This isn’t about disappointment. I’ve suffered disappointment in politics before. I’ve bet on the wrong horse, played the wrong cards, backed the wrong politician any number of times. I’ve felt the disappointment knowing we liberals would have to continue to fight tooth and nail to preserve the civil liberties we have and try to gain the ones we are owed.
I’ve always been able to gin up the energy and conviction for the fight and, after a few days come to accept the result and find within my patriotism and love of country the forbearance I needed to be loyal to my president and to my government. When it came right down to it, were I ever asked to use some talent that I might have in service of the President of the United States, I would be honored to do so.
But this time it’s different. This time things have changed. This time it’s not about just being disappointed. This is about a streak of ugly meanness that runs deeply through the heart of the American populace.
When Jimmy Carter won the 1976 election, I was deeply disappointed. I thought Gerald Ford had worked hard to re-unite the country after the debacle and shame of the Nixon presidency, and I thought he’d earned the right to lead this country with what I knew would be honesty and transparency (even though we didn’t talk about “transparency” back then, but that’s what we wanted.) But after a few days I told myself, “Well, it’s a rejection of everything Nixon, so maybe it’s best if we go in a new direction.”
When Ronald Reagan won in 1980 I was deeply disappointed. I thought Carter had at least put us on the right track; his was a more compassionate presidency and it seemed like we were a better America. But I had to admit that Iran was badly bungled on his watch; his administration had allowed 52 Americans to be kidnapped, tortured, and held for ransom for more than a year. After a few days I reconciled myself to having someone who could at least act like a president.
When George W. Bush was elected, I was deeply disappointed because I feared that the good things Bill Clinton had done would be erased by conservatives eager to discredit the man’s progressive legacy, as conservatives have always been so eager to do. But after a few days I told myself that, after all, Clinton didn’t seem to care much about his reputation and Gore would have had an uphill battle all the way. And, looking back, I’m not sure now what Clinton’s legacy was.
When Bush was elected again I just figured the American people were scared because the administration had led us into an unnecessary war, and I didn’t blame them. And, to be honest, Kerry really hadn’t been the brass-knuckled street brawler that was needed to knock Bush and his puppet masters out of the White House.
I’ve been very proud of President Obama, and I chalked up the haters to just that – bigotry. Certain knuckle-dragging mouth-breathers were mad that there was a nigger in the White House and he wasn’t shining shoes. Fuck them for that. The Obamas are among the most elegant people to ever grace that house; they’re intelligent, well-educated, compassionate people and they are among America’s best. Anyone who didn’t get that can crawl back under the rock they came from.
Meanwhile, the talking heads told us Donald Trump couldn’t win. Over and over the pundits said Clinton would win. We would follow our first black president with our first female president. It was about damn time. Maybe now the people with the shallow minds and the atrophied brains would shut the fuck up when they saw that the majority of their fellow Americans rejected their hatred, their ignorance, their just plain stupidity.
And then it happened. Through a quirk in our election system – a quirk I have defended, by the way – Trump was actually elected. It didn’t matter by how much – he’d won, he’d won fair and square. There was no vote-rigging, there were no shenanigans. Working within the American democratic system, Donald Trump got himself elected president. Worse, he pulled both houses of Congress into the control of a hyper-conservative Republican party bent on destroying everything good that’s happened in the past eight years.
I wasn’t disappointed. I was heartsick. When I woke up at 4 a.m. on Nov. 9 and saw that Trump had won, I couldn’t go back to sleep. I got up, went to my 24-hour gym and worked out. Then I took my pickup through a car wash (I don’t know why, it just gave me time to think) and then went for a long drive. And when I arrived back home, I decided there would be no acceptance this time.
Donald Trump is not my president. I do not respect him. I do not accord him the deference and honor I would accord Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan and even George W. Bush. The man is the exact opposite of everything I believe in, everything I stand for. He is as shallow as a teaspoon, as corrupt as rotted fruit. He lacks compassion, he lacks the ability to truly love anyone but himself. He lacks any understanding of how government works or even how the world works. He has no principles on which to stand, he has no backbone, and he has no inkling of the responsibility that is about to descend upon his weak shoulders.
And very nearly half of my fellow Americans voted for him.
This isn’t just about politics and who won. This is about the soul of our nation, and just the fact that even half of voters voted for this man makes it clear to me that this nation’s soul is rotting. This wasn’t a vote against a politician, it was a vote in favor of misogyny, in favor of bigotry, in favor of xenophobia and sexual oppression. The fabricated case against Hillary Clinton was a smoke screen behind which people hid their bigotry.
So now the Master Race emerges, with its few minority sycophants, to smugly take control of our nation and make life a living hell for everyone not exactly like them. If I believed in God I would plead for God to be merciful with us. But I don’t.
I am reminded of a scene in the movie “Zulu,” in which the cavalry has ridden away from Rorke’s Drift, leaving 150 British infantrymen to defend themselves against 4,000 seasoned Zulu warriors. As he watches the reinforcements flee, Pvt. Cole asks, “Why is it us? Why us?” to which Colour Sergeant Bourne replies, “Because we’re here, lad. Nobody else. Just us.”
The next four years will tell how much fight we have in us. I have no intention of embracing the enemy; I will be as combative and recalcitrant and obstreperous in the coming four years as the conservatives have been for the past eight. It’s a long time to be angry, but I think I can manage.
Now it’s up to us. Nobody else. Just us.