Donald Trump

The story of the city mouse and the country mouse dates back to ancient times, about 600 B.C.

The country mouse joins his cousin the city mouse for a meal. It’s a vastly more opulent and nourishing meal than he’s ever tasted. But before long, a cat appears and gives chase. They escape by a whisker.

The town mouse heads back home and vows never to return, concluding, “I’d rather gnaw a bean than be gnawed by continual fear.”

Rural and suburban turn-out in the US election has exceeded all projections, and it turned out to support Donald Trump. Urban turn-out was below projections, but the majority turned out for Hillary Clinton. While the final results were within the aggregate margin of error, they swung decidedly against urban America.

In a nutshell, the town mouse feared too much, and the city mouse feared too little.

The 2016 US election was, to far too great a degree, a campaign of fear. Fear of change, fear of difference, fear of intolerance. Both candidates pandered to their supporters’ fear of the opponent, and in doing so, have helped to create a nearly ungovernable country.

Tuesday’s Coffee & Controversy show touched on this very issue. The question is not whether Hillary or The Donald wins. The question is how to govern a country rendered effectively ungovernable because of fear and distrust.

To a lesser degree, education played a role. While the majority of women overall supported Hillary Clinton, less educated women actually skewed more in favour of Mr Trump. The majority of men favoured the male candidate—surprise, surprise—but the proportions were roughly similar when education was factored in.

Social media erupted in a litany of shock that encompassed outrage, despair, disbelief and rapture–perhaps literally; almost 90% of evangelicals supported Mr Trump. Stock markets, especially futures, dropped off a cliff. The Mexican peso lost 10% within hours of an apparent Trump victory.

It’s probable that fears of Mr Trump are as overblown as the fears he instilled in his millions of supporters. Will he undermine the social contract? Almost certainly. Will he make precipitous—and bad—economic decisions? Likely, yes. Will he nuke us all into oblivion? Save the chorus of REM’s ‘it’s the end of the world as we know’ for a bit, folks. The likelihood of Trump landing the United States in a shooting war is probably low.

It’s ironic, but the vast numbers of people who sought refuge in Mr Trump’s message will soon discover that he’s a greater risk-taker than his opponent, and he’s perfectly happy to bring them along for the ride.

Mr Trump is no risk-averse hayseed. He’s a city mouse through and through.

What happens once people realise that is a lesson for another day. But the lesson we in Vanuatu need to learn is that the same urban/rural divide, the same divisions between rich and poor, educated and ignorant… all of these exist in our country.

If we don’t learn to speak together—all of us, all at once—then we face the same risk that future elections may come to resemble the poisonous campaign of 2016. There are certainly no lack of city mice who would be willing and able to use the same gambit as Mr Trump.

We also need to consider the strategic impact of the election. While it’s highly unlikely that nukes will fly or that a shooting war will break out in the Pacific, it’s not impossible. In any case, we would do well to revisit the recent offer of Coast Guard support in our territorial waters. It might not survive Mr Trump’s monumental ignorance and incuriousity.

It’s also entirely possible that if the world economy comes under threat that we’ll be left largely to fend for ourselves. Any further shocks to our economy might prove disastrous.

Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau famously said that sharing a border with the USA was like a mouse sharing a bed with an elephant. No matter how docile the beast, you need to know when he’s going to roll over.

This little mouse had better get ready to duck.

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