Mr. Right, or Mr. Right Now: What Donald Trump’s Presidency Says About The American Election System
By Hassan Shaikh
Some Americans continue to reel from the November 8th . . . or more rightly, the November 9th announcement that Donald Trump would be our next President. I certainly do. Suddenly everything seems in disarray. The post I had written weeks before, under the assumption of a Clinton triumph, is now worthless. Turning on the news is like reliving a nightmare. And seeing Trump in the White House, as the incoming President-Elect—well surreal doesn’t even begin to describe that experience.
But it’s been 12 days. If President Obama and his appointees were given ten days to mourn, then we, as the dormant public, only deserved five. The President and his appointees have to cope with knowing that every impact they have made will be subject to review under a Republican-dominated regime. And that the millions of lives they changed for the better may likely revert back to worse. They coped with it in ten days. And now, they are ready for action. We should be too.
Although many people are still wondering, “what went wrong?” and “how did we end up here?” my mind has wandered off to a more fundamental question. Did our election process give us the right . . . guy? Does it always result in the most optimal candidate winning? Naturally, after this election cycle, my reaction is to say no.
But just a few weeks ago, for an election law class, I wrote a billet-doux to the American electoral system. I applauded our presidential elections. Championing them as simulated versions of the presidency. I expected that as the diplomatic and visionary leader of the country, the President would be elected based on education, diplomacy, temperament, zeal, patriotism, and a host of other outwardly recognizable characteristics. I truly believed that it was under the spotlight of an election that the public would be able to determine if a candidate possessed the qualities to lead the country. And that our method of presidential elections allowed the American public to decide if a candidate could make insightful choices, maintain foreign relations, negotiate with Congress, and inevitably nominate competent advisors and jurists. But now, I don’t know if I believe it. I wonder if I believed those things out of optimism. Out of hope that America would make the “right” choice. Under an assumption—that goodness would prevail against bigotry.
And then I wonder, what if America did make the right choice? Just because me, and my echo chamber, think that Donald Trump won’t make insightful choices, maintain foreign relations, or nominate competent advisors and jurists (looking at you, Bannon), doesn’t mean that we are right. Maybe, like Americans across the country made clear through their votes, he will. Maybe, for this period of time—where pockets of individuals feel abandoned, neglected, and unheard—Donald Trump is the optimal candidate. Maybe me, and my echo chamber, are wrong.
It’s a scary thought. To think that the majority of the American electorate believes that our optimal candidate should have the temperament of a feral animal. Or that he should advocate for patriotism at the expense of humanity. But it is one that must be contemplated. Because America has spoken. It wants to be great again. And Donald Trump can (allegedly) get us there . . .
It’s hard to write this. Knowing that the people that will read this are likely to be the same people that agree with my political views. And are probably infuriated after reading the previous paragraph. But what I am about to advocate for is important, so hang in there.
Remember this, America made up her mind on November 8th. She made clear that something in American politics is wrong, and I don’t think she was pointing her finger at the election system. Instead, she was pointing it at the “establishment.” The people who, in an effort to win re-elections, neglected a part of the American population.
Maybe, this election season was a wake-up call. It’s opened up an opportunity for us to reach across the aisle, and listen to the people on the other side. The people who feel like they’ve been forgotten. And maybe, for those of us truly invested in the future of politics, this is a chance for us to show them that they haven’t been. That their voice matters to us. And that we are willing to listen.
But then again, I could just be trying to find a silver lining when there is none. And it’s likely that I’m still looking for one because I can’t just turn my back on an election system because the gal I wanted to win, didn’t. But what else can I do? I truly believe in our election system. And I think that it oftentimes gets us the optimal candidate for the current climate. It might have just failed this time. I mean, like any basic statistics class teaches you, there are always outliers. And this might just be one of those times.
Four years from now, the answer to this question will be clear. Did America elect its optimal candidate in 2016? For the sake of our country, I hope so. But until then, in fidelity to the American election system, I’ll just chalk him up as an outlier.
About the Author
Born and bred in the Lone Star State, Hassan is a proud Texan living in Durham, North Carolina. He is a second year student at the Duke University School of Law and holds a Bachelor's and Master's in Public Health from Baylor University. In 2016 he founded The Crescent Coalition, a non-partisan organization working to empower South and Central Asian American’s involvement in the federal government. Formerly, Hassan worked for the U.S. Department of State's White House Liaison Office. His unique position at the intersection of the State Department and White House provided him with exposure to some of the nation's most influential SCA leaders. He hopes to use their stories to inspire the next generation of SCA leaders. You can learn more about The Crescent Coalition, contact its Board, donate to the cause, and connect with its Facebook and Twitter through its website – www.thecrescentcoalition.com