US Elections: Reasons to be Happy

2016 will probably be remembered as the year when an unexpected (and perhaps uninvited) candidate was elected to be the president of the most influential country in the world. This brings memories of 2008, when Barack Obama won the election and the world turned towards the United States, expecting changes that would transform the way in which international politics had been articulated. However, the general mood is quite different now. Most of the people with whom I have had the chance to talk about this tend to be very pessimistic about the consequences of Donald Trump’s victory. In fact, it is difficult to find people, whether American or not, supporting the Republican candidate. The same pessimism can be found in the comments from the majority of the experts who have assessed the impact and consequences of Trump’s success.

Perhaps it is my Spanish character, but I always try to look for the bright side of every circumstance or political event. And in this wave of negativity that surrounds us these days, I have to say that there are some positive elements. In fact, I do have hope that Donald Trump’s election may not be such a bad thing – and not just for some of the reasons that have been heard since the results were known. It is true that his victory speech was magnanimous, and made references to the need for unity with an explicit appeal to “people of all races, religions, backgrounds and beliefs” and “binding the wounds of division.” With regard to international affairs, he stated that under his presidency the United States of America “will seek common ground, not hostility; partnership, not conflict.” A speech full of good intentions is still a speech and not policy, but considering the rhetoric used in the campaign, the constructive character of his first speech is a good sign. Other analysts point out that a government does not depend only on the will of the president, and his advisors and administrators could act as a balance to moderate the policies implemented.

However, these are not the reasons that make me feel hopeful. In fact, my optimism is not even directly related to the situation in America. What I liked the most about the last weeks of the campaign and after the election was the fact that I saw plenty of young people talking about politics. You entered a classroom or passed close to a group of students in a corridor, and you heard conversations about the campaign. I think that this is a really good sign; young people caring about politics. As a person that studied politics, I cannot think of any other human activity which is superior to politics. Politics represent caring for others, getting involved and sacrificing your time for the good of the community. This can be challenging in a society that defends the autonomy of the individual, and the right to make decisions about our own lives and not to engage in the lives of others. Democracy will only be healthy as long as citizens care and participate; without people getting involved, democracy has no meaning. Events like the presidential elections show us that we do care and that politics is important for our lives. The task ahead is to promote the return of citizens to public affairs, to make them compatible with the modern way of living. Maybe the 2016 presidential election has not been such a bad thing after all.

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