I'm trying to process what I watched unfolding last night, and finally, what I awakened to this morning -- that our country has elected Donald J. Trump to be the next President.
After a streak of calling every election outcome correctly since '96 (just luck, I suppose!), I was totally wrong this time. I believed that Hillary would win by a landslide. I believed that she was a horrible candidate, but believed Trump was even worse and had spent his campaign continuing to sabotage himself in ways from which he could not recover. Obviously, I was wrong.
Maybe I was just living in the echo chamber of my own demographic, despite the fact that I tried to learn and understand more about the voters who were rallying around Trump.
I am one of the relatively small percentage of voters that voted third party. I truly hoped that third party candidates would receive significantly more support this year; that all the #nevertrump and #neverhillary voters would put their money where their mouths were and send a strong message that we could and should demand better candidates of the two major parties. I knew that by voting third party (despite the fact that I live in such a decidedly blue state that I knew my third party vote was not going to change the outcome of MA's electoral votes) opened myself up to criticism from both sides: to a Hillary supporter, "a third party vote is a vote for Trump," and, of course, vice-versa. Still, after carefully considering all the factors, I felt compelled to vote my conscience in this way. I even naively hoped (although not expected) to see both candidates fall short of the 270 electoral votes required, and to see the election thrown to the House. If ever it could happen, it could have happened this year, I thought, when so many voters from both major parties felt disenfranchised and un-represented by their party's candidate.
I have no doubt that most of my friends - college educated people who hold one or more degree, many of whom live in Boston or California - will claim that Trump won the election because America is, at heart, a racist, sexist, misogynistic country. I am certainly disheartened that Trump will be our president, but I am not convinced by this form of anti-Trump rhetoric. I am not willing to say that "deplorables" elected this man solely because they are ill-educated, racist xenophobes. Perhaps I will be proved wrong in the coming months and years, but I do not believe that 50% of our nation consists of these kinds of citizens. Perhaps a saddening 10% or so of people really stood behind Trump and loved all that he stood for and did, but I think a majority of voters who elected Trump fell into different categories.
It seems to me that - if the admittedly few Trump supporters I know personally are representative at least - that the reasons people had for voting for him were one of the following:
1) Hillary Clinton was a terrible candidate. So was Donald Trump, but the Democratic party overestimated Hillary's ability to outperform him nevertheless. Hillary was corrupt; so was Trump, and voters felt they had to decide between "the lesser of two evils" - a phrase we all heard a lot during this election cycle.
2) Policies and party platforms. Despite the fact that we had little reason to believe either candidate would deliver on the platform promises they made, voters who had traditionally voted for conservative government values fell in line and voted for the candidate promising at least some of the values they held dear.
3) SCOTUS. The election ended up being unusual in that it became not about two major figureheads and personalities, but ultimately about the Supreme Court nominations each candidate promised. I read many articles by conservatives advocating that their readers vote for Trump for this reason and this reason alone, even if they had to "hold their noses" to do so.
4) A desire to "see the government turned upside down." Get the career politicians out. Mix things up in the White House. Hillary, with all her experience in politics, represented "the system," and the Trump campaign somehow managed to turn his lack of experience to his advantage.
5) And possibly most of all - and this goes outside my own circle of friends - millions of people with whom we share a country were feeling disregarded. They felt the need for Hope and Change all over again, but of a different sort. The promises the Democratic party put forward were not what at least half the country was looking for, at the end of the day. We can sneer at these people, marginalize them on social media and in our conversations, or we can seek to understand them and pursue unity as a nation. They represent half of the American experience, for better or for worse. Where they are wrong we should hope for them to grow. Where their experiences are valid, we should listen and expand our own narrow experiences and worldviews.
I know that, for many Americans, a Trump victory is quite painful. It feels like betrayal. It feels like betrayal to women who have ever been subjected to unwanted advances by a man. It feels like betrayal to legal immigrants who nonetheless have never felt quite fully welcomed by all of America. It feels like betrayal to women who (while I may disagree with their choice of particular woman to be candidate) wanted to see that so-called "glass ceiling" shattered once and for all with a woman in the White House. It feels like betrayal to people of color who were rightly horrified by comments Donald Trump made and endorsements he received. It feels like betrayal to those in the LGBTQ+ community who fear being further marginalized and targeted if the hateful speech of some Trump supporters is allowed to continue.
A Trump victory feels like, "How could people vote for that man unless they hate me and disregard my experiences?" We need to listen to these people and love them. They are not crazy to feel this way. You cannot expect to separate politics and platforms from people and their experiences and feelings.
I believe that evangelicals of my age group also feel somewhat alienated from the older generations within their churches, in many cases. Even as Christians in their 20's and 30's decried Donald Trump for his morally reprehensible comments and behaviors, older Christians, while not embracing him, chose to vote for him. Perhaps they are older and wiser and more practical than the young, idealistic among us, but it was disappointing to many of my Christian friends to see evangelicals eventually come to endorse Donald Trump, rather than decrying his deplorable morals and holding ethics above party and power. Both major candidates were far beyond just "morally flawed," yet in the end, people fell into line to vote for one or the other, for the most part.
I finally girded up my loins to watch Trump's speech from last night, and had to make a concession of my own: it was the least horrifying speech I've heard him make. He almost sounded like he could be - somewhat - presidential. I can only hope that he might continue in this fashion; perhaps against all odds he will surprise us all and govern wisely. I pray that he will protect, preserve, and defend the republic and the constitution.
As much as I'm looking forward to finally having this wretched election cycle behind us, I realize that as long as voters are hurt by one another and find the other side incomprehensible at best, the years ahead will be challenging. I can't even bring myself to look at social media this morning, because I know it will be all yelling, mud-slinging, name-calling. If we can't treat one another with love, even when we disagree, how can we work together? When we create boxes for other people and force them into them ("anyone who voted for Trump is a racist or is tacitly endorsing his remarks" / "anyone who voted for Hillary is a criminal or is tacitly endorsing her criminal behavior") without listening, we are just further dividing our nation. The issues are complex. Let's love and serve one another; let's commit to getting more involved on a local level with causes we support and doing small things to help humanity. We can keep yelling at each other, or we can get to work to make our country and the world a better and safer place regardless of the election outcome.
At the end of it all, the question on my mind now is how to navigate these days with grace, how to seek to understand more than to be understood, how to move forward and seek unity, and perhaps most of all, how to pray for a man I disdain and abhor, who is to be my president.
I have known for many months now that, whoever had won the vote on the morning of November 9th, I would not be happy about the outcome either way. Today, I am more surprised than I thought I would be, and I don't know what the next four years will hold for my country. The future feels uncertain. I am only certain of this:
Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting Thou art God,
To endless years the same.
To endless years the same.