I stated last week that I would wait until at least this week before publishing my thoughts on the recent presidential election, if ever. Part of that was my recognition that any writing done in the immediate aftermath would likely be tainted by the heat of the moment, and part of it was my doubt about whether I should even write at all. With time and introspection, I’ve decided that there are, in fact, two things that I want to write about, so this week I’m publishing a pair of election-related posts for your reading consideration. Today’s writing piece is my experience from Wednesday, November 9, 2016.
So… we chose the clown. I went to bed on November 8th guessing that I would wake up to a very narrow Hillary Clinton victory, so when I turned on my computer and brought up the news headlines on my web browser it was an odd feeling to see that not only had Donald Trump won, but he had won convincingly (in terms of the Electoral College). The feeling was much more interest than shock, since my own observations just prior to the election had led me to believe that most of the media and political commentators had underestimated the strength of Donald Trump’s campaign, but clearly even I didn’t perceive its true power, seeing as how I had still predicted Clinton as the winner. I scrolled through a few articles detailing the previous night’s events, and then, taking a deep breath, I went over to social media.
Most of my friends who are active on Facebook trend politically left, and their comments ranged from shock and disbelief to despair. Some stated that they no longer felt welcome in America, some were wondering what was going to happen to certain political causes they had championed, and some were grieving the state of our country. Most, however, seemed to be walking around in a haze, like a shell-shocked soldier on the battlefield, with their entire world having been upended and them no longer knowing what to believe. As one who was against both Trump and Hillary, I couldn’t fully empathize with them, but I was still sympathetic to their plight. Their worst nightmare, an event that didn’t seem possible and had been dismissed by so many, had become reality. On a more positive note, I was glad to see that my friends who supported Trump were being very gracious and not rubbing salt in the wounds of Hillary supporters. I know that wasn’t the universal experience for people who had Trump fans as friends, but at least in my little corner of the online world there was a desire for peace and reconciliation from the people on the winning side. It’s times like these that have kept me from buying the lie that all Trump supporters are the hate-filled deplorables that so many on social media are painting them as.
Ok, it was time for another deep breath, and then I started looking around the broader social media-sphere, especially Twitter. While my Facebook friends were generally sad and in disbelief, the Twitter-sphere was experiencing a meltdown of epic proportions. In fact, I would call it a meltdown of Biblical proportions, as the reactions I saw from people reminded me of those Bible passages that speak of “wailing and gnashing of teeth.” The battle of Armageddon had just occurred, and they had lost. The level of hyperbole was so extreme that you’d think death squads were now marching the streets, indiscriminately killing anyone from the groups of people Trump reportedly hates. Tears flowed in rivers, and the consistent theme was that this couldn’t possibly be happening. It was all a bad dream, and maybe if they screamed or cried enough, they would wake up. Briefly switching back to Facebook, I posted my sole social media comment for the day, noting the meltdown. Later on it occurred to me that this might have been misinterpreted as me mocking those who were freaking out or spiraling down in depression, which was not at all what I had meant, (I was just making an observation) so I resolved not to post anything else that day without thinking it over several times through.
After an hour on social media, I decided it was time to get on with my life and I got to work on my daily routine. Later on I watched a livestream of a man whose opinions I greatly respect. I wasn’t able to watch the last few minutes of his discussion with his colleagues because I had to pick up a friend from the airport, but his thoughtfulness and insight brought some clarity (as well as cold, hard data) to the day’s events. Some of what he said influenced parts of the writing piece I’ll be publishing tomorrow.
In the afternoon I went back on social media, and predictably many of the denizens of the online world were following the classic stages of grief, and moving on from denial to anger. People were lashing out left and right at anyone and anything they now held responsible for Trump’s victory, one of which was people like me who had voted for a third party candidate. Apparently this was all my fault, which was really weird since before the election I had been told that by voting third party my vote didn’t count. Somehow within 24 hours I had gone from a ballot burner to a Washington DC power broker. I’m not one to join into the melee online, but I was severely tempted to point out that millions upon millions of people had failed to vote in the first place (I believe I read somewhere that the voter turnout this year was the lowest since 2004) and it very likely had something to do with the caliber of the nominees, so before anyone in the Hillary camp burned me or other third party voters at the stake they might want to take a long, hard look at who they had chosen to be their candidate. What kept me back was the fact that no one was directly accusing me (mainly because I never posted my voting intentions on social media) and in retrospect it was best that I stayed silent, as jumping into the fray wouldn’t have done any good anyway. I was disturbed, however, to see so many people online and in the mainstream media doubling down on the failed narrative of racism, sexism, ignorance, etc. as the primary—indeed, only—driving forces behind Trump and people who voted for him. There were also people proclaiming that anyone who voted for Trump was giving their tacit endorsement of the worst aspects of him, though I doubt they’d accept that logic if it was applied to Hillary voters. Again, I chose to say nothing, as the raging emotions of that day would likely have turned any comment of mine into more fuel for the fire.
Late afternoon soon came, and I returned to the online world to take stock yet again. Several of my friends had decided to meet up for beers at a bar and commiserate the election among themselves, and others posted open invitations to get together with anyone needing a hug. I was particularly glad to see that, as I know that when your world is falling apart you really need others to stand beside you. On Twitter, however, people were now transitioning into the bargaining stage of grief and trying to find ways to either keep Trump from being their president, or at least change the electoral system to hopefully get a Democrat into the White House in the next election. Removing the Electoral College was a very popular idea, and later on I even saw #CalExit, which was a hashtag for a proposed secession of the State of California from the Union. A petition was started to urge electors in the Electoral College to change their votes from Trump to Clinton, and, of course, the most popular thing of all was #NotMyPresident. To be blunt, I don’t have sympathy for these sorts of delusions. The Electoral College isn’t going anywhere—the smaller states will never allow their outsized influence to be taken away, thus reducing them to electoral insignificance. California is not seceding from the Union—we already settled the issue of secession in the 1860s, via a shedding of blood that claimed the lives of over 620,000 Americans. Electors must vote in line with the outcome of the election—telling them to disregard the election results sets an incredibly dangerous precedent and undermines the entire democratic system of our country. No amount of Twitter hashtags can change reality—unless you renounce your citizenship, Donald Trump is your president (or rather, he will become your president on Inauguration Day).
Nothing else of importance related to the election happened that day. For me, it was a lot like any other day, save for the amount of time I was online. For many, however, it was a date that will forever live in tragedy. I think the main reason I took the day better than some of my friends is because I was already resigned to a bad outcome, seeing as how I didn’t like either candidate. With no horse of my own in the race, I had no emotional attachment to the election results. Pessimism makes for quite an anesthetic.