“The private life of men of power isn’t what we expect, sometimes.”
He jerked up his chin. “People have some very odd illusions about power. Mostly it consists of finding a parade and nipping over to place yourself at the head of the band. Just as eloquence consists of persuading people of things they desperately want to believe. Demagoguery, I suppose, is eloquence sliding to some least moral energy level.” He smiled bleakly at his boot. “Pushing people uphill is one hell of a lot harder. You can break your heart, trying that.”
– Lois McMaster Bujold, Komarr
The Brexit vote was when I realized it was an actual possibility. Until that point I had dismissed him as ludicrous, a tangerine wannabe demagogue with absurd hair and even more absurd ambitions. After the vote I never discounted him again, but I didn’t think he’d win. He couldn’t. His language was so ugly, his platform xenophobic, his sexism proudly displayed instead of sheepishly passive, that I thought it would be his eventual downfall. Like so many people, I’ve been reeling to see how wrong I was.
The first words said to me by a Brit today, preceded by a cautious look, were, “My god. Your country.” I flinched.
My country, yes, but one that I don’t feel in particular harmony with at the moment. What Mr. Trump seems to have tapped into is very real and painful fear and resentment and I don’t dismiss that. If anything, I think the one thing his campaign should get some credit for is helping to reveal that we as a nation to not have our **** nearly together as we would like the rest of the world to think. We scratched our surface and found a lot of damage under what turned out to be a thin layer of gloss.
But even in spite of that I didn’t think he would win.
I’ve been very open about the fact that I found Mr. Trump’s campaign both ridiculous and repugnant. I am baffled at how a privileged seeming-narcissist, several times over a failed businessman who somehow apparently retains an obscene amount of money, a bully, a braggart, and self-proclaimed prophet of self-interest managed to convince anyone that he would be the champion and voice of the dispossessed. I don’t get it.
I am not particularly afraid of Donald Trump individually, indeed I’m wondering how he will find the office of the president in actuality vs. the perception of the office. History shows us that many men may covet thrones, but seldom do they covet the accompanying desks and paperwork. His temperament, crassness, impatience, utter lack of humility, and apparent inability to focus make him, in my opinion, imminently unsuitable for the role. I anticipate he will rely on a bevy of advisers for support, which is not unusual in and of itself until you review their CVs; these men (mostly speaking) and their self-avowed agendas do frighten me.
Whether out of genuine conviction or simply because they saw a way to leverage rage into power, or some poisonous mixture of both, these people who he has chosen to surround himself with (or have managed to surround him, I’m unsure which is the case) have stoked the fires of racial resentment and misogyny. They have purposefully fanned flames of mistrust so that even reputable facts and data is suspect or rejected if it does not support opinion. Science has been dismissed, minority groups targeted, women attacked. The jury is out on whether some have tried to wield the power of non-elected offices and positions of information privilege in a biased way.
I am baffled that so many of the same people who eight years ago decried then-Senator Obama’s “lack of experience” as disqualifying and his candidacy as divisive, are now lauding a reality TV personality who kicked off his campaign accusing a whole community of being druggies and rapists–before going on to mock or attack the disabled, veterans, PoC, women…basically every facet of the population besides white men. I think a lot of people have been sold several ideas in this election (walls, unconstitutional religious tests, sweeping statements of action that exceed the limits of the office) that will likely never come to be. I wonder if the anger will eventually turn back against the hand that has fed it when these promises don’t materialize. I wonder if only promises would have proved be enough to calm fears of and resentment against a changing world. I wonder which is ultimately worse.
Brexit was only one side of this. Mr. Trump’s victory is just another. There is a rising tide of nationalism, xenophobia, and rabid fear of a world that is getting smaller and closer all the time. This tide is what I am afraid of. Intensely. But even seeing that this is the big picture, the election feels deeply and painfully personal to me.
My country has followed the election of its first black president with the election of a man who has been endorsed by the KKK.
The glass ceiling remains. My country would rather see a man elected who incites violence, speaks in racial dog whistles, lies outright without shame, and brags about sexual assault among other misogynistic speech, than a woman.
My country is divided. Mr. Trump has run a campaign of disenfranchisement and divisiveness and now has to bring a country together. Good luck. Both political parties have engaged in intense partisan rhetoric and actions over the last decade, but my opinion is that the right has invested far more in fanning fears and resentments in an effort to win back power. They have actively engaged in rabble rousing and now the rabble is roused. Anger may be vindicated, but I don’t believe it will simply go quietly away.
We’ve elected a reality TV personality. That’s humiliating. Politics and entertainment have long been mixed, but this is downright dystopian.
I’m disheartened. I’m afraid for the implications for the LGBT community, existing legal rights for women including abortion, minority communities, and others.
I genuinely thought the power of fear, distrust, and any number of -isms, was weaker than it is proving to be in my eyes. I believed my country looked different, thought differently than it is proving to do. I will answer calls for unity, I will take Secretary Clinton’s gracious concession speech words to heart, that “fighting for what is right is always worth it.”
But I am tired. I am disappointed. And I don’t think the problems raised (and in many cases purposefully manipulated) in this election are resolved.