Finally, blessedly, this election over. I’m positive I’m not alone in this sentiment. I’ve been biting my tongue so much that I feel as though I need a blood transfusion. But I’ll just come out and say it: I’m not happy with the result. That is oversimplifying how I actually feel, but I decided on Wednesday morning that I’m not going to drag everyone through my personal demons over this. But I did want to take a moment to put into words a healthy dose of my thoughts. If you’re here to watch me eviscerate anyone, you may be disappointed. I have equal criticisms for both sides of this election — partially because it seems to be written somewhere that if you’re going to vote, you must vote one side or the other.
I’m getting ahead of myself. There’s a lot rolling around in my grey matter, so I hope you can forgive me if I stray from topic to topic like a lost child in the woods. But in the current state of American politics, more and more people are feeling that way. Truth be told, that’s why Donald Trump won. Regardless of how I and many other people feel about the man as a person, it was his “outsider” status that won him the Republican nomination and, to my personal horror, the Presidency. Many of my liberal and progressive friends may disagree with me, but when you strip away the layers of bile that is Donald’s stock and trade in personality, fundamentally it came down to the fact that he was the only one of the candidates who didn’t have years of political indoctrination under his belt. If anything, Hillary’s decades of experience in public service only seemed to make everyone feel worse about her. That sounds counterintuitive, and it is, but people are sick and fucking tired of “politics as usual”.
I started this election season with no real exciting prospects. I saw Bernie Sanders announce his candidacy, and immediately walk back to vote on something. It was incredibly lackluster, but that’s who Bernie is. I already knew who he was, and also knew that most Americans outside of Vermont and the political news sections did not. I didn’t think much would come of it. Especially when it became clear, very early, that the Democrats would bulldoze mountains to make a path for Hillary. Sorry to say, but I was never really on board with this concept. First, I like to think that the Democratic Party was more of a “let the people decide” kind of thing. Secondly, starting in 1988 – going Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama, Clinton – it seemed more like a monarchy than a democracy. (Obama being the wild card, obviously.) I thought America was established to get away from Kings and Queens and royalty. Be that as it may, I was troubled when other, equally capable prospects demurred at the chance to run. All to pave the way for the first woman President of the United States. (You know, like any number of women in the House and Senate didn’t have the same pedigree.) As time went on, it began to disgust me. The powerful Clinton Political Machine had a chokehold on the Democratic Party.
To my surprise, Bernie’s popularity shot up. Soon it became evident that many of my fellow progressives were flocking to Bernie’s message and the message was pulling the interest of people from all over the political spectrum. But as Bernie’s popularity soared, that’s when the talons of the Clinton Political Machine unsheathed. I began to see behavior in Hillary’s supporters that looked no different than the very behavior they would have otherwise mocked when it came from the Republican side. Stunned I watched some of the people I most respect in journalism and opinion target and mock Bernie and, more importantly, his supporters. How dare supporters of question Hillary? It wasn’t long before the once even-keeled debates on matters of public policy turned into vicious attacks. Soon after it became public knowledge that the Democratic National Committee, an organization that was supposed to be a neutral party during the caucuses and primaries, was clearly stacking the deck in Clinton’s favor. When caught, it’s leader, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz stepped down…only to become campaign manager for Clinton. As Bernie’s candidacy finally gave in, his supporters atomized. To them, this was a betrayal by the Democratic Party. I say this because I was one of them, and I was surrounded by people of all political stripes who felt the same way.
Sorry to say, but the Democratic Party failed their own base in this way. Hillary may have just as well been Franklin Roosevelt reincarnate — there way no way that gather Bernie Sanders’ supporters who had been, until just then, the very people they mocked and ridiculed. I became very much aware of a very large rift opening, though the media and talking heads were blind to it. They couldn’t understand why some supporters of Bernie Sanders ran to Trump. But I did, much as I disagreed with their choice. They ran to the nearest “outsider” voice that was calling. It started with Ben Carson, but they ended up with Trump. That may be an uncomfortable truth for many of my liberal friends, but it is the truth.
This is what happens to genuine political support when you fuck with it. It will only be to their discredit if Democrats don’t take this message to heart.
Now for Donald Trump…
If you’re a Trump voter and you’ve made it this far, well, first of all, thanks for reading. All due congratulations and pleasantries. I hope beyond hope that I’m wrong about him. Truth be told, I wasn’t sure how the more animated of you would’ve reacted if Hillary had won. Honestly. Considering what I’ve seen from some of his supporters in celebrating his victory, I think my fears were and are justified.
To be clear, I don’t think the average Trump voter is a racist, a bigot, a misogynist, or even necessarily a bad person. Of my friends who voted for him, I don’t think any of those labels apply. They wouldn’t be my friends if they did. I had asked during the election on Facebook for someone to explain to me how they could vote for such a person. Unfortunately I never really got any answers. Sadly, it wasn’t until after the election that one of my dear friends posed the same question that I was presented with this response (and I sincerely hope this person doesn’t mind that I’m quoting them):
I voted for Donald Trump. I have seen this country going toward globalization (away from being Sovereign Nation). I have seen the Government Take over the Student Loan Industry, Screw up Free-market Hea[l]thcare, Establish Common Core, and take away a Host of Other States Rights issues. It has taken a Two Party system to get what we’ve got… And, I don’t like it… So, That is why I voted for Donald Trump.
I sincerely wanted to thank this person for a clearly thought, if brief, explanation. I may not agree with some of the points, and I’d love the chance to have an open discussion with them to clarify some things (such as Common Core having its roots in the Bush Administration), but I do understand their fear and frustration with the US Government. Also, if those are at least some of the enumerated reasons for voting for Trump, I have no issue with that.
But here’s the thing: Trump has demonstrated, both during the campaign and the years before, that he is at the very least a misogynistic lech, at worst a sexual predator. He has also cultivated a block of voters who openly call for racial hatred and violence. During the campaign he has spouted racial stereotypes as though he was above questioning. He is a demonstrative pathological liar, who will say anything to any given persons in earshot to appear popular, then flat out lie ever having said it. He has repeatedly demonstrated all the emotional maturity of a pre-teen when questioned, and has proven time and again than he lacks even the most basic definition of reserve when he feels even the slightest bit insulted. His tirades wouldn’t have been tolerated in my home by my own children when they were growing up. Go ahead and ask them.
By voting for this man, you have justified it all. Like it or not, the nuttier fringe out there is going to take this as permission to do everything they saw and more because they now have a President they perceive as supporting this behavior, this bigotry, this hatred, this fear, and this violence. That’s why you’re already seeing Nazi flags flying at mast over a home in San Francisco, graffiti in Philadelphia of swastikas and hate speech, and similar graffiti in public schools right here in Minnesota. Your vote made it okay for the new norm of acceptable behavior. You’re going to have to live with that. Moreover, so do the rest of us.
Again, I know a good portion of you Trump voters look upon this with as much disgust as I do. “A few bad apples”, right? Well, let me complete that phrase for you: “…spoils the bunch.”
If I have any point to this post, it’s that Trump has a long road ahead of him. Whether you know it or not, he’s due to appear in court over Trump University this month, and narrowly avoided being called into court over the alleged sexual assault of a 13 year-old. I have long assumed that the rich and powerful never have to answer to their crimes, so let’s assume he gets through all of that. He still has an enormous learning curve to overcome that most politicians at the very least stumble over in their first years in office. For Kennedy it was the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis. For Dubya it was 9/11. While I abhor the idea of how Trump would’ve reacted in any of these instances, the fact of the matter is that I have no personal choice in the matter. I sincerely hope that Trump’s handlers keep him in check and that the awesome and overwhelming responsibility of being the leader of the most powerful nation on earth humbles him in a way that life has not yet done. Honestly, I do. But that doesn’t mean I’m betting on it.
I sat in my office today and overheard someone else talking about the “snowflakes are protesting”. I’ve read comments of how someone laughed at pictures that were posted of others crying over Hillary losing. I actually read the phrase “Go back to Africa” and it wasn’t a historical photo from the Civil Rights era — it just fucking happened.
Know that the meek of this country who seemingly have no voice or protection from the powerful will always have me at their side. If Trump turns out to be the peerless embarrassment of a human being that I have grown to expect, I will criticize him no less mercilessly than Obama’s critics have unjustifiably dogged him for the past eight years. For every slight he proposes upon minorities, the LGBT community, or women, I will vocally encourage Democrats to be just as obstructive as Republicans promised to be at the start of Obama’s first term. I will do so not by the low-hanging fruit of simple insults, but by making him and his supporters have to admit how archaic and contradictory their thinking is by asking them questions and forcing them to answer to finally admit the lesser the human beings that they are. If anything, I owe our country that much.
Everyone does better when everyone does better. If this election taught me anything, it’s that neither of the major political parties has remembered this simple fact, and woe be the leader who forgets it. I want this country to do good and be the beacon on the hill in which Reagan waxed poetic. But I’m going to depend on each and every one of you, Republican, Democrat, or other, to do the same.