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Cheer up! Trump's victory gives us reasons to be optimistic

The election of Donald Trump is a reminder that when the American people want change, they go out and make it. When will the same thing apply to Israelis?

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at an election rally, accompanied by his daughter, Ivanka, September 13, 2016. (Michael Vadon/CC BY-SA 4.0)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at an election rally, accompanied by his daughter, Ivanka, September 13, 2016. (Michael Vadon/CC BY-SA 4.0)

The grief that overcame my Facebook feed Wednesday morning is understandable. The thought that a violent, racist, anti-Semitic man such as Donald Trump will now hold run the most powerful country in the world is nothing short of frightening.

And though I understand this kind of reaction, it is wrong to view Trump’s election in apocalyptic terms. Not only because the anxiety and desperation paralyze us politically, but because things are generally more complex than a simple black-and-white reality — and that reality often tends to disprove even the most founded predictions.

This, of course, goes both ways: the Israeli Left was euphoric following Ehud Barak’s election as prime minister in 1999 — an election that to many signaled the end of the dark days of the Netanyahu era, ushering in a new era of light and hope.

Who would have believed at the time that it was Barak who poisoned the state’s relations with its Arab citizens, who would make sure every Israeli knew they have ‘no partner’ in Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, rendering any negotiations to bring about the end of the occupation meaningless. For better or worse, leaders should also be evaluated by the correlation between the hopes and the fears that accompanied their election — both by their supporters and opponents — vis-a-vis what they accomplish.

As Israeli citizens, we can find solace in the fact that our prime minister is no longer the most outlandish leader in the club to which we pretend to belong. Compared to Trump, even Netanyahu appears to be reasonable, responsible, and restrained.

But beyond all this, Trump’s election — grotesque as it is — expresses a deep American belief in the need for change, along with the understanding that it is not a good thing when one party remains in power for too long. In this sense, the American people force both the Democrats and the Republicans to remain alert, to know that their rule is anything but assured.

Israelis attend a demonstration in support of U.S. republican president candidate Dondald Trump, Jerusalem, November 7, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Israelis attend a demonstration in support of U.S. republican president candidate Dondald Trump, Jerusalem, November 7, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

In the short term, Trump’s election appears to be a catastrophe. At the same time, however, it expresses the exact opposite of a paralyzing cynicism: instead it expresses the belief that the public can take the wheel and change direction. Even if right now it seems that the Americans have decided to steer their giant ship directly into an iceberg, the fact that they believe they have the power to steer is an asset we must not take lightly. This is the very thing that prevents the complete atrophying of the political system.

If there is one lesson that we, the Israeli public, can learn from last night’s drama in the U.S. it is exactly that: a party that remains in power too long ought to keep the Israeli public on guard. No single political group must view its rule as guaranteed. The biggest catastrophe that afflicts a political establishment is not poor leadership — it is when the opposition ceases to believe in its own power to change the direction of the ship, and then stops fighting passionately for the right to hold the wheel.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Mary W

      This is the most frankly positive comment I have seen or encountered today. Yes, CHANGE is possible, as well as necessary.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Bus189

      Eventually Bibi will be replaced by someone on the center or the right. You and your ilk will fortunately continue to be on the margins because the suicidal political camp you belong to is small and shrinking. I suppose that the US is no longer at the top of the list of countries for extreme leftists to move to, but there is still Canada and Berlin. Best of luck keeping spirits high. It is probably getting increasingly difficult, but I have full faith in your capacity to delude yourself.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Ben

      Facile comparisons between the American and Israeli situations obscure more than they illuminate. Orly Noy is right about the ascendancy of the grotesque Trump also signaling a need for change. One views this sociopath, Trump, as many evil things, but as possibly also a grimly unpleasant but necessary extreme laxative for a system in which both parties ignore working class people. If it doesn’t kill the patient and those in the next hospital bed by explosive diarrhea in the process. A big if. America will never be the same.
      Just google “Andrew Jackson” + “Trump” for illuminating historical articles on the populist angle–from the NYT by Steve Inskeep, and from the American Thinker by Fred Lucas. It will give you necessary perspective. Then also read this in full—it is good, especially as it is about a non-condescending Wisconsin professor’s patient field observations of working class people in Wisconsin, the firewall state that surprisingly flipped for Trump. By Jeff Guo:
      A new theory for why Trump voters are so angry — that actually makes sense
      https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/11/08/a-new-theory-for-why-trump-voters-are-so-angry-that-actually-makes-sense/?tid=pm_business_pop_b

      Hard working dairy farmers and plumbers in Wisconsin, however, are not voting for a brutal 50-year occupation of southern Canada or northern Mexico. Or think they are entitled to that land because they are of white European descent. Nor do they make up lies about how withdrawing from Canada or Mexico would be “suicidal.” Nor did most of them actually vote for Trump based on immigration issues. They are not fundamentally moved by racial nationalism:

      How Trump won: The revenge of working-class whites
      By Jim Tankersley, Washington Post
      “…Half of these voters said the economy was the most important issue in their vote, compared to 14 percent for immigration. A majority said international trade takes away American jobs. Three-quarters said the economy is “not good” or “poor” and nearly 8 in 10 said their personal financial situation was the same or worse than it was four years ago….”

      Reply to Comment
      • AJew

        “Hard working dairy farmers and plumbers in Wisconsin, however, are not voting for a brutal 50-year occupation of southern Canada or northern Mexico”

        Nor are they facing demands to end the American state and become part of Canada or Mexico (or worse: expulsion of all Americans from America) backed up by 100 years of terror against American civilians by Canadian or Mexican terrorists.

        Reply to Comment
    4. Lewis from Afula

      Yes, Change is Possible. That’s why Israel got rid of that Corrupt Oldmerd in 2009 and brought back Bibi as PM. That loser Herzog and the Labor will never get back in.

      Reply to Comment

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