Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Joe Henderson: There is no roadmap for where America goes next

in 2017 by

If it’s morning after the election and you are reading this, then the exit polls were correct on at least one point. The sun did indeed come up on all the blue states, red states, and especially on the Sunshine State.

So, there is that. But for the moment at least, that’s pretty much the end of normal as we knew it.

We now live in a nation where the president-elect broke every rule of campaigning and won the White House. Whether the outcome of this race was an embrace of the outsider Donald Trump or a rejection of Hillary Clinton as a soiled remnant of the establishment is a debate for pundits and historians.

What is undeniable is that the people wanted change and now they have it. That deserves a moment of pause and reflection.

OK.

The moment is over. That crashing sound was your 401(k) as it struck the rocks at the bottom of the cliff. We have entered a world where no one has a map. Everybody wide awake now? No, you aren’t dreaming.

The Republican Party of Reagan has been taken over by a foul-mouthed misogynist outsider who essentially ran against both the Democrats and the party that nominated him. The Bill Clinton Democrats and his successor-designate wife have been rejected by an American public fed up enough with the whole lot of them to roll the dice on a planetary scale.

Trump was supposed to be the wrong messenger; everyone said so. The polls said so, pundits said so, and logic said so. None of that applied, though, because the essence that drove his campaign was spot on. That’s how we got here, and the outcome of this election proves that.

I grew up in Ohio, the son of a working man who spent more than 30 years in a smoky factory in our small town. When he was about 60, the bosses moved that factory and all the jobs to a source of cheaper, southern labor. This proud man learned about age discrimination and the value of a lifetime spent working with his hands and back.

Things haven’t changed that much since 1969, have they? That was Trump’s platform.

Working men and women still feel like they get nothing but the back hand from their government. Unions that were supposed to protect them were impotent in the clutch and are now seen as part of the problem.

They felt abandoned. They felt betrayed.

They decided no was listening to them.

Well, they’re listening now.

I know those people. I love those people. Those are my friends, and I understand at least some of their anger. They want to be respected. I don’t like their solution, but I get it.

They feel like they pay for programs they can’t share. They are handed the bill for benefits they don’t receive. They see big business send their jobs overseas or out of state, while the rich CEO walks away with all their money.

They see elected representatives on the take from lobbyists. Where they saw Washington as the solution, they now see the nation’s capital as the problem. When people ask how Trump could win the presidency, it’s because these people saw him as their only voice.

They struck back the only way they could.

Did you see that sea of red-colored counties on the election maps Tuesday night? That was small-town, rural America screaming ENOUGH!

They believed that strongly enough to hand the keys to the White House to a crude man with a history of bankruptcy, both moral and business, because that man said he heard them.

He was the only one who did.

It was a strong enough message to swamp 15 other Republican candidates in the primaries. It stunned pollsters, pundits, and now the worldwide financial markets by winning the White House against the Chosen One.

What’s weird about this result is that President Barack Obama will leave office with historically high approval levels. The public loved him, but not enough to let him pass the baton to Clinton.

Trump won the day by recognizing millions of people are fed up. Trump made them believe Clinton was the problem and he is the answer. That’s what happened Tuesday night.

As for what happens now, well, we’ll get back to you.

Joe Henderson has had a 45-year career in newspapers, including the last nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. He covered a large variety of things, primarily in sports but also including hard news. The two intertwined in the decade-long search to bring Major League Baseball to the area. Henderson was also City Hall reporter for two years and covered all sides of the sales tax issue that ultimately led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium. He served as a full-time sports columnist for about 10 years before moving to the metro news columnist for the last 4 ½ years. Henderson has numerous local, state and national writing awards. He has been married to his wife, Elaine, for nearly 35 years and has two grown sons – Ben and Patrick.

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