Yesterday approximately half of registered voters in this country went to the polls (or, previously, as I did, mailed in their ballots). Half. Of those who voted and by a narrow margin, Hillary Clinton gained more votes. Because, however, the United States does not elect its Presidents by direct popular vote, but by a cumbersome and possibly outdated process called the Electoral College, sufficient electoral votes were awarded to Donald Trump for him to be elected President of the United States of America.
This morning, when the race was called, Ms. Clinton conceded and Mr. Trump gave a speech in which the hate-filled rhetoric of the campaign was noticeably absent. Later, Hillary Clinton gave a gracious speech, calling for the country to rally behind its new President and President Obama invited Mr. Trump to the White House to discuss the transition.
Meanwhile, the Republican Party kept its majorities in both the Senate and the House, which will provide a clear field and no possible obstructions for Mr. Trump’s goals for this country, at least for two years.
Also, in several key states, if those who voted for Stein or Johnson had voted for Clinton, the electoral votes of that state would have gone to her.
And, in something resembling a huge irony, California legalized the recreational use of Marijuana, as did several other states.
And, in something that perhaps was a cosmic joke but more probably was sheer coincidence, the electricity in three buildings at Park La Brea went out for perhaps two hours. One of those buildings was the one in which I rent an apartment. I was irresistibly reminded of a quote often stated during World War I – “When the Lights Go Out All Over Europe”.
So much is fact.
But the feelings of loss, of fear, of premonitions of disaster, they linger within me. Perhaps my reaction to the election is overblown, perhaps the checks and balances built into our system of governance, perhaps even Mr. Trump’s own need to be the savior of the country he called himself during the campaign, will ameliorate at least some of his oft-stated goals.
But inside I have a feeling that Leonard Cohen wrote in a song called “Everybody Knows”: “Everybody got this broken feeling, like their father or their dog just died.” I can’t get that our of my head or my heart.
Inside me, the feeling is leaden and sad and, yes, broken, and I think it has something to do with what were obviously mistaken feelings I held and would still love to hold (but no longer can) about my beloved country. There has been a great deal of analysis and head-scratching and astonishment, lots of conviction of disaster, lots of “broken feeling(s)”, as those of us who proudly proclaim ourselves liberals try to understand what just happened. What seems relatively clear is that the last eight years have left a significant section of the population of the United States convinced that their country, the country they grew up expecting to live in, a country wherein they were welcome, a country they believed to the bone was theirs and designed for them, was no longer theirs but was being given away to — and insert your own buzzword here — people who were of a different color or religion or had a different set of values. This section of the populace felt deeply that they were being left behind and at the same time were being pushed into a world they did not recognize nor want to live in. They no longer were the masters of this country, but its victims. And Mr. Trump spoke to that sense of loss, bitterness and rage, to such an extent that his supporters seemed not to (and probably genuinely did not) care about campaign statements proved to be lies almost as soon as he uttered them and then switched to something else when the wind of citizen reaction blew in a different direction. It is part of my sense of shock today to discover that a significant percentage of women voted for Mr. Trump, either not caring or not believing in Mr. Trump’s self-stated views on the function of women in society.
In my naiveté, I was proud of how as a nation we were moving forward toward diversity and inclusion and considering everybody within or outside our borders to be people with as much right to be here, as much right to be considered individuals of worth, as any of our “founding fathers (and mothers)”. But it seems apparent to me now that a significant part of our citizens did not feel that this was progress, felt instead that, just as Mr. Trump told them, if somebody else got a piece of the pie, there was less for them. It’s called, in game theory, a “zero-sum game” and it means just what it sounds like – that all the things wanted or needed by someone are a pie, finite and encircled with walls, and if somebody else gets a piece of that pie, there is that much less for those who prior to that time were convinced that the pie was theirs and theirs alone.
So that’s one theory of how this could happen. Another is simpler and uglier – misogyny and racism and xenophobia. Those are labels that are rejected by most of Mr. Trump’s supporters even as they embrace the fact of their continued existence. Some of us thought those ugly values were finally, finally melting from the body politic. It is a horrid realization that they are not. Not only do they still exist but can now be openly once again celebrated.
But right now I’m not thinking about the theories of why it happened. I am only thinking of what will happen now. And I am frightened and sad. You see, I do not completely believe in what others who voted for Ms. Clinton are clinging to in order to try to make themselves feel better. That it can’t happen here. That we have checks and balances and a constitution that will hold the worst of what Mr. Trump has clearly stated he wants behind a barrier of reason and logic and precedent. That we cannot compare ourselves to the Germany that woke up one day to discover that Herr Hitler, a buffoon they thought, was Chancellor, and then they woke up another day to discover he had dissolved the Reichstag and declared himself Führer. That can’t happen here. But what I know to be true is that this was said – and believed – in Weimar Germany. And it did happen there.
But wait, there’s more. Mr. Trump is first, last and always a businessman. And anything that interferes with deals and with profits and with the protection of profits must be discarded. I am very frightened by his stated belief that “global warming is a hoax” and by his stated objective that the EPA will be at the very least made smaller with a much more limited purview. People, except the very rich who somehow believe that they can avoid it or move away from it, do not want pollution, but they do not trust government to fix it. Neither does Mr. Trump. But situations like the ongoing disaster in Flint, Michigan are very difficult to fix by private means. Further, it feels to me as if when Mr. Trump looks at sacred lands or the small bits of wilderness we have left, he sees no value in unexploited land or open space. That’s a feeling I can’t back up with any facts, but it feels of a piece with his belief that global warming is not real, but is a conspiracy theory with a monetary goal that will be at his or the United States’ expense.
Further, if I understand at all the workings of his mind (and I don’t, I find his processes of thought incomprehensible), he may have a Cabinet and a set of advisors, but there is no guarantee, not even much hope, of his following their advice, whether that advice be good or ill. I believe that at this moment he is beginning to realize that the achievement of becoming President is only a starting point, and his sense of being completely central in the world will depend not on this win, but on his upcoming performance. That may be the only hope the world has at this point.
As to the other planks in his platform, the building of walls, the desire to remove all Muslims from the country, the desire to close our borders to all, and to raise tariff walls high, the desire to dismantle certain cabinet departments, the NATO alliance, and the desire that Japan and Korea have nuclear weapons and that the United States use its nuclear weapons as a means to impose its (Mr. Trump’s) will on the world, let alone his admiration of various tyrannical leaders in the world, to say nothing of the conflation of Islam with terrorism, I cannot respond now, it saddens and enrages me too much. I can only hope, and it is a dreary and hopeless hope, that those checks and balances actually work somehow. But I don’t have much faith in checks and balances with a President, Senate and House all in the same party and with one vacancy now on the Supreme Court and at least two (much deserved after a lifetime of tireless work on behalf of this country) upcoming retirements. The make-up of the Supreme Court will be changed fundamentally and soon. And what that will mean for generations to come I can barely begin to contemplate. It is only one topic, and perhaps not the most important, but I am convinced that Roe v. Wade will be reversed, which will not mean that abortions stop; no, it will mean only that rich women can get them, and poor women will die from the butchery of illegal abortions. I am also convinced that while the Republican-hated Obamacare (as they term it) will be dismantled as quickly as possible, there is no plan to implement anything to replace it.
It is said, and it’s true, that after a period of growth and progressive movement, there is an inevitable reaction and that is what is happening now. That’s sad enough to me, but some of the decisions made during this backlash will outlast the persons who are making them and that is terrifying.
I find all of this terrifying. The country I believe in and love seems not to be the country I believed it to be. For all of us who are mourning a huge loss, for all of us who are frightened of what this will mean, even for those of us who find the thought of a vulgarian in the White House distasteful, there are (apparently) more of us who are thrilled, who are cheering, who believe their country is theirs once more, to do with as they will. They are proud of their votes, proud and thrilled about their new President.
The speeches and statements made by President Obama and Ms. Clinton today implore all of us to recognize that Mr. Trump is the President of the United States, of all of its citizens. I cannot go there yet and may not ever be able to. I will show respect to the office of the Presidency, but I can find no good, nothing to admire, in the person who will, as of January 20, 2017, hold it. And yet, unless I can find a positive (and financially feasible) reason for leaving, this is my country too, and I won’t simply turn tail and run.
However, for the present, I am going to limit my presence on social media. I simply cannot be rational and measured right now, and I have no desire to rant and rave, no matter how deeply angry and frightened I am, and this disaster (and it is a disaster to me and to many others) makes kitten videos and pretty pictures of beautiful places seem trivial. So, perhaps to the relief of many, and the complete indifference of most, I won’t be commenting, retweeting or sharing as much if at all.
I have only three widely separated times in my life imbibed Marijuana. Now that it’s legal here, I may break that precedent.