Here’s something to think about… the country is soooo divided that Americans are living two distinctively different realities; it is almost like they are living in two different nations.
Imagine that you live in the Appalachian mountains off of Virginia or Ohio. Jobs in mining and manufacturing that were once plentiful are gone and no one has offered you re-training to operate in a different reality that has been emerging. Opioids & alcohol are easily available to dull your pain (in fact, in parts of Ohio, first time more people are dying from opioid addiction than natural causes). You see yourself as having no future; the best is behind you. You are enormously proud of your heritage, hard work ethic, and your religious values.
Church used to be your anchor but now church attendance has fallen; you have no anchor. You just want someone new at helm in this country, to shake things up – you don’t care how or who it is as long as the person talks to you in a language you understand and holds someone; an outsider responsible for your plight. Your current reality is so painful that you believe you once lived in a phenomenal nation, and you are losing it to outsiders who steal your jobs. Perhaps you don’t see many immigrants where you live, but you hear statistics of jobs being offshored, terrorists rarely target your geographical areas and you don’t often see women in hijabs but you hear about terror attacks when they happen and it scares the s*&^ out of you. Lowering or raising federal minimum wage has no impact here because there is no economy, no jobs. If someone tells you they will build a wall to keep immigrants out then it resonates with you. If someone promises to bring back outdated mining jobs back, you are filled with hope.
Now imagine you are living in a place like Silicon Valley in California, a place on the cutting edge of innovation. There is a different social and economic reality. You work with Muslim engineer, Chinese American scientist, Mexican American patent attorney, Iranian American realtor and your child’s teacher is lesbian. These people are not aliens but your next door neighbors and share similar interests and values, as you. Price for 2 BR condo in newly built (and fraught with problems), millennium towers in San Francisco costs around $2M and when economy tanked in 2009 (right after George Bush left office), California was hit harder than Ohio and Indiana. The number of people filing for bankruptcy protection in the first quarter of 2010 ranked California at number one for bankruptcy protection. Right after Florida and Nevada, California also had one of the highest foreclosure rates with 1 in every 192 houses being foreclosed.
I can personally vouch to the impact of extremely high unemployment, while living in a state where everything is more expensive. Both my businesses died. I offered recruitment and soft skills training, but no one was hiring and no one had budget for soft skills training. In 2009, I made less than $10,000. I sold my house and while my business continued to remain in a nearly dead mode, in 2010 and 2011, I pounded the pavement for hourly jobs at Starbucks etc. for which I was always considered overqualified. But California is back in business and so am I; better than ever before.
How did California do it? I think California did it by leveraging the global trends and with a unique blend of cutthroat captialistic competition and compassionate socialism. Corporations may not be people but both companies and people in CA exhibit this blend of competition and compassion. I have some more thoughts on this and if I am not distracted by other things, I may study this more and write another blog. But for this post, I want to focus on what is required of a political leader to bring the two Americas together.
Open letter to Clinton Campaign
Henceforth, Ms. Clinton must maintain a laser sharp focus on issues that matter in the swing states. All focus should be solely on large percentage of undecided voters who swing back and forth between Trump and Hillary. Stop talking about how racist Trump is or that he is adhering to Alt-Right. More people learn how racist he is, more votes it is getting him. Trump’s entire candidacy is based on inciting hate and division and taking his message to the masses is only enabling him. Besides, he has so much air time, everything he does and says is covered.
While American women would largely care for issues like equal pay for equal work, do not focus on sexism in Trump campaign. In California, I saw ads targeting women, with mention of Trump’s abominable remarks denigrating women. But California is tuned in already, In the swing states, there are likely to be more women in committed relationships and more than right to choose and equal pay, they care more for jobs for their husbands. Still for many, it is a man’s serious and primary responsibility to earn a living.
Do not mention immigration. Trump has made entire immigration dialog in the country about sound bites (big wall, beautiful wall, Mexico will pay for it, deporting etc.) and more confident and more racist his sound bites, more they are striking a chord. He effectively created an environment of fear where soundbite solutions are very appealing. I don’t believe Ms. Clinton can give any effective soundbites on immigration. That is simply not her style and people are not in the mood to listen to logic on this issue.
Do not mention environmental issues. While this has been President Obama’s crowning achievement, it does not figure in top 10 priorities when you put it on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Americans are generally more present oriented but are certainly focusing squarely on short term and immediate benefits during this election season. The more Trump talks about how things will change on November 8, less concerned people are about benefits to future generations.
Also, do not focus in the debate on Trump’s lack of foreign policy experience. Americans often care little about foreign relations. President GHW Bush made great strides in foreign relations and he got little credit for it. Besides Trump scored a victory looking Presidential in Mexico. More than that, no one cares.
Think of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs that goes from fulfillment of basic needs and only after they are satisfied, it progresses to focus on social needs. When people’s basic needs of healthy food, clean water, and safety are not satisfied, focusing on social issues like women’s rights, race relations, immigration, pay equality, and equal rights for LGBTQ, are a luxury they can’t afford. While Trump may be trigger happy to get access to the nuke button, for America 1, it does not feel like a looming disaster; instead, it enhances their feeling of safety.
Here are the issues that Clinton campaign should singularly focus on.
Focus on JOBS
Forget all incredible and horrific things said and done by Trump that make him unfit to be the President. Stay singularly focused on jobs and the economy and his lack of concrete plan to create jobs. In his post convention interview with George Stephanopoulos, Trump was questioned about jobs. See clip below at 11 minutes, where Trump when asked why he brings in people from overseas to work at Mara Lago resort in Florida, he tried to duck the question by taking talking about other companies offshoring jobs and Stephanopoulos keeps bringing the discussion back to his issuing almost 500 offshore visas since 2010 and Trump deflects it again saying everyone does it because they can’t find American workers. Hummm, they can’t be re-trained for low level jobs then how is he going to pressure Samsung and Apple to bring skilled jobs outsourced to Indian and Chinese engineers at fraction of the cost, back to America? Use this clip with Clinton’s concrete plan to continue to create job growth in America. This is not a sensational piece of news that elite media (largely favored by America 2) will play over and over but you must capitalize on.
Respect & concrete benefits to America’s Veterans
America owes to our veterans. But that sincerity must be expressed with something more tangible than “America loves you and is deeply grateful to you for your service”. If one vet feels strongly enough to give away his purple heart to Trump then that is one too many vets disillusioned, and whom we must re-engage with. Our vets must have certain level of job security, access to constant retraining, access to healthcare, including easy access to mental healthcare. There must be early intervention before PTSD takes an enormous toll on their lives and the lives of their loved ones. Talk about how Obamacare has enabled easier access to healthcare for so many people.
Access to mental healthcare and PTSD treatment
Trauma has become a significant part of modern life. It is not only our vets who need access to treatment for PTSD, but also foster care children who are often shuttled around from family to family, from one location to another. Children who witness domestic violence, often suffer from PTSD, while their needs may be completely ignored at home and outside.
Concrete plan to deal with opioids and other drugs
As mentioned above, in parts of Ohio, first time more people are dying from opioid addiction than natural causes. Obama administration and FDA has been deeply concerned about escalating use of opioids and other drugs but how frequently do we hear from Hillary campaign about the plan that is in process? For instance, the Obama administration is making it easier for doctors and law enforcement to use anti-addiction drugs. FDA is putting in place steps so that companies seeking approval of any new opioids, must include abuse-deterrent properties and appropriate labeling. But more importantly, there are concrete steps in place to deal with current trends of opioid abuse, including additional training to prescribers on pain management and safe prescribing, encouragement for abuse deterrent formulations, make naloxone more easily available to treat opioid overdose, and encouraging new class of pain medicines without the same risks as opioids. Ms. Clinton must relentlessly address opioid abuse and significant strides being made under Obama administration to counter that.
Finally, I humbly suggest that Hillary campaign and the media stop playing over and over and over Trump soundbites that show his racial, gender and other biases – contrary to people being turned off by such bigotry, in the climate of fear he has created and the foundation of hate he has laid, his bigotry gives people a feeling of safety and hope. Considered dialog detailing the history of events and people as done by Rachel Maddow and others and late night shows (Colbert, Noah, Bee, Oliver and others) that point out ridiculous aspects of Trump messages with humor, are however excellent.