Critics of my blogs may be delighted to know that my operating system was corrupted, and I have been without a computer for two weeks. It was a most peculiar time to be silenced. Hallelujah, the tech crisis is over. But the inability to post provided an interesting time for reflection.
I have never seen a reaction to an election that compares to this one. Friends who are therapists say that patient after patient still enters the office anxiety-ridden and often dissolves in tears. These are high functioning sophisticated people, I am told. One friend reportedly hadn’t felt so bad since her father died, and that was some years ago. Parents struggle to answer the question, “how come the bully won?” The Boston Globe did a front page story on “The Trump 10,” the pounds that Trump opponents have gained seeking comfort food. I can relate; I have finished our Halloween candy.
I don’t remember which election night felt worse. Was it when George McGovern lost to Richard Nixon, evil incarnate, in 1972? Or was it Ronald Reagan’s dramatic victory in 1980, when his huge margin swept out good-guy Senators, McGovern, Warren Magnuson, Birch Bayh, John Culver, Frank Church, Gaylord Nelson, John Durkin, and Mike Gravel? I sat in my small office at Channel 5 wondering if I’d ever feel good again. But, of course, I would.
One difference between then and now was that both Nixon and Reagan had experience in government. They didn’t require on-the-job training. Nixon had been deeply involved in international affairs as a U.S. Senator and Vice President; Reagan had been two-term governor of California, which at the time had a budget equivalent to the sixth largest country in the world. Neither was as breathtakingly uninformed or had such blatantly dangerous conflicts of interest that Trump has. Neither had been so given to lies and distortions. Both managed to make some respectable appointments. The jury is still way out with Trump.
I fully expected Hillary, notwithstanding all her flaws and baggage, to win. Maybe it was a misplaced belief that a Trump exposed as supremely unqualified and unfit to serve would be a winning argument, even in an otherwise “change” election. Maybe I bought into the limited notion that demography is destiny, that the Obama coalition would hold, now augmented by strong, proud women (including some college-educated Republican suburban women) plus outraged Hispanics and other aggrieved minorities.
I thought the sophisticated analytics used by the Clinton campaign brain trust and its vaunted labor-intensive ground game would prove decisive, especially in her firewall blue states. In that spirit, I didn’t react when my political science-obsessed husband fulminated at would-be Senate president Chuck Schumer’s boast at a conference in July that “for every blue collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs of Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio, Illinois and Wisconsin.” My husband kept saying that Democratic identity politics is the party’s Achilles heel. And he was right. Hispanics are not a unified group, and neither are women.
Even if many voters had made up their minds last January, we all should have known that there were too many “undecided” and third-party preferences to take the polls seriously.
In August, my husband and I discussed the need for independent Vietnam Era-style teach-ins around the country so all Americans would get a better understanding of each other, beyond the identity labels that candidates and analysts attach to each other. What are the common concerns that should bind us all together? And how best to deal with the recommended solutions with factual information, not mendacious messages and campaign slogans. Have political leaders join in, but not dominate the discussion. And make these sessions readily available to would be voters.
Now it has hit the fan. Donald Trump is our President-elect. I think it’s a waste of energy to mount a campaign to try to get electors to vote for Clinton in the electoral college. Protesters have a right to demonstrate peacefully and lawfully against the results, but we should think about how we would judge Trump supporters if they had done the same in the wake of his defeat. It is time to move on. There’s a lot of hard work to do.
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