I woke up early on Wednesday morning, about 4.30am. I hesitated, I wanted to bury my head under the pillow but I couldn’t resist. I wanted to know whether or not we had a result and if not which way the result was going. Donald Trump had 244 Electoral College votes and Hilary Clinton just 209. He was only 26 short of a majority. The writing was on the wall. The next few hours just got more and more painful.
I would love to write about the lessons we can learn from the campaign for communications. But that feels wrong. For me, the fact that Donald Trump is going to be the 45th American President is too disturbing.
I was equally upset in the early hours of 24 June, after the UK voted to leave the European Union.
I supported the economic argument for staying in the EU and I take the position that Donald Trump’s isolationist and protectionist views are likely to damage the global economy, which includes the US.
But more than that I am a collectivist who believes we are always stronger, better when we collaborate. Europe is stronger with the UK in it and our voice is amplified as part of Europe. If we work well together we can promote democracy, we can spread stability, we can share opportunities, we can care more effectively for those in need. The same is true for the US. A nation constructively engaging with the rest of the world has the potential to have an incredibly positive impact.
But when I think about both Brexit and Trump’s victory, it seems clear to me that large swathes of people signed up for them because, for longer than I care to admit, they’ve been ignored, taken for granted.
One commentator on Wednesday morning said economic figures released earlier this month showed median income in the US was less today than in 1999. That means half the population is earning less today than they were 17, yes 17 years ago.
No one’s listened to you. Neither main political party has done anything to help you change your life for the better. You don’t have easy access to a good education. Healthcare is getting flaky. It’s not easy to get a job, and certainly not a job that’s exciting you in any way. Why not throw a firework in the fire if it promises to change things.
So if there is one lesson I’ve learned, or at least am determined to thoroughly absorb, it’s to listen. But more than that, to go out and really enquire, to explore people’s motivations, what they are feeling. My psychotherapeutic training is teaching me to be curious about people; in a warm and non-judgmental way to explore their motivations, defences and barriers to relationship.
There is something for us all in this approach.