After a night of very bad sleep and a clinging-by-my-fingernails day at work, I stopped off at Target and picked up a random Lego set to build with William – something to do with him that wasn’t obsessively refreshing Facebook while he tried to engage with me. When I picked him up from his Spanish immersion daycare (which is almost if not entirely staffed by immigrants from South America, Central America, and Mexico), I took a moment to let them know that I am glad that all of them are a part of my community and a part of my son’s life. I ended up breaking down in tears and received a very warm hug.
To those who feel that you have targets on your back and are unwelcome in your own country – I want you here, and you have as much a right to live peacefully and free of discrimination and injustice as I do. I wish I could make this better for you. I know I can never fully appreciate what it means to know that certain crimes, when committed against you, seldom yield consequences for the perpetrators because of your race, sex, or other identifying characteristics.
I grew up in a little white town where no one would admit to being something other than straight and Christian. I’ve lived in Minneapolis for approaching 14 years, however, and even without really trying to engage in some kind of cultural outreach, my social circle is not nearly as homogeneous as it once was. I have friends who are Christians, pagans, and atheists. I count friends among every representative letter of LGBT. I work with colleagues of many different belief systems, races, and cultural backgrounds. And yes, many of our son’s friends have Latin heritage (and they throw truly amazing birthday parties – let me tell you).
On one hand, intellectually I know that many or even most of the people who turned out for Trump on Tuesday did so for the same reason that Bernie gathered a following during the primaries. The last eight years have been very good for some people, but a lot of folks feel like they have been lost in the shuffle, left behind by politicians who promised jobs and have instead gotten bogged down in pointless scandals and bickering. And I know they’re sick of waiting for help that never seemed to come for them. The reasons for this are complex (Congressional intransigence played a key role but not the only role), but “yes we can” tapered off into “no we probably won’t ever.”
The Democrats ignored that frustration to their sorrow. They failed to address it vigorously, instead putting forth a perfectly competent candidate who was nevertheless perceived as in bed with the very people who put them in this economic purgatory in the first place. When people started chanting Trump slogans, liberals disparaged them, belittled them, and generally made it clear that the Democrats did not need or want the votes of those who felt wronged by the system. Ironically, Sanders’ primary run probably helped Trump in the sense that it gave the GOP candidate someone to point at and say, “See? I freely admit that this one is a righteous man who understands your suffering all too well, but look how the Democrats rejected him because he is an outsider – just as I am an outsider and all of you are outsiders.” I remember a moment in the final debate where Trump brought up Bernie, and Hillary reminded everyone that Bernie had thrown in his lot with her. I thought it was an awkward attempt to woo progressives who had supported Sanders in the primary, but I think now that I simply wasn’t the target audience. The goal wasn’t to convince Bernie supporters to stay home; it was a reminder for the folks who didn’t really like politics but who *did* like what they saw of Bernie that the Democrats had rejected their populist candidate in favor of a centrist politician, leaving Trump the only outsider left in the race.
I think we will be examining what went wrong for Democrats in this race for years to come.
On the other hand, I can’t see this election result as anything but a catastrophic loss. Trump has opened floodgates of hatred against immigrants, the LGBT community, Muslims, and women. I have friends who are now dealing with suicidal ideation and suffering panic attacks because Trump has put a target on their backs, has exhorted his followers to deploy violence against them. I can’t accept my fellow Americans’ willingness to embrace fascism – not because I don’t respect their frustration but because it has put members of my community and people I care about in harm’s way. I can’t simply call for unity because while Trump’s supporters have elected Trump, what they have done is get in bed with the Republican party, which has a long history of trying to make these same members of my community and people I care about disappear (by force, if necessary).
I thought Bernie’s response today was spot-on when he said he welcomed opportunities to work with Trump where their agendas of lending aid to the disaffected members of the vanishing middle class aligned, but that he would vociferously oppose anything that would disenfranchise vulnerable Americans or advance a fascist agenda. I think that’s where I’m liable to land, here. Trump has done real damage to the civility of public discourse and is almost certain to spark a large uptick in violence against women, minorities, and immigrants. I’m not okay with that. But if this reality TV star can lay off the inflammatory rhetoric and love letters to Putin long enough to help solve some of the problems that Bernie was focused on, too, I will accept those as shared victories.
I don’t have a lot of hope that Trump is the right person for the job. His business experience seems to show him as great when the bat is in his hands but incapable of running to first base at more than a limping gait once he swings it. I respect the fact that he played the game better than anyone expected, but I just don’t think he has the temperament or stamina for public service. I suspect he will be another W – constantly out playing golf while other members of his administration do all the work of sending our country to hell in a hand basket (in some ways I have *less* faith in the GOP than in Trump). He might also be a Jesse Ventura – so loud and unwilling to compromise that he can’t get members of either party to go along with his agenda. I even hold out a tiny sliver of hope that his “fuck you, we’re doing it my way” will allow him to flit between the two parties and get shit done.
But from what I’ve seen of his cabinet picks so far, and from what we’ve seen of him on the campaign trail, my non-white, non-cishet, non-Protestant friends are right to worry about their literal safety and well-being. George W. Bush held onto power in 2004 in part because he kept the electorate focused on terrorist threats – most of which were manufactured fear-mongering fought with security theater. If Trump continues using the fascist playbook to drum up support and adulation the way Bush used the fabricated threat of a nuclear Iraq, we’re in for a very long term in office, and yes, we will need to fight it tooth and nail until we can oust him. But let’s not be the 2008 GOP – preemptively declaring that our sole goal is to make him a single-term president, because that was icky when they did it and it would be just as icky if we did it.
Those are my thoughts for now. Now I should get some sleep.