I’m as disappointed as I can be, but here are just a few takeaways from yesterday’s results.
1. Peace, love, and kindness appear to be in short supply. If we are to believe the laws of supply and demand, kindness is a hotter commodity than ever. I intend to produce as much of this as I can.
When Obama was elected, his message of hope was met with intense anger and divisiveness from the other side of the aisle. Many Republicans openly rooted for him to fail. Maybe this makes me a sucker, but this time around, I feel the urge to reverse this—to meet the anger and divisiveness exhibited by the president-elect with hope. I hope he does a good job. Maybe he will.
Luckily, despite all the things he is, he doesn’t strike me as a partisan or an ideologue. In many ways, he’s a blank slate. He said in his victory speech that he’s looking for “guidance” from those who voted against him. Maybe that was just talk, but he is new to this whole public policy thing. Maybe he’ll be receptive to good, common-sense ideas and push them on a now-docile legislature.
Trump has proposed boatloads of backwards and often mean-spirited policies over the years, but it was interesting during this campaign to see Republicans respond favorably as Trump proposed many policies that were strikingly similar to policies of Obama’s that they had previously rejected. Economic stimulus in the form of infrastructure spending. Paid maternity leave. Opposition to the idea of privatizing Social Security and Medicare. He’s hasn’t always been on the right side of foreign policy debates, but he has been very critical of Hillary’s tendency toward hawkish foreign policies. He’s even paid lip-service at various points to single-payer health care (probably the only sensible way out at this point, and for what I think are mathematically-compelling, even conservative reasons). We’re replacing Obamacare with something “much better” and “tremendous”? I’m listening.
Yes, he’s been all over the map on these issues and so many more, but there may be more to be hopeful about than if we were dealing with a President Cruz, for instance. On the other hand, “personell is policy,” and all indicators are pointing to a cabinet stacked with Trump loyalists (Gingrich for State, Giuliani for Justice, Sessions for Defense, and so on). But maybe these guys will be just as neutered as they were in the campaign. Trump never seemed to like them anyway.
As scary as all of this is, what Trump’s policies will be is a mystery at this point. Until recently, he identified as a Democrat. He just spent the last year and a half beating establishment Republicans to a pulp. Maybe his policies won’t be as bad as we fear. Maybe they’ll be as bad or worse, but we’ll be better off if we hope for the best and try to push Trump in the better direction.
2. I don’t know anyone, of any political party or ideology, who thinks Washington DC is working for them. More than anything, this is what this election seems to have been about. Within this frame, Trump represented a wrecking ball that could be sent to upend Washington. Clinton, on the other hand, represented (wrongfully or not) Washington and much of what is wrong with it. I happen to think that the Republicans deserve most of the blame for what is wrong with Washington, but let’s not forget that Trump was running against the Republicans as much as he was running against anyone else. He never stopped re-litigating the primaries and railing against establishment Republicans, even on the day before the general election. “Trump against the world” turned out to be a smarter tactic than anyone gave him credit for.
I was rooting hard for Bernie Sanders in the primaries, but I didn’t fully understand the Bernie phenomenon until last night. Yes, he clearly appealed to people who felt that Washington was not working for them. His throngs of vocal supporters in the cities made sense. These were people (mostly young, educated liberals) who had been waiting for a candidate to champion a slate of left-of-center policies that had been previously left for dead.
What I didn’t understand until last night was why, primary after primary, we saw Sanders run up the score in rural areas of each state. These were the same areas that delivered Trump the presidency. Without these rural voters, Sanders’ primary run would have been very short. During the primary, I guessed that left-of-center policies were finally (magically) catching on. I did my best to quell the little voice in my head that said maybe there was some sexism afoot. But now it seems clear that most of these voters probably don’t identify ostensibly as left-of-center. I’m sure there was at least some sexism (i.e. “Bernie Bros”), but I don’t see that as being something that would motivate rural voters to flock to vote in Democratic primaries in state after state. Sanders was the wrecking ball they longed for. And when Sanders lost, there was only one wrecking ball left.
This might sully in some part what felt mostly like a noble and high-minded movement, but there’s hope to be found here. On many important issues, the Sanders/Warren wing of the Democratic party has more common ground with Trump voters than either side probably realizes. My hope is that, whether they realize it or not, many Trump voters are sympathetic to left-of-center (“populist”) economic and social policies—policies that the establishment wings of both parties reject. I daresay the Democratic party now belongs to Sanders and Warren—two people who appear to have the best chance of wresting the raging proletariat away from Trump.
It’s disappointing to see so many Americans willing to look past Trump’s many (often intensely offensive and even traumatizing) flaws, but they weren’t looking for a nice guy. Wrecking balls don’t work as well when they’re friendly.
3. No matter what anyone tells you, anything can happen. The outcome of this election is a decidedly weird turn that no one predicted. When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. Opportunity abounds for us weirdos. Let’s spend the next four years working as hard as we can.