Donald Trump’s Win Sends Two Subtle Messages That Require Our Response

Picture: Gage Skidmore (Creative Commons)

Hillary was always going to be bad news. I get that. I also get that a vote for Donald Trump in the US Presidential election was for many not so much for him as against Clinton, the establishment she represents, and some of the radical policies she stands for. I understand that, for many, this was a no-win election. I understand also that what I share below may lose me some friends. But Trump’s win carries with it two subtle messages that need to be confronted, and confronted quickly.

A Message On Truth

When a political candidate can suddenly turn pro-life, suddenly claim he’s a Christian, change his political affiliation when expedient, base his campaign on lies and exaggerations (see the fact checking of his statements by Politifact) and build it on celebrity power and inflammatory statements rather than experience or any detailed policy, and that candidate is elected on such things, the subtle message sent is this:

Truth doesn’t matter. Substance doesn’t matter.

Only image, slogans, and political ‘promises’ matter.

A Message On Character

When a candidate can consistently be shown to devalue women, ridicule the disabled, incite animosity against ethnic and religious groups, have little ability to receive criticism without voicing or plotting vengeance, blames other things when the situation isn’t going his way (the microphone, the ‘rigged’ electoral process), boasts about not paying federal taxes (and probably other taxes) because he’s ‘smart’, subversively calls for revolt if the election doesn’t go his way, and that candidate is elected on this basis when in every other field of life he would be disqualified, then the subtle message sent is this:

Character doesn’t matter. Moral fibre doesn’t matter.

Only sticking it to the establishment matters, and avoiding ‘political correctness’.

The Implications For Leadership

Good things may come of Trump’s win. I pray so for the United States and the rest of the world. But with this historic vote an example has been set for leadership in all its forms – civic, economic, cultural, religious – of a leadership where truth and character is boldly and overtly placed second to expedience.

I know similar charges could be laid at Hillary Cinton’s, and other politician’s, feet. But it seems to me the Donald Trump phenomenon has taken them to an entirely new level. And consistency is important here. The Republican Party hounded Bill Clinton over the Lewinski affair, and rightly so. But after backing and electing Trump, it can not hold another political figure to moral account again. Not without being hypocritical. Or repenting of its championing of Trump. I can’t see any other way of being consistent.

A Call for Response

The effects of a Trump presidency will be seen in time. In the meantime, what negative message and values this election has sent and affirmed in popular culture can be mitigated. Because through this event I hear an equally subtle call to the rest of us – a call to choose another way, to set a different example, to try to do two things in as best (and faltering and imperfect) a way we can:

To be people of truth.

To be people of character.

Even when our leaders are not.

Talk to Me

You may know that I’ve spent the last month in the United States. During a good, robust conversation on these things, where both sides of the debate were discussed and challenged, a cab driver said to me: “I wish you and I could go on a longer trip, because there are few people I can have this kind of conversation with. Us Americans are so divided right now we no longer listen to each other.”

And so on that note, I do invite your comments below – push backs included.

Just be respectful and avoid name calling.

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  • Great post, great points

  • This is a travesty of an article. Absolutely everything you accuse Trump of (“Truth doesn’t matter. Substance doesn’t matter. Only image, slogans, and political ‘promises’ matter”) is the very stuff that has driven people TOWARDS Trump. They see that it is the media who lie and manipulate and sloganise and trivialise. They see it is the machinery of the political establishment that remove all the substance and replace it with sample-tested sound-bites than mean nothing and deliver nothing. Trump came to us unfiltered – warts & all. He was not only fighting the Democrats but also huge sections of the Republicans, not to mention all the mainstream media and the rigged pollsters. And simply calling people racist/sexist/bigoted/etc and believing you’ve won the argument has lost all it’s power now. We just don’t care any more.

    • No doubt, the same two points could be said of other politicians, including Hillary (who is deeply problematic). But given Trump’s history and background – unfiltered though it is – what assurance do you have that he can be trusted to deliver on any of the promises he’s made? I can see disappointment on the horizon.

      I’m just making a call for truth and character to be put back on the agenda for leadership candidates. Not perfection, but the pursuit of integrity. This election has blatantly taken these two qualities off the agenda – for all parties and candidates.

      • Ang

        All you can do is just wait and see. The best things to do is to pray for Trump and pray for American. That doesn’t mean that you have to like Trump. Just pray that the Lord will give our leaders wisdom. After all, Abraham Lincoln wasn’t a Christian when he was elected president. But he did become Christian during his presidency.

    • Nathanael Small

      Rebel, I’m not sure how you can conclude it was “…the media who lie and manipulate and sloganise and trivialise”, when Trump was so unfiltered in how he communicated. No one can dispute it, because the evidence is on video. No one can say he didn’t lie or fudge the truth, when there were several independent non-media fact checking organisations who could easily show that he did.

      I also don’t think that Sheridan was claiming that he won the argument – I don’t think that he was actually trying to win an argument.

      There have been a broad range of articles by the same media that have analysed in some detail just how Trimp won. They’ve looked at the exit polls (where a majority of people – 61% – actually went on the record and said that the didn’t like Trump, and 34% said that he was unqualified to lead. And still he won the Electoral College.

      That same media have analysed the the actual results of the polls and found some fascinating anomalies. What was clear was that in spite of being a classic “Republican” candidate (white, middle aged plus, male, wealthy upper class) he was able to attract a large number of the classic Democratic base (low-middle income, white and non white {black and hispanic}) and even a sizable portion of women.

      The Democrats were up against the trend of eight years of incumbency, of putting up a candidate who represented the political insider (in spite of being the most qualified person ever to run), and of having two terms where much of their positive agenda that would have benefited their base was frustrated by the Republicans in Congress and the Senate.

      Add to that the decline in real wages over 30 years in the lower and middle class and you’ve got a climate where people want change so badly that they’ll ignore truth (there’s been a couple of great articles analysing Trump’s mastery of propaganda over truth) and character (where Trump has clearly been shown to having glaring deficiencies) in spite of the media reporting facts and almost universally not endorsing Trump (and many of them could not bring themselves to endorse Clinton).

      There’s no doubt we’re in for a fascinating ride. Note that Trump has already started to tone down his rhetoric (e.g. looks like he’ll keep some parts of the Affordable Care Act, and the Great Wall may actually be a fence in some parts with no further comment on how he’s going to get Mexico to pay for it). Trump is also starting to appoint some insiders to key position in his transition and governing team (Reince Priebus as Chief of Staff to name just one), so he’s recongised he needs “insiders” if any of his “policies” (I use the term lightly because they are very thin when examined closely) are going to get traction.

      Even with a majority in both houses Trump will have to somehow deal with the powerful lobbies who donate to politicians exerting their influence to achieve their objectives. In fact, the single greatest thing he could do as his first initiative would be to introduce a bill banning lobbyists and any donations by lobbyists or corporations with lobbyists as clients. That alone would start draining the swamp at a very rapid rate.

      So we’re in for a fascinating four years. I haven’t even touched on finance, taxation, foreign policy, education, or numerous other areas where many of his ideas are just plain impractical at best or dangerous at worst. Some of them (death tax, changing the tax rates) are the worst form of trickle down economics that will only benefit the top 1%, so it will be very interesting to see those who left the Democrats or joined Trump on the promise of change that would Make America Great Again react if any of those get over the line.

      Anyhow, I’ve diverted from my main point – which I’ll reiterate and say that the media were far less biased than they were accused of, but where they got it wrong was believing the polls, which failed to gather accurate data that showed that the mood of the electorate had fundamentally shifted. The actual result of the election was a lot closer than the electoral college showed. Trump won many states by very thin margins and if Hilary had the same voter turnout as Obama she most likely would’ve won. Hopefully the post election protests will die down soon and people can focus on what they can legally do to influence policy – by lobbying their representatives in Congress and the Senate, by running for school boards and local government, and by volunteering to the many not for profits who will need their support to look after those who will be left further behind if some of Trump’s initiatives actually pass both houses and become law.

      • If your main point is that “the media were far less biased than they were accused of” then I’m afraid we’re on different planets. They were hideously partisan. They’re even admitting it now (well, the NYT is). The problem is that they don’t even know they’re biased because they’ve filtered out, at source, any dissenting voices. (For e.g., until relatively recently the BBC only used to advertise vacancies in the Guardian newspaper; you face disciplinary action if you express views that are ‘conservative … gay marriage anyone?). They go along with the narrative that anyone who has concerns about immigration is a racist bigot; they refuse to cover major stories that show the Democrats in a bad light whilst reporting trivial incidents that slurred Trump. It goes on & on & on.

        The polls were wrong because, again, they have an inbuilt bias. They made assumptions that actually bumped up Hilary’s numbers by up to 10% in some cases. And that is giving them the benefit of the doubt and assuming that they weren’t wilfully being deceptive in order to try and influence the outcomes.

        You can make all the excuses you want for Hillary, the reality is that (like Brexit in the UK) this is an outstanding, almost miraculous victory. The media, the pollsters, the political establishment from both sides of the political divide, the financiers, the celebrities & opinion formers were all stacked against Trump. He won anyway. Surely that tells you something,

        • Ang

          I agree. We all know by now that the mainstream American media has a liberal, Democrat bias. Every single poll predicted the Hillary would win the election except for only 3 polls. We have so few major media outlets that they just keep shouting the same rhetoric. We have to understand that Trump was against all odds when he ran for president. No one believed or thought that he was going to win 2 years. The media relentlessly attacked him and demonized him every single day for the last 2 years. Hillary had the upper hand because the media protected her every move and she outspent Trump. Even Obama campaigned for Hillary. I think Americans were fed up with being unemployment. Go to any Main Street in any town in the USA, and you will see nothing buy empty windows of closed shops. Look at all of our major retailers filling for bankruptcy. Americans want to work and don’t want to be part of the nanny state. People showed up to Trump’s rallies and listened to his speeches in full context, not to the one-liners that the media loved to spin out of control. I’m not trying to say that Trump is the greatest person ever to lead the States. I’m trying to explain what really happened as opposed to the media trying to delegitimize his victory.

  • Matt McChlery

    It’s a sad day when integrity and honesty is trumped in favour of … Trump! Thanks for this post Sheridan.

    • The great challenge is, Clinton was damaged goods and would have inflicted damage too. What a choice voters were offered.

  • Jan Erlam

    I have shared your post. I think America like the UK are just fed up of the same old, same old. They are fed up of promises not kept, lies and cover ups, in desperation people voted for change in the only way they could whether right or wrong. The oppressed want a voice. In 1985 I learned that the truth was not out there. I learned I didn’t matter when my young son contracted a bone marrow related disorder caused by the environment. I learned that the Government wanted to cover it up, they were simply not interested in me, what this meant to me or what I lost when Andrew died. My perception on the world and Government changed especially when I learned the PM’s family invested heavily in the kind of things that killed Andrew. I trusted no human after that. How that shaped my life, my walk, my faith is still ongoing, only God is true. I look to his values and adapt my thinking towards fellow man. People are afraid, they would never normally want to close borders, they aren’t against other races, they are afraid of those who cross borders and want to kill us hiding in deception, people are poor and need work, the fear those who will take jobs because they will accept less and are willing to be exploited, this is why people are voting as they are meanwhile the genuine need in the world is still present. People who have feared change are now desperate for it and are striking out, whether its right or wrong only time will tell.

    • Thanks for your heart felt comment, Jan. I’m so sorry about your son, and can see how disappointed you’d be with the government. This election was a travesty in the two candidates offered, when the change you long for was, and is, so desperately needed.

  • Kimberley Williams

    How could you ‘lose friends’ for suggesting that Christians stand up for truth and moral fibre?

  • Charles Hendricks

    I am scared of where we are heading as a country. The election did not turn out the way I hoped. This goes back to the primaries stage when we could have nominated Sanders and Kasich to have a mature debate about our country’s direction. Instead 10% of registered voters nominated two people I did not support. Now we have a President elect that in my opinion is not qualified. He believes in things I don’t agree with – not uncommon I know, we all have our own values. However, with this man it seems more radical.

    He wants to repeal Obamacare. I understand it needs reform, but he wants to repeal it. What I hear him saying as a business man is he wants to fix it so the insurance companies can go back to making money and not charging those of us that are healthy so much. What happens to those that are not healthy? I predict my mother will either not have insurance soon because of pre-existing conditions, will not be able to afford insurance as they adjust rates based on business risk level, or her coverage options will not include many things. I predict major health issues will once again equal financial ruin as the companies will not offer coverage, just like they used to do. This is what business-friendly looks like, it benefits business.

    He wants to eliminate the EPA. Who needs those pesky regulations that slow business growth? He wants to let business decide if they are impacting the air and water. Will this work? Will business focus on what is good for you or their investors?

    He wants to defund the Paris climate agreement. We have elected the only leader of a free country in the world that believes climate change is a hoax. Why? My guess is doing it different from the way we have always done it costs more up front and impacts profit for business. We have voted as a country to put economic growth in front of saving air and water and stopping or even slowing down climate change.

    We elected a bully. Through this election we have told those that are loud and aggressive that they win. We told those getting bullied at schools and in life, this is a successful path to lead our country.
    We told women, minorities, LGBTQ that being different makes you less. Hannah has told me twice that two girls were running and still a man won. She heard the message that she is not as good as a man. I tell the girls all the time that they can do anything a man can do. This election has damaged that message in a way that will be hard to repair. I have told them that being a different color or LGBTQ does not change a person’s good. This election has damaged that message.

    So I am scared of our loud, aggressive, business-first leader and the direction we are now heading. I understand we needed to change direction, but wish we had nominated another option. I pray our leader can control his rhetoric in cases where diplomacy avoids war. I pray that the environmental damage that is going to be unleashed does not push us over the cliff. I pray my girls can understand they are not objects to be used, but valuable equal members of society. I pray those in need of insurance survive this business-first wave of reforms. I pray that all the hate stops. I pray for our country. I pray that this is the shockwave that saves our country instead of tearing it apart.

    Thanks for your post.

    • And after this post, Charles, I’m praying all the more with you. Thank you.

    • Ang

      Obamacare was a partisan heatlhcare bill that was rammed down the throats of millions of Americans. There was not one single debate held on the Affordable Care Act. Not one Republican voted “Yes” on it. Americans even showed up at town hall meetings to voice their disapproval of the bill. Obama and his followers just ignored them. The problem with the healthcare bill is that fact that it’s written by a bunch of politicians who have absolutely no experience in the healthcare settings. The demands of the ACA was unrealistic. Sure the bill must have felt beneficial to 10 million Americans for the first few years that it was enacted. But that was all smoke and mirrors to get the bill running. In actuality, it was just a train wreck waiting to happen.
      All of these private health insurance were forced to enroll people with pre-existing healthcare conditions. So in order to stay in business, insurance companies had to take in all the costs, even if it caused them to lose millions of dollars. To control the blood shed, they ended up cutting reimbursements to all healthcare providers which includes hospitals, medical doctors, pharmacies, and nurses. So how can you expect a healthcare provider to keep running their practice if they’re not reimbursed like how they’re used to? This explains why the healthcare industry shrunk by 2.4% last year which was a huge hit. Many hospitals, medical clinics, and pharmacies have gone out of business.
      Lastly, have you seen how many insurances have pulled out of the healthcare exchanges during opened enrollment? Some counties only have one insurance to choose from. Aetna and United Health lost millions of dollars due to the ACA to the point that they were unable to participate in those healthcare exchanges anymore. This is what happens why you get government involved in the American healthcare system.
      Lastly, what about the millions of young, healthy, working Americans who can’t afford insurance? After all, my healthcare premiums as well as everyone else’s have actually gone up in January 2017. I have to take a hit this year with my heathcare insurance. But others can’t even afford the current premiums had to drop out and pay the tax penalty which goes up every year. Why do young, healthy, working Americans have to be punished for not buying health insurance? Where does the money go? It really doesn’t sound fair to punish people for not buying something that they can’t even afford in the first place.

  • folasade

    The crazy for me. I’m not
    really scared of what Trump will do, BC he’s not a dictator in a traditional sense, I personally don’t think he will do anything..he will be too scared. Because he is human. I’m concerned about his marriage. I know that’s strange but his wife has been involved in pornographic material. That is not an example, or good for the country. Marriage should be honored. God set marriage standard for a reason, if you cant make a marriage work, how can you get two nations to peace. Maybe it’s also says you only need to be sexy and immoral to be in charge, that is NOT an ideal we need to push. There are consequences living this seems minor but it sets a terrible standard.

  • Arul John

    Donald Trump’s campaign and eventual elections to the office of POTUS do raise questions on expediency and moral fibre and other disturbing issues. His election does lay bare the need of a frustrated population to see an end to the hypocrisy, lies and wheeling and dealing that has been part of the US and world political stages for many decades.
    I am sure that God can use Trump for His purposes for the US and the world -our God is an awesome God – but nonetheless his election should force the American people and ourselves to look deeper at our real underlying motivations and convictions and see if they are truly aligned to God’s purposes or sif we are just pandering to other people’s hidden agendas.

    Thanks for sharing this Sheridan!

    • Thanks Arul. I can truly see how so many Americans, frustrated with the status quo and feeling ignored, and having major misgivings about Hillary Clinton, felt they had nothing to lose by giving Trump a go. But the broader consequences are not good.

      • Arul John

        I agree with you there Sheridan!

  • Sarah

    Such a helpful post, thank you. In this era of post-factual politics, it is hard to discuss things reasonably and gently. Certainly the political arena is different between the US and the UK and never more so than the issue of abortion – which in the UK we have had on demand for almost 50 years. Is that why evangelicals voted for Trump, despite his offensive views against women, minorities, those of different faiths and ethnicities, the disabled, and “liberals” -essentially a fascist agenda by definition? I’m bewildered and asking God, how do I know I am reading and seeing clearly? Praying for the American people and their painful division.

    • Ang

      I can honestly tell you that the liberal mainstream American media has an upper hand as they will demonize anyone who runs as the Republican nominee for president. If you’re voting as a Christian evangelical, you’re going to vote for the candidate who endorses your views. Hillary is about as pro-abortion and pro-choice as you can possibly get. Many Christians probably didn’t foresee that Obama was going to be the most pro-abortion politician to ever be in the White House. After passing the Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare, Obama made it possible for abortions to be funded by our tax dollars. So that means that if you’re an American and a Christian who pays his/her taxes, your tax dollars are paying for someone else’s abortion, even if you don’t believe in abortion. Hillary would have continued the status quo. Here’s another example. If you’re a county clerk who refuses to issue gay marriage licenses because it goes against your Christian beliefs, you will be thrown in jail. That’s exactly what happened to Kim Davis. She was a county clerk who refused to issue a gay marriage license because it contradicted her Christian beliefs. (The liberal media hates her to no end.) Because of that, she was thrown in jail for a few days. Is this the America that Christian evangelicals want to continue to live in? Of course not. So given the choice between Trump and Hillary, you can see why most Christian leaders and pastors endorsed Trump. Trump may not be perfect. But for a Christian evangelical, he was the better choice in the end.

  • Jan Erlam

    If you just for a moment leave the candidates aside and Brexit too. I sense a people who are frustrated and voting for a change, People who don’t like what they are seeing, the trouble is I don’t think I could have voted because neither candidate passed muster. You have all you say about Trump and then there was Hillary a woman determined to get to the top she didn’t mind at all about what her husband did as long as she got where she was going and it failed. What message does that send. Neither one had moral fibre to represent what people really want but the worst of it all is the division here in the UK and USA its like civil war, I have never come across as many rude and disrespectful people and I am speaking from experience, I have approached calmly and prayerfully but loud voices raised in anger and tantrum just drowned me out. I hate the way this world is going, the greed, the selfishness, the lack pf respect for people opinions. Every person plays a part in the world just as the bible taught about every part of the body being needed and serving a different purpose, it ok to be different, we just have to listen, understand, compromise some times but ugly voices raised, the stamping of feet in a tantrum really does get me down, this attitude will get us nowhere. We need the voices of common sense and love from both camps taking a lead and saying, lets unite, lets discuss what we want, lets find the common ground and let us go forward in the way of love,