Frequently asked questions about the election no one has actually asked me, yet
Is it okay to cry?
Really? I’m not being too emotional?
No, really. Go ahead and cry. This is a fucked-up thing, and it would be weirder if you weren’t upset.
Who would’ve imagined this would happen here?
Well, black people. Indigenous people. Undocumented immigrants. Anybody who knows about the Three-Fifths Compromise, the one drop rule, who has read Howard Zinn, who knows that Jim Crow flew in on the heels of Reconstruction, who has heard of Emmett Till, or Rodney King, or Vincent Chin. Anyone who has paid attention to Black Lives Matter. Michael goddamn Moore.
Ijeoma Oluo is smarter and more eloquent than me: America isn’t magically more terrible on November 9th than it was on November 8th. This violent hatred has always been here. We just haven’t been willing to see it.
Okay, fine, America is racist, I get it. But…the polls?
Lots of people who voted for Trump were ashamed of their affiliation and lied to pollsters. Alt-right forums on Reddit and elsewhere strategically disguised their Trump support so that their threat would be underestimated. Non-response bias is a huge problem in polls. And honestly, even when people were open about voting for Trump, progressives are just not very good at calling their friends and family out.
So what happens now?
On a day-to-day level, every racist uncle you avoid at Thanksgiving, every NIMBY neighbour on NextDoor freaking out about urban youth, every Blue-Lives-Matter apologist, every douchey fratboy feeding underage girls jello shots, every homophobic evangelical who hates the sin and the sinner, every smarmy analyst who tells his female coworkers to get him coffee, every flight attendant who throws people with brown skin off a flight for making fellow passengers feel unsafe by sitting still — they will all feel validated in their bigotry, empowered to act on it. The person in the highest office of the land believes all of the things that they believe and worse, and has proven that this behaviour and hatred will not impede your progress in any way. This is called normalization.
On a national level, you’re likely to see erosions of civil liberties on basically every single front. Forget any hope of a rational climate change policy. Forget freedom of the press and freedom of assembly. Forget gun control. Forget marriage equality or anti-discrimination. Forget Roe v. Wade — consider yourself lucky if you’re not thrown in jail for a miscarriage. Forget trans rights. Forget affordable health care. Forget coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. Heck, forget Medicare. Forget truly public infrastructure spending. Forget immigration reform (I’m not even going to bother linking this one).
These do not have to be formally enacted for them to become implicit policies. A lot of people are going to get hurt, and a lot of people are going to die.
Really? Three days after the election and the number of hate crimes committed in Trump’s name has skyrocketed. Pride flags are being set on fire while hanging on people’s homes. It’s not just in the south: this stuff is happening in Washington, in New York, in Napa Valley, California. School-aged children are bullying their non-white, non-straight peers. LGBTQ suicide hotlines have been overwhelmed with calls and cannot keep up with the traffic. The list of hate just goes on and on and on.
Trump was just saying that stuff for attention. He doesn’t actually believe in those terrible things.
You know who else we thought was just pretending to be anti-semitic?
He’s an entertainer. He’s not actually going to do anything he promised.
I mean…you’re probably right. When he courted people for Vice President, he promised them they could have control of both domestic and foreign affairs. He doesn’t actually want to do the work. He didn’t have a transition team or anything — no one thought he would win — and he’d been looking forward to starting a television studio Wednesday morning. Trump himself probably isn’t too pleased about all this.
So let’s take a look at his impromptu transition team and potential cabinet instead.
Mike Pence, governor of Indiana and Vice President-elect, advocated for conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth, does not believe in evolution, signed one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, blocked the resettlement of Syrian refugees in his state and illegally tried to cut off funds to existing refugees…
Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey and chairman of the transition team (warning: Fox News), allowed staff to shut down a New Jersey bridge for petty political revenge, wants to expand the surveillance state, wants to bring back waterboarding…
Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House and being considered for Secretary of State, thinks that government ought to be explicitly religious, thinks that visiting an ISIS or Al Qaeda website (whatever that means) should be a jailable felony, is proposing a reinstatement of the Un-American Activities Committees that led to Japanese Internment Camps…
Peter Thiel, venture capitalist billionaire and part of the transition team, backs massive lawsuits against media outlets he doesn’t like, believes giving women the vote was a blow against democracy, wants to establish sovereign nations on ocean-liners for the sole purpose of not having to follow laws…
Ben Carson, former Republican candidate being considered for secretary of education, says giving Germans guns would’ve stopped the Holocaust, that the pyramids were built by the biblical figure Joseph to store grain, admitted to trying to kill a close relative he was 14, thinks that Obamacare is the worst thing since slavery and worse than 9/11…
Myron Ebell, leader of the Environmental Protection Agency transition team, is a top climate change denialist, thinks the Paris climate treaty and plans for restricting greenhouse gases are unconstitutional…
Steve Bannon, Trump campaign chief being considered for Chief of Staff, runs the right-wing conspiracy site Breitbart (for people who think Fox News is too tame), faced domestic violence charges, would only marry his wife if their daughters turned out to be “normal”…
Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state and part of the transition team, is one of the most racist politicians in America with many ties to white nationalists, multiply cited by SPLC for voter suppression and working with hate groups, and happens to be the asshole who wrote Arizona’s S.B. 1070 that allows police to stop anyone on the street and ask “Papers, Please”…
Sarah Palin, former Alaskan governor and Republican VP candidate being considered for interior secretary, sees Russia from her house, and…look, do I really have to explain Sarah Palin to you?
Ugh, why can’t you just suck it up? The people have spoken.
Actually, at the time of this writing, 47.4% of voters have spoken for Donald Trump, compared to 47.7% of voters who prefer Hillary. 43% of the eligible voting population (which is about 72% of the entire population of the United States) has not spoken at all, which means about 19% of America (26% of the voting population) actually voted for Donald Trump. By the time all the ballots are in, experts are estimating that Hillary will have won the popular vote by about 2 million votes and 1.5% — which is a wider margin than Nixon, Gore, or Kennedy.
Even winning the popular vote, Hillary lost three key states: Pennsylvania by 68,000 votes, Wisconsin by 27,000 votes, and Michigan by 12,000 votes. This adds up to about 107,000 votes, which as my friend Tom Blunt eloquently points out on Facebook, is about how many people died from the AIDS epidemic in New York City alone, a figure greatly exacerbated by President Reagan’s steadfast silence on the need for action. Hardly a mandate.
This margin means even less when you consider the widespread voter suppression that has been in effect since 2012. Southern states have closed down at least 868 polling stations for 2016, many in majority non-white counties. Early voting has been significantly cut down because democrats are over-indexed among early voters. The North Carolina GOP is openly bragging about disenfranchising black voters. Tens of thousands of names have been illegally purged from voting rolls. And draconian voter ID laws means many hundreds of thousands of people could not get a valid ID in order to do so — despite days of effort and thousands of dollars of expenses. The 2013 gutting of the Voting Rights Act in the Supreme Court made this possible.
Something something Electoral College.
The electoral college was conceived in part by the founders to protect the union from the “ignorance of the masses”, sure. But most people don’t know that the founders enshrined electoral voters in order to give white plantation owners in the south the right to use their black slaves (who had no other rights) to boost their representation and thus outvote the north. It is inherently a racist institution.
Furthermore, the electoral college system vastly under-represents urban dense areas — which tend to be liberal. For example: Wyoming gets 3 electoral college votes for 584,000 people. That’s 1 vote for every 195,000 people. California has 38.8 million people and 55 votes: 1 for every 705,000 people. New York State has 19.75 million people and 29 votes, which clocks in at 1 vote for every 681,000 people. (To be fair, Texas has 38 votes for 26.96 million people, which is a smidge worse than California at 1 per 709,000 people. I’m saying, the system sucks.)
Now you know how people felt about Obama. You’ll survive.
I don’t recall Obama making any threats in his campaign to bodily harm people. I don’t recall us having to post suicide hotlines for white people after he got elected. I don’t recall white people having their visors yanked off of their heads and beaten with squash rackets because this was no longer their country. I don’t recall people setting fire to country clubs and spraying “go home to Europe, Becky” on Cracker Barrel windows.
Paying higher taxes is not the same thing as someone being evicted from the country in which they were born, as having health care taken away from them, as being attacked for the colour of your skin and who you love.
The problem with saying “we survived [insert terrible person here], we’ll survive this” is that lots of people didn’t survive. Hundreds of thousands of people died in the AIDS epidemic. Hundreds of thousands of people died because of the Vietnam War. We and our middle-class liberal enclave may survive, but many won’t. Do not dismiss people’s real and valid concerns.
Look, if in four years’ time this turns out to have been horrible hyperbole, I will be so elated I will gladly print out this essay and eat it. (In like, 2pt font tho.)
Aren’t you being intolerant of people who voted for Trump? Maybe YOU’RE the real bigot.
We are trying to have a society here, okay? And part of having a society involves deciding what behaviour we’re not okay with. We’re not okay with murder (except where it’s state-sanctioned). We’re not okay with rape (except by prominent athletes and popular entertainers). We’re not okay with theft (except white collar…oh forget it).
I can be tolerant of opinions like “cargo pants are not just for paramilitary fetishists” and “candy corn is not molten garbage”. I cannot be tolerant of opinions like “only some people deserve the right to eat, have shelter, live without harassment, access health care, marry the people they love”.
Concentration camp survivor, Franz Frison, in 1988: “If fascism could be defeated in debate, I assure you that it would never have happened, neither in Germany, nor in Italy, nor anywhere else…regrettably too many ‘fair-minded people’ didn’t either try, or want to stop it, and…accommodated themselves with it when it took over”.
Okay, but this was really about class, not race. Disaffected working class Americans have it tough and they just want someone who will give them jobs! People didn’t vote because Trump was racist/sexist/bigoted, they voted in spite of it.
You’re right, the KKK plans lots of victory rallies for economically disenfranchised non-racist people.
Okay, I’m being snarky, sorry.
I don’t think we can deny that some of the people who supported Trump were out-and-out racist/sexist/whatever. They are proud of it. They are the ones sending lynching imagery to black university students. They are the ones threatening to rape women who do not step in line. This is a baseline assumption that we can’t get away from.
I also think it’s true that a lot of people who supported Trump do not think of themselves as racist/sexist. They are people who “like their black neighbour” or have a gay kid, and they would never mistreat those people. But they were scared.
I totally understand that the erosion of the middle class and loss of working class jobs is a huge problem. I understand that the Midwest and the Rust Belt felt ignored and slighted by the coastal media elites. I get that people thought of Hillary as an establishment candidate, and they really honestly just wanted change. I even commiserate, to a certain extent, with people who feel like the world is changing too quickly, and there are too many people who look like me in their world now. Change is scary, and the world is harsh, and this man said he would make things stop, and you listened.
Hillary is just as —
Okay, no. We can’t go down this lane. If you genuinely believe that Hillary would have damaged the country as much as Trump will, let’s grab a coffee and talk about it offline. I want to understand where you’re coming from, and I want you to understand where I’m coming from.
So, look. Political choices do not exist in vacuums. Maybe wages don’t go as far as they used to. Your house isn’t worth as much anymore. Maybe you’re on welfare, and you struggle to make ends meet. And you are faced with two presidential candidates, one of whom you don’t think is trustworthy for whatever reason, and another who promises he will make your life better again…but he wants to deport Muslims and Mexicans, and says all sorts of nasty things about women and gay people and disabled people that you try to ignore.
And you vote for the second guy, because in the end he did promise he would make your life okay, even if you had to hold your nose to do so. But realize that in making that choice, you have decided that your existential anxiety over your economic situation and place in the world is more important than the lives of people who will be deported, the people who won’t get health care, the people who will be assaulted and killed. You may not hate black people, but their lives are worth less than your comfort and safety. You may not hate women, but their right to control their own bodies is worth less than your comfort and safety.
This could feel like a perfectly rational choice to you. You are maximizing your self-interest, after all, and protecting what’s yours. Fine. But admit that this is a self interest. Everything that Trump stands for that’s toxic — the white supremacy, the misogyny, the homophobia — all of those things simply didn’t matter as much to you.
People warned you this would happen. Trump’s rallies have been featuring attacks against minorities and violent rhetoric and targets with Hillary’s face painted on them for months and months and months. He himself has called for armed revolt. If you have been following the election at all, you cannot pretend that you didn’t know that violence would follow in his wake.
It’s what John Scalzi calls the Cinemax theory of racism. If you endorse something that happens to be racist, it doesn’t matter why you endorsed it, you still endorsed the racist thing. You voted for the guy that says racist things, and he won, and now a lot more racist things are happening. Whether or not your own intentions are pure as snow, you are complicit.
I’m a white person who didn’t vote for him, stop looking at me.
I have long loved this essay, I Don’t Know What To do With Good White People.
Over the past two weeks, I’ve seen good white people congratulate themselves for deleting racist friends or debating family members or performing small acts of kindness to Black people. Sometimes I think I’d prefer racist trolling to this grade of self-aggrandizement. A racist troll is easy to dismiss. He does not think decency is enough. Sometimes I think good white people expect to be rewarded for their decency. We are not like those other white people. See how enlightened and aware we are? See how we are good?
The conversations about complicity in white supremacy through privilege are too big for this post. But just because someone didn’t vote for a racist asshat, does not mean their work is now done. Roll up your sleeves and join us.
And if you don’t want to listen to me or Jezebel, listen to Martin Luther King:
I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.”
Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
Mexicans and Black people voted for him too!
There are misogynist women and race-traitors and homophobic gay people. That does not make it okay for anyone else to be a misogynist, racist, or bigot.
Shouldn’t you respect the office?
Sure, the office. Not the man, though. We respect the office too much to let it be occupied by someone so totally devoid of ethics and qualifications without putting up a gigantic fuss. #nastywomengetshitdone
Trump is getting a chance: he got elected. He had plenty chances to denounce white supremacists, to condemn the KKK, to reform his misogynist and racist and homophobic and bigoted ways. He had the chance to defend the charge of housing discrimination against black people in court (and settled). He will have the chance to defend himself against allegations of child rape.
He’s had plenty of chances. He doesn’t need to be coddled further.
But what good is protesting? The country should just heaaaaal.
Are you telling the people spray-painting swastikas and setting fire to pride flags and ripping hijabs off women’s heads to heal? Because it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to tell the person with the jackboot on their neck that they have to play nice with the thug.
It’s really important right now that we not normalize how hateful this man is. Protesting isn’t just about enacting change, though it is absolutely about that. It’s a core part of American democracy, how the country started, how every meaningful civil rights progress was achieved. And it’s also for showing the most marginalized that we stand with them, that we are not abandoning them to this hate.
There are deep divisions in this country, but you cannot expect only the oppressed and the victimized to pay the cost for healing this divide. Middle America feels confused by the changes in the world? They can reach out of their bubble, too.
But undocumented immigrants are not citizens and they should just go back to their own country.
In what goddamn moral universe is it okay to say that people who happen to be born in one part of the planet with an arbitrary line drawn around it deserve more rights and freedoms than people born outside of that?
Why do you care? You’re Canadian.
Did you not read what I literally just said? Rights don’t stop at national borders. And nor do ideas. Remember how Harper followed Bush? Remember how Reaganomics and Thatcherite policies propagated across the Western world? Do you really think Canada’s biggest trading partner and closest cultural neighbour turning into an authoritarian theocracy won’t have any impact on our policies?
One of the top contenders for leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada, Kellie Leitch, is more than happy to welcome Trump’s ideas to Canada. Even this past election, which heralded our Boy-Band-In-Chief Justin Trudeau, featured the CPC fanning the flames of xenophobia by encouraging McCarthyesque mutual surveillance of “barbaric cultural practices”.
But I thought Canada didn’t have a racism problem.
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA — oh you’re serious.
The story of Canada’s complacency about our own social issues because we’re “not as bad as the US” is a whole other 5,000-word FAuQ (this is what I’m calling faux-FAQs like these and you can’t stop me). But start here, with the Missing and Murdered project from the CBC about indigenous women. We’re not your cuddly polite maple-syrup swigging neighbour to the north. There’s a lot of darkness in our own history we are not confronting.
Why are YOU worried, I thought Chinese people were the good kind of immigrant?
The model minority is a myth whose main purpose is to make sure people of colour fight among themselves for runner-up rather than work together towards dismantling the white supremacist system. Keeping our head down and being hard workers didn’t protect us from WWII Japanese Internment Camps. Chinese people were explicitly forbidden from becoming American citizens until 1943. Chinese people faced exclusionary head taxes in Canada after dying in the thousands building the Canadian rail-road until as late as 1923. You just have to look at Vancouver attitudes towards perceived Chinese real estate investors to know that no one is immune from white supremacy.
This is the fault of Hillary / the Democratic Party / Bernie Bros / Jill Stein / Gary Johnson / Chemtrails / the Illuminati.
Really? Fifty-nine million people in a country cast a vote for a bigot who has openly bragged about assaulting women, declared all-out war on 2.2 billion people in the world, promised to strip health care from 20 million citizens, wants to destroy all clean energy regulations, is already removing even the pitiful protections passed on Wall Street after 2008, and you’re going to blame literally everyone who did not vote for him?
Is Hillary a perfect progressive candidate? No. Did the Dems run an uninspiring campaign? Sure, I guess. Is the two-party system broken? Absolutely. The Dems need a better ground game, and they need better down-ticket strategy, and they need to stop being such cowards about giving in to GOP demands in the name of “collaboration”, and they need to stop pandering to the center-left and focus on the core socialist policies that their base believes in. All of these things can be true, and this is work that we can do, without Monday Morning Quarterbacking about which political strategy would’ve prevented this from happening.
It happened, and we can and should look for reasons that would’ve contributed to it, but none of us actually know if a different decision months, years, decades previously would’ve prevented this outcome. Call me Pollyanna, but I don’t think this is the time for the Left to eat its own navel gazing at it. (Bad metaphor? Bad metaphor.)
This is a lot. I need a break.
Here, have some sassy Joe Biden memes.
Okay, say I believe you. What do I do?
Those are a lot of links.
Yes they are. Here are the key points to keep in mind:
Donate. Here’s a list of orgs who are doing good work. Good standbys include the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and SPLC. Here’s my personal list. Set up monthly recurring donations so you don’t have to think about it — for the price of a latté you could help fight the erosion of civil liberties.
Take care of yourself. You can’t fight if you are not okay. If you are a member of a marginalized community, if you are likely to lose health care, if you require birth control, if you are in any way at risk: here’s a crowd-sourced document with suggestions and resources for what you can do before Trump’s inauguration in January to shore up your legal rights and access to travel/services. There are lawyers offering pro-bono services to help members of the Transgender community get travel documents, or to help children of immigrants attain status:
Remember that burnout is real — here are some digital mental health resources for when it all gets to be too much.
Get engaged in local politics. Municipal elections are where you’re likely to have the most impact. You can influence what policies or protections are enacted in your city or town much better than you can influence what laws get passed in Washington/Ottawa. For fellow Canadians, this is where I’m starting. Americans, call your congressional representatives (here are some strategies for how to approach your plea). Here’s a site that tracks legislation going through Congress, and there’s an app for participating in local elections. Don’t forget to vote in the 2018 midterms. 1/3 of the Senate and all of the House of Representatives are up for grabs. Get out and vote your heart out.
Talk to your people. Many of the people who voted for Donald Trump are people who have no interest in hearing from people like me. Many will not admit to minorities that they even voted for Trump. If you have the privilege to occupy these spaces — if you are white, or straight, or male — you have a much better opportunity to talk to your fellow countryfolk than I do.
I want to talk to other people about it, but this post is way too fucking long and you’re so angry.
You’re probably right, hypothetical person in a performative essay I am writing for the sake of catharsis. Here, try these:
Why We’re Afraid is a Tumblr collecting instances of hate crime and harassment in Trump’s name.
A Letter To My Brown Son About Trump’s America is a heartbreaking column from a journalist about having to teach her loving son that America hates him.
Why We Grieve Today is a good perspective on why this is not just politics as usual, why people are really viscerally upset about it.
How to Build an Exit Ramp for Trump Supporters is from before the election, but makes some good points regarding bridging divides and not writing everyone off.
I have some skills. How can I use those?
If you’re an educator, collect public education resources before the agencies are shut down. If you are a librarian, band together with your fellow librarians to create safe spaces and educate people (more from radical librarian rabble-rouser extraordinaire Jessamyn West here).
If you’re an artist, make good art. We need political art now more than ever.
If you’re a technologist, get involved with protecting user privacy and digital safety. The surveillance powers granted to the United States government are immense, and the new president-elect has shown himself utterly devoid of morals when it comes to abusing power for petty personal gain. Educate people about information security. Here’s a harm reduction guide for beefing up your web security, another one for self-defense from the surveillance state, and a third one from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Also, go harass Facebook about their shameful algorithmic newsfeed.
How does Facebook have anything to do with it?
Many of us get our news from social media, specifically Facebook, which is incredibly easy to manipulate to generate virality for fake news, which has dire implications for voter perspectives. Facebook recently fired its human news editors to be replaced by algorithms, which makes both the newsfeed and its trending selection even more susceptible for viral misinformation.
Also, we have seen that Facebook is an entirely different experience depending on your political perspective. The algorithms that purport to show you your friends’ posts is actually making very specific selections based on what it thinks you will like. These filter bubbles are dangerous at a time of deep division, and we must make it easier for people with different views to at least hear each other. (Facebook finally disabled some settings that would allow advertisers to exclude racial groups when advertising services like jobs or housing, but this is by no means sufficient.)
This has larger implications about the use of so-called “neutral” algorithms to make human decisions, and is part of a wider conversation in the tech industry about machine learning and implicit biases. If you’re a technologist, this is an important area to educate yourself in because we need more moral voices in the conversation. Here’s a good book to start with.
*mom voice* Aren’t you being too brazen here? What if the government or someone else comes after you?
Fascism is fascism, and it will not care that you did not criticize it when it comes for you. If we don’t resist now, when?
That said, there are still things you should do to protect yourself. Secure your digital shit. If you are protesting, know your rights. Have phone numbers for lawyers and civil rights associations somewhere you can access that’s not your phone — many suggest writing it on your arm. Consider leaving public statements somewhere where your identity is verifiable that you are heading off to a protest with sound mind and body and would never consider killing yourself.
(Think I’m joking? Look at what happened to Sandra Bland)
If you are an undocumented immigrant, be very careful how you interact with law enforcement.
I have to admit, this seems kinda hopeless.
All hope is not lost. Above all, remember that you are not alone.
California legislators have pledged to lead the resistance against Donald Trump in defending human rights. The mayor of Seattle has promised to continue being a sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants even if it means losing millions of federal funding. Nevada Senator and senior majority leader Harry Reid has zero time for Trump’s bullshit. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has got your back. And even international leaders, like Angela Merkel, have released very firm statements about their intolerance for bigotry.
(Psst, Justin, shove it with your peace and cooperation BS.)
Thousands of people are wearing safety pins to indicate their solidarity with and willingness to protect marginalized people facing violence. Seattle Starbucks locations are joining programs to offer safe havens to LGBTQ people from hate crimes.
There were gains made even in this election. Individual states voted to increase minimum wage, enact gun control, legalize marijuana. The number of women of colour in the Senate just quadrupled. Tammy Duckworth (who happens to be a decorated veteran) became the first ever Asian-American Woman in the Senate. We also saw the election of the first ever Somali-American legislator Ilhan Omar (who was a former refugee) into a Minnesota House District seat. The times, they are a-changin’.
And anyway, what is the alternative to having hope? Giving up? Are we going to just lie down and pretend it’s not happening? We do the work, we resist, and we fight. That’s all there is to it. That’s all we can do.
Take care of yourself. Take care of your loved ones. And, if nothing else, stay alive out of spite.