Editorial, The Week in Review – Analysis, Commentary, Opinion
The Election and the Aftermath
Election night was horrible.
By nine o’clock I could see the conversation among the broadcasters had begun to turn. On CNN, on MSNBC they were openly doubting Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning, and acknowledging Donald Trump’s very real chances of a victory.
I wanted to be skeptical, almost everything was falling they way most of the forecasters had expected it to, the only difference between what was happening in reality, and what had been prognosticated, was the timing. The fact that the votes in places like Florida, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Michigan, and Wisconsin had not shown up for Hillary as the clear winner, by ten o’clock through the whole race in doubt.
My feelings went from joyful optimism, to uneasy, to guarded skepticism, to bewilderment, and finally; nausea.
I was lying on the couch, and I drifted off to sleep for a half an hour here, and a half an hour there. The news only got worse.
I had to turn the channel away from MSNBC, because I could not watch or listen to their set of television personality go into panic, to begin to make excuses, to search for anecdotal reasons for why the election was not going as planned.
I found the moderators on CNN to be a more measured group. That, in itself, was comforting.
Throughout the night I exchanged text messages with friends, most of whom were as dismayed as me, some of whom were snarky.
I am a person who was for Hillary throughout the entire political season. My support for her never waivered. I supported in 2008 during the primaries with President Obama. I have great respect for her intelligence, her diligence, and her mastery of public policy. I supported her, not because I agreed with all of her positions. In my heart, I am much more liberal than she is. I supported Hillary because I thought she would be the best manager of the Federal Government, and because I believe that progressive change must be predicated first on sound management. This remains my conviction. I still believe it is true.
Up until the moment when Donald Trump took the stage, and announced that he had received a call from Hillary conceding the election. I had a pit of angst in my stomach that was making me feel ill.
The victories Donald Trump racked up, in all of the “swing states,” appeared to be close enough to merit a recount, and I would have supported Hillary if she had called for one. There are many hundreds of thousands of ballots all across the country that would never be counted if recounts were not triggered; overseas ballots, absentee ballots, and provisional ballots especially; there were enough to change the outcomes (theoretically).
However, Hillary conceded. Such a course of events was not going to be.
The angst I was experiencing evaporated almost immediately. I went directly too acceptance. The resolution of those feelings was not dissimilar to the feeling I get when I read the Powerball numbers and realize that I had not won the jackpot.
It is done.
Over the past few days I have been listening to so many people express their dismay, their indifference, their feeling of triumph.
The very few people in my social network who actually supported Donald Trump, those people have been quiet, I have not heard any boasting from them.
There are a larger number of people in my social network who did not support either candidate, voted third party, or did not vote at all. I have heard more from them; from them I have heard expressions of hope, the hope that with the defeat of Hillary Clinton we might be able to get a truly liberal, truly progressive third party might be able to form. That particular group of people, always blind, and uncritical, believe in the simple proposition that electoral justice will occur if people have more options, as if A = B, but that is not the case at all. No such thing could be guaranteed.
The vast majority of my friends, supported Hillary, they went out and voted for her, they were hopeful that she would win. Most of those friends were latecomers to Hillary’s camp. Most of them had supported Bernie Sanders in the primaries, some had fully come over to Hillary’s side, but many were merely voting against Donald Trump.
Most of the people I know, if they voted for Hillary, they are as perplexed as me as to why a person like Donald Trump could win the election for President of the United States. Donald Trump is a man without a demonstrable sense of personal dignity; a tax dodger, an abuser of women, a fraud, a phony billionaire, a liar, a cheat, a reality TV star, a bully, a man who was so comfortable ginning up racial animosity among disparate groups of Americans, that you have to assume he is a racist and a bigot himself.
They are searching for the answer as to why this happened. To them I say, give it up; you will never know.
A smaller number are only interested in moving forward, getting past their feelings and stepping out with a determination to reassert progressive agenda in the next cycle.
I am with them.
There are many, very many of my friends who are stuck in the middle, desiring to move forward but still looking back, still trying to find the person, persons, or ideology to blame.
Hillary Clinton earned more votes, but Donald Trump won the election. Blame the electoral college.
Ninety million eligible voters did not vote at all. Blame their indifference. Though if they had voted, there is no reason to believe the result would have been any different.
Enough votes were cast for third party candidates, that if there had been no third party candidates Hillary might have won. Or, those people might not have voted at all, or their votes would have been cast in the same proportion as went for Hillary and Donald anyway.
There is no way to know the answer to these question, and such idle speculation is useless.
Some people are asserting that if Bernie Sanders had won the Democratic Primary, he would have beat Donald Trump easily. There is no way to know. There is no reason to believe that a candidate who could not win a primary, could have won in the general election. He might have done better than Donald Trump with some demographic groups. I think that is a fair assumption, but you would also have to assume that he would have done worse with others. The campaign would have been different. To suggest that it would have had a different outcome…that is vanity.
Some would like to blame the media; for not taking Donald Trump seriously, for not exposing his sex crimes, for not exposing his cheating and his fraud, for not exposing his ties to Russia. That is who I would like to blame, and yet nevertheless, his supporters heard those stories and they did not seem to care. His supporters voted in a guy who is openly supported by the Klu Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party. His supporters are people that deny the science of climate change, and will tell you to your face that the planet earth in only six thousand years old. There is no amount of truth telling that can sway those voters.
Some would like to blame Hillary for her own flaws as a candidate; for the fact that she was not more adept at controlling her narrative, that she was beset by spurious investigations, that she seemed to take certain states for granted, like Wisconsin and Michigan, never campaigning there after the primaries were over. The person who bears the most responsibility for Hillary’s loss is Hillary herself. As much as I have been proud to support her, this is true, and she knows this true. Nevertheless, she is not to blame.
The factors leading up to the election of Donald Trump are myriad. It is not one single thing.
If you have ever read the tawdry soap opera that made Leo Tolstoy famous, War and Peace, you might be able to see the truth in this. The principle reflection in that novel is the awareness that complex events are governed by complex factors. It is impossible to trace all of the antecedents of those events, many powerful social forces are simply cancelled out by other powerful social forces. Even though Napoleon took credit for his victories, he was not responsible for them, and the same is true of his failures.
Most of the people I know who are playing the blame game, are really just looking for a way to serve their own vanity, for the vehicle by which they can reassure themselves that they were right about something all along; that if only they had been listened to, if only more people had voted for Bernie Sanders, if the media had been more objective about Donald Trump, if the FBI had not leaked information about their investigations that were underway, if there had been no spying by Russia, no Wikileaks etc…then their candidate would have won, and they would be right after all.
It is time to give up that vanity, and move on with what we know to be true. The Republican Party has an unprecedented control of government at every level. Their agenda is dangerous, divisive and harmful to America, and the world at large. There is an election coming in two years, and two years after that. Progressive minded people need to unify, consolidate their strength, compromise with their numerous factions, and push forward to a brighter future.