Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Post Mortem

I hope this is just a post-mortem on the election and not our system of government. I'll try to be optimistic, and say it's the former.

I don't think I have anything to say that others have not said better and more clearly. But I feel better when I force my thoughts to coalesce and put them on virtual paper. So stick with me if you're so inclined.

I'm surprisingly not angry at the orange-tinted pile of oily rags we just elected our forty-fifth president. I can't stand the sight of him, and hope to never have to listen to his voice, but I can't say he tricked his way into the job. He said exactly what his unfiltered ego told him to say and it worked! He was the right person for a portion of the electorate at exactly the right time. Add to that his ability to excite the reptilian brains of his followers, then stroke their fear and loathing, and you've got a perfect storm.

In my mind, his voters come in three main buckets: 

One is the large number of white men who used to run the place, or at least be guaranteed a decent, stable job. Obviously, it's upsetting to have once had control of the sandbox then have other kids come in and want to share. The problem is that it wasn't your sandbox. You'd just figured out ways to control it exclusively. 

Over time, your control lessened and you're pissed. Really pissed. You want to go back to the time when every able bodied white man could slack off and quit high school yet still get a good job in a factory, have your wife stay home with the kids, and be fairly sure your kids would have more opportunities than you did. Your wife had your dinner on the table at six, you lived in an all white neighborhood, and everyone spoke English. Bliss!

I don't have a lot of sympathy for these people. They've run the place for over two hundred years and it's time to start sharing. But I have some sympathy for them, only because I know what it's like to have people wrest control from your hands.

The second bucket is the bad guys. Really bad guys. The racists, misogynists, Islamaphobes, anti-immigrants, nativists, fascists, white supremacists, and other creeps who lurk at the bottom of the internet. There aren't tens of millions of them, but it seems like there are. They are now emboldened by the new president of the United States to hold their hate-filled views and express them with pride.

I have nothing but antipathy for these people. They don't deserve to have an audience. With time, they might slither back into their lairs, but that's not going to happen without decent people rejecting their message.

The third bucket is the group I'm most angry with. Those are the well-educated, fairly open-minded, socially liberal people who vote republican just so they pay less in taxes, and hope for less government regulation. These are people who have friends of different races, a gay brother-in-law, a niece who's married to a Muslim, all of whom they get along with just fine. But they don't truly care about anyone or anything but their own finances. They're beyond my contempt because they're smart enough to know better. They think some adults will come in and control the new president. That congress and the courts will stop him from doing anything too crazy. Good luck with that. Thanks for putting democracy at risk on the off-chance that someone can stop us from going over a cliff.

So that's why I think this happened. Those three groups got together--even though their goals are very divergent. The candidate convinced them he heard and understood them. He didn't and he doesn't, but they wanted to believe, so they jumped on board.

Against this, Hillary had to overcome systemic misogyny, thirty years of biased news reporting against her, and her own inability to promise people in Trump's three groups anything they wanted. 

I can understand why she had a tough time doing that. To appeal to them would have eroded her own base. But her base screwed her in the end. Women let her down. Black people let her down. Latin people let her down. Young people let her down. Well, technically, they let themselves down. But each of those voting blocks gave her less support than they gave to Obama. My guess is that many of them just didn't bother to vote. She didn't excite them. She didn't speak to them in a way they could relate to. So they convinced themselves that it didn't really matter. That there wasn't much difference between an old, rich, white woman and an old, rich, white man. I fear they are tragically wrong.

My only thread of hope is that the natural allies of a liberal, social-consious democracy will see that it does matter who holds the oval office and that they never take it for granted again. That's not much to go on, given that the republicans now hold most statehouses, the Congress, the White House and the Supreme Court, but it's all I've got.

Even though we're outnumbered, those numbers can change. We have to do a better job in 2018. We simply have to.