Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Why almost every pundit failed to predict and then to prevent Trump presidency in USA? What lesson we have here?

Trump won US presidential election last night. Every, yes every, political pundit, poll strategy analysts, expensive data analysis with extravagant technology and machines proved to be wrong. It’s not just media or Democrat but Republican party itself is surprised. Hillary had a far ‘better’ preparation, ‘war rooms’ in every state, spend five times more money than Trump. Yet we all know the result now and that’s what matter. There is no point to get into postmortem of Trump as a person or a leader. Is that not indicating something more serious, systemic issue in our societies and democracies? Surprisingly, I am not that sad or frustrated as I thought I would be. I just went out, observed other people, talked to few of them. Everything seems to be pretty normal, in fact little calmer than usual.

One thing I am reasonably convinced- it’s not just Trump or USA specific incident. Arab Spring has come to western and other civilized, functional secular democracies. That include USA, India, UK, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Sweden and many more. 

One major reason is social science and anything related to people and society are very different than just data, its analysis and (core) science where two plus two is always four- irrespective of whether a white or black or Asian or Muslim or Mexican or women is doing that calculation. Surely that human behavior and interaction does follow some sort of logic, but we are yet to fully grasp it. One major reason is people do not always talk what they think, do not behave the way they think and do not react as they should be in ‘perfect’ world. Nonetheless they have their issues, their grudges and so on. It all has consequences. Sometimes very unexpected- like this American election and many more that include, but not limited to win of Modi in India, Brexit, rise of far right political parties in Western democracies, growing public frustration in countries which are far more organized, more civil and open society, where law still seem to work. 

In last 30 odd years, American rural and semi-urban population are marginalized. It’s median income decreased by about 10 percent. Social mobility is reduced significantly. Yet USA is importing more than 80,000 foreign workers even for high paying jobs than many local jobs like police, firefighters, school teachers, small business and so on, which provide more than 85 percent of income of American households. Many of such jobs for which foreign workers are imported, does not need much talent and can be easily trainable. 

US higher education now dominated by foreign born students while, even, upper middle class American struggle to attend college and university. More than 56% of PhD students and 82% of Postdocs in USA are foreign born. The actual number varies significantly based on subject and universities. The percentage increased in more lucrative courses.  It's also alleged that American universities do prefer such foreign students as they bring more money to the University than local students. It's generally acknowledged that income of a family or person increases with a college degree. Many, if not most, underprivileged local people see these foreigners as burden who are here in the USA only to exploit it financially. They are known to have least socio-political contribution, even though might have good economic contribution. 

Then comes, “way of life”, which is a huge issue in any country. If someone comes to my house and then demand that I need to change the way I live, the way I decorate by drawing room and other places, then I surely would not be happy. It will have consequences, even though I may not be downright rude and prefer to remain politically correct and remain likable. 

People may not have education, may not have well-paying or any job, or even hope for better future for themselves and, more importantly, for their children. But they do have vote and that’s exactly why we invented democracy in the first place. The worst part, is people losing trust on each other and also on our core institutions of democracy, as they know those entities did not work to protect them. 

Our political pundits, scientists, professionals and other ‘intellectuals’ are increasingly coming from privileged section of the society. They hardly face or even know the world that these disenfranchised people live. Most such frustrated and many angry people hardly used to go to the polling stations. They accepted that their vote would not change anything. They strongly believed and still believe that the “system is rigged” against them. Traditionally these marginalized people used to avoid casting their ballots. But Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, as  'outsiders', seem to have infused hope and successfully changed that habit, at least for now. Now they voted more than in last many elections. Surely many, if not most, of them do not know the way out, how to make our society more inclusive, more emphasis on shared prosperity. They are also not much interested to debate if Trump's policies, whatever they might know, can solve it or not. But Trump's and Sander's promises they did believe. 

Surprisingly, when you talk to few remaining actual intellectuals and thinkers like Joseph Stiglitz, we know that what these people think is actually a reality- as society and country. The difference is- these common folks do not know how to address it, how to express it in a non-confrontational and polite way, or in a way that our privileged ‘intellectual’ class understand. Many of them also do feel that educated people are not that good to solve real world problems, as many of such educated leaders, professionals etc. publicly asserted them of better future, showed them rosy dreams. Soon they realise nothing much had changed for them. That's why when Trump ridiculed professionals, intellectuals, media, such people find solace and, may be,  supported Trump too. That's one of the reasons why Hillary got about 10-12 percent less vote among non-whites as well, as compared to Obama. Total number and also percentage of total population of such people are growing rapidly as information is more readily accessible with declining social mobility and income inequality- in almost every democracy- be it USA or India or other such countries. 

We all must understand that political correctness never saved politics and it must not do that either. It’s high time to wake up and remain truthful to ourselves and our cause, become logical with not just bookish or 'professional' but real world experience that involve real human beings around us. No one said that better than Rabindra Nath Tagore and he said it long ago. “যারে তুমি নীচে ফেল সে তোমারে বাঁধিবে যে নীচেপশ্চাতে রেখেছ যারে সে তোমারে পশ্চাতে টানিছে” (roughly translated into- whom you are trying to pull back, will drag you down too).