A Dream That’s Not Been Shattered
Like many others, I’ve been in something of a depressive funk since late Tuesday night. Listened to Paul Simon’s “American Tune” enough so that my wife and my cats are sick of it. Wondering how this could have happened and how we move forward from here. A complex set of circumstances seem to have contributed to the current national nightmare. Note that I’m not really trying to convince anyone of anything here, but writing this down was therapeutic for me. Hope it helps you too.
The Electoral College isn’t functioning as the founding fathers intended and should go. The main purpose was intended to prevent a demagogue tyrant from manipulating public opinion and coming to power. 2016 Fail.
The Electoral College can make a loss look like a landslide mandate. As I write this on 11/14/16, Hillary garnered close to 2 million more of the popular vote than Donald — larger than the margins won by Gore in 2000, Obama, or Nixon in ’68). So it was a race that Clinton won by ~2%. Hardly the Trump mandate that 290–228 (~24% difference) electoral college indicates.
About half of the electorate didn’t show up. 46.9% of those eligible to vote in what was billed as the most important election in our lifetime simply didn’t give a shit. Certainly both parties would claim that higher turnout would favor them, but widespread apathy means we’ll never know.
The Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court discarded is still needed. Voter suppression is despicable, but it seems to be pretty real. Simply reducing the number of polling places and staff caused unconscionably long lines. Newly imposed voter ID laws restricted turnout. Trump’s threats surely kept some minority voters home. (Not counting any of these in the rant in the previous paragraph.) As above, we’ll never know what the actual effect was, but voting is the basis of democracy and that right deserves protection.
Bigots and xenophobes are still a small minority. If the election was indeed about who we are as a country, the popular vote showed that less than 25% of those eligible voted for Trump. And many of those stated that they did so despite his repugnant remarks about immigrants, Muslims, and the handicapped, not in support of them. That said, that small minority of bigots is too many and is still dangerous, and made more so by the empowerment they think they got from Trump. Clearly that’s the biggest problem in all this, but let’s not make it bigger by letting bigots think the election showed them to be in the majority. They’re not.
No one really listened to the vanishing Midwest middle class, or the rural less educated poor. Trump legitimately kicked butt in rural counties, and those with lower incomes and fewer college degrees. Trump’s team understood the level of pain this group is feeling and appealed to it with comic book oversimplification and feigned empathy. No actual plans were necessary, so long as the diagnosis was consistent with how this group saw the problems: “immigrants and offshoring took our jobs.” (The truth is that while some large companies have off-shored manufacturing, automation is a much larger threat to manufacturing jobs. No laws or tariffs, and certainly not blowhard con men, are going to bring them back.) While he lost the popular vote, this approach was successful enough to win the electoral college and the election. Clinton’s actual solutions and plans just didn’t sound-bite as well to this group, leaving her open to being characterized as “more Obama, maybe incrementally better.” While that incremental progress message is fine for those of us privileged enough to have done well in the past 8 years, it doesn’t sound like fun for those who have lost manufacturing jobs, homes and more.
If you’re seeing much of your quality of life eroding, someone who claims they’ll save you will get your attention. A friend today passed along a metaphor she’d heard: Clinton approached these groups like a hospice doctor — your way of life is dying, but we’ll make you as comfortable as possible in the process. Trump approached the same group as a snake oil salesman — I’ve got your jobs and prosperity right here in this bottle. All you have to do is buy it.
The debates were a joke. The choice of moderators was unfortunate, but logic and reason were the big losers here. If you’re not going to enforce the ground rules of debating, not going to ask questions that really matter (are you kidding? Not a single question about climate change in 270 minutes of debate?), and not going to force either candidate to back up their claims, what are you doing at a moderator’s desk? Did it occur to any of them to simply shut off a candidate’s mic when their time is up? And “no, wait, this is important” is not grounds for extending a debater’s time.
Mainstream media failed us. This was probably inevitable for lots of reasons. Elections have been covered mostly like sports for a long time now. The eventual result of that phenomenon is that this time the sport was mud wrestling. When 95% of the coverage is about “character” and the latest low-blow insult, most people won’t or can’t pursue the 5% about what the candidates actually plan to accomplish and how they plan to get it done. It’s hard to place the blame solely on the media, though, when blaring and cllck-bait headlines are what drive ratings, circulation and page views.
James Comey. From exit polls reported in The Nation, a large portion of undeclared voters moved to the Trump column in the last few days leading up to the election. Polls of all types have lost a lot of credibility in this election. While the actual effect the letter had on voting may not be provable, it is clear that he violated FBI and DOJ policy and overruled sage advice. Even if none of that were true, he certainly dealt a severe blow to the agency’s reputation. And the irony of his inability to keep a secret involved whether Hillary kept secrets appropriately can’t be ignored. Don’t even get me started on Anthony Pecker, er, Weiner.
Protect the most vulnerable among us. This is pretty clearly our highest priority. Five days after the election there have already been reports of more than 200 incidents of racial violence and harassment perpetrated by those who said they were empowered and validated by Trump’s hate rhetoric. Some of that rhetoric may stop now that he’s been elected, but clearly the damage has been done. If love is to trump hate — and I believe it will — we need to take care of each other.
Start planning and working for 2018 and 2020. The bench is deep. Elizabeth, Cory, Kamala, Gavin, Keith Ellison for starters. And we’d better figure out how we’ll actually help the rust belt and rurals and present those solutions in simple terms. Universal basic income? Maybe. Hillary had a plan to have free community colleges work with local employers on retraining the displaced workforce on good paying new economy jobs. Anyone hear about that?
In the short term, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer will need our support and unity as they attempt to block the worst that the Republicans will try to do in the next couple of years.
Restoration of the Voting Rights Act needs to be on our agenda. It’ll be a long haul, but essential.
Work to resist fascism and bigotry any way you can. Some of us will march. Some will write op-eds and FB posts. Many of us will shift some of our charitable giving to favor organizations that will fight the inevitable legal battles. We’re starting with ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Center, but there are obviously many others in this category and all will need our support. I think it’s safe to say this was a helluva wake up call. If there’s good to come of it, overcoming previous complacency is probably the core of that benefit.
The Weimar Germany comparisons are apt, but those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat it. Let’s not let that be us.
Note that demographics are on our side. Voters in the 18–25 age group overwhelmingly voted for Clinton in this election. Millennials are already the largest market force. Soon they’ll be the largest voting demographic. The 2020 census will be an opportunity for redistricting. We just need to protect democracy long enough to give them the power. Encourage critical thinking, especially among millennials.
Start the process of eliminating the Electoral College. (It will be another long haul. It will require a constitutional amendment: has to pass by 2/3 of each house of Congress, then ratification by 75% of the states.) It doesn’t offer the protections for which it was designed, and really, a system designed to protect slavery isn’t worthy of our support.
What We Can’t Do
Move to Canada, Have the West Coast and Northeast secede or anything else that leaves our fellow, less privileged citizens hanging in the wind (hopefully not literally). ‘We’re more alike than unalike’ and ‘We’re Stronger Together’ were never more important. Someone will need to actually make America great again after Trump & company does their worst to screw it up. Peace.