Don’t panic. Or rather, don’t keep panicking for too long.
We tend to have a fairly left-leaning readership here at Cracked, just for demographic reasons (lots of college kids and such). So a lot of you reading this are outraged, sad, disgusted, terrified, and/or physically ill right now. Lots of you also use the stuff I write to feel better about the world, so let me give it my best shot.
First, understand that the opposite of panic is not blithe acceptance of the situation — it’s clear-minded, positive, day-to-day action. Panic makes you do stupid shit or, even worse, curl up into a ball and do nothing. Don’t tell me you have reason to panic. You never have reason to panic. You have reason to act.
So yeah, be upset for as long as you want. Get drunk. Do whatever you have to do. After that, I want you to sober up, splash water on your face, and consider some facts:
Gay marriage has overwhelming support nationwide — 55 percent to 37 percent against.
Legal abortion is favored by 56 percent, with 41 percent opposed.
The vast majority of the population supports background checks for gun buyers — up to 90 percent in some polls.
A majority of Americans support some kind of universal health care, 58 percent to 37 percent.
64 percent of Americans are worried about global warming. Only 36 percent are not.
And — get this — Americans overwhelmingly agree that immigration helps the country more than it hurts, by a 59 percent to 33 percent margin.
Your country didn’t go anywhere. It’s right here where you left it. America is nothing more than a big ol’ collection of people, and those people are more diverse and progressive than they have ever been. That train won’t be stopped. Donald Trump’s supporters are by and large an aging and shrinking demographic. We didn’t see the backlash coming, but that’s on us — a look at our history would have taught us to expect it.
In light of that, there are a few things to understand going forward.
1. You still have tremendous power, if you are willing to exercise it.
If Trump strides into office and decides he wants to undo 50 years of social progress, he will hear about it from a majority who disagrees, many of whom do in fact have quite a bit of influence. So will the members of Congress, who have to sign off on whatever he wants to pass. Trump was elected for a bunch of different reasons that may never be replicated, but that doesn’t change the fact that most of the country is still on your side.
Midterm elections are just two years away. Someone who needs your assistance because they’re suffering under Trump’s policies is probably much closer. Unite. Act.
2. Half of America did not, in fact, just reveal themselves to be closet Nazis.
My family back home aren’t Nazis. Neither are their neighbors. This is the last thing many of you want to hear at the moment, and that’s fine — feel free to bookmark this and read it a few months from now. But you can see the numbers for yourself, if you go issue by issue. Shit, at least three Trump states just voted to legalize marijuana, maybe more by time you read this. This is not your grandfather’s GOP. This is something different.
The truth is, most of Trump’s voters voted for him despite the fact that he said/believes awful things, not because of it. That in no way excuses it, but I have to admit I’ve spent eight years quietly tuning out news stories about drone strikes blowing up weddings in Afghanistan. I still couldn’t point to Yemen on a map. We form blind spots for our side, because there’s something larger at stake. In their case, it’s a belief that the system is fundamentally broken and that Hillary Clinton would have been more of the same. Trump rode a wave of support from people who’ve spent the last eight years watching terrifying nightly news reports about ISIS and mass shootings and riots. They look out their front door and see painkiller addicts and closed factories. They believe that nobody in Washington gives a shit about them, mainly because that’s 100-percent correct.
That pressure was building and building all around us, and we kept ignoring it. We media types were baffled when Trump won his first primary, and then his second, and then his third. We desperately tried to figure out how the system had failed. We were bemused when he won the nomination, then when he continued to hang around in the polls, we had approximately the same reaction one would have to seeing an invisible dagger floating across the room, aimed right at our fucking face. “How is this happening?!?”
Stop being baffled. Understand why it happened. Do the opposite of panic. Work through the problem.
3. The internet lets us live in social bubbles that blind us to what’s really happening.
“How can he keep winning when 100 percent of the comedians and smart commentators have nothing but derision for him? How can he keep finding voters when everyone on my Twitter feed thinks he’s a monster?” Well, we can stop being confused. That invisible hand on the dagger belonged to a forgotten entity called “Most of America.”
That sick feeling some of you have right now? They’ve had that for the last eight years. Call them racists, if you want — some of them definitely are — but mostly they’re regular people who want jobs, security, and safety. Part of that bubble effect is that we’re often shielded from “the other side” just enough that only the loudest, craziest assholes leak through. Some of you never had a single polite conversation with a Trump supporter, but did hear about hate crimes and the baffling Reddit spammers and Breitbart bigots. You didn’t think Trump would win because you didn’t think half the country could be crazy assholes.
Well, I’ve got good news: You were right. If you focus on the racism and ignore the economic anxiety, you’re intentionally blinding yourself to much of the problem. It doesn’t matter how much you hate them; their concerns must be heard and addressed or else this will happen again. Or, as someone on Twitter put it, “I’m begging liberal Democrats to discover a tactic other than wealthy celebrities mugging in a camera about how dumb the GOP is.”
They don’t need your sympathy, they don’t need your thinkpieces. They need fucking jobs. They need to feel like they’re not getting left behind and they need to not actually get left behind. The system needs to change, and only one candidate promised them it would. If he fails, they’ll turn against him too. Watch.
4. What Trump’s supporters just did, you can do.
Bad things are absolutely going to happen over the next few years. There will be outrages and disasters. That means people will need your help and you do not have the option of sitting it out. Just know that none of this is unprecedented — you’re just seeing it for the first time, many of you too young to have been paying attention pre-Obama. The old guys who wept with joy when Obama took office did it because they knew that getting there had been a long, brutal road, full of pitfalls and harrowing detours around mountains of bullshit. They saw the Civil Rights Movement bloom in the 1960s, only to run smack into the Reagan years. They pressed on and saw the tide turn.
But only because they acted. In each gut-wrenching setback, they saw opportunity.
And there is opportunity here. You’ll see. Trump ran against the most well-funded, well-organized political machine in the history of national politics, with 90 percent of the media and celebrities standing against him. All of the systems that are supposed to make sure one side wins failed. He smashed a billion-dollar political machine to pieces.
Good. I’m glad we can have elections where the prize doesn’t go to the side with the slickest ads, biggest names, and deepest pockets. So be it. Next time, that groundswell movement against the powers that be can be coming from your side. I personally believe it will, that this will be remembered as the dying last gasp of the worst part of America, one final stand against the bigotry and ignorance that has plagued us since the day we decided to build this nation on the backs of slaves.
But it won’t happen on its own. Nothing good ever does. Some of you wake up every day feeling like you have no purpose in life, and motherfucker, have I got news for you! The future is waiting to see what we do next. Let’s get to it.