Protesting against the result of a general election is something many of us have wanted to do. In 1997 I was utterly sure that Blair was a fraud and that his internationalist instincts would cause trouble. Gordon Brown stopped him taking the UK into the Euro, but no one stopped him backing a disastrous invasion of Iraq. That did not stop the country electing him twice more; now, many of those who voted for him thrice share the doubts I had in 1997. That gives me the right to say ‘told you so’ – but it did not give me the right in 1997 to set fire to anything, break windows or otherwise express my crossness that the electorate had been duped; but then I am a conservative and a pragmatist. So now, when I see people in the USA protesting, I ask myself what they hope to achieve? They have clearly forgotten that Trump has never been a Republican and that many Republicans did not like him. They are also ignoring the many reasons Americans voted for him. I couldn’t say that Trump was to my taste, and were I am American I should not have voted for him. But I would not throw my hands up and whine, still less would I demonstrate in the streets – what sort of example does that set?
So, a vulgarian, a man who has expressed racist and sexist views is President-elect? He shares these characteristics with many voters. Perhaps we should only have a democracy that allows people who share my world-view to vote? Oh, wait, that’s not democracy! Perhaps people with views I hate shouldn’t be allowed to be President or Prime Minister? Oh, wait, that’s not democracy! Or perhaps I should work harder with those who do think like me to persuade others we are right? What, get involved in that mucky business of canvassing and persuading the hoi-polloi? Yes, that’s what democracy is about. But the media is against me? Well it wasn’t exactly with Trump was it, but that didn’t stop him? Ah, but it takes money. Well, again, that might require getting your hand dirty and asking for or raising the stuff. Can’t be bothered with all that? So much easier then just to spout off and, when someone else wins the election, to act as though you are a small child whose ball has just been taken away. That, too, is democracy, of course, and people have a perfect right to protest – peacefully.
The sad fact is that the tone in which both the Brexit campaign here and the Presidential election in the USA were conducted has left a well of toxic matter in the body politic. There are reasons why election campaigns should not be conducted like internet trolling, and one of them is that afterwards, in a democracy, everyone has to get along. When any large section of the population feels not only offended, but frightened, this is not good for democracy. For the past few years it is those of us on the conservative and religious side of things who have felt threatened by the actions of government as it seems to have been determined to enforce its ideology of political-correctness on us whether we wanted it or not. Now liberals feel something similar in the USA. Perhaps both sides will now realise that pushing your agenda with total disregard for the consciences of others is not a good idea; democracy is not a zero-sum game.
No doubt, like all Presidents, Trump will encounter reality and come to terms with it. In the meantime, those who disagree with him should take time out and ponder why they failed. Mrs Clinton is said to blame the FBI. She should take a look in the mirror if she wants to see the real reason she failed. She gave every impression, as did many of her supporters, that she was entitled to become President; that is not democracy’s way. Politicians have given every impression of considering themselves an entitled class – the electorate has given its verdict on that. More humility and a better commitment to public service might be places to start. Whining about someone else winning is not the place to start. In victory, Trump would be wise to adopt Churchill’s motto of ‘magnanimity’.