It’s (almost) over.
While the earthquake of the 2008 election of Barack Obama, America’s first black president, was synonymous with “hope & change,” the aftershock of the 2016 election between the first female presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and the anti-Obama Donald Trump is more likely to have words associated with it like “nasty,” “pussy,” and “hate.” (I want to keep this relatively short, so I won’t spend 10 paragraphs delving into the disgusting irony that the word “pussy” was such a huge part of the election of the first Madam President).
I’m a political junkie. That this election has me even sickened by the fear and ugliness so pervasive in our country makes me sympathize with those who would be happy to never hear from a politician again, let alone the two candidates leading our political parties. We’re all at our breaking points. And I hate to be the pessimist, but it won’t end tomorrow. Even if Clinton wins, as I predicted last year, the Republican Party is forever changed and the USA, at home and aboard, is forever different.
For an election this insane, that has consumed this much of my attention, that has me attached to the Twitter feeds of my favorite journalists for the latest update, I can’t throw myself into the arms of my fellow citizens, hoping they catch me with by electing Clinton, without making my last thoughts known.
It is impossible to count the ways Trump is unsuited for Commander-in-Chief. Others have tried better than I ever could. It is not hyperbole to say his elevation would cause cause crises at home and abroad not seen in decades. Trump is kinda right what he says the world is laughing at us. But it’s the most nervous laughter imaginable, as the most powerful nation on the planet seemingly descends into self-destruction. They’re not laughing because of Clinton’s emails. They’re laughing at Trump and what he says about us.
White supremacy is at the core of the Trump candidacy and the GOP rot. The rising Obama coalition is a threat to that, as Fox News, talk radio, and Breitbart have dutifully fearmongered for the last eight years (and many before). And, thus into this grievance is born a creature seemingly made to be the apotheosis of it.
Trump may not win tonight but he has empowered a racist, anti-Semitic, misogynistic underbelly of American life, particularly among white men without college degrees. He has accelerated the Republican Party’s moral decay, ripping away the dog whistles and replacing them with bullhorns. He has degraded and insulted literally millions of people to earn the support of a dying cohort of the American electorate, people who just so happen to have been used as a source of power for the GOP since the 1970s. His endorsers and backers buy into, even embrace, his self-made alternate reality even as he shows no loyalty but to anyone but himself and his selfish needs.
White supremacy is dangerous because, well, Nazis. But going deeper than that, it is dangerous for the people with the most privilege and power in society – white people – to become incited against minorities. White people are not used to being inconvenienced or in the minority; it scares them. Whereas before the GOP offered in exchange for tax cuts for their wealthy donors,
Donald Trump may not call himself a white supremacist but that is because his ego is so incomprehensibly huge, his self-awareness so nonexistent, that he cannot imagine himself as anything other than the greatest ever. He’s too stupid to see the reasons he acts how he acts or says what he says, like his white skin, his Y chromosome, or his rich inheritance. He lacks empathy and is unable to walk in another’s shoes. He simply lacks the imagination to relate to other human beings. He only cares about things he views as extensions of himself, like his career and his family and, even then, he requires them to view him as infallible in exchange for affection.
Our vote is strategic. It’s pragmatic. It is about where we fall in the annals of history. I won’t resign those I love who are of different colors, creeds, or orientations to their fates so I can have a protest vote. Voting is about more than the candidate. It is about directing the current of history.
Did you vote for Trump? Whether you accept it or not, that is an endorsement of racism. Every vote Trump gets will empower not his suffering voters looking for change (who will remain blissfully ignorant that they were taken in by a con artist) but the cavalcade of carnival barkers he’s assembled like an island of misfit toys. They are already enriching themselves, setting themselves up for future opportunities, and claiming “victory” for white nationalism.
Smart and morally-astute Republicans have refused to support Trump and, like Max Boot and Ana Navarro voted for Clinton. Paul Ryan may fruitlessly pine about his “Better Way” agenda and claim the GOP is not Trump’s party, but he has proven time and time again to be stubborn, stupid, and morally myopic, high on some imagined Randian bullshit that his party’s voters stopped giving a shit about years ago. Add to it his knowing capitulation to a man who excoriates him regularly all while holding to the absolutely-absurd belief that Trump will magically transform into a pliable and flexible guy once granted the most powerful office in the world.
America needs a functioning two-party system. Despite the constant demands for third parties, the binary is practically written into the Constitution. The Democrats cannot represent everyone, because of the aforementioned white supremacy of the GOP is kinda incompatible the Obama coalition of Hispanics, blacks, women, and Millennials, not to mention the education gap (as Trump said, he “loves the poorly educated,” GOP subtext=text).
Hillary Clinton is a flawed candidate, but not more than any other male candidate in history. Despite the right-wing media’s criminalization of her (echoing the Othering of Obama by claiming he wasn’t an American citizen), her mistakes, while mistakes certainly of arrogance and bad judgment, were no different than many other politicians.
The email server scandal, glued to her from the very beginning of her campaign, was entirely her fault but what did we learn from the various leaks? We learned journalists and campaign partisans are people and interact as such. There was moments of regrettable indiscretion, but nothing so egregious as to make the whole enterprise criminal, as FBI Director James Comey has said (then didn’t, then said again, but whatever).
While others bathe with the word “emails” I look at Clinton’s victory like Obama’s, altering the psychography of our nation in a positive but not unimpeded way. Progress is always fought tooth-and-nail, as we’ve seen all too well in this nostalgia-evoking election. Whatever Clinton’s personal flaws, the fact that we will follow the first black president with the first woman president speaks to me a hell of a lot more than any of the incoherent nonsense Trump has spewed.
I don’t view my vote as representation of myself ideologically. The world will never conform to my ideology or anyone else’s. When I walk into the voting booth, I know I’m only one rower in a ship of millions. To get somewhere specific, everyone has to row together. If everyone rowed their own way and didn’t pay attention to others, the ship may very well drift into an iceberg (an racist orange iceberg).
The story of America will be different, no matter who is in office. But, while I don’t imagine Trump will allow himself to fall gracefully in the next week or so, I do imagine what it will be like knowing the American Dream, that “anybody can be president” will be truer, our country a little more affirmed because we defeated, if only temporarily, the madman at the door.
Today is a battle. The war of ideas will continue. And we must be vigilant. But I sincerely hope I will sleep safe tonight knowing Hillary Clinton is the 45th President of the United States. Otherwise, I don’t know if I can sleep safe again.