Where Do We Go From Here?

NICK JEBSEN, OPINIONS EDITOR | NOVEMBER 20, 2016

When I voted for Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, November 8th,  I felt like I was doing something infallible. I was almost positive that she would win, and that her presidency–regardless of any flaws she may have– would be good for America. I assumed that this election would serve as a stern rebuke to the forces of white supremacy and misogyny.

That night I attended an event with some of my peers hosted by the Zephyr Teachout campaign. At around 10:30 I noticed a friend of mine was chatting nervously with two campaign staffers. I asked them what was wrong. Neither responded. One of them simply took out their smart phone and held it up for me to look at; The New York Times pollsters were claiming that Donald Trump had an 85 percent chance of winning.  

“I think they’re wrong,” I said flatly. The staffers looked at each other and shook their heads. Several hours later, to my slack-jawed, stupefied amazement, I learned that Donald Trump was the president-elect.

The first thing I thought to myself was “I didn’t think my fellow Americans were going to let this happen.” And then: “how on earth could I be so naive?”America is a country whose justice system worsens crime, whose security apparatus sows insecurity around the world, whose banks wreak havoc on our economy. Why should any of us be astonished that Trump won?

This election not only proves that no woman is qualified enough to become president; it also proves that no man is too unqualified to ascend to our nation’s highest office.

It must be a grand time to be a rapist or bigot. I wonder if the likes of Sean Brock or David Duke feel like they have a friend in the white house. George Zimmerman, who bragged about killing the unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin certainly does.

The nation’s media has failed us. Time and time again, major outlets ran articles claiming Trump’s chances of winning were next to zero. The media became an echo chamber that encouraged complacency. Very few people challenged the narrative of an assured Clinton victory, and it may have cost her the white house.

Not all Trump supporters are racist or violent misogynists. But evidently, outward racism and violent misogyny on the part of a candidate are not deal breakers for much of the American electorate. It’s hard to encapsulate Trump’s appeal; but if I had to, I would say that his supporters are united in their vague sense that they have been denied something. Beyond that, they’re difficult to characterize. I’ve met several who are decent people, albeit confused.

On the other end of the spectrum, I had a friend who protested at one of Trump’s rallies and was the target of some pretty shocking harassment. I’ll refrain from sharing the graphic things my friend told me she heard, but I will say this: the verbal diarrhea which spewed forth from these men could have made a Serbian warlord blush.  At the risk of sounding elitist, I’d assert the personalities of Trump supporters range from decent-hearted know-nothings to fascistic trolls with temperaments like mustard gas.

Where do we go from here? For starters, more people have to vote. I know far too many people who passed up voting in this election.

Those of us who vote Democrat must form a united vision of what we want our country to become, and rally ferociously around candidates who embody this vision. Trump may be human excrement, but there are things to be learned from his campaign. We must not be afraid to tell people they are being cheated. One in three black men go to prison; women earn 76 cents to a man’s dollar; wages are lower than they were 16 years ago. To tell people they aren’t being cheated, in my opinion, is dishonest.

We must critically examine Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. Hillary’s loss reflected a failure on the part of American voters more than her campaign. However, even strong supporters of Hillary Clinton such as myself must admit that her closeness to Wall Street and proclivity towards the use of hard power was divisive.  We must acknowledge that these facets of her candidacy were extremely unappealing to much of the democratic base.

Many predominantly white and working-class areas that went to Trump went to Obama in 2008. We can win these voters over in the future. There is a widespread feeling among liberals that anyone who voted for a xenophobic, self-professed violator of women who baited the sentiments of white nationalists has no place in a liberal coalition.

Respectfully, I think too many of these people voted on November 8th for this feeling to be practical. Call me an idealist, but I think we can find a way to win their vote without compromising on uplifting the lives of women, people of color, and LGBTQA people.

I’m not going to pretend I’m optimistic about the next four to eight years. In fact, I’m almost positive that by 2020, we will be worse off as a nation. However, we cannot afford to bury our heads in the sand. Unless your life is directly threatened by Trump policies, stop threatening to “move to Canada.”

Go to a swing state, volunteer, support progressive candidates and vote. In the words of James Baldwin, “We can make America what America must become.”

That cannot happen if we are disengaged or living abroad.  We will resist Trump through protest, advocacy, and the ballot, proudly violating his unconstitutional laws if necessary. We will show him and his supporters that America belongs to all people who reside on her soil.

Unfortunately, the men who founded this country never intended it to be equal and free. But if we are brave, resilient, and determined, we can make it that way.

 

To respond to this article, or to submit an op-ed, contact bardwatchmanaging@gmail.com

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