Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Thoughts On A Turbulent Election Night

What the hell just happened?

Yesterday morning, I and my fellow Democrats woke up excited to experience that historic election that would finally give this country a female president. And an awesome one at that.

And then reality set in. Despite EVERY poll predicting a 3-6 point lead nationally for Hillary, clearly they were all wrong.

So, what was it that we all missed?

I have a few thoughts about what happened here.

1. The "Comey Letters" impacted the election in a manner that, I believe, manifested in a 1-2 point shift for Donald Trump. Even though Comey "recanted" on Sunday saying no new emails were found that would incriminate Hillary, for nine days folks hit the early voting polls - record early voting numbers! - with that on their minds.

Did it fuel the fire on the side of Republicans to get out and vote because it seemed she really was "Crooked Hillary?" Or did it slightly depress Dem voters as they lost some enthusiasm for a candidate that seemed constantly embroiled in scandal?

I think FBI Director James Comey had an effect on the election. Whether he intended to or not, I don't know.

2.  According to the exit polls, the quality that mattered most in a candidate? 83% of voters in the exit polls said they wanted "change." Even though President Obama is riding high with a 54% approval rating, and Hillary was promising to keep the course, Trump was the "change" agent.

As a matter of fact, he was the "angry change agent." Even though the state of the country has improved greatly over the past seven and a half years - two wars ended, stock market tripled, unemployment cut in half - the average American doesn't feel it in their checkbook. White blue-collar voters are angry.  And clearly they felt opposing a raise in the minimum wage and repealing the estate tax would be in their best interests. (sarcasm intended)

Which brings me to my next point...

3. Trump's passionate language on the campaign trail, racist and xenophobic, struck a nerve in those angry Americans. And that seemed to give permission to express that anger.

I understand anger and frustration. One of the very first (and easiest) emotions to choose is anger. It's gut; it's base.  I think the Trump campaign's visceral approach to these issues gave consent to manifest hate.

4. Finally, I think 30 years of baseless innuendo and smear tactics took their toll on Clinton. If your  opponent repeats "Crooked Hillary" every single day; if folks point to smoke (but no fire) over years and years; if you know that every word you say will be scrutinized and twisted to such a point that you speak in a very measured, controlled manner - you can eventually be seen as having something "to hide."

I don't think Hillary is evil or nefarious in any way. But these things slowly added up to where perhaps just a few percentage points  of voters believed it enough that they couldn't vote for her. Even if her opponent was a man who admitted to grabbing women by the genitals, calling them names, mocking the disabled, threatening undocumented workers and worse - Trump's voters were fine looking the other way on his personal fouls because they were carefully taught to hate Hillary over a long period of time.

A few other numbers I think work noting.  Trump won this election cycle with 1.5 million less votes than Mitt Romney in 2012, and 500,000 less votes than John McCain in 2008.

Donald Trump in 2016 - 59,447,870 (current count)

Mitt Romney in 2012 - 60,933,504

John McCain in 2008 - 59,948,323

So, Trump shouldn't think his campaign represents some kind of "record-breaking movement."

Also, there were 231,556,622 voters eligible to take part in yesterday's election:

• 46.9% didn't vote
• 25.6% voted for Clinton
• 25.5% voted for Trump
• 1.7% voted for Johnson

Hardly a landslide. While Trump won the election because we measure success in presidential races by the Electoral College, Hillary is currently winning the popular vote. This is only the third time that the EC and the popular vote have been split in our country's history. And what that means is that the country is  drastically divided.

Trump now has to deport millions of undocumented immigrants. He has to build a wall on the Mexican border and force Mexico to pay for it. And he has to bar all Muslims from entering the country. He has to. Because he promised, or he becomes a liar and a phony.

Or - maybe he was "playing a character" to get the job. And perhaps now, he becomes a real person we haven't seen yet?

For my LGBT readers, I'm looking at what we have ahead of us with a Trump administration in terms of LGBT rights and protections.

When it comes to marriage equality, Trump said “the institution of marriage should be between a man and a woman" in 2000.

And as recently as January of this year, during an appearance on Fox News, Trump pointed to the Supreme Court’s ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges, saying he would “be very strong on putting certain judges on the bench that I think maybe could change things.”

Trump has pledged to sign the First Amendment Defense Act, which legalizes discrimination on religious grounds and prohibits the government from taking action against anyone who “believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman.”

The incoming Vice-President, Mike Pence, we know to be virulently anti-LGBT. He's said in the past that “societal collapse was always brought about following an advent of the deterioration of marriage and family.” That very same year he endorsed a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality in Indiana.

Pence supports the use of so-called "Conversion Therapy" or "ex-gay" therapy which has been shown to be damaging to patients. So, basically, he thinks it's a good idea to electrocute you until you're straight.

And, of course, there is that issue of attempting to legalizing discrimination against LGBTs in his state last year.

With all that in mind, did I mention that 14% of LGBTs voted for Trump? Wrap your head around that.

While I am grieving today, I'm not lamenting the loss of a presidency or an election. I'm mourning the loss of basic humanity, decency and character. It may not sound cool, but these things matter a lot to me.

A short personal story:

When I was in high school, I was bullied constantly for being gay. Even though I didn't know who I was yet, other students sensed something and they were merciless.

My senior year, my high school brought back male cheerleaders and that sounded way fun to me. I tried out and made the squad. Another high school senior, I'll call "Robbie," made the squad also. Robbie was very popular, from a family that had money through owning a chain of Mexican restaurants, and had no problem calling me "gay, "fag," or any other term that would embarrass me in public. To this day I can remember standing in front of a football game crowd, and as I was talking to a friend between cheers, Robbie - in front of hundreds of students - yelled, "Hey faggot, get over here." No one ever called him on that; he got free reign cause I was a "fag."

Side note: the rumor from my hometown is that Robbie is now a closet case himself. How's the old saying go? "The best defense is a good offense?" Anyway...

Another memory: a student named Randy that I'd known since elementary school, remarking to another classmate, William, while walking to class, "Hey lookout, there's a fag behind you." Both tortured me mercilessly throughout those high school years.

All of this wears you down, especially in your teen years. Language meant to bully, demean and diminish. But don't worry, folks - those years of abuse led the way to me finding not only myself, but finding a voice to raise up others.

Here's what I'm getting to: as I tried to process what had happened between the Dem and Repub, I realized much of what bothered me was history repeating itself: a wealthy bully, like "Robbie," who used language as a ruthless weapon, seemed untouchable. And like my high school self,  I felt like I, Hillary and my fellow Democrats, were on the receiving end of a bully's mockery once again.

But we know how to deal with bullying today. We know that it's not us, but the bully who has the emotional deficit. Trust and believe - words have a very different effect on me now. This blog is a testament to that.

We are being tested today. Our fears are being pushed up in our faces. But, after a moment of reflection, we need to not pause or be put down. Take the punch, feel it, and let that remind you of your resolve.

Release fear and look forward. While an election has been decided, our future has not.

"Please never stop believing that fighting for what's right is worth it. It is, it is worth it." -Hillary Clinton

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