This is on us

We have underestimated racism. We have underestimated right wing extremism. We have underestimated the hatred towards women… This is about the nationalistic wind that has swept across America. Across Europe. Norway as well.

I translated this from something Shazia Sharwar wrote in the biggest Norwegian newspaper yesterday. She is a journalist that works as a commentator/pundit in this paper, and she was trying to take some responsibility for the shocking result of the US election. She has a point, but I don’t think she can see the whole picture. The prejudices she referrs to don’t mean more than the political elite’s lack of ability or will to help the people that need it the most.

USA is a big country, maybe too big for everyone to feel that Washington DC is close, and I’m not talking about geography. You could sit in the same room and feel that the distance to the person across the table is measured in light. I think Hillary Clinton’s “Stronger Together” was supposed to indicate that she had middle class values, that she wanted to include the middle class in her team. The question is how electable she is. I think many see her as privileged, and as a part of an elite, certainly politically and possibly financially as well. If that’s true she is always going to have a tough job convincing people in a country with extreme inequality. At least in the present climate.

occypy tent camp
A protest from the Occupy movement in Cyprus is just one of many voices telling authorities that life is hard. The US election is another sign.
wikimedia commons

Donald Trump is certainly in the upper social layer, although no one could accuse him of having class. He is pretty tactless and many of his peers probably resent him for not trying to hide what may be a common personality among people that feel they don’t have to consider the vast majority. Trump still made many voters think that this was a rebellion against the elite holding the power. I think this can explain Brexit as well. Decisions are taken farther and farther away, and the people making these decisions don’t know or care what the people think. That will lead to some sort of protest, which I think is what got both Obama and Trump elected. It’s interesting that after Britain’s EU-referendum the minority wanted a new referendum. They thought they could put democracy on hold because they didn’t like the decision.

Media is a part of the problem. It has been called the backbone of democracry, but when journalists fail to be the mirror that tells us the truth about the world around us, one wonders who keeps the politicians honest. Media may be better in Scandinavia compared to many other regions, but they are inclined to avoid real journalism here as well. They all report the same and US politics seems to be a copy of articles from American papers. It doesn’t matter how independent they feel if they don’t appear to be a part of the solultion.

It really is a narrative when media is slanted, which Norwegian media’s coverage of the American election was. The message was that Trump made the world more dangerous, and Hillary would make everything better. The truth is that we are facing challenges it will take longer time than a couple of terms in The White House to straighten out, but I hope the next president will start the job. The problem is that the president can’t do the job alone. The US ambassador in Oslo could serve as an example of how difficult it is to work together in politics. When Barry White left in September 2013 after serving as ambassador for four years, it took 869 days to get another ambassador approved by the Senate. The last hold up was  because Ted Cruz wanted to pressure Obama to stop the nuclear treaty with Iran.

As for Hillary Clinton being less likely to go to war there are some that think she is a part of a tradition in the Democratic Party that see it as their responsibility to spread a liberal democracy through war. Harry Truman sent troops to Korea, Lyndon Johnson started the Vietnam War, and Bill Clinton intervened in Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq. This isn’t the Democrats way. It’s American politics, and the Republicans are doing the same. Bill Clinton said in the State of the Union address in 1998 that Saddam Hussein was building an arsenal of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. That was his justification for signing the Iraq Liberation Act. Does that sound familiar? My point is that it would be wrong to assume that Democrats are less likely to go to war. Obama was, but Harry Clinton is different.

If the goal was to keep Trump out of the White House the voters will have to accept responsibility for failing, just as we all have to when we make decisions we couldn’t explain. Hillary Clinton seemed to be unelectable, but I think Bernie Sanders would have done better. He had some of Trump’s anti-establishment politics, but without any scandals. There were problems with Sanders too, like there always are with socialists, but he may have been what the USA needed right now.

Media also have some responsibility because, at least in Norway, they were much more inclined to give Hillary Clinton positive exposure than both Trump and Sanders. No one seems to have understood just how tired people are of the two parties that have governed, or failed to. It’s far too simplistic to blame angry, middled aged white men. There are many angry people.

I guess it doesn’t matter what Norwegian media do as they can’t influence Americans, but I wish they could report the honest truth and be critical, but fair. The Americans are moving into unknown territory now. They don’t know what will happen next, but this could also be an opportunity to take some of the power back. I don’t know what Trump is planning, but he can’t do it any more alone than Obama. If Trump turns out to be better than many fear I hope he will get help. This matters to Americans, but it matters to the rest of us too, because if America doesn’t work, the world doesn’t work.

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One thought on “This is on us

  1. An interesting reflection. And yes, media coverage was pretty much exactly as you described here in the US as well. There’s evidence that the media essentially promoted Trump in the Republican primary with disproportionate coverage as well, because he was most likely to lose to Clinton. Neither candidate was a good one, but I suppose this is where we are now. I’m also hoping that Trump will reach for help and that he will surprise us all with his presidential competency, just as he surprised us by winning the election.

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