THIS entire day – Nov. 9, 2016, the day after the election of Donald Trump – I’ve been hearing and reading some deeply visceral cries of emotional pain and anger from many people I care very much about.
They are clearly profoundly affected – traumatized even – by the result, and what they believe it says about the country they live in.
They grieve as if there were a death in the family.
I obviously cannot comment from the perspective of a person of color or an LGBTQ citizen, and I won't attempt to. But as someone who has lived through plenty of elections – the majority of which didn’t go the way I wanted them to – I can try and empathize as best I can.
It’s a hard pill to swallow, but I’ve always found a bit of perspective helps when dealing with cold, hard reality. So here’s my best effort at wrapping up some of the lessons of this election in a way which might help people move forward to a more positive place.
Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. No, that doesn’t mean Trump really isn’t president. He really, really is. But there is no reason for you to feel alone, or outnumbered. You’re actually in the majority. Take solace in that.
You’re not moving to another country. No, actually you’re not. Turns out other countries have pesky immigration laws too, not to mention economic and social issues of their own to deal with before they can deal with yours. There are countries which are still mired in civil wars that have lasted literally decades. If they can make it through that, you can make it through one election turning out the way you didn’t want it to. Trust me.
Only one time since WWII has the same party held the White House three consecutive terms. It is very likely that almost any Republican would have beaten any Democrat this year. Sorry, them’s the breaks.
Think Brexit. Trump’s election is part of a larger worldwide trend of rejecting globalism and the economic status quo. It is less of a specifically American phenomenon than it is a larger reaction against perceived economic and social disenfranchisement. Pretty thin reassurance, you say? But therein lies potential common ground. More on that later.
If you are an activist who is liberally inclined, there is a real silver lining in that you are finally free of the rotten, decrepit Democratic Party establishment which has worked at cross-purposes to you basically forever.
As we saw with the WikiLeaks revelations, this isn’t hyperbolic – they literally worked as hard against the progressive grassroots of the party as they did against Republicans, torpedoing the bid of Bernie Sanders.
Trump’s win not only signals the decisive defeat and end of the Clinton dynasty, it is the Emperor-has-no-clothes moment when the full extent of the corruption and mendacity of the Democratic Party professional political class and their enablers in the mainstream media has been revealed.
Just as Trump dragged the Republican Party kicking and screaming into a major paradigm shift – exactly what that shift is remains to be seen -- so this defeat should do the same for a moribund and out of touch Democratic Party mired in the past and resting on old laurels.
The price is high. The Democratic Party’s failure now means complete Republican control of all branches of the federal government for the first time since 1928.
In addition, Republicans already control 3/5 of state legislatures and 3/5 of governor’s mansions. The ramifications of this are profound and beyond the scope of this column.
But we do know that the path has been cleared for people like Sanders and Elizabeth Warren to rise in the power vacuum and move the party to a more relatable place to working class people who may have voted for Trump this time but who are not hardcore Republicans by any means.
For as long as I can remember, at least two decades, Democrats assuaged themselves that demographic trends would inevitably bring them total electoral dominance.
The shrinking of the white population, the thinking went, meant that all Democrats had to do was wait long enough and demographic changes would take care of the rest.
No need to get too bogged down in actual platform items or actual measurable improvements. It’s all about the external characteristics of the voters.
The undeniable success of the Obama coalition of minorities+millennials showed the promise of this strategy. But thing is, when it doesn't work -- it really doesn't work.
Trump’s election showed the flip side of this strategy. Turns out it doesn’t look so great when the shoe’s on the other foot, does it?
Last night I heard a commentator – I forget who – say, “White people are behaving like a minority. They are sticking together and voting together as a group.”
This may be disturbing to hear for a variety of reasons. Then again, you could make the case that it’s just the logical result of years of identity politics, of years of intentionally balkanizing Americans along racial and cultural lines for electoral gain.
Drilling down, we see some other racial and cultural realities in the vote which are eyebrow-raising to say the least:
About one out of five African American men voted for Trump.
About three out of ten Latinos voted for Trump.
Clinton lost college-educated whites nationwide. (Democrats have actually never won a majority of college-educated whites.)
Like it or not – and I realize many of you don’t want to hear this – the Trump phenomenon, while certainly heavily white and working class, wasn’t only white and working class.
Trump did better with minorities than Mitt Romney, and actually did a bit worse than Romney among whites. Just a mathematical fact.
Perhaps in a more reflective moment ask yourself what appeal Trump may have had to these voters who didn’t fit the stereotype.
Now here’s the really hard part. This is the part you probably really don't want to hear.
People are feeling left out and alone because of this election result.
But many of the people voting for Trump did so because they also felt left out and alone.
They might be very different from you and come at life from very different perspectives, some of which you may strongly disagree with for very understandable reasons.
But many of them were also motivated by a sense of being left behind. We live in a country where a lot of us feel left behind for a lot of reasons.
This is the Brexit lesson, and now it’s the Trump lesson. There will probably be other similar lessons to come around the world.
Word to the wise: Get ready for more.
There is something going on. And while some of it is obviously pretty ugly, some of it is a very predictable reaction to shared experiences and frustrations, and a shared feeling that things have spiraled out of control.
It’s probably too early for many to be comfortable pondering these points. But as always, the truth will set you free if you choose to look at it clearly.