Shocked. Saddened. Apprehensive.
Three of the words I am exchanging with friends and correspondents this morning after.
My first thought was that I should follow my instincts and see this as a train wreck. Not analyze it. Just live it, let it sink in, go through the stages of shock and grief. Not manufacture some false hope, look for silver linings, pretend I think everything will work out in the long run. I am convinced we are living in an age of self-deception. The last thing I want to do is create more illusions to live by in the coming days.
What I am going to do is part ways with many of the people I’ve been reading and talking with since this meteor hit. I’m going to try and make a case that this Trump victory was not brought about primarily by racists, sexists, anti-Semites and homophobes. True, people of this ilk are being swept into power, but they are not at the center of support for Donald Trump; they are the periphery.
Something I heard Robert Reich say some time ago has stuck with me and has had me worried ever since. We have focused too much on the positives of globalization and too little on the folks without a safety net. Money, the bottom line, is so important to us that we make the Walton family rich even if it puts local shopkeepers out of business. We buy our shirts from Bangladesh and sing the praises of Silicon Valley and do little or nothing to help the people who fall through the cracks. And now the chickens have come home to roost.
All that stuff about Trump lying 80% of the time? About insulting Mexicans and Muslims and women? Turns out Americans don’t care, the majority of them. The majority of Americans are willing to allow this man to lie and insult and misrepresent and vulgarize all he wants. So long as he promises us he’ll fix what’s wrong. Doesn’t have to be true. It just has to be comforting.
That terrifies me, the fact that we have embraced a demagogue, a Pied Piper, a narcissist, an authoritarian populist. Not because he’s the best man for the job, but because we understood the people running against him were the people who set up the financial infrastructure for the benefit of the few and not the many. We Americans made fixing that Priority One. Never mind that we're probably dead wrong to think this is the way to do it. We are not a thinking people, by and large. We are a feeling people. And we feel he's going to kiss the boo-boo and make it better.
Something had to give. I was a strong Bernie supporter because I believed, like most Americans, including Trump supporters, that Hillary was at home among the self-serving fat cats, Republicans and Democrats, and would only bring us more of the same. In the end, like Bernie Sanders himself did, I came around in support of Hillary hoping that once she got in she would then be able to get on with advancing the cause of equity. I didn’t think she could pull it off, but I wanted to err in the direction of a competent politician and away from a potential fascist. Not the lesser of two evils; I didn’t think she was evil. But a person who would put us into a holding pattern, an OK place to be while we worked harder to make sure people like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and Robert Reich and all the other voices of compassion and reason got a wider hearing.
But that was not to be. And now I’m wondering if this isn’t the beginning of a lesson America has to learn the hard way.
We lost not just the White House; we lost the Congress, as well. The system now in place will bring in a conservative Supreme Court for decades after I am gone. We may reverse Roe v. Wade. Millions may lose access to health care. Immigrant families will live in fear of being broken apart. We gay people may even lose the right to marry. After all, one of the country’s most outspoken homophobes is now a heartbeat from the Oval Office. If those things happen – and particularly if people start moving against immigrants and African-Americans, there may well be some serious rioting in the streets.
Maybe that’s the way we have to go. The way of anarchy.
How else are we going to learn that you can’t rely on false information. You can’t make up facts to suit yourself and build on lies.
I leave it for others to talk about unifying behind a Republican administration. I have no intention of becoming violent. Won’t add to impulses toward anarchy. But I also cannot pretend that things will be all right. I don’t think they will be.
I think we are in for a lot of pain and misery.
Long term, this could lead to positive change. Maybe this was the best possible outcome. Maybe it’s best we burn the house down and start over instead of pasting over holes in the wall with pretty wallpaper.
One day at a time. Keep the faith. Keep telling the truth - and grounding it in evidence.
What other choice do we have?
P.S. Best article so far summing things up, in my opinion, is David Remnick's, from The New Yorker.