I remember on Election Day 2012 sitting with some of my high school friends. It was our senior year. Early college applications had just been submitted. What felt like the rest of our lives hung in the balance and I looked at the polls and I uttered, “I’m scared.” I was scared that a guy named Mitt would get to sit in the Oval Office. I was scared because his Republican, center-right philosophy went against my Democratic, center-left philosophy. And while the results were being tabulated, I had a moment of clarity. A moment where I looked deep inside myself and said “Hey, even if Mitt wins tonight, the country as we know it will still be there tomorrow.”
I had no such moment last night.
Last night, in 2016, I sat with some of my college friends. It’s our senior year. Job applications are starting to trickle out. What feels like the rest of our lives hangs in the balance and I looked at the polls and I uttered… nothing. Nothing because I was overcome with shock, shock that seems almost cartoon-like from a distance until you’re living it and you’re looking around for an oxygen mask to drop down from the overhead compartment because we’ve lost cabin pressure and holy hell–it isn’t there. That moment of clarity I had way back in 2012 was the oxygen mask that I was searching for last night. Because my Democratic, center-left philosophy is not compatible with Donald Trump’s RINO, alt-right, fear-mongering and hate-fueled ideology.
I watched last night’s events unfold from my apartment in South Los Angeles. My apartment that’s located in a state that elected a woman of color to the Senate, and legalized marijuana, in a city that just voted for bonds that pay for housing for the homeless. And yet, our fellow Americans elected Donald Trump to be our president. The reality set in. We live in a vast bubble that rests on the belief that we are all so right that when one precise prick pierces it, the whole thing pops.
As I drove to work this morning, I passed the Museum of Tolerance on Pico Boulevard. I pass it every morning on the way to work. And as I passed it, I saw a school bus of a mostly Latino eighth grade class entering the museum, a ritual I once took part in as an eighth grader. The signal light on Pico and Roxbury is long, and thank God it was, because I was able to wipe the tears from my face and turn down the Red Hot Chili Peppers that was cranking and swallow the horse-sized pill of irony that I was witnessing. The irony that these innocents were going to learn about tolerance the day after a man was elected to be their president whose picture could very well show up in the dictionary under the word “intolerance.” I kept driving and I didn’t look back.
Looking back on this election season, a couple images come to my mind. First, a mirror. A mirror showing us that the devil we know was the one who was going to thrust the devil we don’t into the Oval Office. A mirror that shows us that the cracks on our collective skin of all colors aren’t just vanity but run deep to our core. A mirror showing us that we as a nation are internally made up of beautifully imperfect parts of all shapes and sizes and backgrounds but the only ones that seem to be projected externally are the ones that are straight and white and Christian and male.
The second image is a treadmill. A treadmill that houses a Democratic party that has been running in place on the same fumes of self-righteousness that were so easy to inhale that we lost the ability to be humble and admit that while we will never be wrong about women’s rights and gay rights and the struggle of minorities, we may be wrong about how we approach outreach to the middle and working class. As Thomas Frank brilliantly points out in his post-mortem, maybe being cozy with Wall Street and Silicon Valley has created a gulf between the party elite and its base. Maybe that’s why so many people stayed home on Election Day. Maybe this, along with vitriolic hate speech from alt-right talk radio and fabricated spin from Fox News, is what fueled many working class citizens in the rust belt and beyond to vote for a monster that I promise many of whom would not have voted for if the approach to this election had been different.
There’s a lot of reconciliation that must be done before January 20th when, *sighs*, Donald Trump takes the Oath of Office. We must reach out to those who feel that their voices might be silenced or otherwise quieted by the outcome of the election and hold their hand and tell them “I hear you.” We must look in the mirror and step off the treadmill and recognize that no, this country is not as forward thinking as we all thought and no, Democrats did not reach out to working voters as they should have and as soon as we can own both of those problems as American problems then we can start to fix them. Republicans will now control all three branches of government, and while they have the ability to surprise us all and stand up to the president-elect’s bigotry, I’m not going to sit around and wait. I’ll be donating. I’ll be volunteering. I’ll be getting out the vote in 2018 and doing my damnedest to make sure Donald Trump is a one term president in 2020. The outcome of last night has a lot of us seeing a whole lot of red. But if there was ever a silver lining, the future looks very blue.