Why I'm still proud to be American

The country has spoken. Donald Trump will be the 45th President of the United States. 

Almost all of my friends are shocked, but I'm not entirely surprised. When it became clear late into the night that Trump will be the next president, I took some time to reflect on what really happened and what can I learn from this. As Cracked's David Wong perfectly outlines "how half of America lost its f**cking mind," this election illustrates the importance of understanding your audience and crafting authentic messaging. As much as I hate to admit it, Trump presented a more authentic and believable message of change versus Clinton.

Earlier, I took some time to look at the voting maps because data rarely lies. The country was a sea of red. Only the urban areas were blue. Even in metropolitan areas, it wasn't a clear vote for Hillary either. There are several takeaways from this.

Ultimately, this was a conflict between rural and urban classes.

A good portion of the American electorate live in rural areas. 240 years ago, America was the result of a bunch of agrarian colonies rebelling against their ruling, aristocratic cousins on the other side of the Atlantic. Donald Trump was the defiant hero who dared to openly challenge the urban elite. His rhetoric and messaging reflected that. Since the beginning of the campaign, Clinton was already classified as part of the political elite who turned their backs on rural America. Despite her immaculate 30-year record of serving her country and championing human rights, the public still focused on her private email server. Sorry, Clinton, your chances were slim to begin with.

Has anyone noticed on their social media feeds why views from opposing parties rarely showed up on your feeds? I noticed this a few months ago while abroad. When I started to explore other people's feeds, I was mortified. How did people I called "colleagues" and "friends" come to feel that Trump would be the catalyst of change?  As someone who lived in those red counties (northeast Indiana and upstate New York) for a good portion of my childhood, I have empathy for those who live by the paycheck and desired change. My heart goes to those whose way of life is disappearing due to globalization and technological progress. In the end, these people are surviving and pursuing the American dream like us. I was fortunate to have grown up in a family and community where education is a right, and I truly believe that education shows the path to a better future. For those that have "made it" or on the paths toward success, it is not only our patriotic duty but our moral obligation to show others how to reach their full potential as well.

The political system is broken, and it started in the primaries.

How did a particularly unqualified candidate like Trump become the 45th President of the United States? Why did the DNC choose Clinton over a candidate who was immensely popular among the younger generations? 

As I noted, Clinton was fighting an uphill battle to begin with. A vast number of the American electorate couldn't identify with her. The Democratic primaries showed this and chose to ignore their most loyal and engaged audience, the Millennial generation. I was hopeful that the combined endorsements from the Obamas and Sanders would transfer to Clinton, but I should have known better. Hillary is not Barack, Michelle, nor a Bernie. Despite her accolades and accomplishments, many Americans still perceive Hillary as a corrupt woman entrenched in the political system they have become disenchanted with. I hope this is a marketing lesson for the Democratic party. Authenticity is critical. You can't hide from the Internet. Top-down messaging doesn't resonate in the age of social media. Americans identify with flawed individuals - even assholes - because they're like "one of us." 

Guess what? 1/2 of America didn't vote. For a highly developed nation, I am more disappointed in this stat. Even though I'm abroad and a resident of California where my vote probably didn't matter as much, I voted anyway. For those that voted Trump, I will not be able to call you a "friend" on good conscience, but I'll try my best to work with you to move the country forward. For those that voted for third party candidates, I suggest you review your civics course curriculum and US history and be prepared to deal with the consequences. Nonetheless, I respect that you voted in this election. For all those that didn't vote, I am most disappointed in you. 

As silver lining, now it seems like anyone can be leader of the free world. Kanye 2020 anyone? Jokes aside. The founding fathers created the electoral college to combat against populism because they understood popular opinion may not be the right decision. Nonetheless, a "winner-takes-all" system can be manipulated in a number of ways like decreasing the number of polling stations or redistricting counties. How do we need to reform the system and change incentives so this doesn't happen again?

America will survive.

I am still long on America. After all, the country survived a civil war, slavery, two world wars, several crippling recessions, 9/11, and quite a few rounds of horrible presidents. We're still in midst of a battle against extremism and precariously maintaining a fragile economy. 

All the ugly has come out of America's closet. Racism, sexism and xenophobia have won the battle. They have been alive since the country's birth. This election is just forcing us to address these issues directly instead of sweeping them under the rug. 

I am not rationalizing Trump's presidency. I voted for Clinton because I think she would be best for our country to move forward. Unfortunately, more Americans felt that Trump would better deliver that change. I am fearful of what Trump, a Republican-controlled House and Senate, and an impending Supreme Court Justice nominee could do in this term, especially for the rights of women, minorities and LGBT. 

Nonetheless, I still remain hopeful. America is a melting pot of 320 million people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. It takes more than one individual to ruin a nation (or so I'd like to think). I still believe the American dream and its ideals. This is the rallying call. I am hopeful that our Millennial generation will hold Trump and his constituents accountable in the next two years and vote during the midterm elections.

Be more involved locally

Although there is not much we can do at the federal level, we have influence over what we can do locally. Seattle and Los Angeles approved measures to support public transport initiatives. A number of states approved to increase minimum wages. Some have tightened gun control laws and increased budgets for low income housing. Around the country, local and state ballot measures have passed to move forward progressive values that we fiercely fought for.

I admit that I have failed my country by not being involved at home. Change can really happen at the local and regional levels. I implore you to be more involved in your community. Reach out to someone who is not like you. Listen to his or her story. That one connection could ignite a movement. It starts with each of us in our local communities. I'm more motivated than ever to come back to America next month. I am committed to help build a bright future for all Americans and leave a legacy we can be proud of. I hope you are too.