Remember the idealized Technicolor of yesteryear, when the prospect of a woman President leading the United States seemed imminent? That was last week, but it seems like a lifetime ago.
Having been a political candidate myself, the idea that a woman would finally occupy such an important office was particularly meaningful to me.
Now I find myself instead contemplating the impact of a Trump presidency. Trump presidency. Seeing those two words side-by-side will soon be normalized. Rather than celebrating a victory for feminism, we are left to confront the stark reality of a racist misogynist with the power and will to undo several decades worth of progress towards substantive equality.
What went so horribly wrong? The pollsters and pundits will have at least four years to fill air-time answering this question. With the benefit of hindsight though, it’s clear that Democrats should have spent less time mocking Trump and his supporters and more time taking responsibility for the root issues that gave rise his popularity.
Take as one example crime and punishment – one of the planks of Trump’s platform. The colossal failure of the war and drugs will not be overcome by more punitive legislation, yet its failure has prompted calls for tougher measures. Decades worth of policies that have resulted in mass incarcerations of, in particular, African American youth will be amplified by a Trump presidency.
But we mustn’t gloss over the fact that the seeds of discontent and racial inequities were sown or at least inadequately addressed by previous administrations. When agents of the state can kill people of colour with impunity and generations of black men are imprisoned at unconscionable rates, perhaps progressives should not feign shock when those same communities seem to lose faith in democratic institutions and don’t turn out to vote in high numbers.
Indeed, countless Americans understandably believe that a change in government will not result in palpable improvements to their lives. This cynicism about politics has become so deeply ingrained that it provided Trump with a pathway to power.
The biggest mistake that we, as Canadians, can make is to view ourselves as being immune from the visceral rejection of politics-as-usual that caught so many off-guard last November 8th. To attribute the outcome of the US election to peculiarities of American society would be not only naïve, but dangerous.
Aspiring Conservative Party leadership candidate Kellie Leitch immediately jumped on the Trump bandwagon, seeking to bring his abhorrent messages to Canada. Leitch is surely not doing so on a whim; this tactic would have been carefully calibrated to reach supporters that she had already identified.
So while it’s tempting to buy-in to the notion that things are different here and that Canadians repudiated the politics of fear when they voted for a change of government in 2015, we would do well to remember that the 2016 presidential campaign was preceded by the promise of change, and a "yes we can" attitude. Let us seize this moment by reminding our elected officials who they work for and what they’ve been elected to do.