Life hack: skip the alarm by waking suddenly in the middle of the night to think about how Donald Trump is the next president. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last week, and it really cuts down on unnecessary neck mobility. It’s hard to decide which is worse: his presidency or the knowledge that people voted for him. Handed the reins of our democracy, a little under half of Americans failed to see a lying egomaniac for what he was. Or they did and thought, “At least he’s not a woman.”
It sucks to think about all the people who voted Trump, because the reasons they might have done so seem awful. In the search for the most likely explanation, the contest between misogyny and racism continues. If you prefer to think the best of people, the sunniest plausible narrative is that “economic anxiety” scared people enough to turn against the system but not enough to learn about it. If people only voted for Trump because they’re scared of going broke, they still couldn’t grasp the candidates’ platforms well enough to recognize their own interests. Economic anxiety voted to cut taxes on the rich.
Yet you cannot contemn these people, because we need them. Without at least some of the people who voted for Trump,1 you can’t put a women in the White House. You can’t make public college free. You can’t fix Obamacare. You can’t even keep a reality TV celebrity from taking the Oval Office. If we intend to run this democracy better, “half of voters are stupid assholes” cannot be our operating principle.
Racism, misogyny, and Republicans’ ongoing hypnosis of the white working class made a lot of people vote for Trump, but did they make every person vote for Trump? It’s dangerous to say there’s no such thing as a good Trump voter, because it puts the blame for this disastrous election on everyone the Democrats failed to convince. Maybe they’re not the problem.
If I could say one thing to the Democratic Party: It’s not our job to vote for you. It’s your job to convince us. Hillary Clinton and the DNC did a good job of convincing me to vote against Trump, but they never gave me a clear sense of what I voted for.
Trump said he would deport immigrants and watch Muslims. That’s disgusting and I voted against it, but what was Hillary’s counteroffer? The college thing was nice, although she kind of stopped talking about it after the primaries. More intervention in Syria sounded both bad and likely—more likely than financial regulation or taxing the rich. Her central promise was to continue the Obama legacy. In a year that saw 16 experienced Republicans wrecked by an anti-establishment bomb thrower, offering voters more of the same seems like electoral suicide.
In retrospect it seems that way. At the time, we all knew she was going to win. Now our comfort feels like complacency, and everything is fucked. Birds crawl along the ground as our blood flies up into the clouds. You can read all about it in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links.