Reactions to the election of President Elect Trump: A collection of Facebook Posts - Staying w/Conflict - Election Edition 2016

Reactions to the Election of President Elect Trump: A Collection of Facebook Posts

By Bernie Mayer

In responding to the election, I decided to take two approaches - one reflecting on my developing thoughts is a collection of Facebook posts. This collection is shared below. The other is a more considered  reflection on the challenges facing someone who is both a conflict engagement specialist and a political progressive. You will find this reflection here: Can We Talk (and Should We): Post Election Thoughts.

I am working on a coherent discussion of the election and its aftermath, and will soon post my thinking as of now.  But I have perhaps not surprisingly found it hard to develop a coherent response since my thoughts and feelings have been evolving daily, sometimes hourly, as I have slowly gained perspective and as new developments have occurred.  However, I have occasionally posted my developing thoughts and reactions on Facebook and together they present a sort of kaleidoscopic view of my overall view of what has happened and the challenges, big and small ahead of us.  So I have collected these—up through (American) Thanksgiving and present them below.


First Reaction

November 9, 2016

Sorry, discouraged and sad beyond belief. I have no idea what to say to my daughter who had said she has lost faith in the future. This article expresses my feelings.

An American Tragedy - The New Yorker

By David Remnick


Trying To Figure It Out: First Stab

November 15, 2016

Are we really in doubt as to whether Trump’s election is about sexism, racism, economic dislocation, or disgust with elites? It’s about all of this. The decades long attacks against Hillary have been spurious and based on gendered stereotypes. Trump's use of this was not even subtle. And it worked. There is much she can be criticized for (as with all candidates), but it seems pretty clear to me that if she were male she would be president elect today.

The “whitelash” against our soon to be majority minorities was also a big factor. Trump played it for all it was worth. Not much subtlety here either. Anytime we hear people railing against “political correctness”, we can pretty well translate this to “I am going to be just as racist, sexist, bigoted, and bullying as I feel like being.” By unleashing that anger, he also unleashed a lot of enthusiasm for his candidacy. By no means is he the first political leader to figure this one out.

The working class in this country (whatever we mean by that) has every right to feel pissed off that their wealth and security have diminished and that those who have created the financial crisis that harmed so many working people have not been held to account—and have in fact done quite well. Of course, Trump’s policies (maybe aside from a few symbolic and pretend efforts to save a coal mine or a manufacturing plant) will make the problem worse. Obama’s efforts to address these issues, while reformist and not sweeping, have been thwarted at every turn by the Republican congress. So the Republicans prevented even limited efforts to deal with this and then successfully argued that we need change because nothing has been done to alleviate the plight of working people And of course, it’s not the white working class that has suffered alone or the most. What would really make a difference would be to empower working people to fight for their own rights. Make it easier, not harder to unionize, make voting easier, not harder, enact legislation that would limit the role of money in elections—and appoint judges who would support these.

But while Hillary’s long term political efforts and her proposed policies are much closer to the mark in dealing with some of this, the very length of her presence on our political scene and her Wall Street connections undercut her credibility here. And although Hillary conveyed determination, competence and a pragmatic approach to addressing many of these concerns throughout her campaign—she did not display outrage. Trump’s bluster and posturing about fighting for working people is as phony as reality TV—but it was effective.

So using gender stereotypes to attack Hillary, addressing albeit in a phony way, real economic grievances, appealing to racism, sexism, and nativism, and both unleashing and joining in the anger that goes with this have given us a Trump presidency. What really concerns me is that this connection of genuine economic concerns to anger at “the other” and at their defenders among the elites is what has given rise to fascists and dictators for the past century and beyond.


Dealing With Bias—A  Reaction To An Article On Vox.Com

November 15



Interesting research on how to break through bias. The challenge for all of us is how to both listen and be authentic--that is to hear beyond the bigotry but to speak our truth as well. If we want to be heard, we have to listen, and if we want to understand where others are coming from, we have to be honest about where we are coming from. Since all genuine communication is two way (at least)--we have to learn about how to do both. I worry that all the calls to listen to the white working class are one sided--and that is not authentic. That won't work.

We do need to watch our tendency to label people, but we need to be willing to say what we think just as much as we need to hear what others think. This is what constructive conflict engagement is all about. Part of the challenge is finding the right social, geographical, and on-line space to interact and to get to know each other as human beings and to hear each other's story.

But there is another challenge as well--we have to understand that there is in fact a long term struggle going on--and progressive forces have to also prepare to engage in a political struggle over time.That is about much more than listening to the concerns of the working class. It means we have to be able to listen to our own concerns and to communicate with others who share similar concerns. Also, in the past listening to the white working class has often meant ignoring the needs of minorities and immigrants. That can't happen now.


On Understanding and Advocating

November 19, 2016


Understanding where others are coming from is not the same as "coming together." Understanding each other as best we can is something we all should strive to do. But reflexive calls for dialogue and national unity need to be --well less reflexive and more strategic. What really is needed now is to prepare for a long term struggle--for "Staying With Conflict" as someone I know has suggested. That means among other things not avoiding the real issues, building richer lines of communication, understanding that escalation of conflict is sometimes necessary and that competition is not a dirty word. But it also means that even though we have profound differences with others and these include significant disagreements about values and ethics, everyone's most essential needs and concerns deserve attention and we all have a right to a safe and meaningful place at the table of democracy.


About Vindication—based on a section of Beyond Neutrality published in 2004

November 19, 2016


I have been reworking something I wrote about 13 years ago (from Beyond Neutrality)--for some teaching material. I just came across this paragraph (from a section about what people want in conflict--lays out six essential needs almost everyone has, one of which is to feel vindicated)--I have edited this slightly:

Vindication is a step beyond validation. Vindication is about wanting to be proven right, to be acknowledged for occupying the moral high ground, for having taken the wiser, more righteous, or more reasonable approach In other words we want others to acknowledge that we are right and that our cause is just. Seldom does this kind of vindication really occur. People often refuse to settle a grievance or insist on taking a dispute to court because they believe they will somehow or other be vindicated. The fantasy of a powerful representative of social norms looking down from the Bench and indicating that one party to a dispute is just and righteous and the other shallow and evil is almost always just that—a fantasy. An analogous image is that of the righteous political forces sweeping the evil politicians or organizational leadership away and replacing them with people with virtuous approaches to public policy or corporate decision making. While such pure and simple solutions to serious conflicts seldom if ever take place (and when they do happen—almost always prove to be ephemeral), the desire for them is often what drives intractable conflict in the workplace and in society.


Family Conflict at the Thanksgiving Table

November 23, 2016


Lots of people have been suggesting approaches for dealing with political conflict at Thanksgiving dinner this week. In my family, political fights over Thanksgiving seem like part of our tradition. I remember a furious fight over Israel that my brother and I had with my father about 45 years ago, for example. We survived. But this year this challenge seems particularly intense and potentially painful. I think it is an entirely reasonable choice to avoid politics if you can do so in good conscience, but of course none of us has complete control over what will come up when we get together with our relatives and friends.

On the other hand, many of us may feel that we have to raise issues about the election, particularly if we feel that by not doing so we are assumed to agree to something that we feel compromises us. And Thanksgiving may provide a time for healing as well. I wish I could say that if we employ the right approach to having a difficult conversation all will be well, but family dynamics can be more powerful than the most tried and true approach of conflict and communication specialists.

Furthermore, I would not presume to know what would work best in anyone else's family. In some families, the very best approach is humor whereas in others that would likely be perceived as a put down or power play. With some relatives, careful listening and "I-message" framing will really help. In others, that will seem as inauthentic and patronizing--"just say what you think and don't BS me." And in some families--no matter what we do, things will go well, in others--poorly.

One of the issues with families and politics is that inevitably the discussions are not just about politics but about relationships, communication styles, power dynamics, and past history of that family system. So the best I can do is offer myself advice. This is easy to do since I currently reside in Canada and our Thanksgiving was six weeks ago, but if I were to attend an extended family system dinner and a controversial political issue came up (such as how did we blow this election), this is the advice I would offer to myself:

  1. Don't try to change anyone else's mind--it won't happen.

  2. But that doesn't mean that your own mind can't be changed--although honestly it probably can't. But still I should remind myself to be just as open to others as I want them to be to me.

  3. Seek to understand before being understood (stolen from Steven Covey)

  4. Have this conversation before too many people have had their second or third cup of wine but not before you have reconnected with each other on more personal issues--if such a space exists.

  5. Talk about something else that is meaningful to people as well.

  6. Humor works (in my family), but not if it is sarcastic or put down humor.

  7. Be clear about why you are having this conversation--and it's not about achieving consensus, convincing others that you are right, or demonstrating the elegance of your argument or sophistication of your analysis. In fact, I think for me, the main reason is not to be swept into the steamroller of family norms. I suspect for many it is because they simply can't get how people they love could vote for people they detest--cognitive dissonance reduction may be the underlying goal.

  8. Have a safe word of sorts for when it is time to stop or take a time out.

  9. Away of the table in one on one's may be the better place for really difficult conversations.

  10. Breathe, slow down, remember why you care for those at table.

  11. Good luck Bernie--even if you pull all this off, there is no guarantee that this will go well.

And good luck to all of you!


This blog post is part of the Staying w/Conflict - Election Edition 2016 series. Please check out the entire series by visiting the series homepage:




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