On Election Day I felt as if I were caught between vast air masses, green-cloud storms pushing up from the southwest into a fair-weather high meeting its fury — convergences of feelings so dissimilar as to produce a kind of vertigo, an experience of both pride and a deeper, more encompassing dread than I have ever felt before. Even 9/11 did not produce such a sense of grievous alarm — in the center of that awful day, I felt an absolute conviction that we would endure. The courage and faithfulness of first responders and ordinary citizens were an immediate source of light. But by the end of November 8 and on November 9, I could see nothing but darkness. I had nothing inside me except silence and despair.
The fair weather day first:
I live in a Republican community. Therefore the Judge of Elections is a Republican. Our JOE is a man of integrity. His only desire was to ensure that every citizen who had registered and who wished to vote would be able to do so. I witnessed this:
Before the polls even opened we signed oaths pledging to act according to State law and to fulfill our duties to guarantee the integrity of the vote. At 7 o’clock six of us sat in a row and greeted and certified the voters who walked through the door. Six checks on validity and fairness. The Judge of Elections, if uncertain over a voter’s residence or status, could call the county seat in West Chester and receive a quick reply. Once the polls closed we all witnessed the opening of absentee ballots and seven of us watched while they were fed into the scanner. Collectively, we watched the opening of the scanner, the gathering of the ballots, and collectively we sorted them for write-ins. Collectively, we added our signatures to long voting result tapes the scanner produced so that they could not be thrown away and others substituted in their place. We signed form after form to validate the process and results. By law, these procedures were followed throughout the State. In our precinct 78% of registered voters cast a ballot in as fair and free a process as one could imagine.
The vote was never “rigged”. It was never going to be “rigged”.* That word was used by Trump when he thought he might lose. It was an excuse. Notice how it has disappeared from his pronouncements. He never gave a thought to how it might cause a public already cynical about our institutions to become more so. But he won the election and now he will rule. Why did the Democrats lose?
Clinton has blamed her loss on Comey, the FBI Director, and his reintroduction 11 days before the election of her email controversy. Her campaign managers have blamed the Russians, Wiki-Leaks, Comey, the Sanders’ supporters who did not come out for them and voter suppression efforts. There may be some truth to all of those excuses, but ultimately they cannot obscure the fact that voters have been rejecting Democrats across the nation for a decade or more beginning in state legislatures and governorships: “Republicans have control of 66 of the nation’s 98 statehouse chambers. Republicans now control both legislative chambers in 32 states, compared to 13 for Democrats. The GOP also increased its majority of governorships from 31 to 33.”** Gerrymandering has something to do with this overwhelming advantage, but voters are not machines who can be programmed. Their choices are not the choices of zombies. Something fundamental has gone haywire with the Democratic approach to voters. Until the Party faces that fact, it cannot win, it cannot persuade voters to come back, it can do nothing except moan.
Clinton lost because of hubris. She lost because she believed 1/2 the Republican voters were “deplorables”, beyond the pale, less than human, as if they too did not love their children. She lost because she could not articulate a clear message as to how she could lead — policy proposals are not the same as a vision fueled by imagination and wit. Clinton did a disservice to her Party and to the nation when she attempted to shift blame from herself for this loss. Better to acknowledge one’s responsibility and then be quiet and go away. Hillary is a tough, smart woman, and I wish she had been elected, but I am done with sentiment now. I am too angry. The Clintons are finished. Enough from them.
The leadership of the Democratic Party has been reduced to a metaphorical Berlin in 1945. Nothing is left but rubble. No Marshall Plan will rescue them. Worse is to come. They will now watch decades of good programs burned to the ground. The desert years are upon them and all of us.
The country has made a choice to go with Trump and a fully empowered Republican House and Senate. All legislative checks and balances are gone. They are free to do anything permitted by law, and if not permitted, they can change the law. What will they make with such power? We are beginning to find out even now.
One of the anodynes floating through on-line media and in many op-eds is that Trump is our President and we should wish him success. I can think of one area where I genuinely do wish him good fortune: first, unless we are attacked, that he avoids another war.
He has pledged to bring back factory work and thus create millions of jobs. Will he throw out robot assembly lines? Will he cause trade wars that lead to the loss of millions of other American jobs? I do not think it is possible to do what he has pledged, but if he can, he deserves credit. Finally, if he is able to pull off a market-based Health Care plan that is fair and comprehensive, he will deserve praise. Again, I do not think any such plan is feasible. Lobbyists from the insurance and hospital industry will descend upon Congress like a sickness and do everything possible to ensure that profit comes before the well-being of the public. Are we really to trust corporations to look out for our interests? But that is the deal we made when we elected Trump and a unified government.
Beyond those three, I wish him nothing but frustration and total failure.
I wish him failure in attempting to pass tax cuts and create tax policy that will give even more influence to the super wealthy.
I wish him failure in revoking Dodd-Frank, the law that regulated the financial services industry after the 2008 debacle.
I wish him failure in smashing regulations that kept economic predators away from ordinary citizens.
I wish him failure in dismantling health clinics and abortion rights.#
I wish him failure in adding more restrictions to voting.##
I wish him failure in destroying our connections to our allies in Europe, Asia and elsewhere.
I wish him failure in the persecutions to come of people of color.
I wish him failure in the revocation of the civil rights of gay men and women.
I wish him failure in the attempt to come to destroy public schools.
I wish him failure in reintroducing the use of torture.
I wish him unmitigated, full and absolute failure in his desire to destroy clean air, clean water, wilderness, animals and habitat. What do you think will happen to nature in a Trump administration?
I cannot go on with this list only because it will be always incomplete. The desert years are upon us. The worst is to come.
I feel as if I am awaiting a death, the grief residing in me just below the surface. I am already preparing to mourn the damage to children that will come in these four years as the programs in the Federal safety net are torn to pieces. I grieve for all the wilderness that will be ravaged, and for the damage to nature that is coming and for deaths of wild animals that will follow. I grieve already for all the innocent and forsaken who will be lost.
Take Trump at his word. He has been on the political stage for 18 months. Every single American knows what he has said and done. No one can say he or she did not understand his character. The Presidency will not ennoble him. The pressures of the Office strip its occupants to their core. It reveals character. It does not build it. It strips away everything except the essential person. Trump will be who he has been. He will be what he believes. He will be what he has told us he is. Nothing will be left to our imaginations. All illusions will be stripped away. We will find out what we are made of, man and boy, woman and girl.
My friend said this election is a Year Zero event. I think he is right. We began counting the cost on Wednesday. We will all need to become much more self-reliant. We will forever leave complacency. Everyone will have to sacrifice. The Democratic Party will have to build a new coalition, one that much more closely hews to Bernie Sanders’ belief in economic justice. However, when they return to power, there will be no money to rebuild. The next four years are going to blow up the deficit and the economy. Democrats will have to be imaginative and improvisational. After four years of Republican policies and their resulting misery, the opportunity will be there to forge a cross racial fusion of workers, a unity of the furious and despised. The Republican leadership’s hubris and their Darwinian belief in nothing but money will create the possibility of regeneration. Darkness always calls forth light.
In the meantime, refuse to accept that Trump will brandish power in a normal way. For example, within five days of being elected, he has hired Steve Bannon as a White House Counselor. Click on his name and look at his credentials in the banshee world of racists and anti-Semites. Again, refuse to be conned. Watch what happens carefully. Embrace this paradox — find ways to say No! that are affirmative. Refuse to be lulled into complacency by the soft-core, complimentary articles that are already appearing in magazines and on television: Ah, what a lovely family! What a reasonable man! Look how polite he is! He would do no harm to me! Remember always that even gargoyles can smile.
*Unless you belong to communities where the Voting Rights Act was gutted by the Supreme Court and the States left free to complete onerous restrictions to suppress voting.
# I dislike everything about abortion except a woman’s right to make the choice.
A gut prediction: the next Democratic nominee will be male, from the Rust Belt States, or the West. It would be a good thing if he knew how to weld a seam shut or drive a nail or have worked at stoop labor. The Braddock, PA mayor, John Fetterman is an interesting template.