What Would Donald Do?
I’m fascinated (and terrified) by Donald Trump. He’s mobilized millions of people by saying whatever he wants, which happens to be exactly what they want to hear. He is no holds barred. And it is resonating with so many people who don’t understand or like the 2016 version of America.
Many of us are privileged in this country. While I worry about the impact of income inequality, racism, aging elders, and climate change - overall 2016 America isn't so bad for most of the middle class. Could it be better? You bet! But that possibility - that sense of hope - separates us from so many who struggled before and so many in other parts of the world.
This sense of hope and optimism often leads me to scream at my computer while I stalk my hometown's FaceBook group. It’s full of fear and disillusion from people I once knew, along with great hope for what Trump is selling. Because what he provides is a bizarro world vision and promise of change. These people support a man who seems to break everything he comes in contact with and who doesn’t come close to caring about the middle class, yet alone those in poverty. And yet they adorn their yards with signs because he tells them he will “Make America Great Again”
While I disagree with virtually everything this man says, I do believe that progressives and social change agents can learn something from him.
Stay with me here.
I too want to make America even greater than it is today. That means eliminating the poverty, homelessness, racial and income inequities that are plaguing our communities. It means building on the knowledge of communities, taking advantage of technology, changing public policy, and building authentic and caring relationships with our neighbors.
Trump won’t do those things. But we can. To do it we may need to take a lesson from his playbook - saying what we want and believe without worrying who it might upset or how much it will cost. We need to stop looking for small interventions and start investing in real solutions.
It's the only way.
For a while I have had these questions in the back of my head. Why do we let ourselves believe that providing a basic income or housing for all is out of reach? Why does higher education need to cost so much? Why can’t we fix our schools and jails?
The answer is simple.
We can. Because of course we can.
We put men on the moon. We pioneered solutions to diseases that once ravaged nations. In just the last few years we’ve passed a $15 minimum wage in Seattle. Marriage equality is the law. And we have guaranteed health coverage to millions (and we have a plan to get health care for all the rest).
When can solve big problems - by being audacious.
At least once a week I ask my colleagues and partners this question: How would you solve (this problem) if money and capacity were limitless? What policies would you change? How would you design solutions? This can be really hard for people to answer – those of in non-profits and government agencies have internalized a poverty complex. We think, act, and do in a box - and it's all about the money.
Too often our solutions are limited by our perceptions of what is possible. Because we think funders won't fund (insert solution) or voters won't pay for it ... because it's tough.
When we stop heading toward the perceived inevitable and start marching toward the possible, we can reduce poverty, homelessness and inequality.
Starting tomorrow let's stop asking “can we” and start asking “ how and when will we?”. What would Donald do.....if he cared about the poor, the disenfranchised or those struggling to make ends meet? What would he do if he cared abut you?