Shock wave, terrifying, earth-shaking, disaster, nightmare… Many strong words were used to describe the unexpected election of Donald Trump to the White House, when the very same day polls gave Hillary Clinton a four-point advance over her Republican opponent. November 8th, 2016 will remain in History as a turning point, both on domestic and international plans: Trump’s election confirms that a populist trend is settling itself in Western countries, like the Brexit first showed last June.
We, at Voicing Realities, spent Election night in Times Square, New York – as results were gradually announced, we noticed people’s beaten look and got to speak with some of them about the Historical moment that was occurring right in front of our eyes. Among them was Sean, a middle-aged American citizen; the day after the shocking news, he agreed to meet with us to share his impressions on what will remain as one of the U.S.’ most controversial presidential elections.
The interview was edited for clarity purposes.
Voicing Realities (VR): Sean, you live in New York; could you explain what living the presidential election in this city was like?
Sean (S.): I grew up in Colorado, and I lived in Seattle for seven years prior to moving to New York. So, living in New York and on the East Coast is like being in a different country. And I am really have taken to being here because it’s ethnically diverse… there’s easier access to public transportation, it’s more like a European city I guess in that regard – that’s what really attracted me to this city. Being here for this election, it’s very shocking to me to see the outcome. Putting all emotions aside, what this election represents is a mentality that’s fluid throughout the rest of America and what it comes down to its… America is justifying its xenophobia, America is justifying its misogyny… I guess if you want to boil down this election to one thing, you could say poor white males have felt disenfranchised from the system over the past eight years – they feel like they don’t have a voice, so now…
If you want to boil down this election to one thing, you could say poor white males have felt disenfranchised from the system over the past eight years
President Obama, I think, did a fine job – recovering the economy after the biggest recession since the Depression – things were going alright, so again it’s really to me a shock, it’s really hurtful to me to see that there’s a double standard. If the things that Donald Trump said came out of President Obama’s mouth, he wouldn’t exist as a politician. But when Trump says these really loaded, painfully, horrific, racist statements, people look the other way: “Oh but… Oh but…”. They rationalize his ideology, and I think that’s amazingly unacceptable. It’s unacceptable, it’s embarrassing as a country. My mother grew up during the Civil Rights Movement, my grandmother as well. So their childhood was living in an environment where they couldn’t use the same drinking fountain as a white person, where they couldn’t ride at the front of a bus with a white person and then the revolution happened – and it was such a great joy for me to see President Obama getting elected within my grandmother’s lifetime to say: “Look Grandmother, things changed”. I am sad that she has to see this happen. ‘Cause it gets back all the changes that we’ve worked so hard for, throughout the Civil Rights movement… And now it’s just a new Jim Crow (Laws enforcing racial segregation in the United States during the 19th and 20th century, Editor’s Note) – that’s a title that you hear over and over again, the new Jim Crow. It didn’t die, it just creates reforms. (…) It is a perfect example of us taking two steps back, one step forward, and then two steps back.
VR: And it may continue that way: throughout the campaign, Trump made it clear that he would work to destroy everything Obama settled over the last eight years.
S.: That’s really making me nervous, because for what it’s worth, Obamacare may not be perfect, but that’s the closest thing that we have to giving people helpful health coverage. I use it, I pay out of my pocket a small amount of money and I’ve never had a better healthcare. When I had healthcare under the company that I work for, it was very very expensive, very very expensive. I couldn’t afford to have things done. Before, you could be denied healthcare insurance because of preexisting conditions. I don’t know what Trump’s ideas as a man, as a human being are about people and healthcare. But I think that his constituency wants these big things in return, so… what is really happening today in the recovery period from the election, are people like “Yeah he had this loaded rhetoric to win votes, but now he is in office he’s gonna be very moderate because there is no way possible that he could actually do the things that he says.” Still, I’m very very nervous.
VR: Today (November 9th, the day after the election, Editor’s Note), Trump delivered a speech in which he tries to appear as a unifying President, who is determined to gather the nation and “bind the wounded divisions”. Would he be able to federate the country?
S.: That’s absolutely absurd. How dare he say something like that when he has written off a whole segment of our immigrant population? Calling them rapists. Calling them crooks. How is that gonna unify anybody? I don’t see… Don’t you think that he has drawn a big wedge between everyone, and I think the only outcome of this election is to bring to light all of these feelings that people have always had, but never spoken. So, bringing people together, no. Drawing us a wedge? Yes. It’s a mini civil war, we just have to see who’s gonna win.
VR: Trump’s election has triggered a lot of negative reactions all around the world – do you think it could jeopardize the U.S.’ international leader position?
S.: The U.S. is gonna lose their spot at the top because he is an isolationist. He doesn’t want to have our fingers dipped to other peoples’ affairs, he doesn’t seem to understand that sure, he is a businessman, but we live in a global economy. Yes some people, like the Brexit voters are saying that, you know, “Why are we putting our resources behind other peoples’ interests?” But it is our interest, it is most definitely our interest. Internationally I think Trump is a disaster, he doesn’t have any experience. He doesn’t have an experience, end of story. He may have lofty dreams and ideals, and maybe he does wanna be a unifying President that makes people, love and happiness throughout the world, but how is he gonna when he doesn’t have the experience?
Trump may have lofty dreams and ideals, and maybe he does wanna be a unifying President, but how is he gonna when he doesn’t have the experience?
VR: When you take a closer look to his international program, Trump says he wants to “destroy ISIS” but doesn’t specify any plan or measure.
S.: I gather his solution to the ISIS problem is just destroying, destroying everything that they touch. And in a lot of various subjects, people are like “Oh go bomb Afghanistan”, it’s kind of that post-9/11 mentality. “We don’t care of who you bomb just as long as you bomb something because we were hurt. We don’t care of who you bomb to get rid of ISIS, just bomb someone and get rid of them, I’m tired of this problem.” And that’s the mentality that people have.
VR: Speaking of ISIS, Trump underlined several times that he wants to develop a special relationship with Russia…
S.: Oh, he does have a special relationship with Russia already. And it makes me really uncomfortable, because there are issues in Syria… I think he is a little too close to the administration. (…) You have to question that relationship (with Putin, Editor’s Note).
VR: Let’s come back to Trump’s program, on a domestic issue; he plans to create 25 million jobs over 10 years – what do you think about this objective?
S.: My question is, how does he plan to do that? Did he ever gave a defendant in advance of how he is going to create 25 million jobs?
VR: It is a very common criticize against Trump’s proposals – he talks about his objectives, but doesn’t evoke his plans to reach these. How do you explain American people could trust him to run the country?
S.: We are tired! I mean, you’re gonna hear this again and again, and it almost sounds cliché: we are tired of this status quo. The mines aren’t working, and yes the economy grew, but there are families that aren’t living with their jobs… If you look at people that work in the fossil field industry, minors, and people that work in the oil industry… fracking and finding our own resources here, that creates jobs. North Dakota was booming for a while, and when people looked at alternatives like green energy sources – all they see are their jobs going away. They don’t really take into account the long-term consequences of fracking. And shale oil, it is a dirty dirty dirty business – and Trump supports all of that. That’s how he wants to bring jobs back. And it’s not a viable alternative, it’s not gonna work. It can’t work.
VR: So what should he do?
S.: If he wants to bring jobs, then he needs to invest in alternative, non-fossil, fuel sources. We need to be innovative. But I think what he wants to do is money, he wants to make those people in the middle of America happy. When the status is fully preserved, the status quo for them is working in the oil industry, the status quo for them is mining, the status quo for them it’s paving things over, building free ways, sending notes to public transportations… (Pause) That’s how you bring jobs around, you innovate.
VR: But when you know that Trump is about to cancel the U.S.’ approval of COP21 agreement, it doesn’t look like he is ready to make any investments in the green industry?
S.: He is not. I call him a eco-terrorist. Even considering that idea is complete madness. And it just goes to show how isolationist he is. You have to remember there are still people in this country that don’t believe in global warming – they think it’s a farce, they think it’s some kind of liberal conspiracy that get them to get out of their cars and their SUVs. These are the people he is appealing to.
Trump President – Empire State Building, November 9th 2016 © Jeanne Daucé
VR: A few hours ago, Hillary Clinton declared “We have to accept this result, and look towards the future.” She also said she offered Trump to cooperate with him. What’s your opinion on that?
S.: It’s too soon! (Laughs) I understand that she is trying to be a unifying factor… and of course we need to move on, because there is no going back from there, and I understand. I understand why she said what she said, but I cannot see her being a member of his Cabinet. To work with him, is to agree with him. And I think what we need to do is figure out how we lost this election – how could she lose to this guy? We need to work on that. I don’t think it would be appropriate for her, like when Al Gore finally conceded that he had lost the election: he went out to work in the private sector to do wonderful things, for his cause. I think she selling out her cause, if she needs to go and work with him. And I’m not really in the mood to unify or to cooperate with Donald Trump. To me… and again putting all emotions aside, I think yesterday (November 8th, Editor’s Note) was a declaration of civil war. Basically, it’s us against them, and I think we have to… politically renew ourselves to win this battle.
I think November 8th was a declaration of civil war. Basically, it’s us against them, we have to politically renew ourselves to win this battle
VR: It looks like you are shocked that Clinton lost against Trump; do you have any ideas or reasons in mind that may explain this? Is America not ready to have a woman as a President? Is it because of the email scandals that tarnished the end of her campaign?
S.: I don’t understand – how could she lose? How could a rational person… The scandals she was cleared… I think her being a woman is part of the matter, but I don’t think that gender is the biggest issue here. I think the biggest issue is her ties to the Obama presidency and what people are trying to get rid of. I saw Trump’s supporters with a tee-shirt that said: “Make the White House white again”. (Pause) That kind of set it down for me.
Am I surprised that people are supporting what he says? No, because a lot of people are supporting the same ideas as he does, but they never say it! And now that they’ve given him a platform to say these things, they feel empowered. And now they’ve taken the power to the White House.
VR: You probably saw that the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) endorsed Trump and he didn’t reject this support – how do you feel about this?
S.: You know, I have friends that voted for Donald Trump. That I’ve actually defriended on Facebook as of yesterday. It seems petty, but it was important to me. I brought up the KKK issue, and you know what they replied? I say “How can you support a candidate that is endorsed by a hate group?” And they said “Black Lives Matter is a hate group.” (Pause) I don’t agree with that statement, but I think that when you’re not affected, you don’t care. What I mean is like, if you’re not in a minority, if someone is endorsed by the KKK you’re like “Hum, the KKK, we know they’re bad, but they’ve endorsed him, whatever, there is no big deal.”
VR: Facing all these points, do you have any hopes or expectations?
S.: The only that I am hoping is (Laughs)… If he wants to function in all of his offices, he is not gonna be able to follow what he said he was gonna do, and he’s gonna fall through it. I am hoping that he has this support system underneath him, that can guide him through. To him, in my opinion, he’s an overgrowing frat boy who just wants to have his way. And now that he won, he’s like “Fine, I won.” My hope is that we will just come out of it… okay. I hope there is no way that he can put into an active policy that he has cocked up… My hope is that logic and intelligence, and thoughtfulness will prevail in this country. And like I said what I’m really happy about him winning, it’s all on the table now. All of these issues that we’ve suppressed for so long, concerning race, concerning environmentalism, concerning all of these issues that we’ve just not paid attention to, we’ve been complacent about, now we don’t have a choice: we have to address them.
It’s all on the table now. All of these issues that we’ve suppressed for so long, concerning race, concerning environmentalism, concerning all of these issues that we’ve been complacent about, now we don’t have a choice: we have to address them.
VR: To reuse Trump’s own expression: do you think that he does have the stamina to be President of the U.S.?
S.: I don’t think so. Like I said, in the business world, he is a competent businessman. But I don’t think he is a competent politician. Not ever have served office in anything – the guy has never even been to a PTA (Parent-Teacher Association, Editor’s Note) before, for God’s sake! You wouldn’t hire someone to cut your lawn that has never cut lawns before, would you? No, they don’t have experience… Why would you elect someone to the highest office in the Western world, without experience? That’s because you’re tired of the way of things are and you wanna a change.
VR: So why do you think Trump ran for President?
S.: Because I just think he is a sociopath! I think he just wants to win. I saw a documentary on Frontline of both candidates – basically, you look at Hillary Clinton who has devoted her whole life to politics, and she was younger she was going to hear Martin Luther King speak. And then you look at this guy, who grew up in the business world, with his father… They engaged in some real estate project, it really hurt a lot of minority communities. If you look at this, you see how it affect minority communities, and not being able to own a home… that’s the anger that helps you grow economically, is having equity and a house, that you can pass on to your kids, and now you’re not able to do that. Historically, these are the practices his family is engaged in. So when Hillary Clinton is listening to Martin Luther King speak, Donald Trump is running around in a limousine, like discriminating against people from renting housings in the buildings… And living in a nice neighborhood, and having access to decent schools. That’s what people we are dealing here, that’s what I see.
VR: Where will you be on Inauguration Day, January 20th?
S.: London, hopefully. I need to be away from this country. I don’t wanna be here.
VR: Would you be ready to go and live abroad?
S.: If I could expatriate, I would. I’ve a lot of friends that live abroad. The reason I say that is because I was so hurt about Trump winning this election…. Basically you’re saying half of people in this country support his ideas, his ideas I find to be very offensive. And if half of the country supports his ideas, maybe I don’t wanna live here anymore.
Featured image: Sean during our interview, November 9th 2016, New York – © Jeanne Daucé