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The Not So Elephant in the Room

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Laura Caccioppoli
December 6, 2016

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Immediately after the election, and even to this day, the response to Donald Trump’s presidential win has been protests. While they made sense to me immediately after the election, I make no attempt to disguise how much I think they are inappropriate now.

After the election, these protests created an environment similar to a group catharsis. Like-minded individuals joined together to protest their disbelief that a man who has no public service experience, has made hateful and derogatory comments toward a wide array of minorities, admires Putin and seems to have no concept of the role of the presidency or any of the branches of government had been elected as the next president.

Protests typically bring people together. They should have a voice and promote concrete actions they believe could bring an end to the protesting. Most importantly, they are an opportunity for leaders to emerge. These protests have led to no such voice, no such leader to rally behind to move them forward—much in the same way that the Occupy Wall Street protests produced no such leader. So far, these protests have served to make an already divisive election more divided. And barring extaordinary measures, Donald Trump will be our next president.

Many protested to make sense of it all. That’s when the blame game started. First, it was Hillary’s fault. She is unlikeable, corrupt, power-hungry, and let’s not forget the emails. First, despite being publicly scrutinized for many years, Hillary has come out winning each and every time. Whether we consider examinations done by the media or those done at Congressional hearings, she has been convicted of nothing. Power-hungry? You don’t run for president because you don’t want power; the issue is what you do with the power once you get it. The emails? Yeah, that was pretty stupid and she did lie. I’m not going to make any excuses for her actions. I’ll simply state that if the FBI – led by a man who clearly has thrown his support behind Donald Trump – found no grounds to indict her, maybe her actions were just stupid, not illegal.

Next, blame the Democratic Party! This one is particularly confusing. Why would an organization want someone who is not a member of that organization as the lead representative for that group? Sanders is an Independent, he has never been a Democrat. Sure, he may vote with the Democrats frequently, but that may be more because the Democrats tend to have more appealing policy proposals than the Republicans. But why would the DNC wish to promote a man, who by-and-large, does not share the same values and has not contributed to the well-being of the Party? Bernie Sanders used the Democratic Party because he knew he could not get elected as a third-party candidate. If Bernie Sanders truly wants to transform the Democratic Party (and we should be striving to push the Democratic party to be more progressive), then do so from within. Think Elizabeth Warren.

Additionally, there is no way to know if Bernie Sanders would have won against Donald Trump. Before you point to polling data that show that Bernie Sanders could have won, remember how wrong the polls were leading up to the election.

Then there is the argument that Hillary played too much into identity politics. If only Hillary campaigned more toward real Americans instead of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT), Blacks or immigrants. The only candidate who used identity politics was Donald Trump. It’s just harder to see because, for most of America’s history, that identity card was white men. Hillary was focused on all Americans. It just so happens that America looks a lot different today.

So what can we do?

We must continue to support those organizations who are doing incredibly important work. In fact, many nonprofits have received more donations post-election than they do in their whole year—keep it up!

We must prepare for midterm elections—these are in two years. Flipping the House and the Senate is going to be critical. Demand better candidates and demand more of those already in office. Volunteer or donate to campaigns. Get involved in state and local politics!

Keep on opening your arms to those who are different from you. We always needed this support but it’s particularly important now given recent events across the country.

Lastly, we need to bring facts back. Democracy depends on a well-informed public. We need to constantly challenge what we read. We need to think critically. We need to stop spending so much time in the echo-chambers of social media and the internet.

Most importantly, we must bridge the divide. The United States still has far to go in terms of equality. But right now, we must work with moderates (yes, Republicans) to ensure that we do not undo what progress we have made.


AuthorLaura Caccioppoli is a millennial and doctoral student in health policy at University of the Sciences. She has an MA in political science and a graduate certificate in nonprofit management from Villanova University. Laura serves on the board of The Consortium in Philadelphia and Americans for Democratic Action, Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter. Her research interests are in health and food policy, cultural competency and social justice.

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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