Seem like a bit much too offer for thoughts? Think figuratively.
Secret ballots being what they are, I have neither the inclination nor the duty to tell you how I voted. No. I will not tell you. This is going to upset a few folks. I’m sorry to cause discomfort, I truly am. Living in the US carries the tacit agreement to live according to the laws and customs of the land. Some years that is more of a burden than others.
In years past, during both presidential and so-called midterm elections, I have cast my ballot as I have every year since turning 18. I often disagree with the popular majority in my county, but I acknowledge that if the majority has chosen a candidate, it is my civic duty to do one of two things- or both since they are not yet mutually exclusive. First, I face the reality that this person will hold this office. There is nothing to be done to change that fact whether I like the fact or not. It is what it is, and reality must be worked with, not denied. Second, I can work even harder next time to get my own preferred views into the larger conversation. What this means is that I can respect the results of the process, yet still work to see my own preferred results in the future by taking ever larger part in that same process.
Midterm elections will happen in two years. State and local elections are what truly impact your day to day lives. Pay attention. I’m telling you the secrets. The President of the United States is the most televised, most famous, most easily stonewalled figurehead in the world. Our Constitution lays out a three part government, each part acting as a power-check to the others, for a very good reason. Change happens but it is forced to happen slowly. Neither of the front running candidates would have been legally able to enact a fraction of what they were spouting. This may disappoint or encourage you, depending on your views. Congress writes laws. The President can veto them, but that veto can be and has been overridden by Congress. A united Congress could accomplish damn near anything. Good thing all those lobbyists and sports-team mentalities keep them divided, right?
The local elections I glossed over will actually be the most important ones for your everyday life. State Senates, Houses of Delegates, Parliaments, and other similar governing bodies are what make the close to home decisions about everything from educational policies to road construction to state taxes to who can open up a small scale meadery in their back field. The federal government doesn’t give an airborne coitus about your meadery. Your state officials might. If you’re in one of those weird states like Maryland where the state is essentially a confederacy of semi-self governing counties then your county officials certainly care about that meadery! Although perhaps not as much as if the county had elected to turn to code home rule instead of the current commissioner system. I digress.
Most of the country, of course, will not change no matter who is installed into which office. The country as a whole reliably yet barely supports (I mean low 50% ish last time I looked anything up) such things as same sex marriage, the right of a woman to have a safe abortion if she chooses to end her pregnancy, and legalizing recreational marijuana. For the record, I can’t actually find much in the Constitution itself that suggests that the Federal government should have any say in any of these things. These are not interstate, international, or security based issues so…. yeah. Not really federal purview. But the population solidly, if barely, supports all of them. That’s good to know. It means that there’s a limit to what any elected official should be able to change IF YOU SPEAK UP. Very important caveat, there.
As for the actual results of this year’s Presidential election (aka, the media circus of the last several months while far more important things went totally unreported) it’s not all bleak or golden.
Let me be clear, I happen to think that Trump is a buffoon of a man with the temper of a hungry toddler and a value set totally unsuited to this century. Let me be equally clear, if Putin follows through on his statements earlier today about being ready to rebuild US-Russia relations (something I sincerely doubt he would have done if Clinton had been elected) then there’s a true silver lining here. I’d MUCH rather rebuild bridges with Russia than face China (and/or Iran, Korea, etc) alone. I also remember that for many years Trump was a Democrat. I also noticed that once the numbers were in, Trump dropped the religion, family values and right to life talking points immediately. They haven’t been mentioned since. Clearly they were not as big a part of his plan (assuming he has one at all) as he wanted the evangelical voters to think. Instead, I noticed that Trump’s tune changed immediately to something I have a hard time arguing against. He started talking right away about taking care of the veterans first, about rebuilding infrastructure, and about trying to unite as one America again. While it may well turn out to be complete horse hockey (we all know that very little of what is said in a campaign, immediately after said campaign, or the first few weeks of office can really be trusted) it sounds… ok.
Trump winning has highlighted more than the ugly racist and sexist voices in American society. They’re real, they’re ugly, and they’re a problem, but they’re NOT a majority. Not even close. This win was not surprising to me. I’ve expected it for weeks. I live in a part of rural American which happens to butt right up against military base America. Most of the people voting for Trump were just… people. Most of the people voting for Trump were simply voting for anyone other than a politician because the word itself is hateful to them. Most of them were scrambling for the other side of the coin that brought them a failed healthcare reform and staggering debt. At this point whether I agree or not doesn’t really matter- I *understand* why Trump won. I’m willing to bet that at the end of the day an awful, terrible lot of people clenched down their bile at the thought of voting for someone currently facing court for charges of sexual assault and voted for him anyway because they were convinced that the other main candidate was a traitor at least to her office and possibly to the country. Right or wrong, that’s the emotional baseline that the two camps have been putting out for months. Alleged Rapist or alleged Traitor. That’s a choice that we should never have had to make, but it’s the low to which our political discussions have sunk.
It’s also a sign of a problem we’ve not encountered before. As much as I love the Internet- hello, shopping whenever I want, adorable animal videos, conversations at all hours with friends all across the continent and planet, endless beautiful artwork and stories, mass communication and discovery- it has some ugly dark sides and an insidious power. The nature of social media is that we surround ourselves with those who think like us, enjoy the same things, and have similar experiences. This is pleasing to us, as it creates a feeling of wholeness and support. It also insulates us from other opinions and the reality that even those folks who aren’t in seventeen of the same groups all celebrating some actor’s butt or accent just like us (not me, ‘us’ in general) are in fact regular folks with many similar and a few different opinions. We really do have more in common than not, but within our social media bubbles only the extreme gets through and we start to see all those not part of our in group as extremists. Suddenly the majority of the country appears to be made up of neo-Nazi child molesters and how did that even happen? Well, the truth is that a sick few are neo-Nazis, child molesters, or both, the overwhelming majority are simply sick of what they perceive as the same old thing in government. To the majority, Trump represents the chance at something different. Nazis didn’t even enter into it for most voters.
I maintain that American didn’t really have a good candidate this year. An undisciplined caricature of big business and one of the most nakedly ambitions human beings to ever swim the murky pools of Things Done In The Name of Politics are neither of them good choices. I also maintain that no matter how you feel about him, the reality is that Trump has been elected by a majority. Reality must be faced and worked with, not denied. If the classically conservative rhetoric about infrastructure and vets that we heard in his acceptance speech comes true, then we’ll be ok. If he sits on his ass and does nothing but vaguely insult people for 4 years, well, we’ll be ok then, too. Embarrassed, but ok. The country will survive. Countries have survived unsuitable leadership before. Whether or not it’s great again is up to us.