Dealing with the unthinkable

Disaffection has had its day, but now its morning in America -- how do we channel the need for change and at the same time overcome the symbolic flaws of our chosen leader?

The biggest problem with Trump is who he is -- the character flaws do not need to be repeated.

The biggest strength of Trump is that those who voted for him were far more concerned with the need to give voice to their disaffection than with those very same flaws.

Our challenge -- yes our, meaning all Americans -- is to find a way to both give voice to the frustrations of the Trump majority AND to meaningfully address their roots.

Most of the disaffected feel unable to get ahead -- they have reacted to the "feeling" -- but the rest of us have done a poor job of helping them articulate that phrase's unspoken clause in a manner that can lead to progress. Get ahead of who? Get ahead of what? Our collective failure to articulate those very questions is a pointer to the potential road out of the mess.

Uncertainty and feelings of delegitimization lie at the core of the disaffection. The Trump majority is almost unanimous in stating that they believe the "establishment" has created a "system" where their concerns cannot even be expressed, never mind attended to. They believe they cannot be heard. That the "system" only cares about "its own concerns" and paying attention to its own "favored interests" and "powers that be." They are sick and tired of being ignored. And they believe that the system has no desire to ever listen.

Those in the lower economic end of this group truly believe that programs such as affirmative action, refugee resettlement, student loans, etc are designed (yes, designed -- meaning with intent) to give select groups of "others" a way to get ahead of them. They believe that their hard work is often for nought. Just as they go to pull themselves up the ladder there goes the government raising the bar or allowing someone else to "cut" in line. This is a REAL issue. Both that they feel this way and that they can tell far too many stories which fit the pattern.

Because we have very visible programs for helping some groups (who are seen as getting help getting ahead), our more silent programs for other groups remain unknown. The "who" becomes both our neighbors (we live in America getting ahead of the Jones' remains the national preoccupation) and the recipients of these well promoted programs. (The concern is NOT with immigrants per se, it is with the idea that immigrants get help -- using resources which could have gone to ME).

Our economic malaise and the 2008-10 housing crisis eroded our sense of security about jobs and our economic future. When the old "truths" of getting an annual pay raise and "housing prices always go up" held, there was a sense of security. That sense has been smashed.

IF a Trump administration is to succeed in creating change - that change needs to address these two concerns: fairness and security.

The Clinton voters need to "see" that these concerns of the Trump majority are both real and legitimate.

Both parties need to begin the new administration with a laser focus on these issues - perhaps with simple steps: creating an ombudsman's office to help everyone (not just those with lobbyists) deal with government, taking steps to prevent people from encountering the benefits cliff (where doing better means you lose access to the very programs that allowed you to do better), and encouraging shared equity arrangements in housing and education.

Because Republicans have control of Congress and the Presidency, it is time to impose the Flat Tax and get rid of the 25,000 page monster that is the tax code. There is unlikely to be another such opportunity.

Most important, we need to give our new President many opportunities to proclaim success for all Americans -- he relishes that, and in turn, behaves. We ALL want that.