Reflection on Trump’s victory and the crisis of the liberal camp


“To the Egyptian lady sitting in the last row, if you want Trump, you can have him.”

I was attending a political conference that featured a heated debate on the US presidential election, and these words from an American delegate surprised me. He was reacting to my suggestion that Americans should learn from Britain’s Brexit vote and not underestimate Trump’s chances of becoming president. But instead of rationally addressing my concerns, he reacted angrily and bitterly. Later in the year, this bitterness surfaced again when I had the opportunity to meet two American politicians in a symposium, a Trump supporter and a Clinton supporter. An argument erupted between them when I rather naively asked about the American election and Trump’s chances of winning it.

The two incidents were eye opening for me. America, like Britain, Europe, and the Middle East, is not just deeply divided, but is facing winds of change in a post-liberal world. The crisis of the liberal Western order and the rise of post-liberal tendencies, as Ross Douthat put it, should not be seen only as an economic phenomenon, but also as a crisis of culture and values.

Liberals have increasingly lost sight of the essence of liberalism. Instead of liberty, equality, and individualism, the neo-liberal order revolves around shaming opponents, tribalism, and even endorsing illiberalism (as some ethnic minorities do). Liberals have become more or less of a cult, praising and celebrating each other, dismissing dissent, and showing scant interest in winning hearts and minds. Their unwritten motto is, “We are too good to defend our values, too powerful to reflect on mistakes, and yes, we can take people for granted.”

In a recent piece, Michael Lerner stated how shaming opponents is not a good political strategy. He rightly said, “Instead of challenging this ideology of shame, the left has buttressed it by blaming white people as a whole for slavery, genocide of the Native Americans and a host of other sins, as though whiteness itself was something about which people ought to be ashamed.” This is not just a bad strategy, but is tantamount to a cultural betrayal of an important segment of Western society that feels isolated and vulnerable.

For months before the election, all Trump supporters were branded as ignorant and hateful, which is simply not true. As a Muslim, I have always welcomed how Western liberals have rushed to defend Muslims against repeated blanket accusations of terrorism. Nonetheless, I fail to understand the consistent mocking and demonization of millions of white working-class Westerners, simply because they voted for Trump.

Some suggest that many voted for Trump out of fear. That is partly true; Asra Nomani, an immigrant Muslim woman, voted for Trump. Asra represents many liberal Muslims and non-Muslims who have become increasingly disenchanted by the perceived appeasement of regressive Islamism by many in the corridors of power in the Western world.

But to many witnessing the unfolding post-election era in the US, the liberal camp has become scarier than Trump ____ it is perceived as a generic camp that has lost its authenticity and reduced liberalism to tick-box exercises. The “first black” and “first women” have become “the” goals. Those who dared to oppose those goals were labeled “enemies,” as if liberalism is a tribe that needs defending; not values that ought to be spread. Winning hearts and minds has dropped from the liberal agenda and been replaced instead by a self-righteous attitude that dismisses skeptics as ignorant fools.

The dismissive behavior of the liberal elite has forced many to drift away from the center and move further to the right. As Amber Jamieson reported, many secretly voted for Trump as a silent protest against the behavior of the Democrats: “As a gay Muslim, the Republican Party has not been kind to me, to say the least. However, the Democrats almost arrogantly expect me to hand my vote to them because of who I am, which insults me.”

To the American gentleman who ranted at me during the Trump debate I explained how I would never vote for Trump,, but unlike others who have arrogantly dismissed him, I understand how Trump’s ascent to the presidency could not be stopped by underestimating him or belittling and attacking his supporters.

The American who was so dismissive towards me during what should have been a rational and tolerant debate is not the only one whose vision and objectivity have been constrained by an emotional straightjacket. Throughout the election campaign, it has been painful to see Americans behave like angry Arabs, indulging in emotionalism and self-pity. Now the election is over, the liberal camp urgently needs humility and reflection; more importantly, this camp must stop blaming others for its own failures. As William Dalrymple tweeted, “This was not a Trump revolution but a Clinton collapse.” The sad reality is that sobbing and rioting will not change it.

About nervana111

Doctor, blogger and Commentator on Middle East issues
This entry was posted in Best Read, Islam, Politics, Short Comments, women rights and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Reflection on Trump’s victory and the crisis of the liberal camp

  1. ammar says:

    What an utterly incoherent piece this is.

    “For months before the election, all Trump supporters were branded as ignorant and hateful, which is simply not true.”

    Absolutely nobody did that.

    “Those who dared to oppose those goals were labeled “enemies,” as if liberalism is a tribe that needs defending; not values that ought to be spread.”

    If liberal values ought to be spread, they also ought to be defended, because newsflash, many would resist them (http://www.brill.com/liberal-modernity-and-its-adversaries).

    • nervana111 says:

      I love it when a middle eastern man thinks he represents the entire universe and reply with sheer confidence, without a shred of doubt that “absolutely no body did that”. Wow did you read ALL comments on twitter and Facebook for the last 12 months, and every comment in all western mainstraem publication? your feedback is true epic. It is fine to dislike my piece, but such pompous assertion is simply not true!
      Worth noting that there was a link in the piece that back my argument http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/cp/opinion/election-night-2016/stop-shaming-trump-supporters
      So if you think it is also none sense, you can channel your pompous anger to the New York Times.

      • ammar says:

        You said, and I quote, “For months before the election, ALL [emphasis mine] Trump supporters were branded as ignorant and hateful, which is simply not true.”

        Some Trump supporters? Sure. But all? You’re plainly reaching.

      • nervana111 says:

        Again, with respect, 1- You are shifting your argument now, initially you said “absolutely no body”
        2- I am not here to give english lesson, but if you read carefully, I said “all were branded” in another word, generalization is wrong, some are racists ,and some are not.

      • ammar says:

        You claimed “all Trump supporters were branded as ignorant and hateful.” I said “absolutely nobody did that.” People may have said that some or indeed many Trump supporters were ignorant and hateful, but certainly not all. In other words, it is you who need to read more carefully.

  2. Leifgm says:

    I do agree with your assertions. It is also well worth noting that total number of voters went down from last election 2012, in spite there is an increased number of voters since. So there must have been a lot of people who didn’t bother to vote in this election, because they were fed up with their candidates and/or the electoral system. In 2012 there were a participation of about 55%, this year it must have been less. What does it say about a democracy where 25-27% decide who will be the president? Certainly there’s room for an improvement.

    • nervana111 says:

      Many thanks for your valuable comment. Indeed. I completely agree.

    • Sridhar Chigurupati says:

      The electoral college, along with polling, can be blamed for a good part of that low participation rate. Based on polling, many voters in California, New York, Illinois, and Texas may have stayed home, thinking their vote would not make a difference. These states didn’t even feature a close senatorial race to bring voters out. Contrast this to 2012, when national polls showed the two major candidates Tues at 49%. Secondarily, one may consider low enthusiasm for the candidates. Sadly, Trump supporters now point to the electoral map and claim he has a mandate. But Clinton had 200,000 more votes.

  3. Richard owen says:

    All , some , most , many ,…… nitpicking surly ……., well written and truthful

  4. Nigel says:

    To the Egyptian lady sitting in the back row, if you want Trump you can have him. .
    That would enough for me to realise i was in a establishment controlled meeting. With a bigoted view on any other arguments in the room.
    My only concern in this celebrity obsessed world we live in is now we have a celebrity president of the United States. Ok he says he going to make America great again. That would mean to dismantle the system and i don’t think a hotel chain owner is going to do that.
    With you Nervana i absolutely agree about the losing liberals amongst us, who to be honest turn into thugs the moment something doesn’t go their way. Eg Brexit
    But honestly I’m glad Clinton lost i have no sympathy for anyone who deals with the vile Saudis. I just hope the likes of Bush Clinton & Obama are never seen again.
    As for Trump’s awful comments during the race to the white house , yes they were crass but I’m more bothered of the slaughter caused by Hillarys weapons deals in the ME than anything that comes out of Trump’s huge mouth.
    Thanks Nervana. .
    Hope the back row in that meeting wasn’t too hellish for you.

  5. Toby says:

    Great article, Nervana

  6. Pingback: Reflection on Trump’s victory and the crisis of the liberal camp | Nervana | Mark Geoffrey Kirshner

  7. Reblogged this on Mark Geoffrey Kirshner and commented:
    5-Stars Excellent analysis of American politics by Dr Nervana Mahmoud “the Egyptian lady sitting in the last row,..”

  8. I enjoyed your ideas on this issue and I feel you are spot on. I supported neither candidate in this race and watched as a third party. Your descriptions of many liberals and their attitudes towards anyone who thinks differently is not only accurate as pertains to this election cycle, but has been a growing trend for some time. It’s odd how anyone can believe convincing someone should include shaming them.

  9. Bert Dulong says:

    Thanks for a constructive call to humble and respectful teachability– something both mainstreams (left and right) need to heed.

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