13 November 2016

The Silver Lining

What's done is done. Despite having lost the popular vote, Trump will be president. Don't get me wrong, 60 million votes is nothing to laugh at. But that's only 25% of American voters. Which probably says more about the state of American democracy than anything else. But I digress. If you share my reasonable concern that a Trump presidency could lead to regression and destabilization in an already regressing and destabilized world, here is my attempt to offer some consolation.

That consolation is truth. If anything, this election did away with the bullshit that has fed voter apathy for decades. Trump's victory has forced those of us in our blue-state bubbles to finally see the truth around us. The truth that old divisions upon which this country was founded still endure. The truth that hate and fear exist and persist. The truth that America and its people have never been united in the purest sense of the word. The truth that Tuesday's election laid bare for the world to see: America is deeply divided and conflicted at its core. Anti-establishment rage and globalization anxiety fail to sufficiently explain our current situation. Issues have been trumped by identity politics. We are not living in a post-racial America. We are living in America.

We can blame the electoral college. Or the Clinton campaign's failure to get out the vote. Or voter suppression in swing states. Or the DNC. But, once again: 60 million votes. That's WAY too many people who at their core responded to a message of racial and ethnic division from Donald Trump with enthusiastic endorsement, even if they didn't totally agree with it. Not every Trump voter is a terrible person, but every Trump voter aligned themselves with a lot of terrible people. Even if you think he could be the greatest president ever, you can't deny that he ran a campaign based largely on stoking tensions between insiders and outsiders, and I'm not talking about the Beltway. What's new this time, or at least new in recent American history, is that he did all this in plain sight. And millions of Americans responded.

The days of the dog-whistle politics formed in response to the Civil Rights Movement are over. For years, Republican candidates have stoked the flames of racial resentment using coded, nebulous language. Trump's explicit call to our worst instincts threw this playbook out the window. But that playbook allowed racists and bigots to hide behind a veneer of respectability. No more. Once again, they are confident enough to operate in the open. As scary as that is, it makes them much easier to spot. And for this we should be grateful. But the question remains- now that we know what we're dealing with, what will we do about it?

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