By now most of you have passed the first two to three stages of grief. Well done. It’s been difficult, I know. But you’re likely still in a bit of shock because you just can’t wrap your head around why people who make far less than $ 250,000/year, or who aren’t necessarily bigots, would still vote for someone as reckless and unstable (and historically unqualified) as Trump. Even Trump, himself, I believe, was stunned when he heard the news that he had become president-elect. To Trump, it was no more than a ploy-based popularity contest in which, by all tides seemingly against him, he won. Nevertheless, he is now king. Go ahead and continue counting the popular votes among the quarter-plus of the country who voted for Clinton, but to what avail, when the imperfect Electoral College is still an integral factor (why?), and when ~49 percent of eligible voters didn’t vote at all?
Never mind the work ahead for Trump, which cannot possibly be fully delegated away, as much as Trump seems to want it to be. Even W., despite his record-setting vacation days, and his obsequious deferral to Cheney et al. to govern, still had to make the rounds, and they weren’t exactly a walk in the park (it comes, after all, with the crown). Just wait until Trump comprehends what’s ahead of him. The bloviating nonsense from his Twitter account at 3AM while sagging on his golden toilet will be the easy part. Negotiating trade with China, supplying arms to Israel (and its adversaries), caviling with Russia, and hemming and hawing with the Republican-led House and Senate, will be the least of his ever-growing concerns — or, rather, of Pence’s ever-growing concerns.
So how did we get here? Everyone has an opinion. Trump, while a lunatic billionaire (I’ll believe the billionaire status when I see it, which will never be revealed, until or unless Anonymous steps up = please step up, Anonymous), catered to the middle class and inflamed their understandably populist disposition. Of course Trump stands for everything antipodal to populism, but he nevertheless ran on it and prevailed. Clinton sorta ran on it, post-Sanders, but, meh, not really. Clinton, a technocratic career politician who, while impressively credentialed, but who had no salient platform to run on — least of all a catchy slogan to repeat ad nauseam — lost to a well-known conman and reality TV star who had, quite literally, nothing to offer.
We mustn’t forget that eight years ago Clinton lost to a black junior senator with a Muslim-sounding name. Thus, after four years as Secretary of State — the position’s particulars of which are near impossible to elucidate and translate to the average American — and after another four years as a grandmother, Clinton was nevertheless coronated by the DNC. Which was a bad move, of course. It would have been less bad had Clinton embraced more forcefully Sanders’s rhetoric and had chosen a running-mate like Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, but instead she chose Tim Kaine. I personally believe that’s when many of Sanders’s supporters, including Millennials and the already disillusioned working class, folded. A running-mate is no panacea, and certainly not a promise of change, per se; but a nice, straight, older, white guy, who speaks Spanish relatively fluently (wow), augured to many people that Clinton would politick in much the same way that her husband and Obama had, even if Obama did so in a slightly more progressive, Gen-X-y way. And that, along with the shenanigans of the DNC under Debbie Wasserman Schultz, was Clinton’s undoing. You can blame the right-wing hysteria around Benghazi, the email server, the media, Comey, Russia, misogyny, the decades-long Republican witch hunt for Clinton, but it was Clinton’s implicit guarantee of the status quo that did her in. What was her once-failed campaign thinking? They were thinking about themselves, obviously.
Now some of you might be saying to yourselves, the status quo wasn’t so bad. Obama is perhaps the most consequential president in contemporary U.S. history, and one of the most effective presidents ever, which I full-heartedly believe to be true. But while the markets rose, and while the tech and finance and real estate sectors soared, and while corrupt career politicians (like Clinton, whether real or perceived) pow-wowed with the “coastal elites,” everyday Americans felt not only disenfranchised but also disparaged. Quite simply, they had had enough. Imagine that? They would have rather voted for change with nothing at all to substantiate it, than for politics as usual. And that’s precisely what they did (alas, the ones who voted).
Yes, they did so at the expense and safety of all marginalized, demonized, and suffering minorities, but they didn’t care (enough) about them. This doesn’t make all ~55 million of them bigots. You can (and should) debate the cognitive dissonance that accompanied their votes, but until you realize that their votes were about them first, you will only continue to bang your head against the wall in your safe spaces (were they ever?), amidst your microaggressions (which, at most, are just that — micro), and between your 50 shades of privilege (because people in general are just dying to be told how ignorant they are).
Why do I speak so confidently, so resolutely about this? Because, while by all accounts I personify the so-called coastal elite — as a white male who is highly educated and well-paid by corporations in New York City and in the Bay Area — I come from an “uneducated,” working-class background in Pennsylvania. I’m aware of the struggles that working class whites endure. I’m also aware of their misconceptions. And their foibles. Further, as a member of the LGBTQ community, I also know what it feels like to be treated as less than, as an abomination, as a scourge. I don’t know what it feels like to be a woman, or a Jew, or an immigrant, or a person of color in this country, but I do carry some street cred (if you want to challenge it at this point in time, then you might be part of the current problem). Also, despite the recent rise in Trump-inspired hate crimes and in the shameless (yet ineffectively shamed) rhetoric of various hate groups, the outspoken bigots really only represent a slice of the Trump voting block (how much of the slice remains to be calculated). This is my unsuccessful way of trying to allay our fears.
So what do we do now? This is tricky because Trump and his ilk are bonkers, and because the Republicans are set to run the House and the Senate again. The first time they ran all three, the Great Depression unfurled. The second time, the Iraq War burst out of thin air. And the last two times abetted the recession that Obama battled and eventually beat, no thanks to Congress. To be honest, I’m not entirely optimistic today. I believe at this point in time that one of four things could happen:
• Assuming Trump is not convicted of one of his countless impeachable offenses, the Trump presidency will either be a relative success or a relative non-success. Only if a veritable superhero emerges might disenchanted voters feel compelled to test him or her out in 2020, in which case Trump could be ousted. If we’re at war, however, then the superhero will have a much harder time. Trump, to his chagrin, will either have to run again, or, worse, he will defer to Pence to run as president.
• An inevitable recession will hit in spite of Trump’s policies — good, bad, or horrendous — during which the average American must suffer enough to vote in 2020 for whoever isn’t Trump or Pence. What exactly does “suffer enough” entail? Unprecedented joblessness? Undrinkable water? Online porn that isn’t free?
• Each marginalized minority group might finally learn to desist with the in-fighting and temper the identity politics in order to rally around commonalities and interests shared with other marginalized minority groups; and to then communicate and ally with the white working class in order to bring them back to the Democratic platform, provided the Democratic platform demonstrates a concerted effort to deliver on promises that aren’t tainted by corporations, special-interest groups, lobbyists, and career politicians with unimpressive records. It’s a long shot, I know.
• An even longer shot, but not an entirely dubious one, is the possibility that either one or both of the major parties begin to experience seismic shifts, perhaps culminating in a splintering off into new parties with which to be legitimately reckoned. Could true progressives, disappointed by their acquiescence to the DNC’s 2016 platform, organize themselves quickly enough to rock the boat beyond a Bernie Revolution (taking many independents along with them)? Or could the so-called Alt Right (read: Neo-Nazis), emboldened by the lack of outrage in response to their hateful rhetoric, do the same (taking hypocritical Evangelicals and Tea Partiers along with them)? In a country of ~320 million people, we’re long overdue for multiparty governance that extends beyond Republican and Democrat. How two parties can continue to represent such a large and diverse population with no need to compromise short of shutting down the government (twice) continues to elude me. In other words, maybe real change is yet to come?
Obviously I’m no fortune teller. What are your thoughts? What do you think could happen? What do you think should happen?
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