I went to bed on election night before the final truth was known, but the indications were that, astonishingly, Trump would win. I woke at four in the morning to what seemed an unnatural quiet, even the usual low hiss of the far highway traffic gone, as though a stunned silence had descended on the land. I crept into the bathroom with my phone and confirmed that, yes, the world had changed in a way I can’t fully comprehend even now.
What thoughts can one have in the bewildering aftermath of this election but random ones:
1. Wake up, liberals. You don’t understand the pitched battle you’re in, not just for political authority, but for the very legitimacy of your values, and you’re losing it. You live in little social media bubbles of complacent self-reference and self-satisfaction, and it’s time for you to realize how many of your fellow citizens not only disagree with you, but despise the ideas and values you think are self-evident.
2. How could working-class American women have failed to put down an arrogantly misogynist ignoramus and elect a smart, capable woman? If even half of them had voted for Clinton, she would be President-elect, yet they voted for Trump. What possible self-interest of a working-class woman is served by electing Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, other than maybe hoping it placates her equally deluded man? And never mind the question of what possible self-interest of a working-class man is served by electing a narcissistic billionaire.
3. Trump will appoint at least one, and perhaps two or three Supreme Court justices. Goodbye, gun control. Sayonara, Roe v. Wade. We will live to see how those working-class women like having to travel to one of the states that, perhaps, haven’t criminalized abortion. Forget campaign reform and voting rights and affirmative action. The list goes on. The rightward tilt of the Trump Court will persist for a generation or more. A great interregnum of liberalism has come to an end. It’s the start of a great undoing. We are banished to the past.
4. Trump and his Republican Congress will repeal Obamacare and replace it with — what? All we’ve heard is that he wants to erase “the lines,” by which he means, ironically for a purported Republican, the dismantling of state-legislated restrictions on how insurance is sold within state borders, and imposing, we presume, a federally-mandated, nationwide, unregulated health insurance market. We’ll see how that actually goes down with the states’ rights hawks in the House of Representatives. So if Obamacare is actually repealed, it will most likely be replaced with — nothing, to the chagrin of those millions – mostly poor and working class, Trump’s alleged constituency – who never had health insurance until Obamacare came along, and never will again.
5. A crazy hope: maybe Trump is really a liberal in disguise. Maybe all this racist, sexist, know-nothing blather has all been an act, and he will turn into a reasonable centrist in office. Nah.
6. Joe Biden should have run in Hillary’s place. He could have beaten Donald Trump with one hand tied behind his back.
7. Among the casualties of this last Tuesday: the idea of meritocracy, the belief in expertise, the credibility of credentials. Whatever her faults, Hillary Clinton was a personification of steady work and resume’-building, the story of advancement and achievement through effort and focus that most of us were taught as children, the promise that intelligence, diligently applied, would be rewarded. Whatever her faults, her credentials and her preparedness for the job she sought were well-nigh impeccable. And instead the American people elect an aggressively ignorant man who has never held a professional position of responsibility to another person –let alone public office– in his life, and whose successes are due primarily to the luck of his birth. This is a repudiation of meritocracy and expertise as stark as I’ve seen in my adult life, and it comes from the electorate of a nation built squarely on those concepts. Now, the people say, celebrity trumps merit. Narcissism trumps expertise. The story we taught our daughters was, we now see, a lie.
8. The Electoral College is anti-democratic, and an anachronistic travesty that needs to be dismantled in favor of direct popular vote (which would in this case have resulted in President Clinton). The irony here is, of course, that it was assumed that the Electoral College structurally favored a Democratic nominee (hence Trump’s whining about a “rigged” election), when in fact it became the only reason she lost. See http://keithmcwalter.com/2016/09/01/tales-of-the-electoral-college/
9. How we will come to miss Barack Obama in the coming years. How we will come to miss his quiet, thoughtful eloquence, his refusal to be bullied into divisiveness or impulse. How we will come to miss the simple, shining example of his family, living their modest, loving lives in our midst for all to see. How we will come to miss seeing his now-grey head bowed before us in prayer, hearing his words of comfort when the unthinkable finds us once again and we are once again, inevitably, bereaved. How we will miss him.
That stunned silence that I heard in the small dark hours of election night still lingers, and may not pass for quite some time. Until we find our voices again.