Autopsy of an Election

November 10, 2016

I spent several hours yesterday calling and messaging friends to see how they were doing and to let them know how much they mean to me. Those closest to me are in shock right now; scared, angry and disgusted. Many of my closest friends work as teachers, with nonprofits or in ministry and as such most of them are spread out across the states often in towns where the local response to Trump’s election is quite different than their own. My mother may be one of the last Democrats in her small KY town and is in shock herself, made all the more difficult by a gleeful praising of Trump everywhere she goes. This presidential race and especially its result have left a lot of people I care about feeling very isolated. Many of us are seeing how fragile rights and privileges we’ve taken for granted actually are. I’ve spoken with teachers whose classes are comprised primarily of minorities and their hearts are broken for these students who are legitimately terrified of what might happen to them—or simply at how they feel the world around them actually sees them. I have LGBT friends worried that coming down the pipeline could be a decision that would invalidate the legality of their marriages. People who work with refugees are now worried about the future of refugee services in this country. Looming over all of this is also the strong possibility of environmental devastation, the specter of war(s) and so many other ills.

Many friendships and families are strained now as well. I don’t think those on the right are willing to admit this election is different than any that has come before. Those who have spent the most time working in or studying government, politics and history have incessantly warned voters of the dangers of Trump while those with the least familiarity with or knowledge of those things were the backbone that swept him into office. An acquaintance of mine summed that up inadvertently—“Your candidate lost, get over it. This is the first time my candidate has ever won and you’ll survive just like I did. Besides, just do like I do and focus on sports and ignore world events and news if it bothers you.” And therein lies the problem—ignore it all you want but it still has repercussions, it still has effects. If you don’t know or care for any people of color, immigrants, refugees, folks from at-risk communities or members of the LGBT community you haven’t had to think about how a Trump presidency and the movement that allowed him to be will affect any of those people. You haven’t given much thought to the black church burned and spray painted “Trump,” the KKK marches in the south, the joyful exclamations of former grand wizard David Duke praising Trump. You don’t know (or know that you know) any women who cried themselves to sleep upon Trump’s election because they recognize the threat Trump poses to women’s healthcare and rights; you don’t know or care that many of these women feel that our country just labeled them as second class citizens again. You certainly don’t put much stock in climate science or fear that we may easily reach the point of no return if Trump, a climate science denier, does what he says he’s going to do to environmental regulations. This is not a vague or far-off concern, this is a clear and present danger and we are in precarious times due to it, far more at risk as a nation and a world because of it than we ever will be over the national debt.

So yes, this election was different. Policies aside which we can debate rationally in Trump we have now elected someone who has consistently and thoroughly lied and denied easily fact-checked previous statements, who has threatened the press and the first amendment, who has admitted to sexual assault, who has openly denigrated entire populations of at risk communities. A reality TV star. A man who still hasn’t released his tax returns or paid taxes. Who will dismantle the progress we were tentatively making in almost every area of society. The only plausible positive prediction I can make regarding Trump’s plans are that, pending other developments, he may actually improve the economy at least in the short-term. I imagine that realistically stocks could continue to rally especially as arms manufacturers pump out supply predicting future wars, as health care industry stocks get a boost from the repeal of Obamacare and the promise of free-market price-gouging tactics and the denial of service to folks who are already sick, as dirty energy stocks jolt alive at the expense of a healthy planet and hopes for cheaper clean energy are squashed. The rich will get richer at the expense of the poor in a slash and burn campaign that will shorten the lifespan of humans on this planet.

And why has this happened? Because some voters were able to master the dark art of false equivalency and parrot Fox News talking points all while steadily shutting out facts from “crooked” mainstream media? Because of a deep hatred for “liberalism” or a subconscious prejudice against women leaders? Or is this just the dying spasms of the old order as the religious right sold out all of its principles and in doing so lost an entire incoming generation of millennials?

This election result may very well be ranked as one of the largest tragedies in national history some day and it was completely self-inflicted.

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