Many of us are trying to gather our thoughts after an unexpectedly perplexing election night and, frankly, a thoroughly bizarre year to date both politically and otherwise. It appears that these results were widely unexpected by everyone. My panic, formerly kept at bay by a dim hope, set in with finality late evening on the 8th. I was reading Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight live feed, witnessing first hand their frantic back peddling dubbed “model corrections” in favor of a Trump victory. CNN’s action movie coverage style, complete with a guitar-shredding background track and largely vacuous dialogue, probably took a few extra years off of my life. What’s clear now is that we’ve all missed something and in a big way.
Some have proposed that we may currently be living in a simulation. The theory goes that our descendants, or perhaps another sufficiently advanced species could hypothetically construct the technology required to a simulate the world of their ancestors, including approximations of human consciousness. This is good. Aside from the immediate existential weight this possibility adds to each of us as individuals, it means that we may have descendants who have survived long enough to evolve or become hyper-advanced. It means that at least some shade of whatever epoch of the earth our reality is based off of has survived far into the future.
If you’re feeling bleaker, and I’m inclined to be, the simulation we live in may be much more subject specific. For instance we could, presently, exist in an active simulation of the end of human civilization in the 21st century. Perhaps our descendants are survivors of an apocalyptic event and hope to study its genesis. Perhaps that event happens within our lifetimes. And I do realize very deeply how hyperbolic all of this must sound to some, but the fact that a man as petulant as Trump will assume full control over an arsenal of the most destructive and horrific weapons ever created by man is a bone chilling reality we’ve all no choice but to face. That an openly racist and misogynistic man has his hands on something other than a device connected to Twitter – and that WE put him in that position – is disturbing to the greatest possible extent.
How was the disconnect so wide? How are the exit polls showing such a strong turnout for female voters and Hispanics for Trump? How could anyone without a billion dollars or with a skin tone other than eggshell think for a moment that their interests aligned even coincidentally with Trump’s?
This is a failure on many levels, but I have to place the blame squarely on the Democrats and their rosy naivete which spread so widely after Obama’s second win. The electorate that turned out to vote – neglected and written off by Democrats – responded angrily with ballots. The DNC groomed a candidate for nearly a decade who they KNEW polled poorly against key demographics compared to other candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. They KNEW that Hillary could never escape Bill Clinton’s legacy in the eyes of many, many conservative voters. They KNEW that she is viewed as a more-of-the-same dyed in the wool career politician and they KNEW about her email “scandal.” Still, they pushed forward. DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was forced to resign after evidence emerged of staffers inappropriately backing HRC over Sanders, not to mention the carefree use of Democratic Super-delegates in a primary election system that is overly complicated, convoluted and, it now seems, a position-for-favor factory.
And I empathize with Hillary and I do agree with many of her political views, regardless of the abysmal damage control of the campaign. I am in awe of the sheer grit and poise required to stand firm in the face of an openly misogynistic opponent and – still worse – the passive and much more insidious off-handed and perfectly “acceptable” misogyny that demands that Hillary never look old, or sick, or out of style, or too cold, or too emotional. She – we – were up against a bloc of voters that made a clear choice of fear-mongering and wild-west politics over women. Even women themselves strongly supported Trump. The predilections of voters isn’t anyone’s fault, but how we dealt with it is all of our responsibility. We ignored the signs and assumed we’d have two milestone presidencies. We can’t ever again afford to de-legitimize or de-humanize the concerns of an electorate, especially one that has indicated, quite clearly, that it doesn’t care about Goldwater Conservatism anymore.
And where does this leave us in the worst case? Far-right Supreme Court Nominations? A trade war with China? Russian appeasement? War? I find myself hoping that Trump turns out to be a Reaganesque leader, if only because Reagan managed to push the Doomsday Clock back instead of forward. Then again, Reagan’s counterpart was Gorbachev, and Trump faces a much less progressive and much more unpredictable counterpart in Putin. Domestically, Trump’s rhetoric has legitimized speaking hate openly. Across the board we can expect local elections to be flooded with imitators having vile points of view, charlatans, demagogues, and know-nothings. We can expect xenophobia and homophobia to become acceptable creeds. We can also do something about it.
We have to be political. Write letters. Call. Reach out. Challenge small-mindedness whenever you see it. Encourage treatment of all human beings with dignity. Stop blaming third party voters – the fact that there were so many inclined to vote against party lines should be a wake up call for all of us – none of us have any obligation to vote against our conscience. I feel a profound sense of unease now, and so I can’t imagine what gay people, women, and minorities must be feeling. We’ve got to make a commitment to stand up for one another and work as one. I’m with you all, especially.
I don’t know what’s to come – I think it’s fair to say that even Trump didn’t expect to get here. It could be that this is a unique opportunity for us to grow as a country and to learn. Or maybe we should all just wake up.