SO THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN

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  • The great thing about democracy is a representative government that allows its citizens to elect their leaders in free and fair elections.

    It’s amazing that, in the US, it takes only a few hours after the polls close to announce a new President.  In the US, you can vote many ways: postal, internet, voting booths. You can vote ahead of Election Day. It’s not a holiday apparently, but it has been made convenient to cast your vote.

    But surprisingly, about 45% of American voters didn’t vote. This is in contrast to our Philippine elections that experience at least an 80% voter turnout, excitedly going to the polls at daybreak, lining up but not minding the heat and the queue, because they were exercising their right as citizens. That’s a big difference.

    And this is probably why the outcome of the US elections is what it is. In one sense, it’s not so much that the republicans won the elections as the democrats lost it; their constituencies simply didn’t go out and vote. Theirs could be a classic case of overconfidence; a constituency that felt there was no way Trump would win.

    And that’s the challenge about democracy: citizens must exercise their right to vote, otherwise we get unintended results.

    But were the results so shocking really?

    A dear friend who is Filipino American explained why middle-class America, many Filipinos included, voted for Trump. She said that Trump had come to symbolize the American working class that felt neglected by the Obama years. It’s a desperation vote she admits because small businesses like hers suffered greatly with the entry of illegal immigrants that set up the same business and charge a fraction of her fees because they don’t pay taxes or bother to get licenses and registrations.

    She had the opinion, rightly or wrongly, that left-liberal policies like OBAMAcare provided the poor extensive medical coverage but none for the working class and worse, her insurance premiums rose because of the subsidy.

    It was a silent majority vote, that much is clear.  It was as if working white America across the US just felt it was now time to reclaim the White House.

    And the issue was not so much culture – civil rights, gender equality, gay marriage, even transgender toilets – as it was the economy and how liberal policies has led to a loss of jobs in the US in favor of manufacturing plants in Vietnam or call centers in India and the Philippines.  It’s the feeling that while the liberal policies did make America rich, only the large corporations and their executives benefitted at the expense of the white working class.

    What has led voters to Trump was that his opposition, composed of what they call the “professional coastal elite” just didn’t get it.  Ironic that some elections ago, the slogan “It’s the economy, stupid” was the one that brought President Bill Clinton to the White House in 1992.  And in 2016,  the issue of the economy once again trumped the issues of race, gender and civil rights.

    Like most of middle class America, my Fil-Am friend has no pretenses of becoming rich in the US. All she wants is a stable job, a thriving business, three square regular meals a day, a decent home and enough money to pay for her kid’s college tuition.

    Pursuing the “American Dream”; that’s what the US elections were truly all about.  And the fear that the dream is getting unreachable each day.  While it remains a question if a Trump presidency can make America great again, at least the voters are comforted with a idea that here’s someone who knows what the real problem is.

    By: Jj Atencio

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