“You should’ve been at the election night party. People were going CRAZY. Alice and Lindsay even started crying. Now, I’m not happy that Trump was elected or anything, but crying? That’s so over the top.”
My buddy probably assumed I’d agree with him, since I’m usually more about logical, rational discussions than a bunch of melodrama.
Except this time I understood, because I was crying on election night too.
Just a day earlier, you see, I’d taken my four-year-old daughter with me to go vote for the first American female president. And she was going to win in a landslide, according to all the polls and media pundits.
It was really going to happen. How could it not?
Hillary may not have been everyone’s first choice (Elizabeth Warren would’ve been preferable), but at least she was highly qualified and running against the least-qualified candidate in election history.
Trump had run around constantly insulting everyone: black people, Mexicans, women, the LGBT community, war heroes, handicapped people, Muslim Gold Star parents… he was championed by the KKK.
Key members of his own party were denouncing him. Paul Ryan, John McCain, all the Bushes… he even went too far for Glenn Beck, who’s got to be the Right’s version of Michael Moore.
With the deck so stacked in her favor, Hillary just had to win.
And it was about time. Unlike in Germany, Argentina, Great Britain, Denmark, and so many other places, America has never, ever put a woman in charge. We don’t even have a history of powerful queens to look back on.
My daughter Brontë was too young to fully understand everything going on, but she did grasp the idea that we were all voting for the boss of the country and that for the first time in our nation’s history, it could be a girl.
Brontë squeezed my hand and told me she loved me just before we marked our vote. She understood something important was happening, wanting desperately to feed our ballot into the machine, so I helped.
We were making history. My daughters would grow up already having a female president. They’d truly believe anything was possible, if only they worked hard enough.
Except that’s not what happened.
Instead, I stayed up alone on election night, watching another incredibly accomplished woman slowly lose to a volatile, inexperienced man. I couldn’t believe it. All the polls were wrong.
WRONG. Just like Trump kept telling us.
And I couldn’t help sobbing.
My daughter ran up to me the next morning, asking “did she win?” before reading my face then looking down at the floor.
“Maybe we can vote again tomorrow?” she asked. “Can she try three times?”
Now that I’ve gotten all this grief out of my system, I’m hoping to figure out where we went wrong and what we can do to change it.
Most of my liberal friends are either collapsed into utter hopelessness or full of rage, preparing for the apocalypse. They’re saying the curtain’s been drawn back on America’s true feelings to reveal all the sexist, racist, homophobic hostility that’s been bubbling under the surface all along.
I don’t know. I think that kind of rhetoric was partly responsible for what just happened. The Republicans mopped the floor with us. They got everything: the House, the Senate, the Oval Office, and before long, the Supreme Court too.
I think it’s time to rethink our strategy.
Maybe Hillary’s loss was about sexism, or maybe it was about a huge group of overlooked voters lobbing a Molotov cocktail into the White House in the form of Donald Trump. The same group we’ve been ignoring and/or insulting for many years.
I don’t think we can afford to keep on doing that. Many Americans are struggling to feed their families as the economy keeps shutting down opportunities along with countless manufacturing jobs. Arguing with them about white privilege is never, ever going to work.
Besides, I have many conservative friends whom I respect very much. There are good people on both sides of the aisle, each having their own set of priorities and rationalizations… both sides seem locked into their respective echo chambers, listening to different radio stations, watching different news, and posting different memes all over Facebook.
Maybe a Sanders/Warren ticket was the answer. I don’t know.
All I know is that telling struggling people we won’t be helping them until we’ve sorted out the world’s intolerance only makes things worse, no matter how morally decent it makes us feel. Because there is no clear solution or endpoint.
What would “recognizing” our role in inequality even mean? It’s abstract and somewhat subjective. We can’t legislate subconscious feelings. There is no vague “recognition” of bias that would automatically translate into a fairer world, anyway.
We’re better off setting clear policy goals. We need to focus on the economy, figuring out constructive ways to make lives better instead of just telling everyone how wrong they are all the time.
And honestly, I think we’re also better off without all the political correctness. Those rules obviously didn’t prevent people from secretly thinking whatever they thought, but it did make it harder to subject views to hard scrutiny.
I’m hoping more liberals will start asking themselves hard questions, so we can improve our chances in 2020.
I’m also hoping Trump was strategically tapping into a frustrated base of voters during his campaign and isn’t actually as volatile as he seemed.
I guess we’ll all about to find out.