Valuable Lessons Learned From The Shit Show That Was The American Election

The results are in. The American people have spoken. The world is in shock.

Regardless on where you fall in the political spectrum or if you even voted in this election at all, the consequences of today’s decision in the United States will have an impact on your life in one way or another. Before you allow yourself to despair or gloat, please remember that the country was basically split 50 - 50. This wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination a landslide for either party. If we are to move forward as a nation, we need to stop, think, and process what happened without our emotions clouding our judgment. Because of this, I invite you to join me in this exercise in reflection. The interesting part of the conclusions I arrive at is that they all apply to our lives as individuals when we fall in times of crisis as well, not just to the United States today. Consider this politics through a coaching lens. With that said, here are 3 of the major lessons I am taking with me from the election.

The Blame Game is Pointless, Building Concensus Requires an Inclusive Approach--It’s the fault of the racists. The misogynists. The third party voters. The ignorant folks who don’t know better. Everybody on the losing end of this election on my newsfeed seems to have identified a culprit. I personally find it very hard to believe that all 47.7% of the population of the United States that voted for Trump voted explicitly for those reasons.

I also happen to know decent people who voted for Trump. Their reason? Washington is rotten. It’s better to pick the crazy guy, see the system explode and pray for the best than continue on the current path of what they see as hubris being packaged as progress. I don’t happen to agree but I can’t bring myself to say that it’s totally unreasonable. 

As I mentioned in a previous post about Trump, it would have benefited us to reconsider turning up our noses at Trump supporters and dismissing their views so quickly as illegitimate, ignorant, or “evil”.  I believe more in the power of empathy than I do in the allure of the moral high ground. Particularly when the moral high ground is only something that people consider an option when their basic needs are being met. Who gives a fuck about climate change when I’m high school educated, just lost my manufacturing job and have a family of four to feed? Our failure as a country to see the validity of these grievances and to acknowledge them caused us to be out of touch with the reality of a large percentage of our people. 

Had we adequately addressed income/educational inequality and special interest politics in Washington as a nation, the people that chose Trump for reasons like race and gender wouldn’t have made an impact on the election because there wouldn’t be that many left. Their views and voices may have been emboldened this time around by the rhetoric of their candidate but we cannot run from the responsibility that we carry as a nation to have dealt with these issues sooner. The fact that most college educated people in the country voted for one candidate over the other says little about the candidates themselves and says everything about the state of our education system. 

It’s up to us to demand education reform and to WORK for it. As our economic and military power start to diminish, it’s our only hope of keeping our position of privilege in the state of world affairs.

Listening is Important--Trump drove home strong messages on immigration and the economy. Whether they have any validity isn’t the question. He managed to tap into the single most important fear that the Americans not living on either coast have… Their livelihoods are at stake. Ask the folks in Midwest. The reality they face is very different from the one that most of us reading this encounter every day.

Although Clinton is known for being an excellent listener, her campaign failed to understand the one thing that really mattered to folks who lived in key swing states. The Economy. By spending resources attacking Donald Trump on his character while hers is considered questionable by scandals as well, the Clinton campaign missed a valuable opportunity to connect with undecided voters on an issue that affects them every day… An issue where things weren’t personal and where a direct approach may have just done the job. Also worth noting? Not all Trump supporters live under a rock and if they didn’t respond initially to attacks on his character, doing more of that was unlikely to shift things in her favor.

Authenticity Matters--I know this one is bound to raise some eyebrows because Trump is involved and has been repeatedly caught contradicting himself and lying to the press and to the American people. It became abundantly clear very early on in the race that Trump would say and do whatever it took to get elected. Some of supporters weren’t blind to his lies, they just didn’t care. Is it unfortunate? Yes. But did we bother asking why? Because he never tried to pass himself off as anything other than the guy that was going to shake things up and he already did. In their eyes, mission accomplished. Washington is getting the finger for the first time in our nation’s history.

Even though I have a tremendous amount of respect for Hillary Clinton’s work ethic, devotion to improving life for women and children, ability to get things done, preparation and political acumen, I wouldn’t say authenticity is what she conveyed to me as a candidate. Hillary was willing to do anything to get elected too, she just didn’t feel comfortable admitting it and that worked against her.

I have to admit I’m personally deeply saddened by today’s election result because many of the issues I really care about that were on the ballot have now been left in the air or are in danger. I don’t think Trump is what we need and I'm convinced he won’t deliver. I would have preferred a Clinton presidency. I would have loved to see a woman break a glass ceiling that I fight against every day myself. Now that it didn’t happen though, I’m left with a lot of questions and the food for thought I have offered you today.

In the book, The Art of War Sun Tzu states:

 “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a 100 battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself you will succumb in every battle.” 

It’s time for us to get to know ourselves again America, we’ve got a nation to heal and a future to build. The only way for us to move forward is to admit where we are and to change our approach.


(I picked Pavane Pour Une Infante Defunte because it captures my mood both in tone and in title. America’s democracy as we knew her died today. The system is rotten. We need a change. The silver lining? Americans are industrious. Americans are resilient and creative. I remain hopeful.)