Scattered thoughts one week after the nightmare
Even the president of the United States sometimes must have to stand naked
Many have talked about the pendulum swinging, as if following its natural course, left, right, left and back again. I fear this was the pendulum breaking. Trump broke every rule and lied every lie on his way to the White House. He owes nothing to anyone. And he has a Republican House and Senate. There’s no sugar coating it. This is bad.
But it’s not hopeless. In the past week I have spoken to scores of formidable activists who are absolutely committed to fighting Trumpism at the federal, state and local level. Trump may have the nuclear codes in his back pocket, but powerful forces for good are arraying against him in heavy numbers. I plan to join them, doing what is within my power on the local level. “Think global, act local.” These words have never been wiser. Do not despair in the macro ramifications of Trump’s election. Instead embrace the challenge of effecting positive change in your own neighborhood. If enough people in enough neighborhoods adopt this mindset and take action, then our nation will be better off four years from now than today despite Trump’s presidency.
I’m still figuring out how I feel about Hillary. Kate McKinnon’s rendition of “Hallelujah” in character on SNL had me choking back tears, and yet I struggle to see the real Hillary as a martyr. She didn’t steal the nomination from Bernie, but she did reap the benefits of a DNC establishment that wanted her to win and didn’t take any alternatives all that seriously despite clear signs that the electorate was demanding an outsider candidate. And then she played it safe. While Trump vomited his deranged vision of America, complete with promises of a yuge wall and immigrant roundups and “the best deals” for his working-class supporters, Hillary put out white papers and played defense thinking she had the lead. In real sports, the team that does that ALWAYS loses. I can’t help but blame Hillary for embracing that strategy.
One major takeaway from this election cycle: The point of the primaries is to discover the candidate who has a true connection with the people. Trump had it. Bernie had it. Hillary didn’t. For that reason alone she should not have been the Democratic nominee. Not because she wouldn’t have been a good president — I think she would have been a great president. But you cannot win the presidency if you don’t have passionate supporters, and Hillary didn’t. I knocked on hundreds of doors and made countless calls on her behalf and I never spoke to one person who lit up talking about her. Not one. Even still, Hillary came close to winning. In fact, she won the popular vote. But that is not a testament to the passion of her supporters. It’s a testament to the intensity of Trump’s critics. As it turns out, Hillary’s slogan was right: Love does trump hate, and Trump’s supporters’ love trumped his detractors’ hate.
I’ve never felt worse than I did a week ago. I spent the 24 hours following Trump’s win choking back tears to spare my 18-month-old son the oppressive atmosphere of my sadness. I know he felt it anyway. When I was supposed to be feeding him, he grabbed a sliver of clementine and put it to my lips. He’d never fed me before. Now I see that children nourish their parents as much as the other way around, if not more. I’ve spent a lot of this past week trying to figure out why I felt that way, why the pain was so raw. Now I think I know. Trump’s win seemed to signal worse days ahead, scary days, dangerous days. Parents want nothing more than to give their children a brighter, safer, more hopeful future. Trump’s election promised the opposite, and there was nothing I could do about it, it seemed. So I wept.
I’m still distraught. But I’m less demoralized every day and certainly not defeated. Elections have consequences, and Trump’s candidacy will be no exception. I am clear-eyed about the danger he poses as he welcomes white supremacists and know-nothings into his administration. I fear for my own family, and I can only imagine the anxiety that black, brown and LGBTQ people, immigrants, Muslims and of course the women who voted against Trump are feeling right now. But I also see an inspiring groundswell of intensity on the left, a profound desire to play a meaningful role in the ever ongoing battle for social justice, fairness and democracy. This is the kind of force that bends the long arc toward justice. This is the kind of force that can turn the nightmare of a week ago into the hope of today and the dream of tomorrow. It’s time to wake up. It’s time to fight. We are stronger together, and together we will — now — make America great again.
A couple of days before the election I wrote this: “One image has haunted me since a Donald Trump presidency became a real possibility. It is the image of Barrack Obama, standing on the Inauguration stage opposite Donald Trump, a man who questioned Obama’s citizenship, his legitimacy, his very identity, and having to marshall the poise and grace to hand that man the presidency of the United States of America. We can’t let that happen. Obama deserves better, and so do we.” Alas, we let that happen. But the image no longer haunts me. Donald Trump is a small man who, even as President of the United States, lacks the power to strip Barack Hussein Obama of a single molecule of his towering dignity. Trump will attempt to erase Obama from history. He will fail. Obama will be remembered centuries hence. Trump will be forgotten, or remembered in infamy. “Even the president of the United States sometimes must have to stand naked.” Trump, the emperor with no clothes, is about to learn this. We are going to teach it to him. And he is not going to like it. Hallelujah.