Michael Moore called it. While most of us were thinking the Latino vote surge or female voters would put Hillary over the top, white working class folk in the rust belt hurt by globalization and lower paying jobs gave the system a “big fuck you” as Moore predicted. Unable to hold Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, Clinton fell to Donald Trump, despite winning the popular vote.
Now what? The internet has been a mess. Many of Trump’s opponents are accusing Trump voters of enabling racism, sexism, and misogyny with their vote. They are brutal in their critique, even attacking me for suggesting that the country could take Trump’s victory in stride and that things aren’t all bad. On the right there is either gloating (fair enough – they suffered liberal gloating when Obama won) or annoyance at the vehemence of the anti-Trump rhetoric.
So, at the risk of annoying those who are angry about Trump’s victory, I’d recommend everyone relax. Chill. Or if you’re really upset, organize and get active! This isn’t the end of democracy, we’re not going to have a resurgent KKK, gay folk don’t have to go back to the closet and Muslims are not going to be put in internment camps. Some of the policies of the next two years will anger the left, but take it in stride.
In 2018 people vote again. If Trump governs poorly or makes unpopular decisions, the Democrats will have a chance to do to the GOP what the Republicans did to Obama and the Democrats in 2010. In 2020 people will have a chance to find a strong candidate to run against Trump, and try again. In those two to four years, the world isn’t going to end.
There is also a generational thing going on. The under 30 crowd has been raised in schools and universities where sexist, racism, homophobic and misogynistic language and ideals are banned – you can get in trouble in school now for saying, “that’s so gay,” something that wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow not that long ago. That’s good – this generation is in the process of creating a world where racism, sexism and homophobia are rejected.
But the over 30 crowd is still part of a culture where such ideas are common. Many people think homosexuality is a perversion and shouldn’t not be tolerated as such ideas will corrupt the youth (let alone transgender bathrooms!) Sexism is powerful despite decades of progress. Those voices are real, and will be heard – at least until the older generation dies out.
Finally, unlike Ted Cruz and many other Republicans, Trump is not a conservative. He is probably nothing – he doesn’t seem to have core principles, whatever is in his interest at any given moment is where he stands. He’s a con man who just pulled the biggest con of his life! So who knows – he might reshape the Republican party to a more centrist or even liberal bent, or he might end up with internal GOP dissent.
But even if Trump is as bad as his opponents fear, that’s motivation for the left to mimic the right after 2008 – their antipathy for Obama lead to the tea party, and huge gains in the midterm elections. If Clinton had been elected, the Democratic party would have remained the party of the status quo and DC insiders for four more years; now the party can recast itself. Being in complete opposition, it will benefit from frustration and anger at Washington in coming elections.
Ultimately, America’s democracy has lasted a long time. I don’t think one bad President will create a collapse. I don’t think homophobia and racism will be worse because of Trump. But maybe this is the start of a process of reform for both parties – for the system. In any event, if you’re a Democrat, don’t fret. 2018 and 2020 will come quickly and I would not be surprised if those elections evoke much different emotions than this one!