Silver Linings Playbook: Lessons Learned from the 2016 Presidential Election

By Chloe Hite

Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump are the champions that Americans neither wanted nor asked for, but their campaigns have been just what we need as a nation. While Clinton’s run was expected in the wake of her 2008 loss and subsequent service as Secretary of State to President Barack Obama, her 2016 campaign has been a game changer when one considers how it has been run in comparison and in response to the campaign of Donald Trump. Amazingly, her policy platform has been able to stand both independently of Mr. Trump’s, and in direct response to his assertions and proposed policy.

tieige-donald-trump-hillary-clinton_photo-1-640x427Photo: The Associated Press

Despite the official nominations of both Clinton and Trump, general dissatisfaction remains amongst the majority of the public, and most feel that neither candidate represents the true first choice for either party. In public perception, Clinton is too predictable and not innovative enough, and Trump is woefully ill equipped to appeal to a varied majority of voters. This election, however, has done a sort of service for the American public. The many points on which Secretary Clinton and Mr. Trump disagree, and the way in which they do so, say something greater than the sum of their parts about what matters to Americans in 2016. Their statements have mobilized and normalized discussions, whether productive or successful, on issues rarely touched upon in popular public forums.

Mr. Trump’s remarks about minorities, specifically Muslims and Latinos, have highlighted and finally teased out into national discussion questions regarding racial discrimination, xenophobia, and systematic racism. He has incited a riot of anti-immigrant, anti-trade, nationalistic sentiment, pulling the curtain back on a disgruntled demographic of white, predominantly working and upper class males. Seemingly more provocative were Mr. Trump’s comments about women throughout the duration of his campaign. The most recent controversy was catalyzed by the leak of the much-scrutinized 2005 video footage of the candidate and Billy Bush discussing the casual sexual assault of women before an interview with Access Hollywood. The video prompted cavalier reactions from Trump and his supporters, his rejection by several members of the Republican Party, and a staunch attack on the part of Secretary Clinton.

These responses serve as a benchmark for the status of women in the American psyche, and bring the equality of the sexes and gender norms and expectations into the national forum. They confirm that the egalitarian goals of the feminist movement have yet to be achieved and indoctrinated into mainstream American society, despite an increase in female leadership, employment, and representation over the past 20 years. It also demonstrates how we have failed as a society to include most men in the feminist movement, a key step towards the achievement of true equality for all. In this way, the frustrating, hair-pulling election process that seems to have left most Americans feeling empty and decidedly undemocratic has done us a great service.

The service rendered by this campaign is not that of electing a leader in which we will all have complete confidence, but in the naming and preliminary discussion of many keys issues faced by a growing majority of American citizens today. With any luck, this act of naming will encourage further discussion on racial tensions, wealth inequality, xenophobia, policing, and gender dynamics, among others. The results of such discussions will hopefully result in improving relations and quality of life for every American citizen. In this way, an election many thought was a lost cause may leave the American public with a view of a thick silver lining in the gray January sky come Inauguration day.

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