After the Election
As I said in my last post, politics-related posts aren’t ideal for business. Oh well, in for a penny… But I do promise this one is not a rant nor idle gnashing of teeth. I am looking towards the future and I recommend you do the same.
On a personal note, I was unhappy with the results of the presidential election. I thought Hillary was by far the most qualified person for the position.
But on another personal note, I just hate losing in general. In a past life I competed on the national stage in certain competitive endeavors. A loss there, usually after months of preparation, made me half livid and half despondent. These days it’s only after an intense trial that those feelings arise, but apparently a national election too. I’ll say my visceral reaction to losses is not my best trait, but it probably makes me a better competitor/attorney. Either way, a scowl on my face and a clenching of my stomach, my body welcoming back an old friend.
But that was the day after. And now we’re after that, and I’ve settled and reflected and talked to people both happy and unhappy with the results.
First, for those that are unhappy with the results, let us recognize literally millions of people would be feeling exactly the same way if Hillary had won. Are only our feelings legitimate? No. People were invested in this election on both sides, and whether your candidate won or lost doesn’t change the fact that millions upon millions felt strongly about their side too.
Why did Donald Trump win? The doom-and-gloomers think because Donald was a voice for the racists, the misogynists, the tyrannical. I have no doubt there is some truth there, in the sense that those people exist.
But I don’t think for one second the majority of his supporters are the second coming of the third Reich. I believe large, large swaths of his voters felt disenfranchised by the system and wanted to feel like they had a measure of control in their lives. And not only is that an extremely legitimate reason to engage with the political process, those people are probably correct. Whether Donald can solve their woes is another question, but their need for empowerment is genuine.
Our country is rife with examples of people fighting and dying to enact more control over their own lives, from 180,000 former slaves that fought for the North in the Civil War, LGBT rights, members of the Women’s Suffrage movement, and workers trying to unionize. Give me peaceful elections, please, over the graves of those who want personal freedom.
And again, large communities of this country are probably correct to feel isolated and shunned by their political leaders. I was raised in Minnesota, a fairly liberal bastion in the Midwest, but even so we were a “flyover” state. The doings of Hollywood or D.C. seemed a universe away. We talked about politics when it was relevant, but more often, we talked about jobs, games, opportunities. And the weather (always the weather). Also my family was not a rural one. From my friends who lived in rural America, multiply that feeling of exclusion and absence by a hundred. Why not vote for a man who acknowledges these families’ existence, even if he probably won’t be able to make good on all his promises? At least you have a representative at the table.
I’m not trying to spin anything, except to say don’t be too quick to disparage your fellow citizen for doing what they felt was best for their families and communities. What I’ve heard said, and I believe this, is that many Americans voted for Donald despite his divisive rhetoric, not because of it. So instead of trying to paint “us-versus-them,” I want to talk about my fears and what we can do to ensure everyone’s voices are heard.
My biggest fear is the suspension of the rule of law. The rule of law in this country is the constitution of this country (hence our actual Constitution). It transcends the person in elected office, and any individual’s feelings of pain or anger. To be sure, those feelings are legitimate. But acting on those feelings, at the expense of the rule of law, is an attack on our universal values. The values that bind us all together.
I’ve written about this before but what I love about the law is that it’s the great equalizer. An ordinary citizen can sue the State, or a multi-billion dollar corporation. To be sure it’ll be a hard fight, but those enormously powerful entities still have to respond. Because the law encompasses everyone, those entities cannot ignore you.
Similarly, in the work I do defending people accused of crimes, the laws constrain the government from simply throwing people accused of bad things into jail. I ensure an ordinary citizen’s rights are protected every step of the way. If the government wants to convict my clients, I make them work for it. Sometimes they can’t do the work the rules require them to do, e.g. prove to a bunch of ordinary people that my client is actually guilty. If they can’t, my client walks free. That’s our system, and it’s a good one.
Ultimately the rule of law is the framework for settling disputes. If it’s not obvious from this election, people disagree on a lot of things. Laws are in place so we can all co-exist despite our disagreements, and when something arises that needs to be decided, the rules exist to figure out a solution.
This is why when your local business sells you faulty goods you don’t take matters in your own hands and burn down a factory, or when you disagree with where a neighbor put his fence you don’t start a fistfight, or when someone accuses you of a bad act, you don’t have to flee the country or rot in jail until all the facts are out there. To be sure, and I mean this sincerely as someone who works within it every day, our system could be massively improved. And I strive to do so. But I believe with all my heart that it’s better than the alternative.
So here is my plea: Make sure the powerful and powerless live within the rule of law. If some fool thinks Donald’s victory means open season on women or minorities, call them out. If you see violence taking place, call the police, people specifically trained to protect the public. Let our representatives know what you want, because they know more than ever the price of ignoring the people. Engage in the political process, and when necessary, the legal process. It’s your absolute right to do so. And you deserve to be heard.
As for me, I am going to continue to listen to those on the margins, the poor, the disabled, even the criminals. I’m going to make sure the powerless and disenfranchised continue to have their voice in the system. I will advocate like hell to make sure the government doesn’t overreach.
You don’t need a law degree to do the same.