Peter on the Election

Peter on the Election November 13, 2016

Stunned. A week later I still find myself waiting to wake up and find it was all a bad dream. I hear on the news about Trump’s transition team, and I think, wait a minute, where’s Hillary’s transition team?

I’ve been processing. Not putting feelings into words, because I need to let the knowledge settle enough so that my feelings aren’t the flash-in-the-pan of incredulity and anger. Let those burn off, then take a good long look around at what my America has become.

What we lost by electing the bastard: Health care, environmental protections, regulation and accountability for Wall Street, and any chance of overturning Citizens United. And the Supreme Court.

But even if he’d lost, the bastard would have done much of his damage just in running. Defeated, he would still have made hate speech part of ordinary political discourse. When his followers admire him for “telling it like it is,” they mean he’s not pretending a respectable tolerance he doesn’t feel and not asking them to either. His campaign brought the white supremacists out from the corners and crevices where they’ve been hiding.

We do not live in a more racist country than we did a week ago; it’s just more visible now. And while all my educated white liberal friends are in a state of shock and fear, to the black people we know it’s just same old, same old.

So. There’s reasons why Clinton lost, and there’s reasons why the man won.

All the Sanders supporters are shouting, “I told you so!” The Democratic party had a vibrant, popular candidate who was pressing for change at a time when Americans were demanding change and who was creating a groundswell of grass roots support, and the powers that be did everything they could to undercut him. Hillary was “inevitable.” This is not the first time that the Democrats have taken for granted the support of the left and flushed it. This is not the first “inevitable” candidate who lost for failing to cultivate what was supposed to be her strongest base of support.

Stu Spivack, 2006.

And then there’s the other half of America. The day after the election, I heard Trump say something I actually agreed with. Our country’s thriving economy has turned rural areas and small towns and rust belt cities into a stagnant backwater. And I have to ask myself, what the fuck was up with NAFTA anyway? All these free trade agreements that the Democrats have put in place…I used to look at them and kind of shake my head in puzzlement. They were an anomaly, a Republican-sounding, laissez-faire initiative from an otherwise liberal administration. But free trade agreements, while good for American businesses, seem very bad for American workers. They put well-paid workers with strong unions in direct competition with peasants making a few cents an hour, so no wonder American workers can’t make a living wage any more. It also allows American companies to sidestep environmental regulations by doing their dirty work in an increasingly polluted third world.

Sanders had policy proposals that would have worked. Trump had nothing but empty promises, but they promised the same thing: make it possible once again for less educated and unskilled labor to raise themselves from poverty.

And then Trump linked those promises to the natural xenophobia of the American people. Trump’s victory is a victory for racism, yes, but “white identity politics” is more besides racism. At least I think it is. It’s also grounded in rural poverty and rusted out industries and American contempt for the lower classes and the less educated.

Well, fuck.

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