“May you live in interesting times, may you find what you are looking for.” The second part of this Chinese proverb highlights the most disconcerting part of the recent election. Trump’s win implies that over half of our compatriots were truly looking for this kind of change, and I personally find that terrifying. Not only because I’m scared for my friends who are illegal immigrants, scared for my friends who are gay, and scared for my female friends who face losing their current reproductive rights; what is most worrying to me is how Trump found himself waiting to be sworn into the most powerful appointment in the free world. His long road to the oval office began decades ago, with the globalization of our nation’s economy. This economic shift towards the contemporary concept of outsourcing led to the creation, or perhaps transformation, of an entire social class: Trump’s “silent majority.”
Another worrying outcome of election Tuesday are the Republican wins in both the House and the Senate, giving Trump the “bully pulpit” he’s always desired as well as the means to effect very real change in our country. At this point in time, my greatest worry is not the man himself, but the individuals and circumstances that allowed his rise to power. These nationalistic, xenophobic sentiments that have become more and more prevalent in recent years did not arise from nothing: there was a clear progression of events culminating in this election.
It seems to me that President-Elect Trump’s physical wall is the least of our worries; the disturbing truth is that a metaphorical wall, a social rift through our nation, has been silently growing, unchecked, higher and higher. The intolerant messages that we have been hearing for the past months did not appear out of thin air, they are merely the realization of years of declining job prospects and macroeconomic shifts in our country. Millions of Americans have seen their jobs slip away, either disappearing overseas or simply evaporating – the product of a shifting economy – and they need someone to blame. Our current economic conditions have made it is as easy to say “let’s bring back the high paying industrial jobs of the last century” as it is to wrongly lay blame on a particular ethnic or racial group for the misfortune of another. However, neither will lead to the return of this oft-romanticized age and the jobs that defined it.
Instead, we must focus on the root of this political discontent: dwindling career prospects for millions of Americans who have historically relied on comfortable jobs provided by the U.S. manufacturing and industrial sectors. Whether we like it or not, we live in a market economy and the market for producing affordable, yet high-quality goods has emigrated from the United States. It is no longer economically viable to produce primary or even secondary goods in this country when they could be produced at a fraction of the cost in another one. It’s not that the job opportunities have disappeared. They’ve merely taken a new form in the high-tech, high-skill production and service occupations that define our modern economy. A large cross-section of our population has utterly missed this drastic economic shift. Stuck in the memories of high wage manufacturing jobs of yesteryear, they have become trapped in a vicious cycle of dwindling manufacturing and false promises on the part of opportunist politicians to restore industries to their former glory. We are entering a new, highly profitable economic age, but some have yet to reap its rewards.
The next year will be incredibly telling; America faces the dual threats of vanishing job prospects and social unrest. We will have the opportunity to see Trump as a leader rather than simply a jingoism-espousing candidate. Although Americans may hold differing opinions on what Trump’s America will look like, there is one common element lingering within all of our hopes and fears: uncertainty. Uncertainty regarding whether or not he will carry out his campaign promises, uncertainty relating to possible alterations to current social legislation, but chiefly, uncertainty about whether the America we live in today will even vaguely resemble the country left to us in four years with the conclusion of the Trump administration.