President Donald Trump.
I'm stunned. I'm not sad, or melancholic, or disappointed, so much as I'm just bewildered. I'm not surprised in a "what the fuck, America?" kind of way, I'm surprised in a "this is strange, am I dreaming?" kind of way.
Donald Trump has always been, to me, a caricature of American-ness. He wraps himself up in his wealth, flaunts it, glittering like a gilded turd. He speaks vacuously, he is vain and cynical and primarily self-interested. He is everything bad about America.
And now he's the President, and he's been blessed with a Republican-controlled House and Senate.
Over 59 million Americans voted for him. If you look at any color-coded map of the state electoral results, you see a vast swath of red -- most of the country is red -- with islands of blue around major population centers. The reality is that America is represented by fundamentalist conservative values as much as it is progressive ones. We are a populous Saudi Arabia tenuously married to a populous Sweden.
I've pleaded with otherwise reasonable people to try to approach their fellow citizens from a position of understanding first, and I still am. I've also argued that there was a particularly risky but potentially rewarding gambit in electing Trump with the hopes of humbling and ultimately improving the health of the ailing Democratic Party, and now we get to see if that reward pans out and ends up being worth whatever price will be paid in the years to come.
People are already blaming this outcome squarely on the Democratic Party leadership. Good. There was a lot of dirty politics during the primary, and the support that Hillary Clinton received from the party ultimately alienated the younger, more idealistic, more energetic core that they depended on to defeat an entirely reprehensible candidate. This should have been an easy slam-dunk for the Democrats but this time they shot themselves in both feet. I hold out hope that the silver lining to this election is that the Democratic Party at last recognizes that it cannot be a political machine that operates for the sole purpose of opposing the Republican political machine, that it finds a spine and comes around at least for a while to becoming a truly progressive political movement ... that it becomes the thing it has promised and failed to be, even if that only happens because its political influence has been threatened. There are millions of idealistic younger and older voters alike who would like to vote for that, enough to cripple the modern ultra-conservative Republican Party and force it to begrudgingly return to some semblance of sanity.
Both Sanders and Trump are outsiders within their respective parties, and both had widespread and enthusiastic support from voters. Although the two camps are ideologically opposed on probably every single issue, their support ultimately came from the same agitated populism. Sanders had the support of students burdened by exploding debt and diminishing career prospects and a world in which they had less financial mobility than their parents did; Trump had the support of rural and rust belt workers who have seen entire towns fall victim to globalisation, drying up as companies eagerly took advantage of cheaper resources overseas while avoiding social responsibility in the form of taxes back home. These groups have more in common than either is comfortable admitting -- imagine how much better this country would be if they each stopped regarding the other as the enemy.
The greatest difference between Trump and Clinton wasn't their platform, it was how they approached these voters. Trump embraced them, energized them, pandered to them. Clinton ... largely ignored them. Sanders supporters were, mostly, told to vote for Clinton to prevent a Trump presidency. Clinton made few attempts to be the candidate that Sanders supporters wanted.
In the end, this was a victory of populism over the political establishment.
Maybe it won't be so bad. I was mostly okay with Schwarzenegger's governorship in California. There are plenty of things to criticize him on, both in character and in governing, but California is a nearly impossible state to govern well, and he closed out his term by setting up the political climate that enabled Jerry Brown's reconstruction of California by fixing the redistricting issues that had plagued California for so long and caused a political stalemate in the state.
Maybe Trump will turn out to be alright too. We'll see.
Whenever I get to feeling hopelessly overwhelmed, whether by issues in my own life or in the world at large, I try to remember to take a little breath and make something. MacGyver taught me that there's no problem so great that you can't build your way out of it.
It's easy to get a bit obsessed over the big picture, to lose sight of the trees for the forest, to fall into despair over things you have no influence over, and forget that, y'know, for the most part things are pretty okay. They could be better, sure, but they're still pretty okay. So why not work on something you care about, and improve the world around you just a little bit? Make some art, make some software, make a good story, make a better yard or a more efficient home or whatever it is that will help put your feet back on the ground.
I could glut myself on the analysis and discussion and navel-gazing and group therapy now happening everywhere. I could wallow in pity, for myself, or for the country. But, there are people waiting on me to make things for them, a long line of them, and the things I make will almost certainly have far more impact than my vote or my participation in internet politics or my dissatisfaction.