We the Losers
It’s on us to fix this.
Here we go. We all get to live through one of those eras that you read about in history books and think, “Man, I’m glad I wasn’t around for that.” Sometimes living through history really sucks.
Remember November 6th? Everything seemed so golden then, so promising: Obama was about to ride off into the sunset, his legacy secure in the hands of the first woman president, who had surmounted countless obstacles on her 30-year journey to get there. So if, on that date, I had read the opening sentence of Ralph Benko’s piece in Forbes, I might well have spit out my pumpkin spice half-caff skinny soy latte in disbelief:
This week over 60 million Americans likely will vote for Clinton and another over 60 million for Trump.
Whoa, hold up: 60 million votes for Trump? No way. No fucking way, I would’ve insisted, confident that there could not be that many stupid, racist, gullible idiots in this country.
Maybe I should’ve read a bit further:
The way to get America back on track is for us to listen to one another irrespective of the outcome. What happens after election day is up to us, much more so than it is up to whomever we elect. We voters are ultimately in charge of the political culture. We can, if we choose, readily put that culture to rights and America back on track. Will we so choose?
Time for hard truth: we would have needed to do the hard work of societal rebuilding even if Clinton had won. The other side sure as hell isn’t going to reach out to us. And believe me, I am as tired as you are of pollyanna shitheads spouting off about “unity” and “healing.” But two of them are Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. We look to them for leadership because we trust them, and trust in them.
Are we going to listen to them now?
In her beautiful concession speech, Clinton acknowledged that “America is more divided than we thought,” but urged her supporters to “keep fighting — America is worth it.”
The Reconstruction Era was also one of those shit times everyone’s glad they missed. Tl;dr — between 1863–1877, Congress passed a series of measures intended to rebuild southern states and society, sending Federal troops to enforce the new order. The south, of course, saw this as colonization by an occupying force. Gone With the Wind, presents a highly romanticized version of Reconstruction, in which the reader is clearly meant to identify with the poor noble southerners oppressed by the evil Yankees and uppity negroes.
During this period, more than 1500 blacks held positions of leadership in Congress and the Senate, as well as state and local offices. This, along with the disenfranchisement of approximately 10,000–15,000 former Confederate military and civil leaders, drove white southern men insane with rage...a rage that manifested itself after President Rutherford B. Hayes won the election of 1876 by one electoral vote (ouch!). He yanked the plug on Reconstruction, and right away shit got real: all blacks officials were voted out, violently overthrown or even killed, Jim Crow took hold, and the white man was at last restored to his rightful place at the top.
This seems to be the framework through which many-though-by-no-means-all Trump voters have viewed the Obama administration: when a black man is “on top,” it stands to reason that whitey’s gotta be on the bottom. They saw everything he did through a (perhaps invisible) filter of “not knowing his place,” and it was scarily familiar to them. That collective cultural pain is still seething barely below the surface, expressing itself in some ugly ways.
Never mind that Obama has never taken away any of their rights, or their guns; he was Hitler from day one, to be resisted at every turn, and they have been freed at last from his tyrannical reign of diversity, tolerance, and affordable healthcare.
The other 63 million of us are feeling a bit end-of-Reconstruction-y ourselves right now. Fortunately, we have a lot more laws, institions and societal norms in place than we did in 1877; priority number one must be guarding them vigilantly and assertively. We have no intention of rolling over for the new regime of pussygrabbing disability-mocking fraud-settling white male supremacy that seems to be coalescing. We do not compromise on whether everyone deserves equal protections under the law. We do not “meet halfway” on allowing guns to fall so easily into the hands of domestic abusers, criminals, or people who pose a danger to themselves and others. We do not accept this climate of misogyny, xenophobia and fear as the “new normal.”
Priority number two is to find the half of Trump voters who are not deplorable, talk to them and listen. They’re out there somewhere.
Here’s one thing I learned when I started canvassing: your time and energy are precious resources. Don’t waste them arguing with people who aren’t initially receptive to your message. If someone makes it clear that your cause and/or candidate can go fuck themselves, you don’t spend 45 minutes trying to change their mind. You thank them politely and go knock on the next door.
Or, put another way:
That third group (and possibly the second) are the ones we focus on: the people who don’t really like Trump, but voted for him as a big “fuck you” to a sociopolitical power structure they see as oppressive. We don’t waste our time extending the olive branch to people with Confederate flag and/or swastika avatars.
Kalidi also tweeted that “The goal for the next 4 years is to be louder, gayer, prouder and more visible than ever before.” We will not yield an inch in our commitment to progressive principles and policies. We will live them.
We also are not going to disenfranchise rural America by eliminating the Electoral College. Like the Second Amendment, definitely merits some close scrutiny and a 21st century update. But there it is, and it’s there for a reason: to give the less populous areas an equal voice. That voice just said “Hey, let’s burn everything down just to show those fancy-schmancy elitist motherfuckers.” But Trump voters are going to suffer under his incompetence and ruthlessness, along with the rest of us.
We lost. So we will turn to self-reflection and good works, find a way to make the nation better and keep moving in the direction of progress. In this one sense only, it might be better that the loss is on our side.
The other side would’ve just bought more fucking guns.