Without the slightest hint of irony, I say this:
Because it is, only maybe not in the sense that you’re thinking. The world, of course, will go on; but the world as we know it has quite dramatically come to an end.
Polls and Surveys
For one thing, our faith in pre-election polling must surely be shaken now. In the weeks leading up to the elections, nearly all polls had Donald Trump losing by varying margins, and yet, at no point tonight was it in doubt that he would emerge the winner. The final tallies might not qualify as a landslide victory, but in its unwavering inevitability, the Trump win was certainly geological in character.
After today, polls can no longer be held as reliable indicators of how the people will vote. I see this as a good development. Good, in the sense that perhaps now, political players will begin to pay closer attention to real people, rather than the people who are predisposed to answering surveys. We’ve known this a long time. Real people can be surly, they can be fiercely protective of their privacy – even up to the point of lying to pollsters. The people who respond, on the other hand, have familiar psychological profiles. They are wired a certain way, and that quirk makes it fairly easy to predict their opinions and preferences. In fact, because the psych profile is so well known, polls can be designed in any number of ways, to deliver the results wanted by the pollster.
The erosion of faith in polls can therefore result in more responsive politics and politicians; and it can make things more difficult for those who sell skewed polls to politicians desperate to attract donors. Over-all, I would say those are very positive changes.
Tribes and Tito Toms
On a decidedly less positive note, the events of today clearly herald the resurgence of tribalism – the rejection of multiculturalism as a model of coexistence. How this will impact the massively multicultural America, I have no idea, but it’s global repercussions are not too difficult to predict. This is especially true for Filipinos.
Since the end of the Second War, many of us have regarded the US as a kind of spiritual home. Our Valinor where we can retreat in our old age, after a life spent toiling in the Middle Earth we call the Philippines. Don’t laugh. There is a reason the whole world knows that Filipinos love America more than Americans do. For us, there is a mythic quality to the place, for some families, bordering almost on the religious. And that faith has dictated the trajectories of more Filipino families I can name.
Sadly, that faith requires an America that is some degree of hospitable to those with brown skins, and essentially blind to superficial distinctions of race, able to look into the hearts of the immigrants to see the American spirit there.
In his victory address, Trump promised that the multiculturalism of America would continue. But his words during the campaign, I fear, have mixed a different kind of Kool-Aid for his supporters. This should come as no surprise. If political speeches truly dictated national points of view, America wouldn’t be struggling with race anymore. So Trump ticking all the proper boxes cannot be realistically expected to directly translate to a more open America.
There is nearly universal agreement that Trump’s supporters are predominantly white and wary of other races and cultures. They are known to be anti-Muslim and tend to view people of colour as not-quite-American. Where does that leave Filipinos?
It has been reported that the largest bloc of Trump’s Asian supporters is composed of Filipinos. Let’s be frank. These are Filipinos who consider themselves non-white Americans, but Americans nonetheless. These are Filipinos who cannot conceive of the anyone NOT recognising their American-ness. These are the Filipinos from whom may arise new Uncle Toms – or Tito Toms – and they might be in for a rude awakening into a very different world, very soon.
Hurricanes Are Coming
Internationally, the resurgence of tribalism heralds a sea change in America’s role in the world. From the end of the Cold War up until today, America has been viewed by the world as a kind of elemental force for balance and stability, especially in the more fractious regions of the world. This view made it possible for America to grow its military might unchallenged, for the simple reason that everyone wanted to have that power in their corner if push ever came to shove. This view also effectively relegated America to the role of – ostensibly at least – an objective, yet largely passive, observer. The reality, of course, was that America had always taken a more active role than just weapons dealer, military consultant, or hand-holder.
Playing down its active participant status – largely by consensus – allowed America to exercise diplomatic power without having to always resort to using military might. The trade-off was the cost Trump so aggressively pointed out during the campaign, counted in military aid, development support, and trade imbalances. If the new world we find ourselves in is where Trump’s America seeks more tangible returns from those costs, then it will shed any appearance of neutrality – of staying god-like above the nasty details like who owns the Pacific Ocean west of the Philippines. This will lead to the re-emergence of America as a nation with interests it must be willing to more pro-actively defend- a true superpower once more.
The rise of one superpower will inevitably lead to the re-emergence of others willing to act as counterweights. Russia, China. Tribalism on a global scale. And caught in the middle are the tiny ones unfortunate enough to have something that the big boys all want. In the Pacific, that would include us. We could soon find ourselves the birthplace of many new Pacific geopolitical hurricanes.
A New World Order
So yeah, today was the end of the world as we knew it, and we have stepped seamlessly into a new one. This new world order will probably bring some good changes as it will certainly bring terrible new things. But isn’t that how it’s always been with history? We won’t be able to say with certainty whether these changes will, on balance, make our lives better or worse. We’ll just have to see.
In the meantime, however, aren’t you tired? As the 2016 campaign here at home got really vicious and divisive, I expressed the wish that we could just fast forward to the end of the elections and return to talking about other things. Many American pundits and commentators have said much the same thing about their elections: that it was bruising, overly long, and terribly damaging. They also wanted the opportunity to just kick back for awhile and forget the politics.
That hankering for simpler things is not the first nor even the smallest parallel between the recently concluded American election experience and our own walk through the fire. And because of that, I mournfully extend this word of caution to our American friends.