I wrote this the day after the election but didn’t publish it. I was afraid I was still too close to give a fair, big-picture account of my feelings about it. Now, on inauguration day, I’ve re-read it, and I still believe it. Un-edited, here it is:
I know you’re probably sick of hearing about it, but I have a lot on my mind concerning what happened in the 2016 presidential election. Don’t worry; this isn’t a rant. I got my ranting out of my system yesterday morning in the bathroom, as Jason and I were getting dressed. He very graciously did not point out I was acting like a lunatic.
Watching Hilary Clinton lose Florida, and then all the other swing states, was like watching in horror as the Longhorns lose to Iowa State at home, only I didn’t have the reassurance, “it’s just a game.” The outcome of this “game” we have to live with for at least four years. I fell asleep on the couch after it became apparent Donald Trump would win. I awoke around 3am and checked the news on my phone, hoping against hope, but my fears were confirmed. Donald Trump, the man who was portrayed as America’s rock-bottom president in a prescient Simpsons episode in 2000, was the president elect.
The day after the election, I couldn’t focus on work. I kept wondering why? Why, America, did you vote for a man who, according to all evidence, is racist, bigoted, misogynistic and narcissistic? I couldn’t fathom it, so I took to the radio. I listened to National Public Radio a lot of the day – election analysis by experts, thoughts on what a Trump presidency means for the U.S., interviews with Trump supporters, both politicians and average people. I had discussions with friends on both sides of the campaign.
This is what I discovered: overwhelmingly, those who voted for Trump were after change. They didn’t want another career politician influenced by special interest groups, moderating their views to keep everyone happy and not listening to what the people wanted – jobs and help for business owners. Though it is not clear they will actually get these things under Trump, they believe he is a better bet than Clinton.
While I see their point, and it is somewhat of a relief not to hear anyone saying they supported Trump because they think all the Mexicans need to go back to Mexico or because they think grabbing women by the pussy is acceptable behavior, I still don’t agree. While most Trump supporters are focused on shaking up Washington and what Trump might be able to do for businesses, I focus on his character, what he might do to the environment, what he might do to immigrants, and, scariest of all, who he might appoint to the Supreme Court. My heart hurts for all the people who are scared of being deported. Whether it can actually happen or not, living in fear is no way to live, especially for children.
Character is important. Online, I read a retort to those concerned about Trump’s personality: “People say all the time that their doctor or lawyer is an asshole, but they are a great doctor/lawyer. What does his character matter if he can get things done?” My response: he is not a doctor or lawyer. He is the president of the United States. He represents the American people, and he’s responsible for maintaining relations with other nations. I’d say decent character is a little important.
I understand the concern that Clinton won’t follow through with promises. She has outright contradicted her own positions at times, and the way her views became more adamantly leftist after beating out Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination smacked of political maneuvering – an effort to gather Sanders supporters to her side. I don’t quite trust Clinton, but I do think her heart is in the right place. She is striving to break that elusive glass ceiling, and she genuinely wants a more inclusive America. She has dedicated her life to making the changes she sees vital; I admire her for that. Politics is not for the faint-hearted. But does that lifetime of politics disallow her to see the forest for the trees? Is she so entrenched she doesn’t see what is really going on in our country with the average person? Does maneuvering for power to push her agenda cloud her vision of that agenda? Maybe. It doesn’t seem like any of us so much voted for one candidate as we did vote against the other.
Bottom line, I still think I’m right: while Clinton may not have been the shake-up Washington needed, she was a far better bet than Trump, whose hyperbolic, self-centered ways of thinking quite frankly scare me for our country. His acceptance speech was conciliatory and gracious – a relief to hear – but, as one New York protester said, “he can’t just erase all that other stuff he said.”
When my 8 year old asked me who won, and I told him, he said glumly, “I guess everyone’s moving to Canada.” While I may have said that flippantly in the weeks before the election, I realized, that’s not where I stand. Now that Trump is president, and we’ve had our day of ranting, obsessing, mourning , commiserating with like-minded friends and contemplating, where do we go from here? The United States is my home, and there is no place I’d rather live on earth. I feel damned lucky to be here, and I have a strong sense of loyalty. The democratic process, imperfect as it is, needs to be protected. I don’t agree with the outcome, but the people have spoken. I have hope, though. I hope I’m wrong. I hope all the people who told me Trump won’t be able to set women’s rights back and build a wall are right. I hope everyone who said his dramatic campaign statements were only for the sake of media attention (much as I abhor the tactic) is correct.
I am still worried, but I hope, and I will be here, in my small and humble way, to hold Trump accountable. Bernie Sanders said several months ago, in a plea to his supporters, that we needed to vote for Hilary Clinton, even if we were concerned she wouldn’t follow through with her promises, because the Democratic party’s platform is good and solid. We needed to elect her and then hold her accountable, he said. Trump is not my choice, but he’s the one we’ve got. When we sign up to be Americans, which we all do by living here, we agree to abide by the democratic process. One of the best things about our country is that, even if we make that implicit agreement, we are free to shout as loudly as we want when we don’t agree with what’s going on. I urge you to do the same. Whether you voted for Trump or not, hold him accountable for what you know in your heart and head is right. Because, as divided as the nation may seem, we are all in this together. We will all reap the benefit or pay the price, and we must work together.
Trump is what we have to work with. I accept it, even if I don’t like it. I will do as Clinton suggested in her concession speech: I will give him the chance to lead. I will do my best to be open-minded and fair. I will pay closer attention than I ever have before to politics, I will hold him accountable, and I will be loud when I don’t agree. It’s a very American thing indeed to stand up for what’s right. I truly hope he means what he says, that he wants to be president for ALL Americans. I hope he means all genders, races, religions, sexual orientations, ages and abilities. And I don’t mind saying that I hope, four years from now, the Democratic Party does a better job of getting some qualified person elected.
But, if all else fails, I’ll nurse my sorrow with some wine and Saturday Night Live…which is sure to be awesome for the next four years.
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