Election 2016 delivered a shock to conventional wisdom, to liberals and conservatives, to the political establishment, and to people like me who write or talk about politics professionally. Even though I correctly predicted a Trump victory, still when it came to pass, I was shocked. Now, when I wake up in the morning, I sometimes feel a sense of foreboding. At other times, though, I feel guardedly optimistic—about the body politic, if not about Trump.
Because conventional wisdom, the professional politicians, and the party establishment, all needed to be shocked. For at least five years, I have been writing about the stale condition of the parties and their ideologies. I have been writing about how the parties need to reorganize themselves around new ideas, about how the nation needs to get organized around a new constellation of goals appropriate for our times. Nothing less than the victory of a Donald Trump was required to shake the political parties and all their personnel out of a state of perpetual complacency. Both GOP and Democratic leaders must wake up: they are under much greater pressure now to use what power they have responsibly and constructively. If they do not deliver better government for the electorate, their parties are going down. I firmly expect that the next two to four years will be a time of constructive ideological ferment in the United States–and that politics will attract a new generation of leaders committed to reform and a renewed focus on commonly shared ideals, like a generally enjoyed prosperity and peace.
Like most intellectuals, I enjoy a life of privilege. I live in a city. My circumstances set me off from the rest of the population who are not part of ‘the creative economy,’ a term used to describe the formation of elites who make things and make things happen–who enjoy a sense of influence and autonomy. This election has rudely reminded all of us to broaden our vision and consider what is really happening in our country: how a system that used to work for most Americans, providing sound education, civic consciousness, and secure livelihoods for breadwinners–has been gradually slipping away. Great swathes of the nation are cut off from the expansive prospects that cosmopolitan Americans find so exciting. The election has forcefully re-directed our gaze–back to the ordinary places where democratic power dwells.