Today is the day after the American elections. For the most part, the election was a run-of-the-mill affair. We chose a new mayor, re-elected a senator, things of this nature.
And then there was the presidential election.
Like many/most of my friends, and like-minded information sources, and apparently even some old-guard republicans, I wasn't sure what to do with the rise of Donald Trump. A bizarre aberration that would soon be gone, we thought. And then he was the Republican candidate. So not soon gone, but easily dispatched by the Democrat's candidate.
On the other side, I supported Bernie Sanders through the primaries. I had concerns - he clearly didn't get race or international affairs - but I felt that he was addressing the concerns of the middle class and the poor. And his heart seemed to be in the right place, so I was hopeful that he could be trusted to learn the issues where he was weak. But I also understood that people felt safer going with the clearly more experienced Hillary Clinton as the candidate. She was a strong candidate, and with the exclusion of my personal disagreement with her foreign policy (which actually made her a stronger candidate with most people who aren't as left-wing and pacifistic as I), she seemed to be where people were. Where the center was.
The one thing she lacked, but started to come around to, was Bernie's (and Trump's) appeal to the economically disenfranchised. But pro-business had its own political capital, and as a Democrat I was confident that even if she didn't have all the populist talk she would be very good for the poor.
What I did not anticipate was how strongly those populist ideas that had come up in the primaries had resonated with the right.
And then Trump started saying all the many things that were beyond the pale of American politics, and I was quite sure we were in the clear. Sexist, racist, horrible things, that surely would turn off many of the people who might otherwise have supported him.
I was, obviously, wrong.
I do not actually think that 59,245,678 (give or take) of my fellow Americans are racist, or sexist, or 'deplorable'. I suspect many of them are the same people who, at the Thanksgiving table, would prefer to breeze past the racist spoutings of their relatives rather than confront them. They prefer to look at the 'whole person' or somesuch. We are all, to some degree, like this. I was willing to vote for a candidate with whom I strongly disagreed on certain issues, thinking that, on the whole, we agreed, even if there were places I would have preferred they were different.
But it is not the same. We knew, of course, from the discourse of Black Lives Matter and of white privilege and of campus sexual assault that Americans were, in large part, not woke. But I'm not sure we had recognized (in fact, I sure we had not) that in Trump we had a confluence of these ideas that so conflicted a large percent of the country. He spouted the things that 'right thinking, salt of the earth' folks felt were obvious: cops are good, criminals are bad. Jobs are going overseas, and it needs to stop. Etc.
And of course the insidiousness of this platform is that I can write it in short, easy to read (and understand) sentences. That's not a dig at his supporters - what I'm saying is that the ideas were pithy and easy to digest. Whereas things like 'most cops are good, but the fact that the people we call criminals in this country are disproporionately black indicates there is systemic racism that we need to fight' is not pithy, nor easy to digest.
Moving forward, of course, is challenging. The supreme court alone is going to destroy this country for a generation. But if we draw one lesson from this, I am personally of the opinion that it's the economic question. People with good, stable jobs don't spend their days hating the foreigners who 'took their job'. However, it must be said that part of the reason I choose that lesson is because I'm still at a loss about the racism and the sexism.
That said, I'm off to scroll through facebook looking at the pictures of kittens and puppies people are posting to try to cheer each other up.