Trump’s election and the end of a socialist dream

By Laura Handly

(Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

At 18 years old, I moved to Norway and fell in love with the Norwegian way of life. While others spoke of the American Dream, I learned that equality and justice were relegated to the cold climes of Scandinavia. Ideologically, socialism is the best solution to the problem of human governance. It is a system that advocates for government regulation and promises a relatively high quality of life to everyone. In practice, that means that people pay higher taxes but things like healthcare and education are free and virtually no one is homeless.

Socialism works in Norway. With its relatively small and homogenous population and its massive oil wealth, the Norwegian government has the ability and the incentive to provide extensive social benefits to the people. The country is surrounded by similarly governed countries and separated from conflict due to the ocean and the arctic. It offers free higher education and even provides low-interest loans to support students’ living expenses. Political participation is widespread and encouraged from a young age, with each major party supplemented by a youth branch. One friend explained Norwegian political discourse as “many voices advocating different paths to the same goals.”

Donald Trump ran his political campaign on a populist fiction. He promised to return power to “the people” and to “drain the swamp” of elites in Washington. Like Bernie Sanders, Trump challenged the concentration of government elites and appealed to voters who felt excluded or ignored by the current system. Using rhetoric inspired by socialism, Trump spoke of redistributing power, creating new jobs and, infamously, “making America great again.” People responded to these promises. The populism of this Presidential Election reshaped the political landscape. In the end, the division between establishment and outsider proved just as important as party affiliation for the candidates.

Since coming to office, Trump has demonstrated he has no plans to remove the Washington establishment from positions of power. Trump’s cabinet is the most affluent in United States history, with members regulating agencies they would prefer did not exist. He has abused his executive power to undermine the system of checks and balances and to push through a hateful and unconstitutional immigration ban. He has announced that he will cut funding to arts programs, which will save just 0.0625 percent of the projected federal budget, while moving forward with his plans to elect a border wall with Mexico for $21.6 billion. His regular weekend trips to Mar-a-Lago cost taxpayers an estimated $3 million each, while security to protect Trump Tower drains the budget of $500,000 every day.

This election has given us all a lot to consider. It has taught us that “truth” can be subjective, and that those in power may seek to redefine reality to serve their own interests. It has shown that our democracy is fragile at best and that elected politicians can threaten our freedoms of religion and speech. I have learned that we cannot overly depend on our government or the structures that value the interests of elites above the rest. Socialism works when people have faith in their institutions and their leaders. The Trump administration has done little to abate the fears of many Americans.

Trump’s abuse of power demonstrates that the American people must guard their rights vigilantly. When a president explicitly lies to their people, foreign powers intervene in our elections and scientific truth is disregarded for a more profitable fabrication, we must seriously reconsider the powers we grant to our government.

Laura Handly is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].