We are facing a long journey of many small steps.
The victory of Donald Trump has left us trying to make sense of the senseless, hurt, feeling scared and angry….. trying to decide what to do or if it still makes any sense to do anything at all. Many feel fundamentally betrayed but pointing fingers offers little relief or clarity. I honestly don’t think even Donald Trump thought he would win and was more focused on the drama of how he would react to a loss than anything. Yet with all that he will soon be our president.
I, like many of you, did not think he could win. He seemed so manifestly unqualified…. too unstable, of questionable values and integrity, lacking knowledge, skills and expertise. He was not simply a bad candidate, but a dangerous candidate. A lot of people thought and still think he will destroy this country.
I have been in a state of shock for 3 days. He literally seems to have sucked the air out of every room I have been in. I have been angry and rageful. I have been discouraged and fighting deep sorrow. I have been numb. I am not exactly sure where I am now.
Health care reform has been a major focus of my life for years now and if Trump is serious and if he can do what he says he is going to do then people I know will probably die. Millions of people’s lives will be uprooted and countless will suffer needlessly. It is not something that lends itself easily to being a good loser and “getting over it for the good of the country.” I can’t support that and on that basis plus many others it is really hard for me to see Trump as “my president.” If that is what it means to be grown up or realistic I will probably not be either grown up or realistic.
I have thought a lot about what happened. I have heard a lot about sexism, racism, just the accumulated effect of years of Fox news and a bunch of other things and all of these things plus more seem to make sense to me. But I think there is more and I think it is absolutely crucial to understand that more. We lost a contest that was supposed to be impossible to lose and I don’t feel like any of the above factors come close to providing a complete answer.
We told the wrong story. We relied on a narrative that seemed so clear and so obvious to us that just didn’t have leverage with those that didn’t already agree. We thought the election was a story about Donald Trump because it was for us. We told the story of how many ways he was a bad choice and a danger to this country. At times he seemed our best campaigner. We didn’t have to say anything. He was exhibit 1 and exhibit 2 and 3 and 4 and 5. Even when the election began I really and truly did not see that anybody with good sense would vote for him.
Trump told a different story. He tried to flip it and tell a Hillary story but he did more. He tried to tell a story of the American people. He knew that a lot of people hated the way their lives were going. They thought things sucked and they weren’t heard or seen or cared about and he said he saw them, he heard them and he cared.
I know a lot of people who voted for Donald Trump and they all say basically the same thing. The Democrats told them the election was about Donald Trump. They thought it was about them.
It is a long way back. Many steps will be small steps. Many battles will be lost. I, for example, am really distraught about what I fear will happen with health care. It leaves me in a rage. But at least right now other than fight like hell I don’t know I see a real path forward. It feels an uphill battle but it does not seem impassable.
I think we must win back the narrative. It cannot be a narrative about the valor of the Democratic Party. If Trump doesn’t mean anything else he does that a lot of people hate both parties. The people who do politics don’t realize how much people who don’t do politics hate the people who do. It also has to be a story about more than Donald Trump.
I think we need a story about the American people… a story that says we hear, we see and we care. I think it needs to be a story that says you need not live with chronic injustice. It needs to address the chronic inequality that so many see as foundational to their life. It needs to say a fairer and better life is possible.
I think Trump will give us a lot of raw materials. It is in how we frame it.
If America remains a land of us vs them in the end we will fall. Trump has opened the doors to all the bigots and racists who are eager to prove that is all we can ever be. We must tell a story about we. It is time to reclaim the stage. Our children and our children’s children are counting on it.
Take good care