Let me put it bluntly. It feels as if the asshole of America just unclenched and took a giant dump on the world.
What else can it possibly mean when a country that voted twice in a row for a black man for President just chose a Ku Klux Klan-endorsed candidate? If Barack Obama was meant to symbolise his country inching to a “post-racial” America, now it has basically elected a “birther”, once dismissed as the paranoia of kooky ultra-rightwingers. Alt-right can hardly be called “alternative” when it is moving into the White House. It cannot get more mainstream than that.
The post-mortems are inevitable. And they will come. The blame game will begin. The numbers will be crunched to see which voting segment put Donald Trump over the edge finally, and which segment did Hillary Clinton in.
It’s about lopsided global trade deals. It’s about a Democratic party that forgot its roots a long time ago. It’s about FBI director James Comey’s last-minute surprise. It’s the revenge of the “deplorables”. It’s about pollsters who miss the mark. It’s about the liberals who live in their Facebook bubbles. If only it had been Bernie Sanders, not Hillary Clinton. It’s about all that and yet it’s about something far uglier. The Ugly American won, plain and simple. Racism and misogyny won.
Today it’s just shock and disbelief. Not just shock that pollsters got it wrong yet again, but the shock that your deeply held belief in simple human decency was so grossly misplaced.
This is not Brexit, though it will be compared to it. In that case, the excuse was the implications of Brexit had not been properly explained, that people were complacent that it would not pass. There is really no excuse for this vote. People knew exactly what they were voting for.
Donald Trump did not dog whistle race and misogyny. He mainstreamed it. And it worked. Whether they voted for him despite that or because of it, it worked. “I know he can come across as racist and misogynist but the system needed a kick in the ass”, is not an excuse. It just tells us that there can be a “but” after racist and misogynist, that that is not disqualification enough in 2016. And that is horrifying.
That’s where the election truly hurts. Not just because of Trump per se, but because it shows that you can tap into the basest of human desires and win.
Even as the polls went up and down, somewhere deep down, something would say, “But no ultimately, it’s a fundamentally decent country. They cannot vote for a man who has said as egregious things as Trump, who seems to be so thin-skinned, so trigger-happy on Twitter. That is just not possible.” But they did.
At the end of this election America will have to look into the mirror and wonder what it stands for anymore. The contrast was always clear. When the crowd at an Obama rally booed that man in a military uniform with a Trump sign, Obama shushed them and said the man had the right to support his candidate, and his military uniform demanded respect. Trump took that moment and spun it into a flaming lie saying Obama had gone unhinged on his supporters. It was so outrageous, so easily disproven, that it was ludicrous. No rational person could fail to see through that.
Yet it did not matter. That’s when you realised the terrifying truth. It was not about rationality and reasoning and winning debates. Clinton did all that and in spades. She ran an election campaign with few gaffes, while Trump blew up every other day on Twitter. She raised the money, she had the ground game, she had the party behind her, she followed all the conventional rules.
What we saw in this election is what Pressthink described as a “retreat from empiricism”. It quotes philosopher John Stanley as trying to explain why Donald Trump could go from strength to strength, even though it was clear he was just making up facts as he went along.
Pressthink writes, “Stanley made the point that fact checking Trump in a way missed the point. Trump was not trying make reference to reality in what he said to win votes. He was trying to substitute ‘his’ reality for the one depicted in news reports.” A nameless Bush adviser had explained this a long time ago. “We are an empire now, and when we act we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality – judiciously as you will, we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too… We’re history’s actors… and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
Now even George W Bush is not voting for Donald Trump, but it’s too late. Trump has taken Bush’s idea of a “reality-based community” and triumphed.
It’s an anti-establishment vote, absolutely. Hillary Clinton was the ultimate example of the establishment. The Republican establishment too stands humbled and humiliated and must now come to King Trump on bended knee.
It’s an anti-media vote, for sure. Almost no major newspaper endorsed Trump. Even papers who had not endorsed a Democrat in decades, said Trump was unqualified to be President, a danger. The electorate gave them the finger. Chetan Bhagat tweets “I saw @nytimes and @HuffingtonPost lose balance and go all out in Trump hate. If you so clever and right, why don’t people listen to you?”
Trump’s success does not make Trump’s views right. Bhagat mistakes winning for being right. Civil rights would have lost at the ballot box as well in America. But that’s cold comfort to the loser.
This was not just a repudiation of just Hillary Clinton. It was a repudiation of what America had stood for in the imagination of so many, including mine, despite its long and ugly history of slavery and imperialism. This was a repudiation of the “I have a dream” America. This was a repudiation of Black Lives Matter. This was a repudiation of shattering the glass ceiling. This was a repudiation of melting pot America. If the preliminary numbers of voting breakdown are right it will look like a civil war happened at the ballot box.
Donald Trump had always predicted there was a secret Trump vote. He was right. Those of us who pooh-poohed it were wrong. Now it’s not secret anymore. The last great stand of white anxiety in a browning country is happening. And it will not be pretty. Donald Trump has made history by making his own reality and the losers will just be doomed to study it.
But for now I just think of that 102-year old woman in her white pantsuit and red lipstick who went out to vote for Hillary Clinton, thrilled beyond belief that someone born before women got the right to vote, might live to see the first woman President. And she just got to see her country roll backwards instead.
And that more than anything else makes me deeply deeply sad.
Feature Image Source: Reuters
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