I started out Election Day with a light current of fear running through me. Even then, I was scared of a Trump presidency. Not in the way I am now, but what if? Still, I don’t know that I truly believed that Trump would win, but it scared me just enough to drag my mom to the polls with me and encourage everyone I knew to vote.
It wasn’t enough.
It was never going to be enough.
Election night came with quiet whispers of possible defeat. The first results showed Trump winning, but that was fine, it was going to be okay. Republican states in the south report early. The West Coast, the liberal strongholds in the east, they would come in later in the night and they would bring Hillary to a narrow victory, if not a crushing one.
At least, that’s what everyone hoped.
I watched the election results on 538.com. You’d have thought, with how confident the Democrats were going into Election Day, the chances of the Democrats taking the Senate would also be great. That they’d hover around a 40%-60% chance all night.
But we were wrong. Everything about this election was wrong.
The Democrats were at 30% when I started watching and the number kept falling. That was the first sign.
What would be the point of a Clinton presidency if Republicans controlled the House and the Senate? Would we be stuck in a gridlock for the next 4 years? Would Clinton be able to get anything done at all?
It would be bad, I thought. But it would be better than the alternative.
We started panicking at around 11. Everyone I knew started panicking. As the electoral vote count climbed higher and higher into the deepest shades of red, despair began to spread through me. I aimlessly paced my house, muttering, “I’m stressed, I’m stressed.”
This was happening. Our worst nightmare was happening. Trump was going to be president and we were going to be fucked.
As the night drew to its zenith, my world began to crumble around me. There was anger, there were tears, there were jokes about the upcoming Rebellion. We were trying to salvage something, anything from the mess we were heading into. My friends began posting about ways to organize, groups to support. List after list of things we could do immediately. Last ditch plans to convince the electoral college to vote with the popular vote rather than the projected electoral vote. Jokes about assassinations. (Until, of course, we realized that Trump is maybe the lesser of the evils of the administration-elect. More despair.)
What could we do? What is there to do? How are we going to move forward now?
On November 8th, the American people failed. Our communities failed. Our leaders failed.
Our system failed. Hillary won the popular vote. This is now twice in the last few elections that a Democrat has won the popular vote but lost because of electoral college votes. How does a Trump presidency reflect the will of the people when the electoral college gives some votes more weight than others? How can he represent us when the people chose Hillary?
The media failed.
They pushed bullshit, ultimately insignificant narratives. They failed to allow Hillary’s policies and her experience to speak themselves or even press or question her in any meaningful way. Trump, on the other hand, was the media’s best joke. He was the night’s ratings guarantee. His supporters were the forgotten denizens of the crustiest corners of the internet posting Pepe-memes. They were never your neighbors, never your coworkers, never your friends, never the people you would think of as Trump voters.
53% of white women voted for Trump and left us all shocked, appalled, and scrambling for answers. When it comes down to it, the media never took Trump seriously. They never took the impact his rhetoric could have on Americans scared of a changing, increasingly non-white world with any weight. They never tried. They didn’t care. Some journalists might have; some absolutely tried their best to discuss both Hillary and Trump critically. But media is a money game, not a morality play. And in their lack of care, the media started laying the foundations for normalizing the vitriol Trump represents.
Perhaps even worse is that the Democrats themselves failed.
They failed to articulate to some of their oldest supporters–the union-based middle class–that they were still with them. “Trumped-up Trickle-Down” wasn’t enough. How could it be, when Trump was promising a return to the old heyday of manufacturing? (Never mind that it would be impossible in the modern economy.) The racists were always going to be racists and would vote for the King of Racists. But these traditionally Democrat votes? These votes changed the game. And look, the DNC also failed when they gambled on Hillary, a key figure of traditional, center-left, liberal politics, in an election season where disgust and anger with the establishment ran high. The Democratic National Committee actively pushed Trump to be the candidate to run against Clinton. Had, perhaps, the DNC been unsuccessful, had it been Hillary versus a typical establishment Republican candidate, or, perhaps, had Bernie Sanders run against Trump, all other things being equal, we would be looking at a different future.
President Obama has to welcome the candidate endorsed by the white-supremacist KKK into the Oval Office.
He has to watch the Republicans systematically undo every single thing he’s achieved over the last eight years. All the progress we’ve made regarding social issues, all the progress with healthcare reform, all the progress rebuilding our economy and environment—all of that, gone come January.
Things are going to change.
And having to fight just to be able to exist is going to become the reality of so many people—again. We’ve already started to see an uptick in harassment directed at minorities. Under Trump—well, really, under Mike “Conversion Therapy” Pence—LGBTQ+ people are going to have to fight for their very right to exist. The call for a “Muslim Ban” may have been taken off of Trump’s website, but that doesn’t mean that Muslims aren’t going to have to fight for their very right to exist in this country either.
Whether it’s LGBT people, Muslims, disabled people, the poor, Black people, Jewish people—we’re all going to have to fight. Protest. Make sure that the new white-supremacist, homophobic, xenophobic, misogynist Christian doesn’t kill us.
Maybe things won’t be so bad. Maybe the administration will swing to the center, rather than to the far-fringes of the right. But it won’t matter. Because with this election, the American people have shown that they’re ready to give up everything good, right, and just about their country chasing smoke and empty words. They’ve shown us that they only care about themselves and the people who look like them.
And the rest us of have nowhere else to go.
We must accept these failures. We must accept that, in electing Trump, our very core sense of what is right and wrong failed. We must learn from the failures and move forward.
I cannot explain to you the sheer amount of despair I feel when I think of who I will have to become in the next four years to survive.
I’ve cycled through denial and sadness. I’ve cried for the loss of the country America was becoming. I’ve mourned the loss of the progress we’ve made under Obama’s administration. I’ve crawled from the bottom of despair and risen with an anger at the people responsible for this that has settled into the very core of who I am.
I don’t know what’s going to happen in these next four years. Already, many sections of the media is trying to further normalize the incoming administration, equating racists/fascists/homophobes with the people who simply want the right to exist without fear, in peace. Already, we are being told to “stop the hate,” because we refuse to accept Trump and what he represents as the voice and face of America.
I am a Desi woman raised in the ideals and promises of the American dream.
I may be the “good” kind of brown person–a non-Muslim, naturalized citizen–but make no mistake: there is no such thing as a “good” brown person in the eyes of the people that hate us. In the end we are, I am, just another brown body. Interchangeable. Disposable.
The winds may feel quiet now. There may be hands from the left reaching out to the right. We might be making promises to work together. We might even be rationalizing, thinking that it might not be that bad. But the tempest is coming. January 20th will be a dark day for not just America, but the rest of the world. Fascism, white-supremacy, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, ableism-these things know neither compromise nor kindness. They only destroy.
The only thing we can do–we who stand against the ideals that Trump will try to enact into law–is to keep breathing, take care of each other, and make our voices heard.
We can mobilize for the midterm elections in 2018. I hope that someone will listen to us. I hope the Democrats trying to work with the Republicans will be able to do something.
In the end, when it comes down to it, I’m not hopeful that anything good will come out of a Trump presidency. I don’t think any of us are.
But I do know this: we will fight. For as long as it takes, we will fight.
This post was written by Deepshikha Sharma, a student of the University of Pittsburgh and a resident of Monroeville, Pennsylvania. I approached her to write this article after I realised a) I’m not educated enough on this matter to comment on it and b) I shouldn’t comment on it because I’m not there experiencing ground reality.
The consequences of Trump’s election will be massive, and not just in the socio-cultural sphere. The world economy might go for a toss. Millitant forces all over the world might rise, including the spectre of jihadi terrorism.
This is ground reality for the time being. Whether or not Trump’s ascent to political leadership will bring about the apocalypse (or World War Three), it will certainly encourage violent groups drunk on convictions of their own supremacy to become bolder and more assured. The trend is visible the world over, in post-Brexit and increasingly right-leaning Europe, in the Philippines and Myanmar, in the Middle East and in India. The world is entering another conflict zone after the post-World War 2 years of ‘peace’.
I know many of those voted for Trump and were not his core supporters, did so in the hope of economic policy changes, rather than his rhetoric. But that’s why the onus of this election’s results lies all the more heavily on you. Quite simply put, how could you?
It is a scary time. But we must be prepared. We must see it through and emerge, because if we don’t, all the principles we hold dear will be lost.
I would like to point out several media establishments, such as Mic, Huffington Post, The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Guardian that have been instrumental in vocalizing sentiments against the hateful rhetoric emerging from the Trump campaign, unless, of course, the editorial policy changes drastically some time in the next 4 years. I would like to say thank you.
Credit for featured image: AP/LM Otero via Salon