The following article, titled “Post-election America: Issues identified during this election” appeared in The Tennessean on Sunday, November 13th by Dr. Ming Wang, Harvard & MIT (MD, magna cum laude; PhD (laser physics).
Donald Trump has been elected as our next president. This has been one of the most contentious elections in recent U.S. history, characterized by an unprecedented amount of personal attacks. Although it was a messy election, it did present a valuable opportunity for many Americans to openly share their views. Now that the election is over, I believe our country has a chance to turn the election’s negativity into something positive by examining the viewpoints expressed, and find out where we all stand, and how we feel.
Two things happened in this election that surprised most of us – the unexpected popularity of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Even though they represented two opposite ends of the political spectrum, they nonetheless shared one thing in common – neither of them was expected to do as well as they did. Why did we believe they wouldn’t do well? Because most of us thought their opinions would not be popular. So why did they end up becoming so widely supported? Because large sectors of our society do, in fact, share their views.
Donald Trump wants to return our country to the post-war America of the ‘50s and ‘60s, when our borders were secure, our country the dominant power internationally, and there was less cultural, racial and ethnic diversity domestically. Many who voted for Trump are nostalgic about that period of time in our nation’s history. They are fed-up with the changes that have taken place in recent decades and believe that the current system of government is rigged against the middle class, as they see debt soar, healthcare diminish, incomes stay stagnant, and jobs leave our country. But can the clock be turned back? If not, how can we adjust to the changes? How can we help America maintain its leadership in a world that has seen the dramatic rise of emerging economies? Domestically, unlike the America of the ‘50s and ‘60s, we are now much more diverse, with Hispanic, African and Asian Americans accounting for 20%, 18% and 6% of our population, respectively. In the next 10-15 years, these groups are projected to become the majority, so how can we in fact harness the strength of our increasing diversity?
Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, wants to move our nation towards socialism. He has gained strong support, especially from the younger generation that has not experienced the disasters of communism in the last century. They feel that America as a society no longer cares for the underprivileged, and they believe the government should help by requiring greater sacrifices from the wealthy. Yet how can we strike a balance between individual’s responsibility and society’s duty to help the poor? How do we maintain social programs for the needy yet avoid complacency, entitlement and fiscal irresponsibility that continue to reduce our products’ competitiveness internationally? How can we rekindle the hard-working spirit of our forefathers? We must reignite curiosity and drive, especially in our youth who often lack motivation due to living in a country with material abundance.
Though the election is behind us now, the needed changes have just begun. We need to look beyond the candidates and political parties and begin listening and discussing issues exposed in this election that are important to our country. Better listening leads to better understanding, and better understanding leads to better solutions. Perhaps the best formula for success for our country is a progressive social policy that embraces diversity and a conservative fiscal policy that emphasizes individual responsibility.
Dr. Ming Wang, MD, PhD is the director of Wang Vision 3D Cataract & LASIK Center, Nashville, TN, founder of Wang Foundation for Sight Restoration, co-founder of Tennessee Immigrant and Minority Business Group, president of Tennessee Chinese Chamber of Commerce and honorary president of Tennessee American-Chinese Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org