Donald J. Trump is President-Elect. Let that sink in for a bit. Thanks a lot, 2016! Now, as we begin dissecting why the pollsters missed it and the political pundits missed it and the media missed it and the Clinton and Trump staffs missed it, this is the first thing I thought of:
I think I know what happened. But none of us want to admit it.
Everyone will admit Hillary Rodham Clinton is an extremely flawed candidate. Voting for her is like needing a colonoscopy–you avoid doing it until you have to. I told my wife there was a 50-50 chance I’d vote Republican this year until Donald Trump became the nominee. To me, a smart potential presidential candidate doesn’t set up a personal server as Secretary of State. You don’t project an arrogance about the democratic process. You don’t act like the candidacy is a coronation. You don’t attack voters who believe differently. But I still believe in the concept of “innocent until proven guilty” in our country’s judicial system. So I willed myself to vote for her based on her policy ideas, or Trump’s lack thereof. I’m like a kid on Christmas when it comes to Election Day. But this year…ugh.
I don’t believe this election was about that. Nor do I believe those who #feelthebern would be celebrating an election victory today. Bernie Sanders’ socialist message inspired millions of Democrats and millennials. But could he seriously beat a GOP candidate who presented a similar populism without the negative connotations associated with socialism?
I honestly don’t believe this election was about Donald J. Trump either. How can you after seeing the results? Many of you think Hillary is a criminal. And you may be right. But does that explain how evangelicals overlooked the flaws of an ungodly man? Does it explain how some women overlooked the flaws of a perceived sexist? Does it explain how many Republican leaders overlooked the flaws of a candidate they not only disliked but many downright despised? Does it explain how many of us claimed to want change in Washington and then overlooked the flaws of Republican incumbent senators who spent six years perpetuating gridlock? Does it explain how Hillary Clinton could very well win the popular vote and lose the electoral college a la Al Gore after her husband’s two-term presidency? Does it explain how pollsters and pundits from every political spectrum completely whiffed on this outcome? Nope.
If you really loved Trump, polls would show it. The GOP would have won more seats in the Senate. White college-educated voters would have voted in bigger numbers for him. President Obama’s approval ratings wouldn’t be in the mid-50s and consistently going up since Trump won the GOP candidacy. A conservative in Utah, a former Republican governor who eats marijuana edibles and a Cincinnati Zoo primate would never impact this election. People focused on jobs and the economy would have demanded a more extensive plan. He would have released his taxes.
So WTF happened? Whose body lies on the election autopsy table? Mine. Many of yours. About half the country’s. This wasn’t about the candidates or the issues or the political parties. As Trump likes to say, this was about YOU. And your revenge.
Remember, revenge is a dish best served cold. You don’t want the other person to see it coming, like the outcome of this election. Well, this dish cooked for eight years and fed many of us a heapin’ helpin’ of Clinton crow. Look at all that’s changed since 2008. This is revenge against all of us who voted for a “Muslim-Kenyan” twice and a “criminal” once. This is revenge for marijuana legalization, abortion rights, and a rise in atheism. It’s revenge for LGBT rights, gay marriage, and transgender bathrooms. It’s revenge for believing in policies like single-payer or universal healthcare and free college. It’s revenge for wanting a path to citizenship, wanting to get out of the Middle East and the rise of ISIS. This is revenge for the Supreme Court rulings, political correctness and “Black Lives Matter.” Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan backs up my argument. To me, the “again” refers to both a time of economic prosperity but also a time before all of this happened. Just look at the divisiveness of the election campaign. We just fought a political civil war. Brother vs. brother. Friend vs. friend. Tweeting vs. unfriending. Most of you voted for Trump out of anger. Some of that anger is directed at Washington, D.C. and the establishment. Some of it is the economy, jobs, and trade. But nearly all of you are pissed off at the rest of us.
If you truly want us to come together, you need to admit that. I believe in conceding when you lose and getting behind the new President. If “Crooked Hillary” won, it would have upset many of you. However, over time, that emotion would dissipate and we would return to relative calm. But how do you ask an African-American to support someone whom he or she believes is a racist? How do you ask Muslims to support someone whom they believe is a xenophobe? Or women who believe he’s a sexist or misogynist or sexual predator? How about Hispanics who believe he wants to split up their family? That doesn’t even include the LGBT community, atheists, progressives, people who may lose health care if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, etc., etc., etc. And perhaps, most importantly, how do you ask someone like me to support Donald Trump? I am a white male largely unaffected by the outcome. I dislike Hillary. But I am a former journalist. And not only did Trump consistently attack the media, some of you did too.
This picture personifies the problem we face moving forward as a severely divided nation. When you ask Clinton supporters to now get on the Trump train, you’re asking us to sit next to this guy. You’re asking minorities to overlook Trump winning 58% of the white vote while attacking nearly everyone else. You’re asking her female supporters to forget the gender gap in this election was the largest in the half-century history of exit polling. That’s why some took a Trump victory to mean this:
I don’t believe that. These types of allegations upset me just as much as they upset you. The question is–why didn’t Trump’s remarks upset you as much as they upset me? This feels an awful lot like someone who says, “Why are you blaming me?! I’m not the one who committed the murder. I just helped bury the body.” Is Trump’s child-care policy, repealing Dodd-Frank or filling the Supreme Court SO important you’re willing to overlook every, single hurtful thing he said about some of your friends? In our eyes, Trump left bullet-riddled corpses strewn all over 5th avenue. And as he predicted, you just looked the other way. That’s what makes this election personal. Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama can all ask us to unite. But as I said earlier, it’s not about them. It’s about you. It’s why people are crying. It’s why you’re losing Facebook friends. They need to know you don’t believe in everything coming out of Trump’s mouth. If you really hope for a less divisive America, don’t gloat. Don’t tell the grieving to get over it. Reach out. Explain yourself. Make the effort to understand and accept why she won the popular vote. Listen to why we didn’t support him. It’s the only way for us to accept why you did.