I appreciate your indulging me in this. I don't even know where to start, to be honest. I'm shaken like I've never been shaken by a national event before. Yes, that includes 9/11. Fifteen years ago, we were attacked and thousands of lives were taken, but that time, it came from without. On 11/8, the United States of America elected a man who ran a campaign appealing to racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and antisemitism*. He did this in the most brazen, unapologetic fashion this country has seen since George Wallace. Unlike 9/11, we did to ourselves, and that makes it worse.
I've been reading online reactions from people who supported this result, and one thing has become abundantly clear to me: I grossly underestimated how powerfully a socially conservative message would resonate with an enormous number of voters. I could have seen it coming; I've always considered the fiscal conservatives to be the drivers of the bus in the Republican party. The social conservatives were just being strung along, thrown the occasional scrap, but mostly just given lip service by the party leadership because who else were they going to vote for?
So, along comes Donald Trump, and while his economic policies were a mishmash of populism and extreme Norquistian tax reduction (strange bedfellows, those), his message on the social side of things was unflinchingly consistent: The traditional (white Christian) American way of life was under attack. Trump recognized this, and he wasn't afraid to court the extremist factions, earning the endorsement of the Klan and turning over his campaign to the alt right. The fact that he wasn't afraid to say it aloud, instead of dog-whistling in the dark, won him incredible loyalty, not just from the self-identified sexists and racists and religious bigots, but from huge numbers of people who longed for a return to the America they saw in black and white sitcoms.
This is why America feels foreign to me. Trump himself doesn't worry me so much**, at least not yet, but it's what his election says about what this country stands for. In the past, the endorsement of the KKK would be box office poison, not a late boost at the polls. The people who see blacks as "thugs," Mexican immigrants as "racists," gays as "abominations," and Muslims as "terrorists" have won the day. They've been vindicated. They won, and I can't feel at home in a country which embraces these values.
Like I said, I've tried to read up on the reactions of the folks who are happy with the election results, and, if I twist my mind around a little, I feel a little empathy for them. So many of them has said they no longer recognized America. A black man in the White House, and the White House lit up with rainbow colored lights? It was too much. They no longer felt at home in their own country.
So, empathy yes***, even though not much in the way of sympathy. Accepting people who do things differently is, I believe, a sign of progress and it speaks well of our nation that we were moving in this direction. I'm not saying that Trump will reverse everything good that has happened. I'm not saying that at all. I'm saying that he was elected in no small part because that is what so many Americans want him to roll back the last fifty years of social progress.
Before finishing up, I'd like to link a few other reactions to the election. There's some good stuff in here:
I'll close with a Hunter S. Thompson quote I ganked from the comments on the Stross blog:
"This may be the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves; finally just lay back and say it — that we are really just a nation of 220 million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns, and no qualms at all about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable."
* Just to be clear, I'm not trying to suggest that all Trump supporters embraced these traits. I am saying that all Trump supporters embraced a candidate who embraced these traits.
** I mean, sure, he worries me. He's not prepared for the job, he's not fit for it, and...I could go on. I just mean that concern for what his presidency will look like isn't what is getting me down at this particular time.
*** Now, the liberals who voted for Trump or Stein because Hillary's such an insider politician who can't be trusted? Screw you guys. No empathy at all. Hillary's competent, truthful and trustworthy (at least compared to her opponent). Getting into bed with the Klan and their ilk to make a stand against the status quo is not a defensible position in my book. Что происходит дальше, на вашей совести.