Early Morning Thoughts on the Day After
Because, like I suspect a great many people, I couldn’t get to sleep tonight.
1. Well, I certainly missed that turn of events, didn’t I? To be fair to myself, pretty much everyone missed it — apparently even Trump’s pollsters thought he was going down in defeat last night — but I’m not responsible for other people, I’m responsible for me, and, well: Missed that one totally. I never thought Trump would win the election. I was wrong. He won it. My being wrong is on me.
Would he have won it with a different opponent? Would he have won it if the Supreme Court hadn’t gutted the Voters Right Act? Would he have won it if a significant number of people hadn’t voted for third party candidates? Or if James Comey hasn’t done his little email stunt in the last couple of weeks? These are interesting questions that don’t change the fact that in this reality, Donald Trump is the president-elect. The woulda, shoulda, coulda of things is irrelevant to that.
2. With that said, it is of note that the polling for this election cycle was essentially disastrously wrong, and — again to be fair — it was pretty much only Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight who warned people that if it was wrong, that the predictions for the race would fail in basically the manner that they did. Silver and his site predicted the outcome incorrectly just like everyone else, but he gets credit for saying “if I’m wrong, this is how that’s going to work” and as far as I can see pretty much nailing that. So, yay, Nate Silver? I would have rather it gone the other way and we all had a post-election laugh at his over-cautiousness. But it didn’t, and once again Silver is the smartest dude in the room, for what it’s worth.
Be that as it may, there is clearly something systematically wrong with how polling is being done. If poll after poll had Clinton leading in states she went on to lose, and often leading by more than a margin of error, then something’s going on. I don’t mean in a conspiratorial, “the polls are being manipulated, man!” sort of way. Again, it’s something systematic in how the polls are conducted and who they are reaching (and probably also something to do with this particular election cycle in itself). How does that get fixed? I’m sure someone will tell us. Maybe Nate Silver.
Much of my confidence about this year’s election was rooted in the polling, which had been reasonably accurate for the last few election cycles (both presidential and congressional), and like I said, while I own my own mis-estimation and being wrong, it’s also a fact that I was wrong along with a whole lot of people, including people for whom polling is their actual job. It’s a discomfiting place to be.
3. It will be no surprise to anyone I’m unhappy with the result of this election. Donald Trump was manifestly the worst presidential candidate in living memory, an ignorant, sex-assaulting vindictive bigot, enamored of strongmen and contemptuous of the law, consorting with white nationalists and hucksters — and now he’s president-elect, which is appalling and very sad for the nation. I don’t see much good coming out of this, either in the immediate or long-term, not in the least because if he does any of the things he promises to do, his impact will be ruinous to the nation. Add to the fact that he’s the GOP candidate, and the GOP now will have the White House, Congress and will appoint the next Supreme Court justice, and, well. There aren’t any grownups in the GOP anymore, and we’re going to find out what that means for all of us.
Here are some of the things it could mean: A conservative Supreme Court for decades, backtracking on climate change, the repeal of Roe v. Wade, curtailment of free speech, loss of medical insurance to millions, tax policy that advantages the wealthy and adds trillions to the national debt, punitive racial policies, the return of torture as a part of the military toolbox, and a president who uses the apparatus of the US to go after his personal enemies. And these are only the things Trump has said he’s ready to do — we don’t know what else he will do when he’s literally the most powerful man on the planet, with a compliant legislature and judiciary.
The GOP conceit is that somehow they will be able to control Trump, which is a theory that’s worked so well up to now. More realistically, I think the best that can be hoped for is that Trump simply becomes apathetic and bored and leaves actual governance to others, i.e., the Dubya maneuver. This didn’t work particularly well then, but it might be marginally better than the alternative. But no matter what, I don’t have much optimism for the next four years.
4. I’m a well-off straight white man, which means of all the segments of the population, the Trump years will likely punish me the least — I may have to adjust my investments so I don’t lose tons of money when the stock market tumbles (or just be willing to ride it out, just like in 2008), but otherwise, in the short-term at least, I’m likely to be fine. I can’t say the same for my friends and loved ones who are women or minorities or LGTBQ or who struggle financially to make ends meet, or some combination of all of those. I wish I could say to them that it’ll be fine and that they’ll be able to ride out the next four (or, God forbid, eight) years, but I can’t. Trump, himself racist and sexist, brought a bunch of racists and sexists and homophobes to the dance, and now he’s obliged to dance with them. Things could get pretty ugly for everyone who isn’t a well-off straight white man. Things are likely to get ugly.
A lot of my friends are scared of Trump’s America, in other words, and they should be. As Maya Angelou once said, when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. Donald Trump has shown us over and over again who he is; the worst of his supporters — the ones who will now feel like they have free rein to indulge their various bigotries — have shown us who they are, too. And while not every Trump voter is among the worst of people, they share the responsibility of having made anyone who isn’t straight, and white, and male, and well-off, less secure, less safe, and more frightened. That’s what they bought for us when they pulled the lever for Trump.
5. And we have to face up to fact that it was white people who brought Trump to us — Trump got the majority of white men and white women who voted. We can parse out why that was (and we can talk about how the minority vote was suppressed), but at the end of the day, the fact remains: Trump will be in power because white people wanted him there.
If Trump’s administration indulges in the racism, sexism and religious and other bigotries that Trump and his people have already promised to engage in, we can assume it’s because his voters are just fine with that racism, sexism and religious and other bigotries — even if they claim to have voted for him for other reasons entirely. After all, Trump didn’t hide these things about himself, or try to sneak these plans in by a side door. They were in full view this entire time. If you vote for a bigot who has bigoted plans, you need to be aware of what that says about you, and your complicity in those plans.
I voted against Trump — voted against him twice, in fact, since I also voted against him in the primary — and I voted against him in no small part because I found his bigotry shameful, and still do. I am proud that he did not get my vote; I’m as proud of that vote as any I’ve offered up. And as an American, I have no plans to take his bigotry lying down. I hope you won’t, either.
6. That said, it might be a little much to ask people to stand and fight today. It was a long night, and a depressing night, for a lot of us. Take a day. Or two. Or a week. Or however much the time you need for yourself to get your head around this thing.
But at the end of that time, I hope you come back to us. Looking at the numbers as they stand right now,
Trump won by just about 300,000 votes Clinton got at least 100,000 more votes than Trump out of about 120 million individual votes cast. There’s a lot of us who will stand with you, when you’re ready to stand again with us. There’s work to be done over the next four years and beyond. We need to get to it.