Our worst nightmare has come true. Not everyone’s worst nightmare, of course, but my family’s and so many of my friends’ and colleagues’. A man who by almost any standards has proved himself to be a racist, misogynist, drastically uninformed bully is now President-elect of the United States. How did this happen?
According to the pundits (who have been wrong on almost every count since day one), Trump tapped into the anger and angst of white working-class men and women who fall “below the line.” That is, those who have been largely bypassed by the slow but steady economic recovery and who blame the “elite” from Washington to Wall Street who are more concerned about political correctness than they are about “making America great again.”
There is some truth to that analysis and I can even understand (if not sympathize with) those sentiments. But I have been amazed at the cowardice of those same pundits and mainstream media commentators who have failed, so far, to name an even more troubling reality. Twin driving forces behind the surging Donald Trump campaign have been racism and sexism. Apparently, a majority of people in this country were horrified to find themselves led by our first African-American President and unprepared to secure his legacy by electing our first woman as President.
Promising from day one to oppose anything Barack Obama proposed and perpetrating lies about the honesty and integrity of a future Hillary Clinton presidency, the opposition frightened enough people to give Donald Trump a decisive victory across much of the country. The same nativism and fear which led to Brexit, the new British Prime Minister, and potentially new leaders in France and across Europe is, we have discovered, hugely present in this country as well. We have elected Donald Trump.
So, what do we do now? First of all, we need to reassure ourselves and our loved ones that we will get through this. We survived Nixon, Reagan, George W. Bush and worse. We will survive Donald Trump. Many will be hurt, I fear, and some of the most vulnerable among us will suffer most. So, secondly, we need to redouble our efforts to stand in solidarity with the poor and marginalized and to be a voice for those this new administration will undoubtedly try to silence.
But our opposition needs to be a loyal opposition. Not loyal to policies and perspective we find, dare I say it, deplorable. But loyal to our country and to the political processes which have stood the test of time and produced one of the greatest nations on earth and a democracy which, while far from perfect, is to be preferred over many of the alternatives. We need to trust in the fact that the same checks-and-balances-system which can be so maddeningly slow when we seek progressive change can also protect us from the folly of people like Donald Trump and the possibly-frightening advisers with which he will likely surround himself.
We do not want to be obstructionist for the sake of being obstructionist (like the GOP has been over the last eight years) but we need to work to restrain foolhardy goals like walls between countries and mass deportation of immigrants and children of immigrants. And, we should be prepared to find common ground when possible on, perhaps, saving Social Security, balancing the budget, and finding ways to fix our broken health care system.
For many of us, our worst nightmare has come true. But, it is morning. And nightmares lose some of their horror in the light of day.