The light of a new day filtered through an adjacent window and my eyes fluttered as I awakened from a long night spent watching election returns and post-game commentary. A rumpled, dog-eared guide to the Golden state’s 17 ballot propositions lay nearby; a glance at the room’s one mirror reveals an upside-down “I voted” sticker on my forehead and a bleary-eyed look familiar to anyone who has binged on booze or sugar. A welcome jolt of caffeine chased away any lingering trace of sleep that morning after, but the days since have not dislodged the lingering disbelief: a billionaire developer without so much as a city council term on his resume will be sworn in as president in a matter of weeks. What had been impossible was made real and reactions ranging from confusion to fury are pouring in from everywhere.
Team Clinton’s early response was subdued. The former first lady thanked her voters and lamented her failure to shatter this glass ceiling, then said she hoped Trump would be a “successful president for all Americans.” Now the gloves are off. Secretary Clinton told donors in a 30-minute conference call that the “groundless, baseless” doubts raised by FBI Director James Comey’s letter to Congress cost her the keys to the White House. It was evident after watching the primaries there would be trouble that went beyond uneven media coverage and late surprises. Even with Hillary’s clear advantage among superdelegates it took her until June to secure the nomination; it was the first sign of an enthusiasm gap that led to the ‘Bernie or Bust‘ movement and could have caused the dip in Democrat turnout. Her campaign could not overcome the ambivalence with a series of ads that featured highlights of Trump’s insults and vulgarity because they didn’t offer reasons to vote for the erstwhile New York senator.
The final flaw — the one that allowed Donald Trump to flip states like Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania — was the Clinton campaign’s neglectful approach to working class voters. They stayed loyal to the New York magnate in spite of the epithets and hyperbole because Trump earned their trust by convincing them he understood their plight and would bring jobs back from overseas. The loss sent a dedicated group of Clintonistas intent on keeping up the fight to change.org; they’ve seized on an early lead in the popular vote to convince Electoral College voters to send Secretary Clinton to Washington in place of the former Apprentice star. A broader rebellion is on the move in places like Oakland, New York, and Chicago where protesters are rallying around a “not my president” banner and hammering the would-be commander in chief over his stance on immigration and terrorism. This could drag on for years.
What happens now? If the past is prelude this week after Judgement day is the beginning of a rhetorical war like the one that eventually surrounded George W. Bush. The last Republican president took office after losing the popular vote because he won at the Electoral College in a dispute that was settled by the Supreme Court. In some places he was compared to Adolf Hitler; Bill Moyers talked about an “intentional destruction of (our) way of governing,” and Howard Dean implied that Bush was tipped off by Saudi officials about the 9/11 attacks. The former Texas Governor took hits over the Patriot Act and 2003’s Iraq invasion, but was no provocateur. Donald Trump is. He’s already drawn comparisons to Hitler and Slate correspondent Jamelle Bouie has moved on to his voters in a scattershot attempt to assign collective blame for any sins committed by Bannonites on the train.
When I wake up the day after President Trump is sworn in the headache and blurry vision common after a hangover won’t be there. By then I’ll have spent roughly 10 weeks soaking up celebrations, recriminations, and forecasts — entertaining, but with little real meaning. The day after ‘Mr. Brexit’ takes the oath of office is when the meter starts running; until then the talk about a “great wall,” trade renegotiations, a Muslim database, ‘Obamacare’ and NATO are just that. It doesn’t mean I’ll let down my guard or give up my suspicions about his temperament, but I’m willing to give Trump a chance to prove himself better than he was on the trail. If the result is an overdue shake-up of the political class and some movement on that right track/wrong track poll the trip will have been worth all the hell that came with it.
‘Simpsons’ screenshot provided by mediaite.com