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“It was miraculous. It was almost no trick at all, he saw, to turn vice into virtue and slander into truth, impotence into abstinence, arrogance into humility, plunder into philanthropy, thievery into honor, blasphemy into wisdom, brutality into patriotism, and sadism into justice. Anybody could do it; it required no brains at all. It merely required no character.” — Joseph Heller, Catch-22
It's been a week now and my heart still hurts from this election. I don't think I'm the only one going through something like a grieving process. This election does more than just set our country back, it does so at a critical time in world history. On the issue of global warming in particular, if Trump follows through on his promises our planet may very well be doomed. Obama's legacy merely being wiped out seems like almost a best case scenario.
The polls were clearly off this year, which I think affected the campaign coverage in important ways. Everyone thought Trump would lose and Hillary would win and more political gridlock would follow, so it seemed ok to spend endless amounts of time on a bogus email story, and virtual no time at all on the policy positions of either candidate. I think if we had seen polls showing Trump ahead in the last week the media would have made more effort to convey what the consequences of his election would be. Now we'll just have to find out the hard way.
It's such a shame too, because I think Hillary would have made a damn fine president. When this election season started the two people who seemed to me obviously most qualified for the office were Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. Joe didn't run and Obama, whose instincts I trust, clearly seemed to prefer Hillary anyway. Since the 2008 primary I'd grown to appreciate her worldview that while progress was inevitably slow and halting, with determination small gains could be eked out, even despite relentless opposition from Republicans, and that over time those gains could add up to something bigger. If I wasn't super excited about her candidacy I at least appreciated her pragmatism and her grit.
But over the last several months that straight-forward, practical decision became something more personal for me. The more I listened to her speak and saw her act/react in real time to a dramatic roller-coaster campaign I began to develop a real admiration for her. She was out there fighting the good fight on behalf of everyone hoping for a fairer, prosperous society with opportunity for all. It became increasingly clear that the knocks against her were entirely unfair and, frankly, rooted in sexism. (If nothing else this campaign has opened my eyes to how pervasive sexism really is... HRC was held to an altogether different standard than any other candidate in this race, on either side of the aisle.) And yet she never let it get her down, but just continued to soldier on with determination and optimism. She really was the "happy warrior" out there on the trail, even when the campaign was getting the rest of us down. So, while I primarily grieve for this country and the planet, there's a place in my heart for Hillary too. I know she's got to feel like she let everybody down... I feel like the opposite may be more true.
As Ruth Graham said, writing for Slate:
The shattering of one woman’s career aspirations are no tragedy compared with the globally catastrophic effects of a Trump presidency or even just the awful knowledge that half of the American people are on his side. But I can’t help thinking right now about Hillary Clinton as a person, rather than a symbol. She’s a woman who stayed so strong for so many years, but who is, after all, only human. And she’s a woman who many of us have grown to love.
When I went to volunteer to knock on doors for Hillary during our training we were told that if we ran into any Trump supporters we should also tell them where to vote and encourage them to do so. No shenanigans. The guy training us said "Remember, everything you do reflects on the campaign and the Democratic Party. This is Star Wars, ok? And we're on the side of Luke Skywalker, so we need to live up to that standard." It was kind of a silly statement, but it made me feel proud to be one of the good guys.
There are so many things that could have gone differently that would have changed the election's outcome. I'm sure there must have been some celebrations at the FBI as their attempt to damper Clinton's support by reintroducing the email issue into the voters' minds right before going to the polls clearly worked. Comey may have been bending to pressure from within his organization rather acting on his own motivation, but that doesn't make his actions any less heinous. As leader of the FBI he should value our democracy over any one election, but his actions did not reflect that. He is a disgrace to his office and himself.
The role of Facebook also needs to be considered, which has for many become their only source of news, in allowing people to share completely bogus "news" stories of who the Clintons murdered, how the Pope endorsed Trump, etc., allowed for an alternate reality to be established among large swaths of the population. We thought Fox News was bad, but while they barely mention facts that don't fit with their worldview and twist inconsequential information into huge stories, there's generally at least some connection to reality. Fake online news stories shared on Facebook fly under the radar and so can make completely ludicrous claims and go completely unchallenged. Zuckerberg doesn't want to take any responsibility in checking news stories for factual accuracy... apparently they devised a system for doing so earlier this year but once they realized it would disproportionately affect conservative content (what a surprise!) decided to shelve it out of fear of a conservative backlash. I hope he will reconsider. (Looks like Google is at least making some policy changes... and some employees at Facebook are going rogue, which is heartening.)
But despite all of that let's not forget that Hillary won more votes, and only lost because of the actual "rigged system" that is our electoral college, which, just like our system of assigning Congressmen and Senators, values the votes of people who live in cities significantly less than those from rural areas. This is self-evidently anti-democratic. A person is a person and all our voices should carry equal weight. We can take cold comfort that the Democratic candidate won more votes in six of the last seven presidential elections. Unfortunately that won't be reflected in the direction our country turns now.
Instead the keys to the most powerful country on earth will be handed to a lying racist rapist. At least we will never have to be lectured about moral values by Republicans ever again. They got behind a moral sewer of a person, so that line of argument is over.
The only slim reed of hope I can hold onto is that given that Donald Trump is a sociopath who likely doesn't believe anything he says, maybe he won't follow through on all of his promises. I think one reason Obama is being so chill right now is in hopes that Trump will feel like he finally got the respect he wanted, and perhaps will find more pleasure tormenting Republicans who he feels didn't support him enough than ripping out Obama's accomplishments root and branch. He's currently making his best pitch to Trump not to scrap the climate deal he worked so hard for (this is the most important issue in my opinion because it effects not only us but all future humanity). I'm quite sure Obama had all the people on the exchanges with pre-existing conditions in mind when he apparently planted the bug in Trump's ear that he might be better off politically to keep that bit of the law at least. (Health care advocates aren't giving up, by the way.. at the very least Republicans need to be held responsible for everyone who dies because of their upcoming actions.) Obama just said Trump didn't strike him as particularly ideological and perhaps he could think outside of the box of typical Washington gridlock, or something to that effect. My hunch is that Obama is trying to influence Trump more than giving his objective analysis here. If it saves some of his achievements, all of which are now vulnerable to being scrapped at this point, it will be worth it.
As others have pointed out though, it can be dangerous to assume the autocrat (which is what Trump ran to become) doesn't really mean what he says. It also risks normalizing someone who has operated entirely outside the bounds of moral decency.
Masha Gessen writing for NYR Daily blog (New York Review of Books), "Autocracy: Rules for Survival"
Trump is anything but a regular politician and this has been anything but a regular election. Trump will be only the fourth candidate in history and the second in more than a century to win the presidency after losing the popular vote. He is also probably the first candidate in history to win the presidency despite having been shown repeatedly by the national media to be a chronic liar, sexual predator, serial tax-avoider, and race-baiter who has attracted the likes of the Ku Klux Klan. Most important, Trump is the first candidate in memory who ran not for president but for autocrat—and won.
I have lived in autocracies most of my life, and have spent much of my career writing about Vladimir Putin’s Russia. I have learned a few rules for surviving in an autocracy and salvaging your sanity and self-respect. It might be worth considering them now:
She goes on to list six 'rules,' offering commentary and explanation on each. Quickly, the rules are:
Rule #1: Believe the autocrat. He means what he says.
Rule #2: Do not be taken in by small signs of normality.
Rule #3: Institutions will not save you.
Rule #4: Be outraged. If you follow Rule #1 and believe what the autocrat-elect is saying, you will not be surprised. But in the face of the impulse to normalize, it is essential to maintain one’s capacity for shock. This will lead people to call you unreasonable and hysterical, and to accuse you of overreacting. It is no fun to be the only hysterical person in the room. Prepare yourself.
Rule #5: Don’t make compromises.
Rule #6: Remember the future. Nothing lasts forever. Donald Trump certainly will not, and Trumpism, to the extent that it is centered on Trump’s persona, will not either.
I have mixed feelings about the protests that have been going on. I understand what protesters are feeling because I share those feelings. Trump's election is an absolute horror-show. That said, it's worth noting the phrase "not my president," which has been going around, is a Republican one, coined in the 90's in response to Clinton's election (in that election he actually won the most votes, though it was only a plurality as it was a three way race). The truth is Clinton was their president, and on January 20th Trump will be ours, whether we like it or not. I'm not sure if we want to stoop to Republicans level and become more like them by refusing to accept the results of our (anti-) democratic process. On the other hand I understand the argument that we need to get out there and confront this thing, so perhaps complaining about this or that slogan isn't the most productive contribution at this moment. (Needless to say, I hope, actual rioting or destruction of property is both wrong and counter-productive)
David Remnick wrote this for the New Yorker in the immediate aftermath of the election: "An American Tragedy". It should really be read in full if you haven't already.
I remember Democratic strategist David Axelrod once saying that a presidential election serves as an MRI of a candidate's soul. I think that's true, but in this case unfortunately I think it served more as an MRI of our country's soul. If nothing else, the concept of "American Exceptionalism" died last week.
Neal Gabler writing for BillMoyers.com, "Farewell, America"
This generally has been called the “hate election” because everyone professed to hate both candidates. It turned out to be the hate election because, and let’s not mince words, of the hatefulness of the electorate. In the years to come, we will brace for the violence, the anger, the racism, the misogyny, the xenophobia, the nativism, the white sense of grievance that will undoubtedly be unleashed now that we have destroyed the values that have bound us.We all knew these hatreds lurked under the thinnest veneer of civility. That civility finally is gone. In its absence, we may realize just how imperative that politesse was. It is the way we managed to coexist.
If there is a single sentence that characterizes the election, it is this: “He says the things I’m thinking.” That may be what is so terrifying. Who knew that so many tens of millions of white Americans were thinking unconscionable things about their fellow Americans? Who knew that tens of millions of white men felt so emasculated by women and challenged by minorities? Who knew that after years of seeming progress on race and gender, tens of millions of white Americans lived in seething resentment, waiting for a demagogue to arrive who would legitimize their worst selves and channel them into political power? Perhaps we had been living in a fool’s paradise. Now we aren’t.
This country has survived a civil war, two world wars, and a great depression. There are many who say we will survive this, too. Maybe we will, but we won’t survive unscathed. We know too much about each other to heal. No more can we pretend that we are exceptional or good or progressive or united. We are none of those things. Nor can we pretend that democracy works and that elections have more or less happy endings. Democracy only functions when its participants abide by certain conventions, certain codes of conduct and a respect for the process.
The virus that kills democracy is extremism because extremism disables those codes. Republicans have disrespected the process for decades. They have regarded any Democratic president as illegitimate. They have proudly boasted of preventing popularly elected Democrats from effecting policy and have asserted that only Republicans have the right to determine the nation’s course. They have worked tirelessly to make sure that the government cannot govern and to redefine the purpose of government as prevention rather than effectuation. In short, they haven’t believed in democracy for a long time, and the media never called them out on it.
Refusing to consider Merrick Garland was a particularly egregious example of flaunting the rules of our system of government for partisan advantage. Besides the environment, the Supreme Court will be the other way Trump will leave lasting, incalculable damage to our country. Personally I think Democrats should filibuster any nominee to the court until Garland gets a vote. This would just mean Republicans would get rid of the filibuster but that would in my opinion be a very good thing, as they consistently used it against every single thing the Democrats tried to do. If we ever want to get anything done in the future it will need to go. Might as well be over something where they are unquestionably in the wrong.
But even beyond the Supreme Court there are so many things that Republicans in Congress stopped not because they thought they would be bad for the country, but because they knew they would be good for the country, and therefore work to Obama's benefit. Whether it was preventing any infrastructure spending that might boost the economy (which of course they'll get on right away now that they're in power), or refusing to contribute in any way to solving our health care problems, or any other number of issues, Republicans put their party over their country every time. We should never forget that.
Brian Buetler for the New Republic, "Republicans Have Pulled the Country and the World Into the Abyss"
Remember, sitting members of the Republican Senate conference, when they were running against Trump in the GOP presidential primary, warned that he could not be trusted with control over the U.S. nuclear arsenal. They said he was an amoral conman. They were right about all of that. Then they endorsed him. We don’t know what will happen to the global order; we don’t know how Trump will respond to perceived slights by foreign leaders, whether in allied countries, or hostile ones.
It is little solace to say that whatever becomes of this horrible leap into the abyss—whatever happens to immigrant and Muslim and black communities; whatever happens to LGBT and women’s rights; whatever happens to our economy; whatever happens to global stability—Republicans did this to us. As matters of both politics and conscience, they will have to live with this forever. But so will we.
The media and her critics from the right and the left all routinely described Hillary Clinton as dishonest and untrustworthy. It was bullshit:
Graham Vyse for The New Republic, "The Truth About Hillary Clinton"
The 2016 campaign has not been, as Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd said on MSNBC Monday, a “post-truth election.” Clinton has not run a post-truth campaign. She hasn’t always been truthful; The Washington Post’s Fact Checker awarded her seven of its worst Four-Pinocchio ratings throughout the race. But critically, the Post noted that this is an average score, putting her “in about the same range as President Obama and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney in 2012.” (There was far less discussion about the end-of-truth-as-we-know-it four years ago.)
Moreover, “Trump has amassed such a collection of Four-Pinocchio ratings—59 in all—that by himself he’s earned as many in this campaign as all other Republicans (or Democrats) combined in the past three years.” Todd acknowledged the differential in his segment, but failed to drive the point home.
Clinton’s honesty needn’t be graded on a Trumpian curve. In August, Kevin Drum at Mother Jones concluded “Hillary Clinton Is One of America’s Most Honest Politicians,” citing the chart above, of PolitiFact scores for 20 of America’s most prominent pols. Drum noted that The New York Times reached a similar conclusion; Jill Abramson, the former executive editor of the Times, called Clinton “fundamentally honest and trustworthy” in her Guardian column in March, citing PolitiFact and her own reporting.
Paul Waldman for the Washington Post (Plum Line blog), "In defense of Hillary Clinton"
Though we seem to always be obliged to say that she isn’t a “natural” politician and she doesn’t have great oratorical skills, Clinton performed nearly as well as any candidate could have. She fended off a surprisingly strong challenge from Bernie Sanders, mounted a terrific convention, raised more money than her opponent, and decisively won all three debates. Did she make the occasional mistake? Sure, but every candidate does, and she made far fewer than most.
But in the end, she was defeated by forces that were partly outside of her control. She couldn’t fend off a tide of sexism, or the resentment whites feel at a diversifying America. She watched helplessly as the FBI director, in an unprecedented move with a week to go in the campaign, injected himself into the race to deliver her opponent a gift-wrapped attack. She saw Russian hackers cooperate with Wikileaks to hack into her allies’ electronic accounts and release whatever damaging information they could find. She couldn’t stop Republican voter suppression efforts from bearing fruit in state after state.
But the emails, you say, the emails. Isn’t that all her fault? It may be hard at this point to step back and look at this issue objectively after so much has been said about it. But if you could manage that, you’d have to admit that the real story of her emails is that what was at worst a misdemeanor was blown up by her opponent and an eager news media into the crime of the century.
To that last point, Matthew Yglesias writes for Vox something that cannot be overstated: "Media obsession with a bullshit story email scandal helped Trump to the White House". If you doubt that at all then you need to read the article. The email thing became a blank slate with which to smear Clinton, but the more you drill into the actual specifics the less is really there. The real point was simply to telegraph "untrustworthy" to voters, irrespective of the actual issue. Apparently it worked.
I understand at the end of the day you either win or lose an election, and Clinton lost. So it's fair to hold her and her campaign to account. That said, I think one of the most important take-aways here is that Trump not only got fewer votes than Clinton, he got fewer votes than Romney in 2012 as well (both in terms of real votes, as well as a percentage of the total vote). Many Republicans with a sense of decency refused to vote for Trump, although it appears those voters were replaced by other bigots drawn to Trump's racist message (I realize calling people out for racism is not an effective way to reduce racism, but I'm just not in the mood this moment to coddle the sensibilities of folks who spent the year chanting "build that wall!" and hurling epithets at Muslims and immigrants.). Many of these are new voters, and they will likely reshape the Republican coalition going forward.
The bigger story this year though is that Democrats did not show up for Hillary, as these two graphs show:
I saw a post shared on Facebook recently (I believe from the Working Families Party) about how "the Democratic Party failed us." Looking at these graphs I can't help but think the Democratic voters failed us. I think many preferred Hillary to the odious Trump, but just didn't bother to actually vote. I'm guessing there was just "something about" Hillary they couldn't get excited about. They just weren't feeling it somehow. Maybe it was her laugh? Hmmm....
Anyone unhappy that Trump is our President-elect who did not vote for Clinton (some of these people, for example) should definitely read this:
Kurt Eichenwald for Newsweek, "The Myths Democrats Swallowed that Cost them the Presidential Election"
That goes for anyone who thinks the DNC cheated Sanders out of the nomination, or that he would have won had he been the nominee. Granted, you can't disprove a negative, but Eichenwald got a peek at the Republican's oppo-file on Sanders and suffice to say there would have been a category five shit storm headed his way had he managed to win the nomination.
I've seen some disgruntled Sanders supporters trying to cast this election as a referendum on 'neoliberalism.' This article has been going around:
Naomi Klein for The Guardian, "It was the Democrats' embrace of neoliberalism that won it for Trump."
They will blame James Comey and the FBI. They will blame voter suppression and racism. They will blame Bernie or bust and misogyny. They will blame third parties and independent candidates. They will blame the corporate media for giving him the platform, social media for being a bullhorn, and WikiLeaks for airing the laundry.
But this leaves out the force most responsible for creating the nightmare in which we now find ourselves wide awake: neoliberalism. That worldview – fully embodied by Hillary Clinton and her machine – is no match for Trump-style extremism. The decision to run one against the other is what sealed our fate. If we learn nothing else, can we please learn from that mistake?
First of all, yes I will blame all those things for Clinton's loss. To brush those aside is to deny the obvious. Second of all, Hillary Clinton has a "machine"? Who knew. I never hear any other candidate's campaign referred to in such sinister terms. (Funny how the language of Clinton's critics from the left so often mirrors that of Fox News and the right... something I imagine the average voter picked up on as well.) More to the point I find it highly dubious to suggest 'neoliberalism' was the most important factor in this election, especially considering she wasn't even advocating for it. In this election she was essentially advocating for achievable versions of Sanders' more outlandish proposals. You probably wouldn't know it, though, because the media was entirely disinterested in the policies the candidates were putting forward.
But Donald Trump wasn't going around making a critique of the free market... He was scapegoating immigrants and Muslims, stoking racial resentment to benefit himself. Let's not try to dress that up as a respectable argument. I'm all for taking a closer look at our trade policies and making sure our workers aren't forced to compete with peasants making pennies on the dollar somewhere across the globe. But so was Hillary. The assumption is that she was just lying, that she must be corrupt because she was paid to give some speeches, which is really just legalized bribery, right? That's the argument at the bottom of this and it's f-ing offensive. And yes, while Trump didn't really do policy specifics, he played off these insinuations regarding Hillary's character to great effect, because if critics from the left and the right agree it must be true. But, it's not.
Regardless, at the end of the day protectionist trade policies aren't going to solve our problems, even if they may ameliorate some of the pain in the short term. The world we live in will only continue to become more inter-connected. What Obama was trying to do with the TPP is to raise worker wages around the world to help level the playing field in a more sustainable way. I won't pretend to be an expert on this topic, but I know enough to know it's not a simple black and white issue.
Here is another article making a similar line of argument to the previous one, perhaps a little more thoughtfully:
Joan C. Williams writing for Harvard Business Review, "What So Many People Don't Get About the U.S. Working Class."
There are some interesting points in there and it's certainly a discussion we need to have. But now that we all have 20/20 hindsight vision I wanted to bring attention to one excerpt:
Back when blue-collar voters used to be solidly Democratic (1930–1970), good jobs were at the core of the progressive agenda. A modern industrial policy would follow Germany’s path. (Want really good scissors? Buy German.) Massive funding is needed for community college programs linked with local businesses to train workers for well-paying new economy jobs. Clinton mentioned this approach, along with 600,000 other policy suggestions. She did not stress it.Note how Clinton's extensive detailed policies become a liability for her... shouldn't that be a good thing? But more to the point, she talked about her plan for free community college and debt free in-state college/university tuition while on the stump every single day of the campaign. Every. Single. Day. Yes, there were many other proposals she mentioned as well... all of which were also designed to help the working and middle classes. But the average voter didn't hear about any of it because the press was not interested in covering it. Perhaps if she had sent some emails about her plans marked "Confidential" the press would have been interested when Wikileaks published them, but other than a stunt like that I'm not sure what she could possibly do to make anybody care.
Adam Serwer for the Atlantic, "Is This the Second Redemption" argues that we may be about to experience something similar to what happened after Reconstruction in the South when hard fought gains were completely obliterated, almost as if they had never happened. Along the way he makes this observation:
Democrats now face a renewed white-identity politics whose appeal will be immensely difficult to neutralize, and the notion that a more vigorous, left wing economics will return the white working class to the Democratic fold is likely a fantasy. The last Democrat to come close to winning the white vote was Bill Clinton, who combined his economic populism with promises to “end welfare as we know it” and advertised his willingness to use state violence against black Americans, turning the execution of Ricky Ray Rector to his political advantage.
The uncomfortable truth is that, whether you’re Donald Trump or Bill Clinton, economic populism is most effective in American politics when it is paired with appeals to racism. Maybe the Democrats can and will find a way to do so without such appeals. By the time they do, it may simply be too late to stop what is coming.
This is what's getting lost here. The reason many white people do not like Democrats is not that Dems only serve their corporate masters. It's that people hear of programs to help people and think Democrats only want to help black people and other minorities, who they think are lazy and undeserving of help (this is sometimes referred to by it's technical name: "racism."). They are apparently unaware that these policies will also help them, as Democratic policies still primarily benefit white people, by virtue of there just simply being more of us. But that's not enough apparently. To get white support you need to signal that you won't help lazy blacks. This, to state the obvious, is not likely to inspire the "Obama coalition" that elected Obama twice to show up to vote. This is the basic conundrum that some on the left are currently choosing to elide. Appealing to racism is not only morally wrong, it sacrifices our one ace in the hole, which is the changing demographics of our country.
There seems to be an effort underway to suggest white voters voted for Trump not because of his racist appeals but in spite of them. Jenee Desmond-Harris wrote a must-read article for Vox, which pretty much lays that argument to waste: "Trump's win is a reminder of the incredible, unbeatable power of racism".
The irony is, as Dylan Matthews writes, "Donald Trump's presidency is going to be a disaster for the white working class"
I saw a news report the day after the election where some Trump voters in Ohio or Kentucky were saying how glad they were he won and that they hoped he would build factories in their area to give people jobs. A) That's not going to happen. B) That's more or less the definition of Communism by the way, when the government builds factories and employs the people. Just sayin'... But, sure, vote for the rapacious real estate tycoon if that's who you think is going to liberate the workers from the evils of capitalism. Good luck with that.
Gender is, of course, another important angle here...
Monday-morning quarterbacks now litter the field, pointing out the one outlier poll, or their generalized conviction that Hillary was a terrible candidate, or that Trump’s celebrity helped him, or that Clinton didn’t visit Wisconsin enough, and that any one of these things makes Tuesday’s outcome perfectly comprehensible.
But the argument that if Clinton had taken a firmer stand on trade, or spent more time in Green Bay, it would have mitigated the fact that 48 percent of voters chose a self-confessed sexual predator who was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan, attempts to apply reason where there is only visceral incongruity. Clinton was surely a flawed candidate; but Trump was a catastrophically awful one. The disparity is enough to make one wonder if she ever really had a chance.
We are a female-majority country that had never before nominated, much less elected, a woman president, and in which the administration of our first black president has been unapologetically delegitimized by members of his opposing party, led by our new president-elect. The resounding, surprising, data-defying victory of a man who ran on open racism and misogyny, and was voted into office by 63 percent of white men and 53 percent of white women voters, was made possible by voters threatened by the increased influence of women and people of color.
Or, I should say, half of those who voted; though the tallies won’t be final for months, it appears that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. But the predominantly white, predominantly male 48 percent of voters who determined the electoral tally rejected her historic proposition, and the imagined coalition of Americans who might have supported it did not turn out — and in some states were successfully suppressed. The heartbreak of this election for Clinton supporters is not just the loss of a tough, smart, and inspiring first female president — though that is wrenching — but also the loss of the idea that this country was so very close to being better, more inclusive, more just, and more representative.[snip]
There has been a lot of talk in this election about Hillary Clinton’s failure to adequately appeal to America’s working-class white men, who are suffering from the collapse of manufacturing and coal industries and plagued by a heroin epidemic. But maybe a woman trying to build a coalition of marginalized groups, and espousing policies that would help those groups, simply could never have appealed to Trump’s base — even though those policies would also have helped that base. Yes, Clinton was weak on trade. Yes, she made money giving speeches to Wall Street. Yes, she was an Establishment candidate in a populist era. But Occam’s razor suggests that a wave of white men and women, low-income to college-educated, who came out in unanticipated numbers to vote against the female successor to a black president, and for a candidate whose supporters openly proposed imprisoning and killing both of them, were not acting wholly in response to Clinton’s waffling on TPP. Even suggesting that, critics are told, is exacerbating the problem: Alienating white men (and women) by noting that they responded to racism, sexism, and xenophobia is apparently more grievous a political miscalculation than giving voice to racism, sexism, and xenophobia.
But as we look forward, we must note that more than half of voters did look toward another America, a future in which participation is diverse and needs are interconnected. Hillary Clinton, the first major-party woman candidate for president of the United States, won more votes than her opponent, the man who will become only the fourth president in history to take office after winning the Electoral College and losing the popular vote. Had this happened in reverse, of course, it would be bedlam, because the will of American whiteness would have been superseded by the (rigged) system of Electoral College voting that afforded non-whites a threatening degree of power. But because this result is an affirmation of whiteness and of maleness, both in terms of the electorate and the candidate who won — there is no threat of incivility. Hillary Clinton conceded early Wednesday morning. Barack Obama welcomed Donald Trump to the White House on Thursday. Michelle showed Melania around.
This is normal — America as it has always been, not yet the better version we hoped it could be. But the half of America that lost is devastated. “Crying as if someone died” is a text message I received from more than one friend last week. And it is as if someone died: a dream of what we could have been, of the president we could have had. And about the loss of one of the most inspiring (and sure, flawed, but good God am I tired of having to always acknowledge that she was flawed) leaders many of us will know.
There are those who argue that this election was not a referendum on women, it was a referendum on one woman; if the Democratic candidate had been Elizabeth Warren or practically anyone else, this might not have been the outcome. Throughout the election, many people complained that Clinton was not beating Trump by 20 points. How could she not be mopping the floor with this lying, bile-spewing monstrosity? But plenty of us understood all too well that the exceedingly prepared woman often loses the job to the far-less-qualified man. And, for the record, she did lead him by 20 points or more — with African-American voters, with Latino voters, with single women voters under 55, and by close to that number with Asian-American voters; the only reason this election was even close was because of white people, mostly white men. Few seem eager to examine the possibility that certain segments of America simply do not want to be led by a woman, and that almost every other explanation for what was wrong with her — her high negatives, reputation for being untrustworthy, the email mess — originates with the ways she has been systematically demonized her whole career for being a threatening woman.
The media narrative about the wretchedness of her political skills has obscured the fact that Hillary Clinton was a pretty great candidate for the presidency. Not a magnetic or inspiring speaker, no. The bearer of way too much awkward baggage, yes. But also: steady and strong and strategic and smart. Despite being under investigation by Congress and the FBI and the media, despite having her State Department emails made public, despite having her campaign staff’s emails hacked, despite being married to a man whose legislative and personal history made him deeply problematic, and despite the rolling waves of sexism directed at her and the racism directed at her predecessor and political partner Obama, she literally won the popularity contest. And the fact that she tried to build a coalition of voters that brought together the marginalized groups that will one day be the majority in this country was inspired and forward-thinking, even in its ultimate failure.
In this season's final episode of Last Week Tonight John Oliver has a pretty great recap of election night, what it means going forward, and of the year 2016 in general:
Before the election I posted this missive on Facebook that I'd like to include here for posterity:
Apologies, but I'm gonna go on a full on political rant here (everybody gets at least one per election cycle, right?): An ABC News / Washington Post poll yesterday had Trump one point ahead of Clinton nationwide... I have a very hard time believing a majority of our fellow Americans could possibly pull the lever for a morally repugnant serial liar / sexual abuser who in my opinion is literally mentally ill. Nevertheless we have to deal with that as a very real possibility at this point. I normally refrain from political posts on Facebook because everyone already knows how they feel anyway, but I think this is a moment to 'stand and be counted,' so to speak.
A Trump presidency would be an epic disaster for our country and the world in a way that a McCain or Romney presidency, as much as I disagreed with those guys, would not have been. PEOPLE: you need to vote. And not just vote, you need to vote for Hillary Clinton. I'm sure most of you are there already, but in case anyone reading this feels apathetic or indecisive consider this an urgent, respectful plea to WAKE UP. I'm sorry if you don't like Clinton, but she's the only thing standing between Donald Trump and the White House. If you're considering voting for a third party, I've been down that road: I voted for a certain third party candidate in the 2000 election... in Florida. A terrorist attack, two wars and a financial meltdown later that's a vote I still have to live with. Don't be fooled into thinking your vote is merely symbolic. I can assure you it matters in a very literal and real way.
For what it's worth, I happen to think Clinton will be a very good President. I supported her from the beginning because I think she's the best person for the job. I think a lot of people mistake cynicism for wisdom and choose to take a very jaded view of her based on media reports and Republican witch hunts which never actually lead anywhere but certainly "raise many questions" along the way. But if you don't like her, fine. Reasonable people can disagree.
But Trump poses a unique threat to our democracy. If somehow the choice was between Trump and someone like a Bush or a Romney I would vote for ANY sane person who could keep Trump out of the White House. He is exactly the person that every conniving villain from legends and storybooks was meant to warn us about when we were kids. The racism and the bullying and the shameless lying are all awful qualities to be sure, but they are symptoms of a deeper problem: this is a man who can only inflate himself by tearing down others, a man who's willing to appeal to the worst in people for his own selfish ends... but no matter how much he takes nor how many people he destroys it will never, ever be enough. There is a dark void where his soul should be and it will never be filled. I would almost feel sorry for him if he wasn't such a danger to this country.
We take what we have for granted, but democracy is a fragile thing... in some ways it's surprising ours has endured as long as it has. There is certainly no guarantee it will last indefinitely. Civil institutions erode slowly and then all at once. Donald Trump is exactly the kind of person who could throw our 'great experiment' into a chaos from which it may not recover. People from across the political spectrum are trying to warn us about this, and it's not because they're part of some 'rigged system.' When people like Colin Powell and the Bushes are on the same page as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren maybe we should pause and listen. Hell, at this point even the current VP candidate for the Libertarian Party is urging people to vote for Clinton, saying he 'fears for this country' if Trump were to win.
For the record, I'm actually optimistic about this election and our country's future. I think Clinton will win and that she will do well for our country, despite the predictable Republican tantrums that will follow. If Democrats win the Senate she may even be able to appoint some justices to the Supreme Court, which is where we might see some real progress. Otherwise at a bare minimum she will hold the line and life will go on. But all that rests on people understanding the gravity of our current situation and acting accordingly (hence this post).
I know we all can't wait for this election to be over, and it will be soon, but now is the time to focus: Please, make a plan to vote, and talk to anyone who could use an extra nudge. Do everything you can to elect Hillary Clinton, whether you like her or not, and let's move past this national nightmare of an election and on to better times.
Love to everyone (and thanks for reading),
Glad I'm on the record as being optimistic for our country's future. In the words of Neil Young, "take my advice, don't listen to me."
Jonathan Chait, writing for New York Magazine, has an excellent preview of where our politics are headed, with sage advice for Democrats going forward: "Citizens, United."
Paul Krugman for the New York Times, "Thoughts for the Horrified"
So where does this leave us? What, as concerned and horrified citizens, should we do?
One natural response would be quietism, turning one’s back on politics. It’s definitely tempting to conclude that the world is going to hell, but that there’s nothing you can do about it, so why not just make your own garden grow? I myself spent a large part of the Day After avoiding the news, doing personal things, basically taking a vacation in my own head.
But that is, in the end, no way for citizens of a democracy — which we still are, one hopes — to live. I’m not saying that we should all volunteer to die on the barricades; I don’t think it’s going to come to that, although I wish I was sure. But I don’t see how you can hang on to your own self-respect unless you’re willing to stand up for the truth and fundamental American values.
Will that stand eventually succeed? No guarantees. Americans, no matter how secular, tend to think of themselves as citizens of a nation with a special divine providence, one that may take wrong turns but always finds its way back, one in which justice always prevails in the end.
Yet it doesn’t have to be true. Maybe the historic channels of reform — speech and writing that changes minds, political activism that eventually changes who has power — are no longer effective. Maybe America isn’t special, it’s just another republic that had its day, but is in the process of devolving into a corrupt nation ruled by strongmen.
But I’m not ready to accept that this is inevitable — because accepting it as inevitable would become a selffulfilling prophecy. The road back to what America should be is going to be longer and harder than any of us expected, and we might not make it. But we have to try.
After the passing of Leonard Cohen this week Kate McKinnon gave a double tribute to the songwriting legend and Hillary Clinton. I've never seen anything quite like it. Strange but poignant and moving:
I did my best, it wasn't much / I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch / I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you / And even though it all went wrong / I'll stand before the Lord of Song / With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah
This song also seems appropriate:
As a final thought, I think we're all going to have to reassess our lives to some degree in the Trump-era. What do we stand for, and what are we going to do about it? I don't want to fall into trite moralism here; This isn't easy. We're going to have to engage with the other side, but on what terms? On one hand we need to be open to honest dialogue - we can't expect people to listen to us if we refuse to listen to them - On the other, we have to maintain a clear sense of justice and purpose at a time when the darkest impulses of humanity are ascendant.
In "A Time for Refusal" Teju Cole writes for New York Times Magazine about a play called "Rhinoceros" which, written over 50 years ago about fascist Romania in the 1930's... As he describes it the play interestingly highlights the moral dilemmas we now face in the present. Do you protest, or go along? As Gessen says in the first article I quoted above, "it is no fun to be the only hysterical person in the room." Perhaps you go along in order to try to affect change 'from the inside,' although that can become a slippery slope.
I read that Obama's been trying to buck up his staff, reminding them you don't need hope in the good times, it's the bad times when it matters. He is (amusingly) allowing a two week moping period, but then it's time to get back at it. Some have been critical of Obama and Clinton for being too accommodating and accepting of President -elect Trump (even typing those words still makes me nauseous). I'm sympathetic to that view, but I'm more inclined to say they're actually doing the right thing, as painful as it is watch. Ultimately the more divided we are and the more we hate each other the more it benefits the other side. By behaving graciously at this difficult moment we hopefully create space for us to come together in the future. They are showing leadership which will hopefully help heal this country, although there are surely more political battles to come.
Along those lines I read that Obama's Press Secretary Josh Earnest told his own staff:
“People say adversity builds character,” Earnest said. “I’m not sure that’s true. I think adversity reveals character.”
Very true. The next four years will reveal a lot about our country and about ourselves.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go barf.