Discouraged, disgusted, dumbstruck, disappointed. That is not the way I expected to feel upon learning that yes, it is true that anyone can become president of the United States.
As I decompress after a five hour fixation on electoral results, I'm coming away with an odd jumble of encouraging and depressing thoughts. Hopefully writing them out here will help me figure out where I think we can and should go from here.
Note: I'm writing this mostly for myself. If you are as fed up with the election season as I am, the last thing you want is another opinion blog about the state of the union.
I think nearly everyone in the country, regardless of their opinions on the candidates, has been sickened by the hateful, polarizing rhetoric of this campaign. I don't have much hope for that to change soon, but I am reminded that this mudslinging is neither new nor worsening. Ever since George Washington stepped down, candidates have appealed to the worst instincts and prejudices of their constituencies, and this year is by no means the most egregious. Those of us who were shocked by the vitriol have fallen into the trap of thinking ourselves more enlightened than our forebears. People are pretty much the same everywhere and everywhen, and we are fortunate to live in a system where some of our worst tendencies are tempered by institutional checks and balances, and (sometimes) by open communication.
I suspect that a majority of votes this year were cast not for a candidate but rather against their opponent. Personally, I consider myself a right-leaning moderate, and I was deeply disturbed by almost everything that now-president-elect Mr Trump said and did throughout this campaign. My vote is best characterized as against Trump rather than for Clinton, and I can understand much of the opposition to Clinton's candidacy. However, weighing my options based on how much damage they would do to the country and the world seemed to make it an easy decision, and I am unhappily surprised that so many people in our country came to the opposite conclusion. I think this election result is a disaster, and I only hope the next few years show it be a small one.
(Still, if it came down to it, Trump would have gotten my vote over Giant Meteor, so I guess I don't see this result as entirely apocalyptic. I recently read a book about meteors hitting Earth, and those are really bad news.)
Wholly aside from whatever policies the new administration enacts, I think that Trump's election alone has harmed the things I value about America. For instance, the mere fact of his candidacy has helped to destroy the image of Western democracy in the eyes of the world. My main worry coming into the election had been that the racist, misogynist, and xenophobic voices in America would feel legitimized by a win (or even just a solid showing) by Trump, who has expressed those views time and again. Those voices are rightly condemned and vilified in the media, and should be actively opposed in the interest of peace, understanding, tolerance, etc. And now those voices can look to President Trump for strength and coalescence.
But you know what? I think most of those racist, misogynist, and xenophobic people already felt legitimized. And regardless of whether Clinton or Trump won the electoral college, the country would still be the same divided place, with about 50% of voters backing each of them. Maybe the best thing to come out of Donald Trump's win is that it makes it impossible to ignore the supporters who put him in office. Maybe it is a wake-up call to the country that these pernicious attitudes are persistent, popular, and powerful, and they need to be addressed. Perhaps analogous to the way that recent police violence led to more open discussion about the racial divide. I hesitate to make that comparison, but I'll leave the idea here. How we go about healing the hatred is something to which I hope many people give serious thought.
One tangent, here at the end: there was quite a bit of discussion about the media's supposed liberal bias. While some think it doesn't exist at all, I believe that
1) it is real
2) it is less dramatic than some (e.g. our new president) would have you think
3) in an abstract sense, it is a good thing!
Yes, despite having a conservative bent myself, I think that a liberal media is a sign of healthy democracy. Defined along a single spectrum, conservative means resistant to change, while liberal means upsetting the status quo. Whatever that status quo is, the people or party in power would like to preserve it. No matter how they start, over time the incumbents will necessarily become the new conservatives. Thus, in the long run a media that biases toward liberal reveals that it is independent of the government. A free press is one of the foundational necessities for a functional democracy, allowing for transparent inspection of the officials and institutions that administer justice. Without that, the government ceases to be accountable to the people. So, though there are things you or I may dislike about liberal bias in the media, or its effects, the fact that the bias exists is a hopeful sign that our way of governing is in fact working as intended.
NOTE: As usual, comments on this blog are moderated.