I have a lot of feelings today… And I’m not sure how to express them. Two days ago, we elected Donald Trump as our president. To say that it came as a surprise to me is a massive understatement. And while large portions of the voting populace are taking action nationwide and protesting, I’m still trying to come to grips with how it happened. I’ve a feeling this is gonna get ranty.
I’ve always considered myself something of a diplomat. Though I have opinions, strong opinions, my opinions rarely seem to entirely align with what’s popular on either side of any issue. Thus, I’m usually good about seeing both sides through what I’ve always considered to a be a fairly objective lens; if I don’t agree with anybody, it’s hard to take sides. This has gotten me into trouble in the past and almost assuredly will continue to get me into trouble in the future.
This past election cycle was no different… Or so I thought. About halfway through I began to realize that those people with whom I typically interact were predominantly all on the same side; the liberal side. Yeah, there were a few libertarian outliers, but the clear majority supported either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. This led to me knowing very little about the opposition, Donald Trump, other than the negative aspects. All I ever heard from anyone was how terrible he is; how he’s racist and misogynistic, how he vowed to lock Muslim immigrants out, build a wall on the border with Mexico, and trample on the First Amendment. Don’t get me wrong, all these things are true, and they’re all terrible; but the rational part of me, the diplomatic part of me knew that there were non-terrible people out there who supported Donald Trump and I didn’t understand why.
To me, that’s the first alarm bell; anytime something is happening that you don’t understand, you should seek out an answer and at least try to understand it before forming an opinion. So, I did, I widened my social circle as much as I could; I made an active effort to engage the other side of the coin, to get an idea of where they’re coming from… But here’s where it gets weird.
Ultimately, I got the same answer. Save a few exceptions, the only people willing to stand up and argue in favor of Donald Trump and his policies, did so primarily in memes, slogans, insulting rants, sexism, bigotry, etc… All the traits I thought my echo chamber had overstated. The media, who are just as guilty of focusing on these traits before election day, would have me believe that the reason Clinton lost is because she neglected a huge group of disaffected middleclass in the Rust Belt who were willing to overlook the negative in the Trump campaign because of his promises to lift them up, and support them, to bring back their jobs and livelihoods.
Where was that coverage? Where were those people? How do I not remember having ever encountered a single one? I talked to a -lot- of people. I still believe that people are predominantly good; I have to believe it, otherwise, what’s the point? I still believe that a huge chunk of Trump’s support came from people who simply made the difficult choice to put their own well-being and that of their family and friends, over that of people they didn’t know… People who gritted their teeth and voted for Trump, in spite of the negatives, because they weren’t given any better options for the change they needed; I know they exist, because there are plenty on the other side who voted for Clinton with the same reluctance.
But where were they before the election?
A friend told me a few months ago, “Adam, I think Trump’s going to do better than people think.” I asked him why and he speculated that there was a hidden group of people who secretly support Trump but won’t admit it. That there is so much vitriol and hatred toward their candidate, that they were afraid to admit that they felt like they needed him in office to make their lives better. The angry part of me wants to know why those people didn’t speak up, didn’t stand up to their own party and say, “Hey. You guys need to tone down the hate or you’re not getting our votes.” Why didn’t they nip this thing in the bud? But I know why.
I live in Hawaii, a predominantly Left leaning state. Up until yesterday I could have counted on two hand the number of pro-Trump campaign signs and banners I’d seen in the last two years. But now, now that he’s won, now that it’s safe… They’re coming out. I’m starting to see more signs, more bumper stickers, shirts, hats. After the election. To me, that speaks to an element of fear. But fear of what?
Well that’s easy, Clinton supporters… That the Left created an environment just as vitriolic in their self-righteous fury that it kept those people quiet. That these people, the rational ones, the ones reluctantly supporting Trump, were afraid to speak up lest they be lumped in with the racists and homophobes and xenophobes. That rather than make rational arguments in favor of Trump’s policy, they lent the stage to the “Deplorables” to avoid being tossed in that “basket” by a liberal populace who must have appeared equally hateful. These people are coming out now saying that they just lied to the polls.
We lament that Donald Trump wants to place limitations on the freedom of speech without admitting that we (all of us, on both sides) have already limited it through intimidation and fear of being ostracized by our peers. Sure, it’s not policy, but in practice it’s the same.
I place the bulk of the blame on the media coverage. I think everyone can agree that this election cycle was dominated by controversy and scandal, on both sides, and there was very, very little discussion of policy; hell, one of the most important issues to face our country, hell our world, (regardless of where you stand on it) is climate change policy; I don’t think it was ever brought up except by the occasional news anchor saying, “I’m surprised they didn’t talk about climate change.” No, instead we talked about emails and tax returns and WikiLeaks and pussy grabbing… I won’t say that any of those things are irrelevant, but none of them are -as- relevant as what we should have been talking about. We, as a country, allowed our dumb shit, clickbait, ratings-hungry media machine to drive a wedge through the heart of rational discourse. We all got so mad that we hopped into our echo chambers and locked the door behind us. We put on our jerseys and face paint, and sat down to watch Presidential debates like a god damned football game; nobody went into the debates undecided, they tuned in to root for their team.
I’m willing to accept a certain degree of onus to that. I did a lot of arguing over the past year or so, and though I tried to keep it civil, I wasn’t always successful. I wish the other side had spoken up, and I’m sorry if I silenced any of them. It may not have made any difference in the outcome, but I (and others) might be less angry because maybe we’d understand why. Maybe rational voices could have muffled the racism, or even if they were a little louder, changed Donald Trump’s perception of what his base supporters want and thereby changed the trajectory of his policy to disinclude the hate and fear.
Maybe we’re all to blame. I dunno.
Three days ago, the Right was complaining of rigged election proceedings while the Left was telling them to get over it. The Right was in fear for their lives and livelihoods because a Clinton win seemed almost assured; the Left was telling them to buck-up everything was going to be fine.
And now the tables have turned. Donald Trump has won the electorate, but not the popular vote. He’s president of a country where the majority voted against him, and that majority is grumpy.
Last night protests erupted in major cities across the country. People on the Left in fear for their lives and livelihoods took to the streets to denounce Donald Trump and the electoral system that made him President while the people who elected him sat back and said things like, “Spoiled brats, you lost fair and square.” It’d be poetic if it wasn’t so scary.
The media, now, is trying to pull that wedge out. Calling for people to come together to support the new President, but what they don’t realize is that fucker was barbed. It’s in there good and the more we fuck with it, the deeper it digs. And the only way I see it coming out is by pushing it all the way through. I’ll let you decide what that metaphor means.
I dunno, maybe this was the better way for things to go. Basically, everyone I talked expected violence after the election, regardless of who won. Maybe it’s better, in that regard, that Trump won, since now it’s not the people with basement bunkers filled with guns out there rioting.
I don’t have any solutions. But I can see how we got here and I can stop doing that; I can try not to make it worse. I can leave the echo chamber, I can keep trying to understand, and I can encourage others to do the same because that’s the first step here. I was never angry, but I can try to be less self-righteous.
A Trump Presidency doesn’t have to be a disaster, but it absolutely will be if we keep doing what we’re doing. We can reach across the aisle, find those quiet voices we drowned out prior to the election and work with them to make sure the worst of what Trump promised never comes to pass, we can work together to mitigate the damage we all worked together to cause.
There’s an old saying about how a duck’s quack doesn’t echo… Fuck it, I’m a duck now. A majestic despondent duck.