In Hebrew there is an untranslatable word ‘davka’. Loosely defined it means “in spite of” or “to make a point simply for the sake of impressing an antagonistic position upon an opponent”. American’s may have just uncovered its true meaning in English for the first time by voting Donald J Trump as President Elect. The American elector, davka, making their point to the media and the political establishment.
Social media blared “How could this happen?” The media continued to bleat that America had impossibly elected a racist, misogynist, capitalist bully. The markets started to crash. Armageddon had arrived. Who remembers when Obama was elected? At the opposite end of the political spectrum we heard that he represented concealed evil, that he was a secret Muslim, born in Kenya, who would destroy the establishment from within. That conspiracist sentiment, totally discredited by Barak Obama’s tenure, has yet to fully dissipate even in the dying days of his Presidency.
There has been much analysis on the “unexpected” triumph of Donald J Trump. Let’s face it; the mainstream media was so biased in favour of Clinton that it ultimately backfired. People voted for Trump not on the basis of policy, but on the basis of protest, as he represented a force outside of the much hated political machines. Trump was deciphered by the voting public as the lesser of two evils, primarily because the traditional political system has taken the traditional voter for granted for far too long.
As the vote tally coverage rolled it clearly became evident that American voters had exercised their democratic right to elect President Trump. Yet all the while the media continued to defame and project dire consequences. Even as it unfolded the commentators on all networks still failed to grasp that the sentiment of a divided electorate had fallen the way of the candidate that they loved to hate. Throughout this whole campaign the more they barracked for Hillary the more they played into Donald’s hand. They consistently didn’t see it, and even as it was happening before their eyes they didn’t and couldn’t believe it.
Rabbi Shmuel Boteach has also nailed the sentiment of the US voter in an excellent commentary in which he notes that Obama staked his personal prestige on Hilary and that the result represents a repudiation of his Presidency, his policies and his performance.
At the end of this campaign, perhaps the American public have decided that they don’t want a President, but rather they want a CEO. From a distance, it sadly appears that they in fact need a President, but as the ethics and morality of both candidates were not beyond reproach, they had no Presidential candidate to vote for. If President Trump now proceeds to run the USA as a business to the exclusion of social enterprise then the ramifications could be significantly troublesome. The political pendulum could continue to oscillate further with increased speed and momentum.
It is also very clear that the stability of western democracy has been impacted by social media, to the extent that social media does have the capacity to disrupt and ultimately create a democratic demise. Whether it is Brexit, or Trump or anti-establishment candidates, people are no longer voting for their political choices, but they are voting against the status-quo. This opens a pathway to radicalisation.
Laid bare, this is the impact of social media. We have so much information at our fingertips. Our abilty to discern between what is true and what is fabricated, what is absolute and what is relative can be easily compromised. We start to read what we want to believe and start to filter out what does not fit our world view. We blur opinion and fact. Then we realise that we are being force fed those positions that the enlightened elite believe we should believe, and we rebel against it. Fact becomes fantasy, and fantasy becomes fact. Hillary becomes “undefeatable” and Trump becomes President.
This election teaches that Americans actually do not have great difficulty in recognising and dealing with propaganda. Most are informed and intelligent people that feel as if their intelligence is being insulted by agenda laden newsrooms. They quietly but nonchalantly express this en-masse at the ballot box. Admitting that so much of the US media is propaganda and skewed opinion polls, not objective debates or critical policy analysis may be the place to start. This is in part why social media has taken over. Through this medium we are able to make informed choices. Conversely, social media also polarises moreso than the news networks. It is all too easy to become prone to the hyperbolic and hysterical nonsense that demonised Trump all the way to the Oval Office. Davka.
For the Australian electorate we must take note. We must accept that there will be an increasing force expressed as a protest vote based partly on discontent, partly on a sense of entitlement, and some of this will feed on xenophobia. Australia must also learn from the USA. We have had ineffective Government for an extended period due to paralysis in the Senate and the inability of a majority Government to advance its legislative agenda. Significant economic reform in Australia is impossible to pass, therefore our political cycles stagnate on the basis of a strategy of maintaining office from one electoral cycle to the next. The voters of America are, like Australia, heavily divided. However, collectively they at least managed to provide a mandate and clear control of the legislature to Trump so that his policy agenda can be advanced and not stalled. If Australia endures further political impotence it will cost us socially, economically and ultimately our own version of Trump will emerge to disrupt the party-laden check and balance of the Westminster convention.
In the interim, Australia will also have to manage the consequences of a Trump administration. If Trump makes good on his policy to create trade barriers, our markets will have no choice but to adapt. Perhaps the bigger shock will be in the area of defence, whereby Australia will be swept into a regional geopolitical shift. Our military and defence spending will need to be heavily jolted. If Trump has his way we will have to pay and not expect a continued unfunded American military presence in the region.
For the Jewish community in Australia there are also lessons. Demographers suggest that Clinton received 75% of the Jewish vote and Trump 25%. Australia is less partisan and Jewish political presence is at its best when represented across the political spectrum. We have less demographic clout within any electorate area, but we have a big contribution to offer to domestic political discourse. We need to contribute more.
There is a lot to learn from the US election campaign. Ultimately, democracy has held stable though the most turbulent democratic election ever, and for that we must be thankful. But we must also heed the call, which is that voters the world over will not be taken for granted. We need more substance over personality to stabilise our political representation. If it is about the popularity of the candidate and not the policy of the process then the popularity contest will be lost. Davka.
God Bless America. And please hurry!