The people devastated about President-elect Donald Trump are not whining about petty politics. Because this isn’t about politics – it never has been.
I know empathy is not a trait in large supply among the largely under-educated, white, angry Trump base, but humor me in this little exercise. Your guy already won so why not, right?
Imagine just for a moment you’re a gay, married person in America right now. You have spent years trying to convince everyone your love is just as valid as everyone else’s. You have fought tirelessly, not for special treatment, but simply to be seen as equal in the eyes of the law. You have been berated by bigots, called every slur in the book, and been told your legal marriage to someone of the same sex would erode society’s values and represent an abomination in God’s eyes. But finally, through all that, you won. Love won. And now you’re free to marry who you want and enjoy all the rights that come with that.
Then you wake up on November 9 and find all of those gains threatened.
Donald Trump is against gay marriage. But even more troubling, vice president-elect Mike Pence is REALLY against it. Trump has vowed to appoint conservative judges to the Supreme Court, which means there is a very real possibility gay marriage could be reversed, and gay people relegated to second-class citizenship once again.
That’s not being upset about politics, that’s abject and very legitimate fear that someone is actively threatening your family.
Now imagine you’re someone with a preexisting medical condition. This isn’t hard for me, since my wife is in this category. You struggled for years because no one would insure you and you paid exorbitant prices for treatment and medication. Your health suffered immensely. Your quality of life was significantly impacted. You lived in constant pain and fear of being able to afford to live.
Then came the ACA (ObamaCare) and suddenly your prayers were answered. Health insurance companies could no longer deny you because of a preexisting condition, and suddenly millions like you had access to quality, more affordable care. Your health improved, your quality of life improved, and even your mental state improved because you weren’t constantly worried about going broke just to stay alive.
Then comes news of President Trump, and what’s his first order of business? Repealing ObamaCare. And suddenly all that fear, pain, and uncertainty comes flooding back. Yesterday, my wife frantically made phone calls to move up a surgery because as of January, there’s a very real possibility it will no longer be covered if she’s dropped by her provider. The woman on the other end of the phone said “You’re not alone, we’re flooded with calls today.”
That’s not being upset about politics, that’s legitimate fear of no longer being able to afford medical care. It is, quite literally for many people, a matter of life and death.
Now picture yourself as a woman who is pregnant. It doesn’t matter the circumstances – planned, accident, rape, incest – because for whatever reason, you don’t want the baby anymore. It’s more than a little ridiculous that women had to go to court to be able to control their own bodies, but Roe vs Wade has been the law of the land for 40+ years giving you the option of ending the pregnancy if you wish.
But suddenly the man who vowed to nominate Supreme Court justices specifically to overturn that landmark case is elected president. Now you’re afraid your own personal medical decisions will no longer be guided by you and your doctor, but white, religious male politicians who value the collection of cells inside of you more than the living, breathing person housing them.
That’s not sour grapes about politics, it’s the very real fear that the government will soon dictate your reproductive health decisions and potentially force you to give birth against your will.
What Trump supporters don’t understand is this particular election of this particular candidate is a direct attack on non-white, non-male, non-heterosexual people.
Trump was heard advocating sexual assault and “grabbing women by the pussy” just weeks before the election. But instead of his campaign faltering, he seemed to get the push he needed to cross the finish line. Think about that. A man was rewarded with the presidency after bragging about sexual assault. If you’re wondering what people mean by “rape culture,” look no further.
The message that sent to women everywhere is “this is OK.” In fact, it’s presidential.
Let’s also not forget people of color. Although Trump didn’t receive many newspaper endorsements, he did receive one notable one. The KKK’s newspaper endorsed him, and known racist David Duke campaigned hard for Trump. Trump also re-tweeted white supremacists on Twitter dozens of times over the campaign, and it’s no secret he holds Black Lives Matter in very little regard.
With a large segment of supporters wielding Confederate flags and Trump only mentioning black people in conjunction with inner cities (not to mention Trump’s history of being sued by the DOJ for not renting his property to black people), how are people of color supposed to take this other than a direct insult and threat?
I think the real reason people are heartbroken is because we woke up in America we don’t recognize. For well-intentioned people with privilege (myself included) who gave this country the benefit of the doubt and 100% believed reasonable people would plainly see the danger Trump represents, this is nothing short of shocking. And for many who aren’t minorities, it’s the first realization that hate, anger, and fear might be the majority opinion.
Don’t think for a second that liberals have any less love for America simply because we don’t deck out our vehicles in American flag decals and NRA stickers. We love America deeply and passionately, just like you do. But we truly believed our America was one where bullies lose in the end and love trumps hate.
That doesn’t appear to be the case, and that crushes us.
I can only hope Donald Trump the President does not remotely resemble Donald Trump the campaigner. As a deeply patriotic person, I have no choice but to hope he surrounds himself with competent people not on the fringe, and to remember he lost the popular vote, which means a majority of US citizens did not choose him to lead us.
But if he does continue on the path he blazed during the campaign, it’s up to all of us to fight it. To unequivocally support those who will undoubtedly be more vulnerable than ever under President Trump. To stay, fight, and advocate for what we know to be right.
We wake up today in a place that looks familiar, yet is now unrecognizable. We mourn the country we thought we knew but ultimately didn’t, and we come to grips with how to love that country despite its choice to embrace hate and divisiveness.
We don’t know exactly what’s next, but we know one thing – it’s not about politics.