Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Time To Suck It Up and Deal With Reality

Let the post-mortem begin. According to the news, Donald Trump has been elected President of the United States. Am I surprised? Of course. Am I blown-away shocked? No. Why?
1) Whatever else they may or may not have been, Trump's supporters were passionate in their support of him. I knew very few people that were passionate about supporting Clinton. I certainly wasn't; I've been vocal since the day the nomination was clinched that I wasn't happy with the choice of my party, and I had a lot of company. And enthusiasm usually wins out.
1a) Clinton stacked the primary process so that she was virtually guaranteed the nomination. The signs were there that Democrats really were not behind her from the beginning. Although the numbers voting for third party candidates were minuscule in the end, I am willing to bet that white Democratic turnout--the core of Sanders' support--was down. In the end, no one except professional politicians were actually excited about Clinton's candidacy.
2) I think that the various barriers put in place to make voting harder in a lot of states across the nation had an effect. I stopped watching the news last night at 9 PM, but it was clear even by then that African-American turnout was seriously less than four years ago, and most of that was not tribal, but rather a "why put up with the hassle?" or "it's too much trouble." Especially for a candidate that they weren't really enthused about.
3) For a lot of the yahoo vote out there, this was the equivalent of an NFL must-win game. After eight years of a black President, and the possibility of another Clinton, the white people that form the bedrock of Republican support felt as though the country really was slipping away from them--and no one, NO ONE, gives up a preeminent position without a fight.
4) This is the fourth Presidential election in a row, and seventh of the last eight national ones, where the polls and exit polling on the day of the election have not matched the actual results. And what happened in 2004? In the aftermath of 2000, the switch to electronic voting nationwide was made. I have always been skeptical that the tabulation of votes by machine was totally honest, and with every passing election I am becoming more skeptical. I find it hard to believe that people lie to pollsters in numbers approaching five to ten percent of those questioned.
4a) Especially since ample evidence exists that little else about the entire system is honest and above-board. We've been lied to about the War on Terror, how it's been fought, what they're doing with the tools we gave them. Fraud and greed in the corporate world is endemic on a scale not seen since the Gilded Age. The Democratic party primary process was stacked in Clinton's favor so badly that a genuine outpouring of grass root support for a viable candidate was drowned by it... but we are supposed to trust that the actual counting of votes is totally honest and aboveboard, even though 99.8% of us have absolutely no idea of how the machine counting works or who put the machinery in place. As I said, I am skeptical, and my skepticism is now bordering on certainty.
5) It's always easier to talk about doing things differently than actually doing them. Trump made a calculated appeal to the emotions of a lot of people that felt powerless about the government. It was a message that resonated, a message that a lot of people that don't think too hard about the long-term ramifications of choices heard and acted on. I'm in my mid-fifties, and I ceased to be surprised a long time ago by how shallow and, yes, dumb, John and Jane Q. Public are in this country. The tendency of the populace to shallow, emotional choices has only been exacerbated by technological change in recent years. This is a nation that has been raised on microwaves, television, smart phones that remove most of the necessity for actual thinking, visual imagery, immersion in sales techniques, manipulation on a massive scale, and messages that instant gratification is the key to a happy and productive life. We have always been, even before the technological age, a nation that worships at the altar of the Golden Calf, that exalts rich people as somehow better than us and fit to rule over us. We are also a nation that is still, in many places, in thrall to Old Testament Christianity and its medieval views on patriarchy and morality, and those places have a disproportionate influence on Presidential voting. Trump's talk was attractive because of all these factors. The fact that he is absolutely not going to be able to accomplish hardly any of what he says he wants to do matters not a whit to those that voted for him.
They simply do not look that far ahead.

So where do we go from here? We've been speeding through the North Atlantic even with iceberg warnings for many years now, and we just rocked the boat big-time. There are two directions we can go in. Either we're going to sink, or this is the darkest part before the dawn. I am capable of being wrong, to be sure, but I am not stupid, and as a friend and I were commiserating this morning, I've spent my life feeling like Cassandra, and at no time more so than this morning. There is no way this is going to work, none. Whether it gets broken beyond repair and the whole country gets dropped into a miserable hole that we'll never get out of, or whether it is the final spasm of a generation that has had it its own way for too long and is going on one last binge before giving way, is an open question. There were positives that came out of last night. The "centrist" Democratic party that came out of the McGovern debacle 45 years ago has had a stake driven through its heart, finally. It managed to have three Presidents elected (although all three needed special  circumstances and a lot of help to win elections), but its main accomplishment was to allow the country to be taken over by the moneyed aristocracy and for the large majority of our citizens to be exploited, looted, and marginalized. I don't think anyone can plausibly argue on Team Blue that a "middle of the road" candidate is more electable than someone like Sanders; the "centrist" candidate lost to Donald Fucking Trump. The 1972 election is the first Presidential contest I remember in any detail, and the lament of the Democratic party establishment at the time was that the "electable" candidate, Muskie, had been shoved aside by the radical element that McGovern represented, and the disaster that November ensured that the actual rank-and-file were never going to have a chance to nominate their candidate again. For 45 years, that's more or less held true; the only possible exception was Obama, but even he was radical only in the sense that he was not white (in 1972 terms, he was and is the ultimate Uncle Tom). The Sanders uprising this year was a clarion call that a new generation isn't buying into the horseshit, and there will never be a better opportunity for the actual progressive Democrats to take over the party. Especially since the chance that Trump is going to be able to govern effectively is near zero.
And I have to say that I am taking some small solace in the fact that locally, the election I was most concerned about, county executive, turned out the way it needed to. Preston was defeated, rather handily, and at the least, no more petty corruption and head-up-the-ass policies will be enacted in years to come. Again, the question is, was the damage done reversible? I'm not sure about that, but at least there is reason for hope. Our congressional seat went to the least desirable candidate, but with the way the district is drawn, I can't say I was shocked. Our state senator was reelected with 3/4 of the vote; I'm not sold on him in general, but on the hottest-button issue around here, heroin treatment, he is on the right side, and in general he seems less politically rigid than most of his party. My county legislature seat flipped back to Democrat, and I know the candidate reasonably well, and he will be as effective as a minority party legislator can be.
In the end, although the election of Trump is not a positive development, I'm not going to mourn the lack of a Clinton win. My friend that I was talking to this morning is a woman, and she said she was hoping to have a woman president. I think that that day is coming--but when it does happen, wouldn't it be better to have one that owed her prominence to herself, rather than to the fact that her husband was President a quarter-century ago? Wouldn't it be better to have one encumbered by less baggage? Wouldn't it be better to have one that people actually were enthusiastic about voting for, rather than resigned to tepidly supporting as the lesser of two evils? The day of Madam President will come, no doubt, perhaps as soon as 2020 (although I had no idea that Elizabeth Warren was 67 years old until last week, and she will be 71 by the time of the next election). But there is no real reason to mourn, on its own merits, the fact that we do not have a Clinton 45.
And shit just got real. At worst, I have a few years left in this place, until Sabrina finishes college. And yes, I reserve the right to move overseas if this country becomes more of a dystopian nightmare than it is now. But if there is one thing I've learned over the last eighteen years, it's that how I live my life on an everyday basis is what determines the quality of it, not who is in charge of the country or the state or the county or the city. I will continue to live with integrity, with (grudging) tolerance for others that I do not agree with, and to live by the principles of my God to the best of my ability. I will muddle through somehow. This country has not been the one I grew up in for many years, and it is a moribund fantasy that it will ever return to being that again. But that doesn't mean that my life is not worth living. If the ship actually is sinking, I can still do my part to make sure that those that matter to me end up in lifeboats, and I can do prepare as much as I can to survive the water when the ship goes down. And if it isn't sinking, I can do what I can to make sure it makes it to port intact.
And those of you that supported Trump...I haven't forgotten who you are. I'll leave it at that.

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