It’s been a harrowing week in the U.S.
President-elect Trump wasn’t my candidate, but we have a responsibility to live in the same country together. We both want the best for our country, and we have to do our best to focus on where that vision overlaps. We all have to live in the same country, so let’s make sure that where it doesn’t, everyone feels welcome and respected.
If you didn’t vote for President-elect Trump, everyone has their own way of processing change. But as a solutions-oriented person, here are five things I suggest we do next.
1. Learn the right lesson from this campaign, and figure out what that means for your day-to-day activities.
A large number of people feel marginalized and unheard in a rapidly changing world. Whether we’re talking about rural Appalachia, the Rust Belt, or inner cities, not having leaders that you feel are paying attention to you, listening to you, and respecting you is an increasingly common American experience.
Less than 5 percent of venture funding goes to women. Tweet This Quote
America just elected someone who has repeatedly denigrated women, people of color, people with disabilities, non-Americans, and even insisted for five years that his predecessor wasn’t born in the United States. Yet more states voted for President-elect Trump than didn’t. And while President-elect has repeatedly said racist and sexist things, it’s important to note that he got 42 percent of the women’s vote (only 2 percent less than President Obama). Writing off this result as “America is racist and sexist” is not the most helpful response.
The vast majority of my extended family voted for Donald Trump, and it wasn’t race or emails that tipped the scales. Trump talked about how the game is rigged against people who don’t know how to play it. We live in a system where power and money are concentrated among a revolving door of banks, government, and big corporations: an average person has no access to that system, or agency to operate within the system.
In my day job in the startup investment world, we see, repeatedly, investments in founders who know and have access to the people with money. In venture capital, 78 percent of startup investments are in just three U.S. states (NY, MA, CA). Eighty-five percent of venture capital went to states that voted for Hillary Clinton. Less than 5 percent of venture funding goes to women. Less than 1 percent of venture funding goes to people of color. Folks don’t feel access to the system.
Less than 1 percent of venture funding goes to people of color. Tweet This Quote
Because most startup capital is highly concentrated, the founders we work with (who are largely from under-represented backgrounds: 90 percent from outside of those three states; 40 percent women; 20 percent people of color) wonder who’s investing. One of our founders, upon getting a report on national venture capital, responded, “Where’s that money going? We’ve never seen a cent of it.”
If you’re reading this, you’re likely well-educated and in a leadership position in a well-connected industry: banking, law, consulting, venture capital, a successful startup, or a corporation. Think about your day-to-day job – where you work, what you do, and what you can do to bring more power, access, and agency to more people.
2. Take care of the people who are especially scared by this result.
My wife and I are married, white, college-educated and have full-time jobs. If you’re reading this and this describes you, you personally will probably be fine, no matter what happens in a Trump administration.
Donald Trump was self funding, and he couldn’t be bought — he wasn’t part of the system. Tweet This Quote
I’ve heard already from friends who are Muslim-American, gay couples who are married, disabled people, black friends, Latino friends who are worried about their personal safety and their legal rights. The President-elect has over the course of the campaign said things more extreme than any past President that gives many people serious worry for their families and their safety (and it’s important to note that no past President from either party supported this one). As one example, I read a letter from a friend that said:
If you have friends who you think have reason to fear for their family or personal safety, let them know you are there for them. (And if you’re personally afraid, I’m here.)
3. Our government is only as good as its people. The best people aren’t in the system right now.
Part of Donald Trump’s initial appeal in the Republican primaries is related to point (1): Donald Trump was self-funding, and he couldn’t be bought — he wasn’t part of the system.
The corrosive role of money in politics, I think, is the single biggest cause of the Trump victory — and no one is talking about it. I voted for Hillary Clinton and wanted her to be President, but I was disappointed (and repeatedly posted throughout the election) about the quality of candidates in this election — on both sides.
Our democracy is controlled by people who can afford to be a part of it. Tweet This Quote
The role of money in politics limits access to either wealthy people who either can self-fund campaigns (Trump) or people who build an entire career around running for office (the law firm-lobbyist-elected official revolving door). Most people I know who would be great at running for office have jobs, kids, mortgages, and just can’t afford the price of admission of (a) forgoing their current salary to spend all the time it takes to raise the money you need to run, and (b) the prohibitive cost of a campaign.
Our democracy is controlled by people who can afford to be a part of it. If you are in a financial and/or family position to run for office, and you’re angry, do. City council, county commission, mayor, something higher. If you are not in a career, financial, or family position to run — or financially support those who do — that’s OK! In this case, the issue I suggest you focus on is getting money out of politics: most companies are obsessed with attracting and keeping the best talent, but the price of admission for a seat in governing our country is too high for the best people.
4. Propose solutions, rather than be obstructionist.
If you care about and are worried about women’s rights, look at what you can do to strengthen organizations such as Planned Parenthood. Educated women with full-time jobs likely will get the health care they need in a Trump administration. Others are very worried.
The price of admission for a seat in governing our country is too high for the best people. Tweet This Quote
If you care about growing income inequality (both in rural areas, which came out big for Trump, and urban areas, which had significantly depressed turnout for Clinton), think about what you can do in your day job to more directly address these root causes of economic and political instability. This is an issue I am working on in my day job at Village Capital, and we need the biggest coalition we can get.
If you’re worried about protection for people who are in the minority, get involved with advocacy groups, whether it’s the NAACP, La Raza, or a hundred other civic associations. I’d love suggestions.
Finally, I’d encourage you to focus on one thing that the Trump Administration is trying to do that you agree with. (If you can’t find a single thing — of course that’s fine!) Do the best you can to be bi-partisan where there is agreement, and fight like hell to defend and protect especially people who are not in a position to protect themselves against the policies you disagree with. Whether it’s investment in infrastructure or changing the tax code for small businesses, pick one issue you can work on.
Do the best you can to be bi-partisan where there is agreement, and fight like hell to defend and protect especially people who are not in a position to protect themselves against the policies you disagree with. Tweet This Quote
Even if you’re not for the President-elect, being bi-partisan on at least one thing will give you more credibility when you are fighting against the things you seriously disagree with and are worried about (and these will come).
5. Create a different narrative for America.
As my friend Mark says, understand what people deeply believe and can’t be shaken from. You’re not going to change their minds. Lots of time and attention went to trying to point out how Trump was actually more part of the elite system than his voters believed. You can’t convince people that Trump is part of the “system” if a person doesn’t believe he is.
Create a different and better narrative for America than President-elect Trump. In my mind, instead of a top-down, national, candidate/party/cult-of-personality-driven, this is a bottom-up narrative. Start with community. Many of the best elected officials in the country are mayors, and civic associations (churches, schools, local businesses) are largely the employers and safety nets for a lot of people who feel dispossessed.
America is a place where people live in, thrive, and prosper in their communities. The role of government is to protect movement of people, and people who are in the minority (to prevent tyranny of the majority), and otherwise enable or get out of the way of the people trying to be better in their community. Here’s how you, the listener to this narrative, can fit in. That’s the narrative that will make America even better.
Create a different and better narrative for America than President-elect Trump. Tweet This Quote
Finally, engage with people different than you to make sure your story doesn’t have blind spots.
I’m also positive there are many dedicated and capable leaders who want to do something but are too exhausted or scared to even formulate any ideas. If you feel like this describes you, don’t worry. Whatever comes out of this productive national discussion, there’ll be a place for you.
My wife, who is the most thoughtful person I know, wrote this in the morning: “Living in fear of power is a uniquely terrifying experience.” My heart is hurting for everyone who has reason to believe they will be less safe under the new administration. If you’re one of those people, I am with you. If you’re not, and if your candidate won, then I implore you to have compassion because with power comes great responsibility to everyone, not just those you agree with. I have to believe you don’t buy into the hateful rhetoric that defined his campaign. I reread Lincoln’s inaugural address this morning, and it gave me hope.
We have been here before, and I’m hoping some better angels are waking up today. Love you all.
This essay originally appeared on Ross Baird’s blog.