I woke up on Election Day excited to vote for the first female president. I put on blue jeans, a red shirt with star-shaped sequins, and a white sweater. I put all my things in a blue and white striped bag which completed my patriotic attire. I don’t really care about fashion, so the fact that I bothered to dress up says a lot about my enthusiasm. There wasn’t much of a wait at my polling place, and I proudly walked back to my car with a “My Vote, My Voice” sticker on my sweater. I arrived at my mom’s apartment around 5pm to watch the returns come in with her and my brother. We had crackers and cheese and cookies on hand to celebrate, and based on the advance polls it seemed like we’d have an official result around 11:30pm.
Around 8:30pm I was concerned that none of the swing states had turned blue yet. It seemed like Hillary should have one of them in the bag by now. As the returns for Florida got counted, it looked like Trump might win there, and I knew from my obsessive political podcast listening that Trump couldn’t win without Florida. By 9:15pm I got so anxious that I had to lie down in my mother’s bedroom, in the dark, listening to music on my phone, doing deep breathing exercises. Even then, my heart rate was 108 beats per minute, well above the normal resting heart rate. I had to use the bathroom three times in three hours. I was literally scared shitless that Trump might somehow win this election.
My brother opened the door every 30 minutes or so to give me updates, his voice growing more somber each time, a longer pause before he began to speak. At 11pm my mom came in and we talked. She told me that she’d survived the Nixon years and no matter what happened we’d get through all of this together. That’s when I started to accept that the worst really was going to happen. A misogynist, racist, xenophobic reality TV star was going to be our next president. I’m fortunate that I’ve never been diagnosed with a fatal disease, but I wonder if this is what it’s like. There was a growing anxiety that something was wrong, a confirmation of the diagnosis, extreme fear and sorrow, then acceptance, and finally resolution to fight and get through the awful near future as well as I could. America had been diagnosed as Donald Trump positive.
I returned to the living room and the mood was somber. We’d been expecting a party and were having a wake instead. For me, the wake was for Obamacare. The Republicans have always wanted to kill it and with control of the presidency and Congress there is no reason to believe they won’t. That means I will no longer have health insurance by 2018 or 2019. As a self-employed person with a pre-existing condition, you can learn how horrible it was trying to get health insurance by reading this 3100-word article I wrote about it in 2011. The results of this election mean I will probably no longer be able to be self-employed in the near future. I have a few options to explore before that’s a certainty, but don’t be surprised if I have to take a corporate job before I turn 40. (If any nervous clients are reading this, I promise not to abandon you if this happens. We’ll figure something out.)
For my brother, the wake was for the Dodd-Frank bill. Little Bro worked in the mortgage industry for several years and that bill created several financial regulatory reforms after the great recession that nearly destroyed our economy. My brother can tell you how corrupt the mortgage industry was even after this regulation, so good luck to the economy without it! Don’t be surprised if we have another economic crisis within the next decade.
All of us were depressed and scared, and we’re straight, white people. I don’t think I can imagine how people of color, immigrants, the LGBTQ community and anyone else who wasn’t a straight, white person must have felt at that moment. I didn’t get much sleep that night, and all of Wednesday I had an anxious, nauseous feeling in my stomach. I had cried the night George W. Bush was re-elected, but I hadn’t felt like this. Yes, it sucks when your candidate doesn’t win, but this was so, so, much worse than that. I was never a fan of W, but I was never concerned he would destroy the country so fully that we might never recover. I think Donald Trump could do that.
Already on my Facebook wall I was seeing stories from teachers about their non-white students being harassed and being told to go back to Mexico or Africa. Nobody did that when W was re-elected. After Brexit, hate crimes increased by 41% in the UK, and it seems like something similar is starting here as well.
I really took our country for granted, this nation other people built and I was born into without doing anything at all to earn it. I knew there would occasionally be setbacks and things wouldn’t always go the way I wanted, but I always assumed the United States would be here, that we’d stand for freedom and strive for equality, and continue moving forward. I never thought we could take such a large step back all at once, that it could all be taken down, at least not in my lifetime, and I was naïve to think so.
When I was young and learned about things like World War II or the holocaust or slavery, I was glad these things were in the past and couldn’t possibly happen today. As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that, actually, horrible things can still happen even if we defeated similar horrible things in the past. Civilization may seem solid, but it’s built on sand and all it takes is a bad leader, an epidemic, a big war or some other event for everything to shift considerably and collapse in a sinkhole. Sometimes I think we’re doomed as a species, that the effects of climate change will wipe us all out in 200-300 years regardless, so anything we do today is ultimately futile even though we have the power to stop a doomed future and won’t. Other times I think we have great capacity, that we’re more good than bad, and that we can build great things in the future. The truth is probably somewhere in between.
Regardless of any of that, I think the only way out is to better understand each other. I was surprised to learn that 25% of eligible voters would vote for someone who was racist. Who knew? Black people, knew. That’s who knew. If I had more than a smattering of black friends who face racism on a daily basis, maybe I’d be less surprised by that.
Who knew people would vote for someone who bragged about sexual assault? Women knew. Rape culture doesn’t just magically appear, it’s created by people who think it’s ok to touch a woman without asking, or at least don’t think it’s a deal-breaker for the presidency even if they don’t necessarily like it. As a woman, I was surprised when the Access Hollywood tape made a dent in Trump’s support. I guess my initial instincts were right.
There have been times when I’ve driven on country roads in Indiana or North Carolina and thought, “Wow, it’s like a totally different world out here.” There are towns with just one traffic light and buildings and trimmings that look like they were built in the 50’s and the waitresses in their restaurants have different accents than mine. I guess that should have been a sign to me that I live in a bubble, but I missed it. There are actually a lot of people who live in rural areas and they vote, and even if I don’t like the way they voted they’re still as much a part of this country as I am. They were enthusiastic about their candidate and people were only lukewarm about mine, and that turnout seems to have made the difference.
If there are any Trump supporters who made it this far and are wondering, “What is she so worried about, geez?” My multiple concerns include:
- My health insurance will be taken away. I will have to declare medical bankruptcy. I might literally die.
- His election empowers people to bully and commit hate crimes against minority groups that they would not have felt safe doing without Trump’s election which is seen as a tacit approval of such behavior.
- He will nominate at least one and or as many as three Supreme Court justices who will shape the future of our society for decades and will trample on rights for LGBTQ people, women, and minorities. The court will further empower corporations to do bad things, and further restrict voting rights.
- He will use the power of his presidency and the nation’s surveillance apparatus to get revenge on people he believes have wronged him and there’s little or nothing we can do about it.
- He will do everything he can to suppress freedom of speech, particularly targeting journalists and publications that criticize him, probably by spying on them.
- He will harm our relationships with other countries and our standing in the world, and make us cozier with places like Russia that severely limit its people’s freedoms.
- There will be a major crisis, like 9/11, and he will bungle it and cause the deaths of many Americans. Or he’ll use it as an excuse to do bad things like put certain people in internment camps or deport them from the country.
- His cabinet, staff and other people he puts in power will be racist, misogynistic, and xenophobic like he is.
- The federal judges he gets to appoint over the next few years will be racist, misogynistic, and xenophobic like he is and will remain in power after his term expires.
- He will sexually assault more women.
- He will remove legislation like the Dodds-Frank bill and do other things that help Wall Street and rich people, not the working class.
- He will create conditions that lead to an economic collapse.
- He will do nothing to help slow down climate change, and will in fact pass measures that help speed it up.
- He will be uninterested in doing the actual work of the presidency and the country will really be controlled by an inner circle of unelected sycophants who steer him in the direction they want.
- Trump is impeached or dies in office, Pence becomes our president, and an all-out war on LGBTQ and women’s rights begins.
There are probably other things too, but those are just the ones off the top of my head. Many people have said that Trump’s election, Brexit, and the political climate in Europe and the USA are similar to how conditions were before World War II. It makes me concerned that a war is coming sometime in the next 10 years. A big war. And we might be the bad guys this time.
I’ve started to reach a point where I’m resigned that many of the things in the above list are going to happen, and all I can do is fight back as well as I can, supporting organizations like the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and help the Democrats get more seats in Congress in 2018. (Part of me also thinks it’s not a bad idea to start collecting canned goods and keeping large quantities of cash on hand, but that seems a wee bit paranoid at this time.) I can continue to speak about these things on my blog and social media. And I can seek support and hope from other people who feel the same way as me. We are numerous and over 25% of us voted for somebody else. Bad things are going to happen, but we will do what we can to make them as least bad as possible.
I’m also going to lighten up on how much news I consume, particularly political news. I’m not going to stick my head in the sand, but I don’t need to check news sites every hour or two like I typically do when I’m bored. I won’t be watching the morning shows for a while, and I definitely won’t watch the inauguration. I don’t need to listen to the Five Thirty Eight podcast or other political podcasts. Bad things are happening, but I don’t need to drown in it, just dip my toe in from time to time. So what can I fill that distraction time with? Thankfully I’ve bookmarked over 800 articles in the past few years that I never got around to reading. Now I’ve got the time!
The next four years will probably seem like we’re all trapped in an episode of “Black Mirror.” I doubt I’ll ever be able to say the word “President” before the word “Trump.” Even seeing it displayed on news banners makes me a little sick. Hopefully the damage will not be too great to our people and our country, and the loss of life not too large if any. I think Stephen Colbert and Samantha Bee will be key to preserving my mental health over the next four years, assuming they get to keep their first amendment rights. This too will pass. I will be playing the OK Go song of the same name a lot to remind me of this. It might pass like a gallstone though, which I can tell you from experience is the worst pain I’ve ever had, and I speak as someone who’s had a headache for eight and a half years.
In my recent post about moving back to Indiana, I mentioned that “if Donald Trump somehow manages to get elected, I want to be close to my family when that happens.” I thought that was a longshot when I wrote it, but I’m glad I was with my family when this happened. I would not have wanted to be alone when learning about our country’s fate. We’ll all get through this together. I just hope we all get through this alive and physically unharmed.