We’re all sick to death of the campaign and election we have just lived through no matter what side of the fence you are on. If the sheer length of the process didn’t kill you, the day to day pronouncements and craziness were almost too much to bear. And now on the one week anniversary of this election, bear with me as I vent one last time. Well, I can’t really promise it will be the last time ever, but for now at least….
On election night, whether for him or against him, as we saw one state after the other fall to Donald Trump, I think it’s safe to say that most in this country were shocked by the eventual outcome, not least because “experts” told all of us that it would be otherwise, that he had a very tough road to achieving the 270 electoral college votes required to win the election. Even newly-elected Donald Trump himself, as he was sitting with President Obama and Paul Ryan two days after the election looked, like the rest of us, subdued, a deer in the headlights. I have always believed he is privately thinking (as many of us are) “What just happened?” When all the votes were counted, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by a significant number while Donald Trump took the electoral college vote. It became clear that Trump was offering change in a way that Hillary Clinton was not and that was valued by the voters. By virtue of the electoral college, he did get elected, so onward we go.
I don’t intend to be glib about this; I feel anything but glib. For the past eighteen months we’ve heard harsh words used to describe this man who will now be our president, ideas generated out of his own choice of words as he sold himself to the populace about how he would govern. Words others used to describe him based on his rhetoric are racist, misogynist, xenophobic. His own words about building walls, bombings, waterboarding, deportation forces, repealing and replacing various forms of legislation and treaties, women, punishing the press fostered those adjectives and are less than calming ideas. As this campaign marched on, I often wondered about how after all the vitriol spewed – both by him and at him – could we reconcile the campaign promised with actual governing if he were somehow elected. We have been told since last Tuesday that his opposition took him literally but not seriously and that his followers took him seriously but not literally. The Trump supporters apparently broke the code of what he was actually saying all those months. It’s the trying to translate what ever he meant throughout this campaign that has driven us all crazy. So here we are – trying to restore our resilience as we set off to decode his messages. Hopefully, as he communicates with us as president, the translations will become easier. He’s no Barack Obama when it comes to oratory!
For some it has been too much to ask to just reverse course and accept this election result, and they have taken to the streets all over the country to protest. It’s a format with which we Baby Boomers are familiar seeing that we came of age in the 1960’s. But I don’t think I have ever in my life seen a presidential election generating protests like this, except for possibly in 1968 in the middle of the campaign, after President Johnson declined to run and Bobby Kennedy was assassinated.
Some, conservatives and liberals, see the protests as a foolish waste of time, or as a “how dare they” moment. I think it’s important to remember that those protesting the election are simply exercising their rights as citizens for peaceful assembly and freedom of speech. No way should violence be used in these marches and, by and large, I don’t think it has. “He’s not my president,” some protesters say. Well, yes, he will be. But if you respect democracy, you recognize that the election has been won according to our system and Trump will be inaugurated. I think in some ways even with the declarations of “Never Trump” and “He’s not our President” that the protests actually underline acknowledgement and recognition of Trump’s victory and they protest because they don’t see any other thing left for them to do about the concern and frustration they feel in regard to the election of someone whose positions seem so extreme, who is so inexperienced in the ways of government and whose learning curve is so steep. It is their right to protest and they are using it.
Some of Trump supporters have called the protesters “crybabies,” and “ sore losers.” There are postings on social media that ask what the protesters are afraid of. I know that Trump supporters don’t want the protesters to take what he said literally. “Can’t you tell when he’s being sarcastic?” his minions would admonish. “What are you so terrified of?” So did we just elect someone who was always using some form of double speak, which is unacceptable; or did it turn out that he actually meant exactly what he was promising, which more than half the voters also found equally unacceptable. We hope to meet a kinder, clearer, more reflective President Trump in the Oval Office.
But understand one thing: there are Americans – many Latinos, many Blacks, many Muslims, many in the LGBT community – those who are, let there be no question, legitimate actual citizens of this country and who see themselves as targets. “Oh, we’re going get ‘em,” he shouted at us all summer. Those who heard that didn’t see much room for deciphering or interpretation. It sounded pretty clear. I know of a member of the LGBT community who was so distraught after the election about the future status of her recent marriage to her partner, considered a move to Canada, found that unacceptable and settled on donating blood as the only positive act that would be productive at this point. These people are genuinely worried about their civil rights, and their place in America after this election. And as the controversial Steve Bannon, the alt-right Brietbart editor just made Strategy Chief by Donald Trump, takes his exalted place in the new administration, it terrifies them even more.
We boomers have lived through other turbulent times in our lives: the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam and all the consternation that conflict engendered at home, the Women’s and Civil Rights Movements, the John Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy assassinations in the ’60’s, Watergate, the Bush-Gore drama. We’ve survived it all and we will certainly live through this.
I believe, assuming no really unwarranted disquieting actions on the part of this administration, that our resilience will be restored. I am already heartened when I see postings on social media encouraging small acts of kindness: posts inviting everyone to “imagine the difference if we each purposefully love a little more: holding doors for a stranger, greeting everyone I meet, exercising patience…” Also it has been said that candidates for president campaign toward the extremes and govern toward the center. We can only hope that is true of Donald Trump. In fact, as he talked yesterday about some of his promises, such as repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (called Obamacare), he seems to be softening his stance to possibly keeping major aspects of the current act and not repealing until there is a viable replacement available. He sounds like he still wants to build his wall at the border but sounds more agreeable to listening to options. He says he views the LGBT marriage equality law as “settled” by the Supreme Court. He sounds like he sees the value of meeting with Barack Obama “many more times” to discuss major foreign matters such as the Middle East and Europe. I’m going to ignore the fact that yesterday yet again he tweeted about the New York Times losing subscribers because of their “very poor and highly inaccurate” coverage of the “Trump phenomena.” I still find it a teensy bit thin-skinned and in the weeds for a president to get involved in this kind of rhetoric. I hope that when he is president someone takes his cell phone and removes his Twitter account. I pray that as he takes on the enormity of his new role the better angels will prevail and draw him to a more centrist point of view than that on which he campaigned. In the meantime, what we can do is to support those organizations that we may view as at risk in the Trump administration, such as Planned Parenthood. And we can be vigilant and use our voices, our pens and our votes when we object.
Perhaps that look that so many saw on Donald Trump’s face as he walked the hallowed halls of the White House and the Capitol last week was one of deference, gravity and the beginnings of personal reflection as he takes on the monumental job of president. I hope President Donald Trump will be the president for all Americans as he said he would be. Time will tell.
Until we meet again…..