We asked a range of clever and interesting people: What just happened? And what now?
There appears to be a global phenomenon taking place in the political arena. An underlying silent majority who focus in on the politics of hate, rather than the politics of substance. This may sound like a trailer to some horror movie and perhaps it is, because this genre always ends with the obligatory cliff hanger.
Political hate, we saw it in Brexit and it raised its ugly head in the American elections. But it is also growing here in New Zealand. Māori and immigrants used as pawns to pedal fear among people. Politicians screaming from their soap boxes “the end is nigh”, vote for me and Donald Trump, described by some media as the harbinger of doom, played the lead role accordingly.
It is time for Māori to rise up and vote a vote of faith in themselves by voting for the Māori Party and use that voice to further advance the aspirations of our people. We can have a greater controlling voice in government instead of tinkering at the edges of other parties’ detrimental policies or as a handbrake to harm. Instead, reject the politics of hate inevitably levelled at Māori and subsequently the Māori Party as we seek to eliminate disparity for Māori and add value to the nation. By this we shall overcome the divisions among us and unify our nation by voting for substance not hate.
Marama Fox is co-leader of the Māori Party
What happened there? Over the last four decades the US has created a massive, permanent underclass whose fortunes have gone backwards; governed by a self-aggrandising elite who got ever richer and more entrenched. This was the backlash, expressed in the ugliest of ways.
What now? We enter a period of great uncertainty. Trump demonstrated that he’s an almost pathological liar, so there’s no guarantee that anything he said during the election campaign will make it onto his actual policy agenda in Government. I suspect he’ll want to act purely as the public face of his administration, and leave all the hard work to his Vice President, Mike Pence (who is as much of a worry as Trump himself). What it means for New Zealand is that we need to redouble our efforts to create a more inclusive, more equal, more tolerant, more open society where no one gets left behind. If we allow ourselves to go down the same path of creating a permanent, disaffected underclass, governed by an out-of-touch, wealthy elite, we will go the same way.
James Shaw is co-leader of the Green Party
The election of Donald Trump as US President brings to an end a 40-year Golden Age of liberalism that began with the election of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in 1979 and 1980, the reform programmes in China and India since the rise of Deng Xiaoping in 1978 and the election of P V Narasimha Rao in 1991, and the local versions in Australia and New Zealand under Bob Hawke, Paul Keating, David Lange and Jim Bolger.
Where this so-called “neo-liberalism” has been implemented, we have seen the greatest rise in living standards in the history of the world and the greatest advancements in the rights of women and minorities. Globally, neo-liberalism has led to the greatest reduction in inequality in the history of the world, and to the longest period of sustained peace.
Tuesday’s election of Donald Trump brings that Golden Age to an end. We enter a period where the evil economic illiberalism and isolationism promoted by the likes of Jane Kelsey will be combined with the evil social illiberality of the anti-abortion and NRA mobs. A major economic downturn is almost certain and a catastrophic global war possible.
Matthew Hooton is the director of Exceltium
What happened? For way too long the Establishment Parties in America have just not cared that the trickle down of Reaganomics hasn’t worked. The bankers and the elites are fine so of course everybody else will be in time. I’ve spent quite a bit of time in backblocks America and what has always astounded me is the disconnect between those backblocks and the seaboard states where the bankers and the tech gurus dwell. It’s like two different worlds. But there’s only one America, and that inertia of the Washington elite – no matter how cool we think Mr Obama is – has simply pissed too many people off.
I see exactly the same tide rising here. Big, lumbering establishment parties really have not served the hinterland that well. You cannot have an economy “doing well” when the salaries of the bankers, senior civil servants and the upper tranches of the corporate world are capturing all the benefits and multiplying it through property speculation. Trickle down is a farce; the ballot box eventually tells the truth.
What now? Trump is an extremist. Not a radical, an extremist. We have to hope, hope and hope that his rhetoric is not translated into action lest that leads to a very ugly clash as the American footsoldiers of extremism take the law into their own hands under the belief they too now have a mandate to act outside the law. We have to hope that his infatuation with Putin isn’t a love affair but rather only adulation of him for being ‘tough’. A ‘tough’ antidote to Putin would not necessarily be bad. There is so much we have to hope for with President Trump that one has to doubt that all those hopes can be realised.
In New Zealand we need to make these establishment party-led governments respond to the needs of New Zealanders way sooner than it has taken the US, or the UK, to respond. We do not want an extremist nutter being the eventual response to electorate frustration with ‘the steady as she goes’ policy negligence of John Key style governments. How many more elections before that’s inevitable? Form your own view.
Gareth Morgan is the leader of the nascent Opportunities Party
What happened? Resources get scarce and people hunker down in a defensive stance, unwilling to share.
What now? Democrats and Republicans have to turn themselves inside out to reflect their new constituencies. The electorate voted for change at any and all cost. They elected someone they felt was constitutionally unfit to send the message that they will no longer be ignored. As much as I disagree with the choice, that’s democracy.
Lucy Lawless is an actress and activist
This is something of an Aesop fable. I’m not well-read enough to know whether it already exists, but my take would be something like:
The Two Parrots.
One parrot spoke of fear, the other spoke of hope. The surrounding animals in the forest heard both parrots and thought among themselves. As the sky darkened and night fell, fear echoed in the animals’ minds. And to some, night was so terrifying a thought that even as the sun ascended into the bright blue sky, morning never came. Fear and ignorance blinds your perception.
Maybe things will go so catastrophically wrong that America turns itself off and on again, or maybe Trump will change his ways and turn himself off and on again. Either way, now’s a good time to reflect on how we got here.
Angella Dravid is an Auckland comedian.
What happened? The horror.
And I feel like explaining it almost excuses it. I understand the idea of ‘sending a message’ and people telling institutions that they feel like they’ve been let down or ignored. But I do not understand the idea that you send that message at any cost. I do not understand how you could forgo everything that Trump has said and done, all of the hate and division, to send a message.
What now? To be honest, I don’t feel like there’s anything hopeful to come out of this. Except I hope it brings to an end any complacency amongst people who believe in inclusion, kindness and progressive politics.
Jacinda Ardern is a Labour MP
I spent tonight in my lounge listening to a very chill/sad Spotify playlist entitled “Calm Down”. I drank the Hillary-celebration-prosseco I bought and watched Obama’s 08 victory speech from Grant Park over and over again. Remember Obama, the old President? How good was that guy?!
I tried to understand how something like this could happen, how Trump could resonate with so many people. Was *I* an elitist? Okay, that last one was an easily answered yes. I wondered if anyone would watch Trump’s victory speech (somewhere between a best man’s speech and a ZM Morning Crew birthday shout out) the same way I and millions of people who are actually affected by this election did tonight. I suppose many didn’t. I couldn’t relate to that for a second, and I suppose that’s where Democrats fell short this time too.
I know we are safe from Trump on our paradise island, and it’s just a fad to nerd out over US Politics and become the Nate Silver of your group chat for a few months, but I’m starting to fear this wave of right wing populism will make it’s way over here. If dabbing can be on the 6 o’clock news in New Zealand in late 2016, it proves we are approximately one year behind on major international trends, and our 2017 General Election is on a fast track to Brexit plus plus plus plus. We’ve already got the top pundits making direct comparisons between our governments.
And we certainly have the angry white working class population ready to go, I’ve seen them, they write hateful things on the Funny Girls Facebook page all the time.
I guess all we need is a media willing to let hateful rhetoric become mainstream, a population ready to believe conspiracy ahead of truth, and Winston Peters oh wait we already have him.
Shit. The potential for this ideology to prevail here terrifies me, and I don’t have answers for how we stop something like this. Do I donate to someone? Do I stop being a dumb comedian and devote my life to positive change? Do I keep being a dumb comedian and try be a good one that doesn’t jokingly ruffle a demagogue’s hair on national television? I don’t know, but I know today has been shit and I’m down for whatever it takes for us lamestream elitists to ensure something like this never happens again.
Joseph Moore is a comedian and television writer.
What happened? California voted to legalise recreational use of marijuana; they might need it.
What now? No candidate will ever have Beyonce, Jay Z or Jon Bon Jovi endorsing them at a rally again.
Neil Finn is a musician.
U.S. public policy for a long time has been incredibly unfair. Their tax code is hugely complex and favours those who can pay accountants and lawyers to avoid taxes. Their trade policy protects (and even directly subsidises) some industries at the expense of others – for example their agricultural policy with its tariffs and subsidies. Their schools are hopelessly unequal, a series of local monopolies based on property taxes and therefore local wealth (partly explaining the success of charter schools in poor neighbourhoods). We won’t mention healthcare here, but Joseph Stiglitz gives a good account of this in his book The Price of Inequality. Being the world’s policeman has cost untold blood and wealth, and the world seems little safer. Many Americans decided that they’d given this system more than enough chances, their incomes weren’t rising in real terms, and they voted for the anti-establishment candidate despite his various outrages.
What happens now? Trump will discover the Constitution severely constrains the U.S. President; it is not as powerful a position as the attention paid to the campaign has suggested. He is also not as outrageous as has been made out, if he’s compared to Nixon’s presidency or the Andrew Jackson vs Quincy Adams election. With luck he will champion some good causes, such as reforming the U.S. tax code with its high rates and big loopholes.
For New Zealand, we as a trading nation should be worried that a major referendum on trade was just lost to the isolationist view. We should also be worried about military isolationism – it would not be in New Zealand’s interests for the U.S. Navy to pull back from the Pacific.
Finally, how likely is New Zealand to be affected by the same winds? Very unlikely. We have better rules and institutions, and better public services. This may explain why New Zealand First, despite running on a platform near identical to Trump’s, struggles to break 10 per cent. We do have one very large area of policy dysfunction that has the potential to cause a Trumpesque political backlash by people who feel left behind, and that is our housing market. The Spinoff has covered the housing market widely and I won’t go into the detail of it here, but the Trump victory is another reason why a future government must make fixing New Zealand’s dysfunctional housing market its number one priority.
David Seymour is the leader of the ACT party
What happened? The Brexit effect – Trump legitimised the latent anger of those who felt that no one was interested in listening to them, and they wanted to teach the establishment a lesson. Ironically, they saw this egocentric capitalist non-taxpayer as their hero. He said the things they thought and got away with it. He made them feel that their opinions were valid. He pressed the prejudice buttons and they lapped it up.
On the polls: Those same people didn’t want to tell the pollsters they were voting for Trump because they knew it wasn’t politically correct to say so. We have witnessed a similar effect in New Zealand where NZ First achieves election results that are higher than their poll numbers would suggest.
What now? Markets will panic, there may be global economic fallout, but they will recover. As a friend of mine says: the American president was once shot and the world carried on.
In New Zealand Winston Peters will be rubbing his hands with glee. I predict we will see even stronger push-button politicking in next year’s campaign. I don’t think that will be healthy and I think it may deliver us the nastiest election campaign ever seen. The lesson from the US election is the nastier you are, the more people admire you. Weird huh?
In terms of the governing of America, Trump will put smart people around him who will do a good job. His outlandish rhetoric won’t be matched by outlandish behaviour. He will want to be a two term President. He will muse about a president being able to have a third term. His ego knows no bounds and the election result has validated that.
Michelle Boag is a public relations practitioner and political pundit.
For me it was summed up best by Van Jones on CNN. His message more or less: there has been a history of US presidents harnessing media to win elections – FDR was able to master radio when no one else was using it and won the election, JFK used TV, Obama the internet and Trump mastered social media with a kind of reality TV mentality, which aligned with the Kardashian-obsessed society that America has turned into, where to be the villain makes you the star.
The big thing for me was driving into work this morning and everyone is scared. My social media producer, a gay Filipino, was telling me Mike Pence thinks he can “fix” me from being gay. The girls in the office, talking about Trump taking away their right to choose. Even my Green Card status is in question. More than anything here in Los Angeles it’s a feeling of “we just never possibly imagined we’d be here”.
Dominic Bowden is a Los Angeles-based broadcaster.
Julie Anne Genter
First, let’s just acknowledge how utterly terrible this outcome is for anyone who believed in liberal democracy.
Secondly, at most recent count, Trump won fewer than 60 million votes. That sounds like a lot, but it’s less than 20 per cent of the population of the United States. Mitt Romney won more votes four years ago, but lost by a landslide to Obama.
Trump won because the American electoral system is not proportional, and as a result hasn’t been delivering for many people. Generally, only insiders who have or accept lots of money can get elected. People don’t trust the system, hate politicians, and don’t turn out to vote. This was exacerbated by the fact Clinton was not the inspiring candidate Obama was, she has been systematically attacked by the right for several decades, and she could not articulate a truly fresh and authentic vision. No doubt sexism played a role.
The people who did turn out for Trump were white, higher income, and had been fed hateful, fearful lines by Fox News and the Republican Party for the last eight years. There’s no public broadcasting to speak of in the USA, and the fragmentation of the media, compounded by self selection in social media, means people chose their own echo chamber that reinforced what they wanted to believe.
The quality of the political debate was abysmal when I lived in the States in the 80s and 90s. Since then, it has only gotten worse: it has been divided into two spheres with no real debate between them.
In America, there is desperate need for electoral reform. I am not sure how they get there from here.
As for the rest of us, we all need to keep breathing. Smiling. Taking pleasure in life’s little things. And we need to calmly, happily, stand up against bigotry, misogyny, xenophobia and lies. While taking time to look after ourselves, we need to joyfully work to fix our broken global economy, which has concentrated wealth in the hands of too few, at the expense of many. We need to appeal to the intrinsic values that most people hold dear: generosity, courage, responsibility, wisdom, peace. These values must be the basis for any political movement that hopes to achieve positive change. Weirdly, that means giving up anger at our fellow humans who have made such a cruel, shortsighted choice. They know not what they do.
Our planet and the future of human civilisation really do hang in the balance, as climate talks continue in Morocco. Never has there been a greater need, or opportunity, for humans to come together to work for a great cause. We came to a similar fork in the road nearly 100 years ago, when fascism began take hold following financial crises. This time, I believe, we can still choose a different path.
Julie Anne Genter is a Green MP
What just happened?
It always feels like the entire planet should have the right to vote in the U.S elections. Obviously that’s silly – i you don’t live there, you don’t get to have a say. America is the loudest-shouting country on the planet and subconsciously we’ve looked up to America for a really long time, even though in the back of our minds we knew better. If someone you knew from high school gets their dream job in America, all of a sudden they’re a national fucking hero. America always felt like this big shiny country that we can turn to for advice. But that’s not the case. It hasn’t been the case for a really long time and we’ve not been able to see that fully until yesterday when the people of America voted Trump over Clinton as their president. The people of America chose a rotten piece of butter chicken, with the intelligence of a dead bat, over the most qualified person running in the election. The band aid got ripped off. We were heartbroken but this was the closure we needed.
What happens now?
I was in a relationship for five years and I got dumped. After we broke up I was secretly clinging to this sad idea that he would change his mind and realise he’d made a huge mistake. He’d turn up at my house, say that he loved me, and we would get back together… But then I found out that he had a new girlfriend that whole time. I’d been clinging to this fantasy for six months and then all of a sudden the dream was over. I couldn’t cling to that anymore. It wasn’t going to happen. I had no choice but to drink two bottles of wine in under an hour then move the fuck on with my life.
This is exactly what has happened with America. We can’t cling to this fantasy that we have about America anymore. We used to be so good together, America loved us and we loved them but for a really long time we’ve been drifting apart. New York is not America, by the way. Many states inside America are no longer the ‘America’ we speak of now. As for places where Trump won by a landslide, they’re the America that broke our hearts. We thought America was going to turn up on our door step and say “we are so sorry! We are still world leaders and we made a mistake.” Last night that didn’t happened. Last night we officially had our hearts broken by America.
I can’t imagine what it feels like for the people inside America who didn’t want Trump as their leader. Those people have been heartbroken by their own country. That would be like working in the same office as your ex-husband, while going through a divorce, and he keeps making out with your co-worker right in front of you. Today, and for the next four years, we listen to ‘I Will Survive’ on repeat and we will admit that we can’t be in love with that America anymore. We have to move on. There are plenty of other countries in the sea. America doesn’t love you anymore and you don’t love America.
Alice Brine is an Auckland comedian.
I was in Europe for Brexit, and I was here in the US for this. Just like in the UK with Leave vs Remain signs, I counted three Clinton-Kaine signs on private property, while all around the US, Trump-Pence signs were around every corner. The process was all the same – the reassuring poll numbers, the weigh in from the all-knowing pundit gambling markets, the 85% chance for Clinton as the first polls closed. Hubris.
I should have learned something from Brexit. So should the media outlets I trust. The New York Times and The New Yorker wrote article after article like this one. Most of my news sources were bewilderingly smug that Clinton would win: first against Bernie, then against Trump. As if because they decided to say it, it must be true. I still love The New Yorker – but the hubris.
I hope Dim-Post is right that this is the end of ‘Median Voter Theory’. I’ve always wished that a liberal politician would choose a platform they believed in, and then, rather than focus-group the plan to death, campaign to win the electorate’s full trust. It’s to our shame that we’ve let a demagogue prove it can be done, with such a horrifying platform. With its relentless belief in consensus and triangulation, the left has triangulated itself into becoming an endangered species.
Anthonie Tonnon is an Auckland musician
What happened? Ordinary people told extraordinary people to jam it up their collective ass. It’s the human story.
What now? Some first world problems, some third world problems. Some butthurt, some regrets. The Clintons’ jet gets wheel clamped. Our PM ponders how to go about explaining to the electorate that US aircraft carriers actually look quite cool, up close.
What would I know though.
Bill Kerton is a broadcaster and TV director.
Let me just say this first. As someone who often feels like I shouldn’t try new things because of a deep fear of failure, Donald Trump has proved that anything is possible. Like, anything. We should be plastering posters of his orange face on our kids’ walls for inspiration. A man as awful and weird as Donald Trump with no political experience and no help from the Establishment, operating without any real economic plan, and derided by the rest of the world, has somehow found his way to the presidency of the USA. We should take heart from that and throw ourselves into fields that seem cool but that we know nothing about. I for one look forward to spending the next few weeks as head physicist at the large hadron collider. I also plan on being a famous detective.
Except, as a non-white non-male I suspect this may not be an option for me. When I wearily and tearfully returned home last night, I was ready to deliver my powerful and detailed survival plan to my husband. It involved a bunker and a boat and lots of alcohol. But he was surprisingly calm and alarmingly upbeat. It had occurred to him, after watching 34 hours of election coverage, that as a straight, white, unseriously-educated (BA in Art History – is that the most white-privilegey degree ever?) male, he is embarking on another four years of life at the top of the food chain, added to the 1000 or so that he and his mates have recently enjoyed.
As Simon pointed out, as a Person of Colour – of the lady persuasion – I’m screwed without him. And then he asked me to run and grab his slippers. This morning, in the cold light of day, I realised that all I need to do is hold on to my white-privilege husband and hope he doesn’t find someone better – like another average straight white male.
And if that happens I’ll build that bunker.
Sonia Gray is an Auckland writer and broadcaster.
More responses to the U.S. election: