Henningsen: Not My President?

Nov 15, 2016

Nelson Mandela once observed that resentment is like drinking poison and expecting it to kill your enemy. That’s why the despairing, outraged anger we’ve seen following the Presidential election worries me, much more than the unexpected outcome. Yes, we’re honoring the peaceful transfer of power, but many of us are allowing anger to cloud our judgement.

The rhetoric of “Not My President” won’t get us far – certainly not where we want to go. It doesn’t change minds; it deepens divisions rather than bridging them, and fuels the politics of anger and resentment. It’s simply self-defeating.

Much of politics is about getting people to do things they don’t want to do and that can’t be accomplished by telling them how wrong they are. It’s necessary to get inside their heads, try to see the world as they see it, and work from there to change the majority. For those so inclined, that’s the challenge of the next few years.

And there’s precedent. As is often true we had a choice between continuity and change; and this isn’t the first time we’ve upended the status quo – or gone to the polls more to vote against than for.

And inexperience continues to sell. Since ‘92, we’ve regularly opted for the less experienced candidate. Although this is an extreme example, the pattern isn’t new.

We’ve seen close votes like this before; the fact that a popular majority didn’t win the electoral college isn’t new either.

Even the post-election outrage has its antecedents. And it’s fair to say that if the election had gone the other way, we’d have seen much the same behavior on our streets.

So, despite the initial shock, much of what happened last week isn’t that surprising – in fact it conforms to patterns of political behavior we’ve demonstrated for a while. If you like the outcome, don’t get cocky; if you don’t, get to work on changing the majority.

But as for “Not my president”, come on. For better or worse, he is our president. He’s got two years – until the midterms – to try to enact his agenda and, even with a Republican Congress, that won’t be easy.

Those who want to change the story from there know what to do, but that’s not what a lot of us are doing now.