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Explaining Donald Trump's victory
by Jay Gutman
2016-11-12 11:25:52
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During the 2012 South Korean presidential election I happened to be in South Korea. Foreign teachers, most of whom could not vote, were debating who the better candidate for us, foreign teachers that was. That’s what politics is about, instilling hope in the different social and professional groups.

hab01_400When people bother to vote, they often wonder which candidate is going to make family life easier, and which candidate will help our careers move forward. When I was an engaged foreign teacher in South Korea, I thought candidate Park Gun Hye would be the more suitable candidate because she seemed to favor language education, globalization and social welfare, while the other candidate, Moon Jae In, seemed to favor a détente approach with North Korea and seemed resolutely anti-globalization, while he didn’t say much about inflated housing prices and his approach to the economy seemed to be a “you have to make your own way” approach.

My fiancée was for Moon and I was for Park, but I couldn’t vote. No surprise our marriage never happened and would not have been successful one. But I’m diverting. However, we foreign teachers were dead wrong about Park and the hope she gave us. The very first measure she took, among a few dozen others, was to make it almost impossible to get a language teaching job or any teaching job in South Korea. She also fired hundreds of foreign teachers, including me. Regarding social welfare, teachers like me who lost their jobs did not have unemployment benefits of any kind. As to immigration and globalization, pretty much every foreigner I know who owned a business in South Korea was told to leave or faced measures resembling sabotage during Park’s tenure, and she’s still President.

The same could be said in 2007 about Sarkozy and the French election. Teachers thought he was good for them because he would allow more flexibility and authority in the classroom, business thought he was good for them because he would tax less and cooperate more. Again teachers and business were dead wrong. Pretty much every teacher had doubts about being able to keep their jobs (budget cuts) and open borders and easing of competition measures meant my good Jewish and Muslim and other friends who have been working in the textile industry since the 1950s putting together and selling rags to those who would sell them at the market suddenly had to face Chinese competitors who never bothered to pay their employees and who sold their rags at ridiculously cheap prices, while their employees would camp outside the Chinese embassy in Paris for food. I’m sketching but you get the idea.

Now back to Trump. Different social groups, families, professionals, teachers, businessmen, government workers were discussing who would be better for them. One of the rough challenges families and workers in the US have been facing the last couple of years is that in a lot of places, chances are you’ll get fired if you work hard. Awards and incentives that once meant something actually now mean nothing. So workers had to choose between Trump, who is famous for telling dozens of people in front of a national audience “you’re fired!” and Clinton, who rumors had it was not very kind with her campaign staff, but for the record those were just rumors.

In the end, teachers felt that Trump might get rid of CCSS also known as the Common Core which has been dictating teachers what needs to be said and done in class, and has made an obsession out of grades. Teacher room talk rumors had it that Clinton would maintain the grade obsession, but Trump wouldn’t. College students felt that government-guaranteed loans would be out with Trump and that tuition inflation would go back to normal, while you would get more government loans and more tuition inflation with Clinton. Business felt that if Clinton were elected they would still have to compete with East Asian products made where workers often don’t get a penny of compensation or salary and are fired if they complain about their fate, meaning labor-cost free items flooding the US. Clinton came off as pro-free trade, Trump as anti-free trade.

Where the media got it all wrong is that if you really want to know who is voting for whom, you want to eavesdrop into teacher room, locker room and water cooler conversations at companies. Voters don’t talk about candidates in terms of who’s fit or not fit to be president, but over who will do what as president. Now as with Park in South Korea and Sarkozy in France, they could get it all wrong about education and business. But that’s a different story.

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Emanuel Paparella2016-11-12 15:12:28
I wonder if the moral to this story is that, contrary to the prevalent positivistic mind-set, not all change is for the best. Some of it is regressive.

Bob Nelson2016-11-13 00:43:47
i suspect one of Clinton;s problems was a atatement (I suspect to an environmental group) that they plan to put a lot of coal companies out of business and put a lot of coal miners out of work. A lot of others could see themselves substituted for coal miners at some time.
In reality, job retraining programs have often fallen short of what is needed.

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