Post-Election Resilience

After the election, I left the country. Many people had a similar instinct, but no, my doing so wasn’t out of disgust over the election results. It was planned long before, in response to an invitation to speak in Deauville, France at the annual global Womens Forum for the Economy and Society (also known as “Davos for women”). This was quite an affair: 1200 powerful political, business, media, and NGO women from around the world all focused on economic development and improving the status of women. The theme this year was “The Sharing Economy,” which as you know is an Evolutionary investment strategy in The Resilient Investor, so I fit right in despite being one of the only men in attendance.

The timing was good for my presence at the event—resilience is resonating well with people, not just because of global instability, but also because the current political situation, in particular Brexit and the American presidential election. There was even a “What America’s Choice Means for Women” panel at the event that featured Star Jones of The View and Leah Daughtry, the chair of the Democratic National Convention Committee, discussing the battles on the horizon.

So what does resilience mean in this political environment? First, we need to recognize that the tilt toward progressive values that Obama represented was not overturned in this election; these trends show signs of long-term ascendency even in the face of the recent results. Democrats actually received more votes in both the Presidential and Congressional elections, despite the structure of the election process that rewarded Republicans. Many cities and states continue to take the lead in enacting progressive programs, especially around climate action. And it should be noted that the Democrats did take two additional seats in the Senate. The pendulum hasn’t swung entirely back.

While some people think this election is a “whitelash” against immigrants and Muslims in particular—and surely those folks did turn out to vote as the last gasp of white male superiority and latent racism—that’s not really the broader sentiment of the people of this country. In fact, if just a few more Democrats had actually voted in three key states, the results would have been different. Let’s remember that almost half the eligible voters in this country did not go to the polls; only 25% of eligible voters supported the melting orange crayon.

The bigger story of the election, though, is that while over 95% of black women voted for Clinton, 53% of white women voted for Trump, which begs the question of why they wouldn’t vote for a woman, especially given Trump’s blatantly sexist comments and behavior.

The answer may actually connect to resilience. Many female Trump voters are married and live in one-income households. Instead of relating to the inclusive “we’re stronger together” argument of the Democrats, they see their lifestyle being threatened by the changes that a diversifying, progressive, urban society reflects. New jobs are primarily in the bigger cities while the old large-scale manufacturing jobs are disappearing and being replaced by lower-paying work for those without higher education, leaving smaller cities and rural areas in both red and blue states slowly dying. Their husbands can’t find meaningful or livable wage work, which affects their family’s sense of security; being loyal, they stand with their man—and their fathers and brothers and indeed working women—to vote for a change.

However, this has unfortunately fed a victim mentality: we had something, and it was taken from us. These families that have been left behind are mad and looking for someone to blame, and are drawn to a candidate who shares this knee-jerk response. They angrily rejected Democrats who recognized the irrevocable nature of the changes and spoke of retraining or revitalizing their regions in new ways, and eagerly embraced Trump’s bold, unrealistic promises to restore their old world. Yet adapting to a changing reality is one of the cornerstones of resilience, and this is exactly what we all need to be doing. The economic and technological changes that first came for manufacturing jobs will be soon threatening many clerical and even white-collar jobs as well.

After the shock of the election, many people are focusing on how to adapt to what is likely to be a rapidly changing political landscape, not just because of the presidency, but because the Democrats didn’t take back either chamber of Congress.

One important emerging phenomenon is that the Millennials and younger people are now seeing that the battles to defeat racism, sexism, and overall equal rights they had thought were over are still far from won. This should foster vigorous resistance if they find the instinct and capacity to fight and if they see that apathy, cynicism, and ideological fervor all have consequences. Collective tenacity, more nuanced strategy, and a commitment to shared purpose among many complementary movements is needed to win this war against intolerance and complacency, and it needs to be done in all realms of our lives.

Therefore, the qualities of a resilient investor could not be more relevant now: local commitments to diversity and social justice, advocacy at all levels of influence, standing up to ignorance and intolerance wherever it appears, supporting community self-reliance activities, being in and caring for nature, and yes, shopping, banking, and investing with one’s values in order to continue to cultivate a just, sustainability-focused economy.

These are the ideas and strategies we—and the Democratic Party—should be selling in order to reclaim political power. We need to remind people that the outsourcing of America has largely been delivered by deregulation-minded Republicans who think business should do whatever it wants, including send jobs abroad and destroy communities for the sake of shareholder value. This is a major disconnect among voters that must be constantly exposed.

We need to continue to demand that government care for people, particularly the vulnerable. We need to insist that companies not exploit people or the planet. We need find ways to adapt both personally and collectively to rapidly-changing forces that are likely to put more jobs at risk in the coming decades. And we need to champion the truth that it is our interconnectedness that creates socioeconomic stability, not protectionist trade or isolationist political policies. This is not the time for nationalism, it is a time for empowered local decision-making within the context of a shared global responsibility to all of humanity and nature. Going back to a bygone era of selfishness, injustice, and prioritizing the freedom for business over every other issue are the causes of our current problems that got us here, not the solutions.

This article first appeared in the Winter 2017 edition of the Natural Investment News

Michael Kramer

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