I’ve lived through political disappointments before in my life, but last night was a new level of disconnect for me. It was very strange to feel, for the first time, like I was in a “wrong reality” that I was not sure I could actually accept, one that made me shudder every time it returned to my mind.
I have never been more grateful to be a Canadian living in Canada than I was last night, but at the same time, knowing how interconnected our world is, I have never been so fearful of the future.
While Hillary Clinton as a candidate was far from perfect, it seems evident that by any rational standard she was highly capable, knowledgeable, and indeed would ensure that the gains made for Americans by the Obama administration in its two terms, particularly affordable health care, would be preserved, protected and continued.
And yet, a man who is patently misogynist, xenophobic, and downright racist, has been chosen to lead the United States. Even if one was disaffected with the political system, to embrace a man with Donald Trump’s personality, values, and attitudes seems unimaginable to me.
I have always been wary of political predictions or overconfidence, and was quite anxious about all the media reports proclaiming that Trump’s campaign was “in freefall”. It felt almost dangerous to predict something like that, as voters will often react against what they feel they are being told to do. Still, I hoped, and maybe assumed, that at least a narrow victory for Hillary Clinton was assured – though what I really desired was a solid victory that clearly rebuked all of Trump’s tactics along with those who would support them.
Instead we find ourselves in a depressing place, where misogyny, racism, fear of the other, denial of climate change, and the entire panoply of right-wing conspiracy-minded, fact-free FOX News ranters have been given everything they want, and now feel utterly validated. It’s also an early Christmas gift to every racist, woman hater, and reactionary. The regressive views of the past are now freshly validated and given a champion in the occupant of what is still the most powerful position in the world.
It was so important to me that those who would support Trump be slapped down hard and shown very clearly that, in 2016, the United States had moved beyond their outdated thinking. That someone who expounded his brand of rhetoric, who cheapened and debased the level of political and social discourse, would be decimated in the polls thanks to the ultimate good judgement of the United States voters. You know, the ones who voted in Obama. Twice.
That half the country could see Trump as a viable and desirable option is both chilling and depressing.
As well, I dearly wanted Scott Adams to be wrong. At first, months back, I was intrigued by the Dilbert cartoonist’s against-the-grain analysis that seemingly proved every Trump “gaffe” to be instead a carefully crafted genius move by a so-called “Master Persuader”. But I could only enjoy this analysis while feeling sure that in the end Trump would fail. Eventually, I could no longer read Adams’ articles – it was too depressing. And while there was logic to what he said, I still felt he glibly condensed things and made wrong assumptions. But I feared he would somehow turn out to be right. I needed that not to happen.
My perennial optimism is more challenged than it has ever been. I like to think the best of people, and to hope that they can rise above even their own misguided ideas to become better people, and one can only hope that Donald Trump will be a better president than he was a campaigner.
But let’s face it, it’s very difficult not to be dismayed at the presidency being handed to a man with the attitudes Trump has expounded, the fear he has clearly whipped up, the backward attitude he has toward climate change, the lies he has gleefully and successfully spouted.
“Donald Trump elected president”. It truly feels like a bad dream come true.
I honestly think the best scenario is that his presidency is such an utter failure, and his promises so completely unfulfilled, that the Democratic sweep I hoped for this time will occur in 2020. But that will be a long four year wait.
And meanwhile, people will be hurt. I have family and friends who live in the United States and what affects them affects me too. This is not just a political game or an abstract pastime, this is people’s lives that will be directly influenced by what has happened, and not in a good way.
Even with a supposedly liberal or a leftist leader, there is an ongoing battle to ensure that promises are kept. Witness Justin Trudeau and his already mixed record. But last night, I was never happier to be a Canadian living in Canada.
Meanwhile, a reality-show-host, dubious businessman, self-aggrandizing snake oil salesman, a bullying, offensive, bigoted poster child for white male privilege, is going to be President. And every time this fact re-occurs to me, I shudder.