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November 2016


Fair warning: I'm writing this quickly, as I want to get it out.  So there won't be the usual citations.  Just my opinion, which I think is accurate but hey.

OK, I know it's more than that now: 279 electoral college votes and likely to climb since Arizona will definitely go to Trump.  But that was the count when I woke up yesterday morning and checked CNN.  I had gone to bed the night before with Hillary Clinton trailing.  But there was still a sliver of hope, and I wasn't going to count on the media getting the election outcome right, after getting it wrong every step of the way up to now.

But as I woke and checked the results yesterday morning, Trump's victory was confirmed.  Yes, I was shocked. Yes, I was disappointed.  "There's no way the American people will elect this clown," I had repeatedly thought.  It turns out, that was just my optimism speaking.  They could, and they did.

I don't know what this means.  No one does, and if they tell you they do, they're full of shit.

As that reality settled in, there were the inevitable stages of grieving.  We had the tears, especially from women who must have thought they were about to experience what black people felt eight years ago when Barack Obama was elected President--only to have that moment ripped from them.  We had anger, though not of the "you stole the election" sort that we saw with George W. Bush's election.  We've had protests, such as the walkout at the high school in Berkeley yesterday (student activism among millennials, or whatever that generation is called, warms my heart).

And now we, and the rest of the world, ask, "what's next?"

Where to, America?

Will we descend into fascism as Bill Maher worried on his show last week? Will we see a rollback of the liberties recently won, such as gay marriage?  Will we send Hispanic immigrants away? Will we institute some sort of religion test for Muslim immigrants?

I'm an optimist; I can't help it, it's my nature. I have a hard time believing that the election of Donald Trump is going to initiate some sort of rollback to the 50's and 60's, to a time when white men were king of the hill and everyone else "knew their place."  Then again, I had a hard time believing that Trump could ever get elected, so take that for what you wish.

Two things resonated with me as we watched the election coverage and it appeared more and more likely that Mr. Trump was going to be our next President.  First, a commentator said that Trump's victory was not only a blow to the Democratic party, but to the Republican party as well.  After all, he ran against the "Republican establishment" as much as the Democratic one.  If that's the case, it's hard to see how Trump is going to accomplish anything.  We do have three branches of government, not one.  And it's Congress that has to pass legislation to advance whatever "really terrific" plan Trump has in mind.  So if he's alienated everyone, how's that going to happen?

And by the way, I'm not freaking out about a new Supreme Court justice.  Of course, I could be wrong about that; see my comments about unbridled optimism above.  But what I've seen over the years is that Supreme Court justices tend to go their own way, despite the best efforts of Congress to steer them toward a particular point of view.

The second and more important comment from election night was from Doris Kearns Goodwin, a favorite of US history geeks everywhere.  She had been asked if there was any other presidential election that had parallels with this one.  Her answer was that the current election reminded her not of another race, but another time:  the transition from an agrarian to an industrial economy, from a rural to an urban population.  This was maybe in the late 19th century.  Her comment was that in such a time of change and uncertainty, there was a lot of fear.  People wanted to return to the life, the culture, the ways that they had been so comfortable with for all this time.  I connected that with reports that Trump's base was not out-of-work factory workers, but reasonably wealthy white men.  And I thought about the demographic shift happening in America, where white men are quickly on their way to becoming a minority population.  (I exclude white women because they, like all women, are already a minority.)  Then I connected that with a story about how people in times like this that are drawn to authoritarian figures, as a source of comfort.

So maybe I'm way out on a limb here.  But I'm not seeing this election as the beginning of a return to a white-dominated era.  It feels more like a last stand, like the last gasp of a group trying to hang onto something that is inexorably slipping from their grasp.

Yes, we elected someone that seemingly no one thought would, or should, be President.  But before people starting running off declaring some kind of mandate, consider that three states legalized marijuana in this election cycle.  And a black and Indian woman was elected as a California senator.  And (from what Samantha Bee tells me) a Somali woman was elected as a representative and a woman was elected as the first Latina Senator.  The tide is shifting, and railing against it isn't going to slow it down or alter it in any way.

The morning after election day something unusual happened.  As I was walking Mona, a gardener called me over and asked me what I thought about the election.  His English wasn't that good, but I could tell he wanted someone to explain what happened.  Should he be worried? I told him, "you're not going anywhere."  He held his hands apart, explaining that there was a giant rift in this country that needed to be closed if we were going to move forward as a nation.

And I thought about a customer I've been working with, Oscar.  He runs a sign business in Southern California, and employs a couple dozen people.  He's a hard worker--I know, because I get messages from him at 6:45 AM.  Oscar seems to represent where America is headed.  Maybe that's scary or intimidating for some people; I can appreciate that.  I don't know what it means to share the stage with people from other countries and other backgrounds, but I'm willing to be a part of it.  I'm ready to search for common ground.  Mostly, I'm ready to move forward.