It has happened. The election of 2016 is now over, and the American people have spoken. In the closest Presidential race since 2000, and in a similar electoral-map-only win, President-Elect Trump has won the election on a wave of populist, isolationist support led by white males from the “rust belt” of America; Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
Candidate-Trump’s premise that he is a “winner” and that American would “win again” under his leadership will now be tested. Yes, he has won the election, and those people who had their front page spreads and Facebook memes ready with “LOSER” stamped across Trump’s face are sadly throwing away a lot of work this morning. Yes, Trump has emerged a “winner” again in a horse-race where there could be only ONE winner; a presidential election. For him and those that supported him, they can have today to bask in that glory of victory — but tomorrow, it’s time to go to work. “Winner” is the title we give to those who have reached the end of the race, but in this case, the race for our future is just beginning. In the governing that lies ahead, the challenge won’t be defining winners and losers, but will be finding a way for America to improve and move forward. And I wonder if Donald is up to the task of winning that race, or all our sakes?
I am really glad my sons are young enough that I didn’t have to explain this to them this morning. Honestly, I’m trying to make sense of it myself. Looking at the results and at how the rust belt played a critical role in this election, I can see in hindsight how Trump’s message resonated. While I and most of the people I live and work closely with in Texas, California, New York and overseas have mostly recovered from the Great Recession and feel positive and optimistic about the future of America, there are still great numbers of people who feel left behind.
In one sense I lay that failure at the feet of the Democrats. They have talked a good game when it comes to the “new economy” and “clean energy jobs”, but have failed to deliver that in a politically meaningful way. I think you can point to specific success stories, but nothing that moves the public opinion needle and soothes the anxiety for the production economy lost over the last quarter-century, particularly in this region of the country. And while we all thought that the palpable enthusiasm among women to elect the first female president could propel Clinton forward, she ended up hampered by her own history and her husband’s history — not in a fashion that was an outright rejection, but in a fashion that just couldn’t put her over the top. Too many places could only get behind her 48 or 49% of the way, which was — in the end — not enough when it counted.
Trump, for his part, is the first person we’ve ever elected to office with NO history of political, public, or military service. We know precious little about what he will actually do with this new position. Since 2006, factions of America have been on a witch-hunt to root out centrists and career politicians, and this perhaps is the culmination of their efforts — a complete unknown quantity with the temperament of a 3 year old who we’ve now elevated to the leader of the free world. God help us all.
The only positive thing I can see from this year’s rebuke of the Clintons — and for that matter Jeb Bush — is that this country is not going to be a country of political dynasty. The thought of giving our next four years to either of those families that already influenced 16 long years of American politics didn’t sit well with me, ever, though I will admit my support for Clinton grew as Trump descended lower and lower (rhetorically and morally) as the campaign wore on.
And that’s the part I struggle with the most.
I want to point to our country’s leader with pride. I want my sons to look up to him and want to be like him. I just can’t do that with Mr. Trump. He represents nothing that I want my sons to become. Can we go back to 2012? Romney or Obama would be about 1000000000% better — both family men, respectful, educated, distinguished. Standing at the end of this bruising 2016 cycle makes me feel all kinds of violated and betrayed, and trying to make sense of my new reality going forward — something like some of those women Trump has violated over his lifetime must feel.
So, that’s where this thing stands this morning. I want America to move forward, and I take comfort in knowing our political system doesn’t depend on any single person. Trump will have to go to Washington and work with all those “establishment” people to actually get work done. I am curious to know exactly what that work will entail, since we didn’t really have many practical policy statements as part of his candidacy, so there’s a HUGE dose of un-surety that comes now, because none of us know really what we just signed up for.
As for the future of the Democratic party, I will say this: Hillary came within single digits in Texas. Hillary had a campaign headquarters in Utah, which did not support Trump anywhere near the level it supported Romney or Bush. States like Arizona, Georgia, and North Carolina were swing states. The Democratic party is the party of growth and inclusion, and still appears to be the party of the future. The GOP has a huge mountain ahead of them in terms of coming to terms with what this new Trump coalition means for them and for whatever rebrand or reframe lay in store for their future. We are still unsure of what platform will come to power in January since the Trump policies don’t exactly square with the rest of his party, or whether relationships marred by lack of support and enthusiasm for his campaign will devolve into petty grudges held within the GOP for years to come.
And finally, for those of you still staring at the ceiling today, wondering what happened and how you will solider on, I offer Stephen Colbert’s very raw and heartfelt analysis, which was finally the thing that helped me snap out of it this morning: