I am more pleased to say that I did cast a vote that helped throw one of North Carolina’s HB2 co-sponsors from office (by 381 votes out of over 46,000). So long, Marilyn Avila! I voted for your replacement, Joe John, and also tried to order a submarine sandwich from him. Ms. Avila and similarly booted NC Governor Pat McCrory can go stand outside bathrooms checking birth certificates until our state returns to reason.
But a few local races is not quite enough to make up for the asteroid impact (#3 on the dumpster-fire list) of Trump’s victory. The world for some time has clearly leaned toward right-wing revanchism, and utter frustration on the part of many Americans at a seemingly incompetent and unresponsive government, combined with a historically bad Democratic candidate, meant that the U.S. was no longer immune. For some unknown period of time, the U.S appears to be in danger of lurching toward an insular, nationalist society with little toleration for dissent, difference, or disorder.
What does it mean about our country? For a long while, I’ve thought that the scary things coming from professional trolls and media fear-mongers were just a product of a splintered media market catering to anomalous political subcultures. But our country isn’t only severely polarized—it also seems to be deeply broken. As a nation, we voted for Hillary Clinton, but awarded the Presidency to Trump on a technicality that has no place in a modern democracy. We tolerated a Congress that refused to make government work, even in moderate and sensible ways. Fundamentally, a large proportion of our country seems to want to destroy any form of effective government; any elitism; any sense of reason or balance; even any connection to facts. It seems we just elected an Ostrogoth to oversee the decline of the Empire.
On the other hand, Trump likes gold things. It may be that he uses his satisfaction at making a bunch of supposedly smarter people look like fools to fix our broken immigration system humanely, strengthen American manufacturing without triggering trade wars, re-negotiate one-sided security arrangements without encouraging foreign aggression, and re-decorate the White House without making it look nice. Really, four out of five wouldn’t be bad.
Also, maybe he’ll avoid nuclear war. Probably should have put that at the top of my list: “Please no nuclear war.” I would go out on a limb and say we won’t have nuclear war, but my record of prediction is rather pathetic.
Where did things go wrong for the Democrats? Clinton clearly made a strategic error to focus attention on North Carolina and Florida. Locking down Pennsylvania and the upper Midwest, and coming up with a logo that didn’t look like an herbal supplement brand, would have been smarter. I don’t know if these miscalculations can be attributed to hubris about get-out-the-vote operations, limited knowledge about opposition voters, or poor internal polling that, like the public polls, suggested a win for her. I do know her emails and the Clinton Foundation controversy probably had little to do with it—she’s been disliked for a long time.
Most importantly, she clearly failed to articulate either (a) a positive, overarching message to her campaign (“Stronger Together” was simply an implicit rebuke of Trump, and “I’m With Her” was literally meaningless as a platform, and “I’m With Stronger Her Together” was very, very confusing) or (b) a compelling rationale why whites should not vote for Trump. Instead of painting a picture of what his policy proposals would (not) do for (mostly non-college) whites, her team painted a picture of his ugly character, which the jobless and career-less were okay overlooking if they thought he would fulfill his (odd, vague, and contradictory) promises. Bernie Sanders looks like a prophet now.
What can we expect from the future? I obviously have no idea, but I have to remind myself that we’re a big, complex, hard-to-move country. We have millions of people who will stand for justice, individual rights, the Constitution, and a humane and effective government. All we have to do is open and honestly fight for what is right, with no fear for ourselves, but fear for our children. It’s not easy; it’s not fun; but it can be done.
I only hope I’m right about that.