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Eleven Nine, Two Thousand Sixteen
Friday, 2016 November 11 - 2:18 pm
I'm still trying to wrap my head around what happened. How did we elect someone like Donald Trump?

Let's be clear: there is plenty of blame to go around. Mainstream Republicans were in utter disarray during the primary season, and they gave Trump one free pass after another. "Bernie Bros" and Gary Johnson supporters were willing participants in the spread of anti-Hillary propaganda. And Hillary supporters, including myself... I suppose we weren't passionate enough, or empathetic enough, to convince enough of our friends and neighbors. Obviously, finger-pointing will not change the results of the election. But it's important to understand how we got to this point. And I see it as a real problem that some of my liberal-leaning friends chose to treat this election as some kind of intellectual exercise, rather than a choice with real consequences for real people.

It's very easy to sit in a position of privilege and say, "Well, I voted for Gary Johnson because I believe that the two party political system is flawed", or "I voted for Jill Stein because she agrees with the single issue that I find important". Meanwhile 20 million people are in danger of losing their health insurance, Latino children are already being bullied in school, Muslims are now fearful of deportation or worse, and gay and transgender people are in fear of institutionalized discrimination. Trump has not even been inaugurated yet, and all of these things are already in motion. This was not some kind of experiment. This was not voting for "American Idol". Lives will be affected, including the lives of many of my friends.

You can see people trivializing the election in other ways. Sports analogies are the worst, I think. "Oh, you're just sad because your team lost." "Well, you lost this time, but you can come back and try again in a few years!" So, no, that's not the point at all. This is not some kind of game.

I'm a Michigan football fan. Last year we lost to Michigan State in heartbreaking fashion, and I was sad for a few days. It was enough to make me stop blogging about football for the season. But I got over it, because sports are just games and fandom is arbitrary. Had I not grown up in Ann Arbor, there's a good chance I wouldn't have ended up a Michigan football fan. It was chance and fate. So when I discuss sports with fans of opposing teams, it doesn't mean anything.

But elections are not that. I'm not simply voting Team Blue because that's where I happened to grow up. (I acknowledge that growing up in liberal Ann Arbor did help to shape my world view. But I'm pretty sure I would have been a liberal regardless.) I'm not just upset about losing a game. I saw this election as a referendum on who we are as a country, and what values we hold dear. The message I've received is that we are willing to condone bigotry and misogyny, and that is absolutely terrifying. I'm not going to just get over it. I'm going to rail against this until my dying breath, because treating all people with love and fairness, regardless of sexual identity, race, or religion, should be the defining principle of our country. The very foundation of the United States of America is based on these words: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Now, I want to make it clear that I am not calling all Trump supporters racists and bigots. But there's a significant percentage of them who are. The KKK is having a victory parade for Trump, for crying out loud. As for the Trump supporters who don't consider themselves racist, they were at the very least willing to overlook Trump's racism, and that helps to institutionalize a culture where that's seen as acceptable. I want to live in a world where, no matter how people feel about tax policy or foreign affairs or abstract political principles, we will always say "we won't elect a racist", just as we say "we won't elect a child molester" or "we won't elect Martin Shkreli". I want to create a cultural norm where racism simply isn't okay.

But all that is moot for now. Trump is the President and we will do what we have to do. There are some who are saying, "let's give him a chance; maybe it won't be so bad." (That includes Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, who both gave predictably gracious speeches following the election.) And Trump, for his part, has stopped being quite so bombastic, and is showing outward signs of accepting the incredible mantle of responsibility that his office imposes.

But I don't buy it. We've seen the type of man he is. It's on him to prove that he has made an utterly improbable turn towards decency. We gave him the chance to define himself as an empathetic human being during the campaign, and he refused to do so at every turn. So no, I'm not giving him a pass. There will be no honeymoon period. If he doesn't come out day one and condemn the racism of some of his supporters, and apologize for his comments about women, Muslims, Mexicans, and black people, then I'm not going to relent in my criticism of him. And that also goes for Trump supporters who claim that they are not racist: they should prove it by not condoning racism. They should prove it by speaking up for black victims of police violence, and for Muslim and Mexican immigrants. They should prove they're not homophobic by speaking up for gay and trans rights. It's not enough for people just to say "I'm not racist". Show me.

The other thing that I continue to believe is that Trump is temperamentally unfit to be President. Now, I'm not going to be rooting for him to fail, because if he fails, the country fails, and none of us want that. But I certainly believe he will fail. In a few years I'm pretty sure I will say "I told you so," but I will take no pleasure in doing so. I think it's 50-50 whether he'll commit an impeachable offense in his first two years. Will he use the FBI to target his enemies? Will he funnel federal dollars towards his own corporations and illegally enrich himself and his family? Will he lie under oath during one of the many lawsuits he's facing? To me, those are all plausible scenarios, because they're very close to things that have already happened.

And I certainly do not believe that he will accomplish the things he's promised to his supporters. Mexico border wall? That's a trillion-dollar fantasy. A ban on Muslims? That statement is already gone from his web site. Bring back manufacturing jobs? Most of them are permanently gone, because of automation (not trade policy, as he has claimed). Repeal Obamacare? Not without a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, and even then, good luck dragging the country through another battle over health care.

It will be interesting to see where we are in four years. Will the lives of all those disgruntled Rust Belt Trump voters be better than they are now? Or will they find themselves without health insurance, facing higher tax burdens, and suffering through economic stagnation as the result of a trade war? We'll see if America really turns out to be "great again", or whether this was all just an enormous con... perhaps the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.

I wonder about the Democrats in Congress, too, and how they'll fare over the next few years. Will they be obstructionists, like the Republicans were under Obama, or will they actively work towards compromise and good governance? I have to admit that I'm quietly hoping they'll be jerks about it, because, you know, payback. But it would be hypocritical to insist that they block all of Trump's Supreme Court nominees, or that they threaten to shut down the government, after railing against similar behavior from the Republicans. I guess I can only hope that moderate Republicans in the Senate, particularly the never-Trump crowd, will come to their senses and vote with the Democrats on issues of importance. Realistically, I fear we are facing a conservative majority on the Supreme Court, and that means we will never see election funding reform, and we will very likely see an erosion of women's rights and gay rights. I really hope people understand the extent of the long-lasting damage that Trump's presidency could have on all of us, particularly for the underprivileged. Some people will be devastated, and I will grieve greatly for them, because that's not the way this country was supposed to be.

As for me, it will take me a long time to recover from this. I spent a lot of energy trying to influence people during this election, and I'm exhausted. I do recognize that there's important work ahead. And like I said, I will continue to rail against anything that I see as racism, bigotry, or unjust behavior from the Trump administration. But I'm not going to go to any meaningless protest rallies. I'm not starting on the 2018 campaign. (Not yet, anyway. 2018 is important. But I'm not ready yet.) And while I admit that I've started thinking about who should be on the 2020 Democratic ticket, I'm not going to write about it, or try to convince anyone about it. I think most of my Facebook friends will be relieved to know that the frequency of my political posts will subside.

Right now, I'm going to hold my wonderful progressive friends closer. I am going to distance myself from my conservative friends. A lot of people will criticize that stance, because they'll say that "reaching out", "empathizing", and "understanding" is the only way to influence their political choices in the future. Well you know what, I tried that for an entire year up to this point, and it didn't work, and I'm tired. For now, at least, I'm going to send the message that no, you do not get to work against the principles that I hold to be most important in this world, and still expect me to maintain respect for you.

You voted for Trump? It's within your rights to do so. And it's within my rights to hold you accountable for it, and part of that means that I don't want to spend time with you. Does that make me a jerk? Maybe. I'm truly sorry for that. But you know, maybe you were a jerk too, when you called Obama the N-word or when you called Hillary the C-word, or when you laughed at that racist joke right in front of my face, or when you defended Trump's talk about sexual assault as "locker room banter". If you want me to change and to reach out to you, then at least meet me halfway, and say you were wrong about those things.

My last message is for Hillary Clinton, though I'm sure she will never see this. Secretary Clinton: Despite the outcome of this election, I am so very proud of you, for running a positive and inspirational campaign of hope and love. I am proud of the model you set for millions of little girls who may one day aspire to follow in your footsteps. I despair for the fact that once again, an eminently qualified woman lost her job to a loud, bullying man. But never once did you act without class and grace, and that makes you a hero to me and to millions of us. I hope it is not much longer that a woman will shatter the highest glass ceiling, and when that happens, it will largely be thanks to the trail you blazed. Thank you for your years of service. If I ever meet you, I would very much like to shake your hand.

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Posted by Ken in: politics

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