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Ahmad Sadri on U.S. election

An opinion piece on the results of the U.S. election by Gorter Professor of Islamic World Studies and Professor of Sociology Ahmad Sadri appears on The Guardian U.S. edition, which covers American and international news for an online, global audience.

Trump gave his supporters faith in politics again. That is a good thing.

The day of reckoning for all liberals arrived with Donald Trump’s victory. We had to start figuring out what went wrong. But as I went to class on that beautiful fall Wednesday, I found my students utterly deflated and woebegone. These overwhelmingly liberal millennials were so bewildered after their first presidential vote that I had to spend some time reminding them of the advantages of the democratic system. What happened, I told them, was democracy in motion – and that’s a good thing.

It healed a terrible rift that was threatening to tear the very fabric of our republic. It is true that a majority of white women and many other traditional demographics voted to secure a victory for Trump. But the determining factor was the participation of the uneducated, white men, so alienated that they already believed that the whole system is rigged against them. 

Their savvy reality TV millionaire had an easy job of persuading them on that account. These previously unregistered voters who came out of the woodwork (90,000 of them in Arkansas alone) to turn the elections don’t feel disconnected anymore. The Duck Dynasty fans, as a student called them, may keep their rifles racks and beards. But now, they won’t need their conspiracy theories to explain the world. After all, their straight-shooting candidate will soon be in the White House.

Think about it. These “angry white men” who, just a few days ago, were threatening to wear their war paint, pick up their guns and run amok if Trump lost are now leaving sage Facebook posts, admonishing all those liberal millennials not to be sore losers. The ones who pledged to start a rebellious conflagration are now condemning flag burnings at Trump-is-not-my-president rallies. Our candidates (Sanders and Clinton) lost in this election. But tens of millions of our compatriots feel included because their voice was heard. The terrible wound of mistrust in our body politic is no longer festering.

In four years’ time, once they realize that the Fifth Avenue tycoon has not changed their lives one whit, they might show up and vote for someone else. Or they may never vote again. Either way, there will be a huge and permanent hole in their suspicious view of “the mainstream media and government”.

Let us recall that something similar happened eight years ago for a lot of despondent young black men as Barack Obama was elected to be our president. Democracy healed us then as it has healed us now. 

Last but not least, this election should be a wake-up call to liberals. Many of us took Xanax to be able to sleep on Tuesday night. But on Wednesday morning we were wide awake to the fact that at least half of us in the United States of America are not repulsed by a bloviating, misogynistic and xenophobic bully – just as long as “he says what’s on his mind”.

Elections have a way of blowing away the cobwebs of illusion. Now we can’t help but see ourselves in this mirror, warts and all. This was a warning to campus liberals who have a habit of casting the world in their own image. Now we know better. And our work should start right here.