I honestly hoped I would be done talking about politics after November 8th, let alone Donald Trump, but the results of the Presidential election last week warrant at least one more editorial. After that I hope it will be a REALLY long time before I ever write about, speak about, think about or address the subject. In many respects I regret that I ever did in the first place, but it still behooves me to wrap this up.
Something I never expected happened last week – a man who lost the popular vote won the electoral college. That’s not unprecedented in U.S. history – in fact it happened as recently as 16 years ago. The difference between then and now is that I was not left nearly so dissatisfied by the result. I didn’t agree with the platform or policies of George W. Bush, but I wasn’t filled with this overwhelming sense of dread that a man endorsed by the Klan and a whole “basket of deplorables” was going to be our next President. In hindsight he may even have been the best possible leader to unite our country after the horrific events of 9/11. I’ll let Presidential historians be the ones to decide that issue and not me. I didn’t agree with all of his policies before or after that day, but he brought us all together at a time this nation suffered a deep wound that left a permanent scar on us individually and collectively. I never wanted to understand how Pearl Harbor felt to my parents or my grandparents, but I suddenly got it in a way I never expected to and hope to never experience again.
I’d like to think that the nation is capable of coming together again after another deeply emotional wound, but the events of the last week have not convinced me that is possible. I’m not really referring to the protests, which are the inevitable result of someone losing the race even after winning the popular vote. If Donald Trump had won the popular vote and lost the electoral college the exact same thing would have happened, just with a different group of people who were upset at the results. The problem is that right now people are SO divided you can’t say anything reasonable to either side of the outcome. I get the acrimony, I decried Trump’s candidacy based on his intolerable comments about Mexicans and Muslims for months on end, but the fact our political system elected him is a regrettable result I can live with because democracy is still preferable to a dictatorship. Unfortunately nobody who feels their lives have been made more vulnerable because racists, bigots and homophobes are now empowered by his victory wants to hear that. I understand. I’m certainly the least qualified person to talk about that fear imaginable. I can pass in Trump’s America, and a lot of my friends can’t. That’s hard to live with and you can’t justify the democractic process to anyone when the sense you could have a swastika painted on your door or a cross burnt on your lawn looms just around the corner.
So I’ve tried to argue “There’s another election in two years, and another Presidential election in four years, there’s every chance to make a change if you’re not satisfied.” Nobody wants to hear it. I’ve also tried to argue to the victorious minority that they don’t need to decry the protestors. People who are upset need to be heard. The right to assemble to address grievances is fundamental to our democracy, and goes hand in hand with freedom of speech and freedom of the press. You may feel that it’s sour grapes from the people who lost, but if you can’t relate to how hurt and scared people are because a platform of bigotry and intolerance elected this man, you might need to stop complaining due to a complete lack of empathy for your fellow human being. Once again though you can’t argue that protesting and freedom of speech is a basic right – you get screamed at by the pro-Trump side. Neither camp is willing to budge an inch. You can’t tell the left to chill out, and you can’t tell the right to step back and try to listen. Everybody would rather hurl insults and nobody wants to chill the f#%# out.
I’ve made my own bed as a registered independent. I found BOTH major party candidates disreputable and untrustworthy, and I’ve never cast a ballot more reluctantly than I did this election season. I have to think Hillary lost the electoral college because she didn’t win the argument that yes, she had baggage, but it wasn’t as heavy as her opponent’s baggage. Rural states didn’t think she was there for them. Rust belt states didn’t think she was there for them. Trump convinced the middle of America that change, any kind of change, even a bad change was better than politics as usual from the Clintons. And that’s the way politics goes – you make the arguments, you sway the voters, and sometimes they buy it and sometimes they don’t. 48% bought Hillary’s argument, 47% bought Donald’s argument, but his 47% ends up on top. She needed to win Florida and she didn’t. She needed to win Pennsylvania and she didn’t. My final thought for you all is that a Donald Trump Presidency is scary, but I said I’m not moving to Canada and I meant it. I believe in the process even when I disagree with the outcome, and I will stay and continue to participate. In the meantime I’d like to see people start talking to each other instead of yelling at each other… but I don’t expect that to happen any time soon.