I voted on November 8, 2016 to make Hillary Clinton the next President of the United States. In the District of Columbia, where I live, 93% of my neighbors did likewise. Across the country, most Americans did the same. But where it counted, enough voters chose to elect Donald Trump.
The shock in my community is palpable, and primarily manifests itself in numbly trying to divine what caused our nation to take this step and worrying about what might happen next.
I’ve seen several theories that attempt to explain the vote, many of them laced with anger and almost all saturated in the despair felt by those of us who felt that the country was progressing in the right direction, albeit slowly. The most common of these are:
- Racism and misogyny, evidenced by the white male (65%) and white female (53%) vote for Trump
- The intervention of Russian hackers
- The intervention of the FBI’s James Comey
- The proliferation of alt-right news sources available on the internet
- The mainstream or liberal media’s failure to recognize or accurately report Trump’s support
- America’s infatuation with celebrity
- Hillary Clinton being exactly the wrong candidate to challenge Trump
I believe that all of these contributed to the eventual result. The best piece of reportage I’ve read about this is Alec MacGillis’ piece in Pro Publica. It provides a compelling narrative about how huge swathes of former Obama voters embraced Trump. Key themes raised by the subjects of these interviews are Clinton’s perceived dishonesty vs Trump’s straight-talking, Clinton’s failure to deliver anything meaningful (to them) during her political career vs Trump’s campaign promises, and most of all, the dire economic climate in their communities vs Trump’s reputation as a job-creator.
My feeling is that these people will be sorely disappointed in four years, as their personal economic circumstances fail to significantly improve. That is, unless Trump is able to realize his campaign pledge to liberate energy reserves at the expense of the environment.
The social impact of this election is heartbreaking. Bigots will be emboldened. Minorities will be further marginalized. Corporations will benefit at the expense of citizens. America has chosen to elect an almost perfect personification of a business, complete with lack of conscience and accountability.
President Obama was a good, and perhaps even great president. His administration oversaw a number of important improvements to the country and to the world: the legalization of same-sex marriage, the institution of Obamacare, and commitments to controlling climate change. At the same time, he is widely criticized for not doing more, despite being faced with the least cooperative congress in history. Hillary Clinton suffers also from this oversimplification of how government operates, by those who wonder what she has done with all of her years in government.
Trump, with a Republican-controlled congress and at least one Supreme Court appointment (which by all rights, should have been appointed by President Obama), will find it infinitely easier to push through legislation and count of rulings that swing sharply to the right. The only thing more frightening than this paucity of checks and balances is the potential for retaliation if and when Trump antagonizes a person or group willing to commit violence. I certainly fear for my family and my country, which is now a very different place.