I had plans for Tuesday night. I had a bottle of decent prosecco chilling in the fridge and a bottle of very nice single malt, a lovely gift from some friends, ready to celebrate. The day itself turned out stressful for other reasons, and by the time it was 5 pm I was extremely on edge and feeling unaccountably panicky. By 10 pm I was feeling quite sick. I didn’t get a lot of sleep that night, and then on Wednesday morning I woke up to find myself a part of American Horror Story: Politics.
I believed the polls to the extent that the 25 to 35 percent chance of a Trump win bothered me; for those of you dismissing Nate Silver’s calculations as inaccurate, at no point did he discount a substantial possibility of Trump winning, even if it was never more than 50 percent. What I couldn’t believe as the vote came in was that so many women would tolerate a man such as Trump has shown himself to be–on camera, on the record, unfiltered–as president. I knew there were women who supported Trump, I saw them on television just like everyone else, I know a few personally, but I thought we had reached a stage as a country, as a culture, where a flat-out majority of women, regardless of race or ethnicity, had more respect for themselves than that. I have never been so bitterly disappointed to be wrong.
I don’t blame the Democratic party. I don’t think they’ve done a great job, I think Debbie Wasserman Schultz has done plenty of harm, but to believe that Bernie Sanders would have won where Hillary Clinton failed is to discount the common voiced again and again by conservative media and the conservatives I’ve spoken to personally that there is no daylight between socialist policies and Stalinism; that if we have universal, single-payer healthcare and repair our infrastructure and improve education, the next step is pogroms and gulags. You know, like they have in Denmark and the UK. It is also to discount the poisonous anti-Semitism that came out into the open during the months of Trump’s campaign. Having Sanders as a candidate wouldn’t have eliminated any of that.
I do blame the media, to an extent; I blame the thousands of hours given to obsession over emails that revealed very little more shocking than John Podesta’s recipe for creamy risotto and Hillary Rodham Clinton and Huma Abedin having a weakness for creme brulee. Clinton had already faced Congress a number of times over what happened in Benghazi, and then over the server; none of the recent so-called “revelations” brought to light anything substantial that wasn’t already known. Little time on television media platforms was given to covering each candidate’s policy proposals and actual political experience, and how these things would impact our lives in a practical sense. They could have done so much better. The thing is that we don’t force them to do better; we’re abandoning print media ostensibly because the online versions are cheaper and more convenient, but we don’t seem to be reading much of anything that delves deeply into facts. The problem isn’t that CNN, MSNBC, FOX, etc., are feeding us poison; the problem is that they’ve become the ‘circus’ part of bread and circuses, alongside reality TV. There are still voices on each of the cable political stations worth listening to–Shep Smith, Rachel Maddow, Christiane Amanpour, Sally Kohn, Joy Reid–but no one hour of news coverage or commentary per day is going to be sufficient to present a full picture. The television news media found that we preferred name calling, demonstrations of shock and outrage, and fuzzy human interest stories to confronting uncomfortable facts and searching for constructive ways to resolve problems, and by god have they given it to us. Enough of it to drown a democracy. So yes, they may be to blame, but so are we every time we discount a story of what’s actually happening in favour of watching Bill O’Reilly or Chris Matthews spluttering in outrage over their offended sensibilities. It’s all well and good to remember how nice it was to grow up as white boys in places where most women stayed home and minorities were barely visible (if present at all), and secure jobs that paid enough to support a family were available the day after you graduated high school, for those who didn’t want to go to college. The constant indulgence in nostalgia for those experiences discounts everyone else whose opportunities were denied in order to make that life possible, and it doesn’t do a damn thing in the way of confronting the fact that technology has moved on, demographics have changed, the pressures and dangers we face now are wildly different, and people are no longer content to be pushed aside and suppressed so that straight white men can continue to dictate the terms of everyone’s existence. We don’t live in that world any more, and this desperate pretense that we can somehow go back there is causing us very real harm.
I cried a lot on Tuesday night and most of the day on Wednesday. I’ve had a few breakdowns since then. I argued with friends who tried to tell me that it’s not as bad as it looks, that Trump’s supporters want at heart the same things that I want–safety and security, and the freedom to live in peace. I argued because I’ve been watching for months as his supporters have targeted journalists who spoke out against Trump with anti-semitic attacks, images of their faces, their children’s faces, superimposed on images of gas chambers with Trump flicking the switch. Threats of rape, beatings, lynchings. Children being told by classmates that they’re going to be deported once Trump wins. The LGBTQ community now has a vice president who believes that their respective sexualities can be tortured out of them, and the fear that their right to marry, so recently and so hard won, may be taken away from them. Trump has threatened to repeal libel laws so that he can sue those who criticize him, and on Wednesday implied that he would require all Muslims to register with the government (because that’s never gone wrong before…). In my worst moments, I wonder about the prospect of violence and what could happen where I live, a predominately conservative neighbourhood in a predominately liberal city in what was, as of last Tuesday, an almost evenly divided state, if the voting reflects the state as a whole. The rest of the time I am worried mostly for my friends who are part of the LBGTQ community, who are immigrants or the children of immigrants, who are people of color. I am a heterosexual white woman; I’m not an obvious target to the people I fear, at least not yet. It is up to me, then, and the other women and men like me, to support those who are targets–to put ourselves between the people who are the targets of the bigotry Trump’s campaign has enabled and those who seek to do them harm. I’d like to think it would be enough for this shielding will take the form of arguments, protests, votes, and petitions, but given the people Trump is appointing to his transition team–including Peter Thiel, a man who has publicly expressed admiration for Apartheid–I wonder how soon we’re going to have to act as human shields.
By mid-Wednesday I started to feel better. Anxiety and grief take a very real physical toll on me; I find it hard to sleep, hard to concentrate, hard to sit still at times, and my body has a knack for producing physiological reactions to my emotions. I can’t afford any of that right now. I started to play more energetic songs that I liked, even if I didn’t feel like listening to them, and I started to map out what viable options are left to protect what I value in the face of a government that appears entirely committed to taking most of that away. I will renew my second passport, as that remains legal for now, but I have no intention of leaving at the moment. This is my home; moving our household overseas is not an appealing prospect for myself or my father, even if it remains an option. I believe that the arc of the moral universe does indeed bend toward justice, although I worry about how long it is going to be. I believe the rise of these nationalist governments is the death throes of a white, male-centered supremacy that sheer force of numbers is in the process of overwhelming; the question is how many people will it take with it before it dies out.
The media has now by and large taken the tone that as Trump is president-elect, we must accept and learn to work with him. I refuse to accept this in the sense of treating any of the policies he has threatened to impose on us as normal, as a simple conservative alternative to the progressive policies President Obama pursued. It drove my mother mad for years that the conservatives she knew refused to treat the president with the respect he was due as holder of the office because he was black, because he was liberal, because of his education; I am not willing to engage in similar hypocrisy. When Trump is inaugurated as President, I will be willing to call him such; I don’t think it’s of much use to dispute the legitimacy of the electoral college at this point, however little I like it. I will not engage in violent protest, and I will not condone or connive in others committing violent acts against Trump or his supporters. I will, however, continue to protest, in whatever ways I can. I will write letters. I will donate to causes supporting the rights that the GOP is threatening to take away from us. I will not stand silent if I witness someone being attacked for their faith or their sexuality or the color of their skin. If I can get to a protest or a march, I will participate, as I have done before. If any conservatives happen to be reading this (unlikely as that is)–to those who are mocking and insulting liberals for questioning whether they want to stay in the U.S., for wondering if our rights are going to be taken away, for fearing the worst is coming–if you’re wondering what hypocrisy looks like, take a long look in the mirror. Conservatives have been whining for years about Obama was coming for their guns, which never happened, and there were plenty of conservative media figures who *promised* they would leave when Obama was elected but didn’t. We’ve already witnessed reproductive rights being rolled back, by some of the same people Trump is bringing into his administration. We already have evidence that our fears our justified.
Things will get better. In two years we have a chance at taking back either the House or the Senate, if not both; in four years, if Medicare is privatized, Roe v. Wade overturned, the ACA repealed, gay marriage once again prohibited, journalists are silenced, if we’re in a trade war with China and NAFTA is repealed, all of which Trump and/or other Republican leaders have promised in the last months and weeks, I hope that the combination of those of us who are angry enough now and those who will have buyer’s remorse over voting for Trump will make a Democratic victory a certainty. The party does need work, but we have a number of strong candidates rising through the ranks. The problem is it will not get better in time for the women who are going to die or be left severely ill from botched abortions if Roe v. Wade is overturned. For the people who are going to die all over the world as a result of accelerating climate change, from worsening economic inequality and the other financial consequences of lowering the U.S.’ tax rates across the board, from losing their health insurance, from any wars that Trump escalates or instigates. For the people who are going to die of their injuries after attacks by people who now believe that anyone they look down on is now fair game, as happened to a Saudi Arabian college student a couple of days ago.
This is the song that kept running through my mind on Tuesday morning, and I was so looking forward to posting it again and again, any excuse I could find, on Wednesday, instead of being unable to shake the lyrics of “This is not America”. This is the first political song I understood in political terms, being old enough to have a grasp, if not a full understanding, of the events that inspired it. I played it again and again back in 2008 following Barack Obama’s election, and I hope that I will get to irritate all and sundry with it the day after election day 2020, along with a clip of Daveed Diggs shouting “We Won We Won We Won We Won.” Because we will. I hope we will all be there to witness it.