After tonight, everything is different.
It’s 11:48 PM on Tuesday, November 8th, 2016. All signs point to an inevitable, if unbelievable, conclusion: Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States. Let me say that slightly differently. The former host of the Apprentice, a man who has publicly stated that has he sexually assaulted women, that Muslims should be banned from entering the country, that he will prosecute his political opponent, that Mexicans are rapists, that women should be distrusted when they are on their periods; a candidate who hasn’t released his tax returns, who praises Vladimir Putin, who disagrees with his Vice President, who called his opponent a “nasty woman” and claimed that there are some “bad hombres” in this country, who criticizes the freedom of the press, who has bankrupted several companies despite not paying contracted workers and threatening to sue them if they protest, who has divorced his first two wives before landing on a supermodel immigrant – despite his notable and avowed hatred for all those who are not American – and who now inevitably accepts and will praise the electoral system that he previously considered “rigged”: this narcissist is about to become the leader of the free world, and one third of the most powerful government on the face of the Earth.
(The previous paragraph is only moderately catastrophizing. You’ll notice that I didn’t mention the fact that this man – who is provoked to vehemence at all hours of the night by tweets from Rosie O’Donnell – will now have control over the United States’ nuclear arsenal. I refuse to believe that someone could start a nuclear war. But, also, I now know that what I believe or refuse to believe has absolutely no hold over reality.)
It’s now 12:03 AM, November 9th. It’s my mother’s birthday. Yesterday, she posted a picture of herself in a navy pantsuit on Facebook – a celebratory gesture, paying homage to the preferred garb of our then presumptive future Madam President. But today, we know the truth: that America is not what we thought it was, and that hate has trumped love.
Evil has conquered good. Division has conquered unity. And in a very real way, straight, Christian, white, and male has trumped gay, Muslim, black, and female. It feels like that’s the case, doesn’t it? And on some level, it is – no matter how hard we try to erase this night from the history of our great nation. But no matter what the truth is tonight, the beauty of America is that we can change tomorrow.
I want to believe that everything will just be okay. That Trump can’t possibly have meant all of the things he has said throughout his campaign. That there is a chance that giving the rich tax breaks will help wealth trickle down to the rest of the country. That a world in which we interpret – and our Supreme Court interprets – the constitution “literally” is a better world than one in which we allow it to adapt to a changing world. That immigration is bad and guns are good and abortion should be punished. But I just don’t believe it. I don’t. I can’t. I cannot believe what has just happened to our country, and more than anything I am inconsolably sad that those who voted for this megalomaniac don’t realize that everything the man says is a bold-faced lie.
He publicly supported the War in Iraq, but claims that he was against it. He claims to have “the best temperament,” but lashes out at any and all who dare oppose his idyllic self-image. He claimed that Obama “abused” a protester at a rally, when in reality Obama said three things: we are a country of free speech, we are a country that supports our veterans, and that people shouldn’t boo, they should vote. Trump claims that he will be able to bring jobs back to the United States even though those jobs have been automated and will never return. He claims that he can fix inner-city violence even though he supported a “stop and frisk” policy that was an unequivocal failure in New York City. He claims that he will be able to rewrite our trade deals – like NAFTA and the TPP – and I have no doubt that he will tear them apart; I also know that he doesn’t have the political skill nor geopolitical awareness necessary to rebuild something better in their stead.
But despite all that, I fully recognize that this is the worst that the Trump presidency will ever feel. Here’s my real-time, worst-case expectation for the next four years: with a GOP-controlled executive, legislative, and judicial branch of government, civil rights progress will be set back at least 10 years. In 2020, abortion will be illegal. (There will be at least two more conservative justices on the bench to guarantee as much.) Gay marriage will be struck down. America will no longer be a member of NATO, and Russia will accordingly expand its influence and annex the disputed territories over which it currently claims sovereignty. The economy will tank for the months before the Trump presidency, and Trump will claim very modest returns to the mean as a win for his policies – before plunging the country back into recession. On the bright side, I sincerely believe that Trump will try to repeal Citizens United to get money out of politics – unless he and his supporters quickly forget his appeal his virtuous decision to “fund his own campaign.” Trump TV will not be a thing. And the modern Republican party will surely divide, as long as current Rs have the strength of character to stand up to someone who trashed them, their leadership, and the country all for the sake of his own ego.
But, my realistic and perhaps more sober prognostication for the American response to four years of a Trump presidency is far more optimistic – as long as we are willing to work for it. I believe that our country will have an unbelievable rebound in four years. The rural voters who swooned at the sight of Trump will realize the falsity of his promises and the faults of his character – and will join the Democrats (who I expect to mount a very meaningful political and social outreach effort to educate non-college-educated voters on the importance of inclusivity from 2016-2020) to elect a uniquely inspiring “Democrat” to heal the wounds of a divided nation.
That person might be Cory Booker. It might not. But whoever that next President will be will inherit the most divided, torn, and aching nation of all 240 years of the American experiment. They will inherit former Republicans who are ashamed of their choice, and former Democrats who are exhausted from four years of fighting the single most unfit man to ever be granted the Presidency. But, she or he will also inherit a resilient nation. A nation totally, irredeemably, perhaps luckily disavowed of the jingoist notion that their country is unquestionably the best in the world and doesn’t need to work to preserve that truth. But a nation still committed to bringing back a New American Dream.
“My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.”
– Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
That is our hope, now. It must be.
So, for those of us who are depressed, or in shock, or angry, or bitter tonight – allow yourself to grieve and process. But then stop. Be an adult, and accept what has happened. And renew your commitment to making the American democratic experiment as great as you know it can be. Don’t step away. Dive headfirst into the challenge. You didn’t get your way tonight, but think about why that came to be: half of the nation you think you know disagrees with you. Half of the nation is happy tonight. That’s democracy. It’s not the same half that was happy in 2008, or 2012, but it’s roughly 150 million people nonetheless. How many of them do you know? And how many of them do you love?
If we are who I think we are, we will rebound. We will brave four tough years, but when they go low, we will go high. When they try to tear us apart, we will find ways to grow closer to our brothers and sisters in this nation – and we will even connect with those with whom we disagree. (Especially with them.)
My America can withstand any threat – from without or within. Because the America that I know is loving, strong, and inclusive. And free. Let us accept this new challenge with open arms, and use this sobering night to remind us that we still have some learning to do about our fellow countrymen and women.
When they go low, we go high. When they try to divide us, we come together. When we – as Americans – are challenged, we rise to the occasion. And, seriously guys, of course we don’t move to Canada. We aren’t quitters.
I guess it comes down to this: I’ll see you in the morning, friends. And I’ll stand ready to keep America great. Will you?