A lot of people in this country feel like this right now:
Or even this:
I feel ya.
It’s a lot to take in. President Trump. The guy who said all those things over the last 18 months is our president, and the most powerful person in the world, for the next four years. Four years is a long time. At the end of which, there will be another Donald Trump campaign. This is someone we’re going to have to get used to.
A lot of people are scared right now, for a lot of reasons.
But at this very moment, there are also a lot of Americans who feel like this:
Those people aren’t scared about what happened last night—they’re elated, and relieved, and grateful.
And though it probably feels unintuitive to most readers of this blog, it turns out that there are just as many people who are thrilled by last night’s election as there are people who are devastated by it. For every single American who voted for Hillary yesterday and who watched last night’s events unfold in horror, there’s another American out there who rejoiced. It’s a 1-to-1 ratio.
Hillary supporters are going to go through a bunch of stages of grief before they finally reach acceptance. I’ve already gone through about nine stages myself—and I’ve come out of them with two main thoughts:
1) This is not as bad as it seems.
2) This is a moment for reflection.
Let’s discuss #1 first. Reading the internet throughout the night, I saw Hillary supporters saying a lot of pretty dramatic things, and I think we all need to take it down just a notch. Some examples of things I’m seeing:
“I’m moving to Canada.”
You and I both know your ass isn’t going anywhere. First of all, Canada doesn’t want you. Secondly, this is still a great country you should be proud of. More on that in a bit.
“She won the popular vote. This system is so fucked.”
Yup. The system is dumb. But if Hillary lost the popular vote and won the electoral vote, you’d be fine with it. You can’t protest a system only when you lose.
“We’ll never have a female president.”
I don’t believe that for a second and I don’t think you do either. Hillary didn’t lose because she’s a woman. She lost because Hillary is bad at campaigning and because Trump had a message that resonated with a lot of people and she didn’t. The country is unbelievably ready to elect a woman as its president and I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens in the next election or the one after. And it’ll be so awesome whenever it happens.
“Trump has no idea how to be a world leader.”
He sure does not. But think of it this way: the US executive branch needs to have expertise in about 1,000 things, and no president comes into office as an expert in more than a tenth of those things. The president’s job is to bring in a large team of experts to fill in the 90% that he or she doesn’t know about. For Trump, maybe that number is 98% instead of 90%. But our executive branch will be run by a large group of people, not just Trump, and as a whole they’ll have all the expertise of any other administration. Sure, the president has a lot of say and does have a significant amount of individual power, and that’s a bit terrifying when it comes to Trump—but I’m encouraged by both his experience running a large, complex company and his surprisingly adult choice of Pence as a running mate. I’d predict that President Trump is all about surrounding himself with experts who know very well how to run the executive branch.
“Holy shit the Supreme Court.”
If you care passionately about socially liberal values, this is a fair thing to be super upset about. But it’s also kind of an expected reality. Bush Sr. appointed two justices. So did Clinton. So did Bush Jr. So did Obama. And it’s historically unusual for one party to hold the White House for more than two terms, so history shows that we’re kind of in line for a couple conservative justices. There will be another liberal in office before too long who will appoint more liberal justices. Yes, the whole Merrick Garland thing was maddening if you’re a social liberal, but overall, the fact is that you live in a democracy where half of the people are socially conservative—so this is reality. Look at the bright side—Trump isn’t especially socially conservative, so his appointees may not be either.
America didn’t die. In fact, what happened last night is America being very much alive. Half the country felt ignored and angry and disenfranchised and they wrested control of the government from the people they felt ignored by. That’s how democracy works. It’s an uncomfortable compromise where half the country is appalled by who the president is at all times. Obama’s elections made tens of millions of people feel the same way.
Now granted, this is an unusual case. Trump is extra appalling. So much so that much of his own party is appalled by him. That’s unusual. But it’s not unusual where it counts—he got about the same number of votes as Hillary and ended up winning pretty big in the electoral college. That makes him no less legit a president than anyone in the past.
Secondly, a bigger point: no one person has the power to RIP America, no matter what they do. America is bigger than you or me, and America is much, much bigger than Donald Trump. America is a 320-million-person melting pot, run by a government made up of thousands of people working within a twisty, convoluted set of branches, ruled by a 240-year-old instruction booklet that specifically makes it impossible for any one dick to ride a wave of populist anger into a position where he can RIP America. America is un-RIP-able, at least by the hands of any president.
America survived a civil war, slavery, two world wars, a handful of crippling recessions, 9/11, and a whole lot of really shitty presidents—and it’ll survive Donald Trump.
“But Trump can still do a huge amount of damage.”
Yes he can. And that sucks. But every president can do a lot of damage, and many of them do, and we’re still standing. And remember, the president is seriously limited in what he can do without the approval of other parts of the government, so he’s unlikely to be able to carry out anything that crazy.
On the plus side, it’s a little simplistic to assume that every idea Trump has is terrible. Trump has some good ideas and some refreshing ideas. He may be very good in some areas. He’s nerve-wracking for sure, but let’s look at the full picture.
“Easy for you to say, white male blogger. I’m brown and I don’t feel safe here anymore.”
Here’s what I’ll say to that:
This country had your back yesterday and it’ll have your back tomorrow. America isn’t the president and it’s not the government—it’s 320 million people, and those people haven’t changed. Almost every ethnicity of American was at some point in the role of unwelcome immigrant, and I think there’s a deep ethos of acceptance that pervades everything—an ethos Donald Trump can’t touch. Sure, there are plenty of racists and xenophobes—the US is a troubled place when it comes to race, religion, and ethnicity—but I don’t see Trump’s election as proof that there’s some growing people-phobia trend happening. Which reminds me of another thing I keep seeing:
“I hate everyone who voted for Trump—those stupid, racist, xenophobic fucks.”
Again, that’s a pretty simplistic way to look at things. This election was about much more than the really nasty things Trump said during the campaign. First of all, Trump won in areas where Obama was strongest among white voters—i.e. people unracist enough to vote for a black president. Secondly, Trump did surprisingly well with Latino voters. This isn’t as simple as the media portrays it to be. Trump did say shameful things, and he definitely won over some very hateful people by doing so. But he also stood for a lot more than just those things. In many people’s minds, he stood for hope and change—the same exact thing Obama stood for for millions of voters in 2008.
People vote for hope and change when they’re in pain. When I watched the election last night, I didn’t see a bunch of assholes voting to be hateful, I saw a bunch of people going through a lot of suffering hoping for something better.
Which is why, if you’re a Hillary supporter, in addition to this being a time for disappointment and frustration, it should also be a time for reflection. Half your country voted for Trump. Over 50 million people—people with kids and parents and jobs and dogs and calendars on their wall with piano lessons and doctors appointments and birthday parties written in the squares. Full, three-dimensional people who voted for what they hope will be a better future for themselves and their family.
So yeah, we’re gonna have to look at Trump’s face a lot for a bunch of years, and that’s a shame. And he might do some really shitty things. And it’s fair to be really upset about having a guy like Trump representing you in the world and worried about how the country will fare under his administration. But if we want to make the best of this, we need to ask a question: Why did those 50 million people vote for Trump?
Trying to get to the bottom of that question will help us learn from the past and get better.
And remember—this is hardly the first time half of America has been apoplectic about the lunatic they just elected as their president. And we’ve always survived. And we will here too.