Monday, December 12, 2016

A Donald Trump Presidency: Reflections on the Election and the Future

ALERT: This post is suuuuuper long, but something I just really needed to write about. I am as sick and tired of hearing about the election as the next guy (and I'm a poli sci major!), but I just really needed to get this all off my chest. To lighten the mood I have chosen to fill this post with Bernie Sanders memes. 

When I was a sophomore in high school I took a political science course my second semester. I'm sure I've at least briefly mentioned this before on my blog, but this course is what made me realize that I wanted to pursue a career in the political realm. I can't exactly pinpoint what in that class made me want to chase a path of democracy and political madness, but I'm positive it was a combination of my marvelous teacher and the intimate understanding of government and freedom she presented in front of me throughout the semester.

Anyways, that was not the point of me bringing up that course. Throughout this past election cycle, I have repeatedly thought of something my teacher had scrawled across the board one of the first weeks of class. It was an ancient Chinese curse. "May you live in interesting times," it said, and interesting times we certainly live in.

On Election Night, I spent my time covering the North Carolina Democratic Election Party in my state's capital. I write for my University's newspaper (which is one of the most decorated college newspapers in the country and is the largest newspaper in our community not just our university, sorry for my #shameless bragging), and me and a few other staff writers were sent to cover the party. Most people seemed fairly confident that Clinton would win. The polls were confident she would win. I was pretty confident she would win. I had talked to a few Trump supporters that day, and they themselves were even admitting that a Clinton victory was likely.

What happened that night though was far different than what most of us had expected. At 2:30 am I read the words "Donald Trump has won the Presidency" on my computer screen. My emotions were quite mixed. I was not necessarily angry—mostly sad. Sad to see that Americans could vote for a man who has consciously spewed hate towards so many groups and minorities (note: I must admit I wrote this the day after the election and upon reflection and conversation, I have come to see the light of what has led many to vote for Trump—my initial statement is not implying that those who voted for Trump were heartless/racist/awful people, the statement was just a very raw feeling I held immediately after the results).

I must preface here though with my constantly changing stances throughout this election. I was very, very fond of Senator Bernie Sanders. I don't necessarily consider myself a socialist, but I am a supporter of the thought that a little bit of socialism can go a long way for our country and for our people. Although Bernie advocated for what some consider "extreme" policies (and I use extreme very, very loosely, they were extreme for Americans but certainly not for people living outside of our country—I am aware that Sanders would be considered a moderate in many European nations).

I knew that a Sanders presidency would mostly result in his socialist leaning policies being quite watered down in order to pass through Congress, but I was confident these policies would still bring good to our nation. Also, I am an AVID supporter of campaign finance reform and the fact that he ran without a Super PAC was golden to me. In comparison to Ms. Clinton, he was by far much less corrupt as well. I truly felt like Mr. Sanders represented who I wanted in a president.

Regardless, my man Bernie lost the primaries. Rigged or not, I accepted it. This is democracy, and democracy can only thrive when we vote and still acknowledge the outcome no matter which way it sways. You have to take what happens and progress with the results.

From there I was left with two options that did not appeal to me. It was quite interesting because both Ms. Clinton and Mr. Trump had major flaws going into the election, and interesting times were certainly upon us. Clinton had made mistakes—emails, Benghazi, you name it. They made her appear untrustworthy and a liar. Trump couldn't keep his mouth shut and his rhetoric genuinely saddened me as everyday I awoke to news stories covering the latest hateful and (for the most part) overwhelmingly incorrect statements and comments he had made. 

In the end, my decision to vote for Ms. Clinton boiled down to two things. For one, ideologically I aligned with Clinton waaay more than I did with Trump. I remember I had read an article one day from a Trump supporter who stated something along the lines of "Neither candidate is amazing, but in the end I support Trump because we align the best ideologically" meaning smaller government, pro-life, anti-gay marriage—basically the Republican party platform, and I completely understood where she was coming from. I also agreed that both candidates were less than stellar, but in the end I had to go with the person I agreed with best ideologically—Ms. Clinton.

My choice though stemmed from something else as well. Despite Ms. Clinton's major fuck-ups (read again: Benghazi and emails), I genuinely believed she wouldn't pull either one of those things again. She was certainly pulled through the mud over and over again throughout her campaign because of these things (and honestly rightfully so—if you're going to mess up so majorly and run for President the people have a right to know you've learned from your mistakes). I thought she genuinely would become a better politician because of it, and yet, as the campaigns continued Clinton ran hers with dignity and I could not say the same for Trump. The real distinction was simple: the things I disliked Clinton for were things she had done in the past, and the things I disliked Trump for were things he was doing currently. I could see Clinton visibly changing, and yet Trump continued on his rampage of hate and prejudices.

I wrote a lot of this post in the days immediately following the election, yet it has taken me a long time to pull together this entire thing. As I write this paragraph it is December 12—well over a month since the election—and my emotions are a lot less strong then they were originally. In a way, I'm glad I have let this post sit in my drafts folder. When things initially happen, your emotions and actions immediately following are the most deeply rooted and powerful. I'm glad I was able to capture some of that in the beginning, but as I sit here over a month later I want to conclude with some of my more clearer thoughts that I've been able to sort through since that Tuesday night.

A core principle of a continuing and thriving democracy is transition of power. It is so so so so important that in order for a democracy to be successful, it must be able to see power transition from one political faction to the next. I understand that people are angry, sad, scared out of their ever living minds for a Trump presidency. As a white, middle class, heterosexual female, I know that I cannot even begin to fathom what some groups are feeling—a sense of being scared of who they are or what they aren't.

But, we have to take what democracy has handed to us and run with it. We have to allow for the transition of Obama to Trump, and continue to show up. To show up and to vote, to fight, to speak, to write, to love.

If anything, the results of this election should ignite your passions and fire even more. It should make you want to fight and love more fiercely than you ever thought you could. It should propel you into taking down the injustices you care so deeply about. Before I go, I will leave you with a poem shared with me on the morning of November 9.


A man crosses the street in rain,
stepping gently, looking two times north and south,
because his son is asleep on his shoulder.

No car must splash him.
No car drive too near to his shadow.

This man carries the world’s most sensitive cargo
but he’s not marked.
Nowhere does his jacket say FRAGILE,

His ear fills up with breathing.
He hears the hum of a boy’s dream
deep inside him.

We’re not going to be able
to live in this world
if we’re not willing to do what he’s doing
with one another.

(Naomi Shihab Nye, 1952)

I will say it again: we have to take what democracy has handed to us and run with it.

Have a fabulous day.