What a year this is turning out to be…the recent vote in the US feels a lot like Brexit 2.0. Perhaps you, like me, are wondering where we go from here?
I have no doubt that 24 June and 09 November have earned themselves a place in the history books of the new millennium. It turns out that not only were the British public sufficiently disengaged with the establishment to vote for Brexit, but, it would now seem that the US voting public has followed our lead and, in their hunt for an alternative type of leader, have voted against the status quo. My fear has always been that a vote for Trump would divide American society and set factions against one another, so I must confess that I was at least a little relieved to hear him speak in a more conciliatory tone when giving his victory speech. He said, "Now it's time for America to bind the wounds of division, we have to get together". He went on to say “it is time for us to come together as one united people" and “I will be president for all Americans”. If true, it will be interesting to see what his presidency will bring. I am sure that Clinton will not be jailed; no wall will be built; he will not defeat Isis, but he will appoint Supreme Court justices and he can start wars. In short, he will not deliver on his most outlandish promises precisely because they are outlandish. So, I hope that his most extreme views will be moderated and that, if not, the political establishment in Congress and the Senate will work hard to keep him in check.
It was a stark contrast to all that has gone before to hear the magnanimous speech given by President Obama on the morning after the election results were announced. With his usual grace and good humour he spoke to the American people. “The presidency and vice presidency is bigger than any of us” he said, “we are now all rooting for his success in uniting and leading this country. The peaceful transfer of power is one of the hallmarks of our democracy. A lot of our fellow Americans are exulted today. A lot are less so. But that’s the nature of campaigns, that’s the nature of democracy.” Considering the devastating blow that his legacy to the American people has just suffered, these were generous words indeed.
Meanwhile, back here in Perthshire, though many are still reeling from the news, it would appear that the world has in fact continued to revolve as it always has. Although the old orthodoxies have been challenged and it would seem that we can no longer trust the pundits and pollsters, we are certainly learning that there is little option but to face our future with an adventurous and optimistic mindset. However the result sits with our own political beliefs, this morning’s Remembrance Service should certainly have reminded us that, whenever a nation speaks its mind, it is often a liberty that has been won by a hard fight and no small amount of sacrifice. For that we should be grateful. So to any young people reading this I would say, do not be discouraged by these results, stay engaged with politics and don’t become cynical. The mere fact that we are able to vote and are able to play our part in a democracy is a huge privilege which allows us to continue the fight for what is right.
John F Gilmour