to the problem before the next election.
How do we make sure this does not happen again? A simple solution is to pay more attention to the white uneducated people, but this won’t solve the root cause. In my opinion the solution is to make them part of the educated crowd; make them part of the political process; give them more knowledge of history, geography, languages, religions, in order to become responsible citizens. In other words, elevate their educational level so they are their own leaders, and make the best decision when electing their representative. This is not easy. The elite wants to be a small group to have privileges that the masses don’t have. Therefore, the first task is to make a change in the mindset of the elite. That is the hardest part because it will result in a change of the status quo that has prevailed for centuries. A second step towards a unifying country is to change the way votes are counted. The electoral college vote makes no sense anymore in the era of satellites, internet and cell phones. One person = one vote.
The country where I was born went through this episode 17 years ago. Hugo Chavez, representative of the uneducated, made the same appealing call to make Venezuela great again using Simon Bolivar’s 19th century ideals the central message of his campaign. He won by a landslide with the vote of the uneducated and forgotten people. Unfortunately, Venezuela’s democracy was young (only 40 years old) and didn’t have the strong institutions US has in the congress and the supreme court. Chavez rewrote the Venezuelan constitution to fit his ambitions; corruption continued in higher levels, and the country has been in disarray ever since. I am sure the US congress has the strength to stop Trump from becoming an authoritarian president as Chavez was.
I see this election result (and the election in Venezuela 17 years ago) as the great lesson that tell us that we need to be humble and educate ourselves and everybody else; we need to care more about our kind simply because “we all are humans.”
C. A. Soto Aguirre©