After any hard-fought election in which the nation and its values seem at stake, it’s typically American for some to battle sorrow and disappointment with humor. So it was the very gray morning after Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump won elevation to the White House following his months-long campaign displaying derision, racist rhetoric, misogyny, utter constitutional ignorance and vows to jail his opponent after his victory.
A neighbor who had long voted Republican but resolved that voting for Trump violated her principles voiced grief that the nation appeared lost. Her husband, however, took a different tack. He remarked in jest that morning he was getting tickets for him and the dog to flee to Canada, which some see as a kinder, purer form of America. He asked if she wanted to come.
Amused, she responded: “Oh, honey, you haven’t heard. While you were asleep, they put up a wall!”
More typical was my wife, who voiced outrage at the stunning hypocrisy of a longtime acquaintance who, after eight years of posting Facebook comments bristling with hateful commentary and baseless rumors about President Obama and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, now preached the need for all to put aside such rhetoric and rally behind Republican President-elect Trump. Somebody probably got defriended.
Also outrageous: The former, rural-based student who told her onetime teacher: “Now you know how a lot of us felt in 2008.” Maybe, but neither major-party nominee in 2008 engaged in anything close to the behavior Trump has. Republican nominee John McCain showed rare political courage in 2008, correcting a supporter who denigrated Barack Obama as an “Arab” by noting that, no, he was not an Arab but, in fact, “a decent family man [and] citizen.”
Election 2016 is redefining much about our nation, especially for us in the press who, quite naively, underestimated the public anger across the land. We couldn’t imagine any principled patriot allowing anyone of Trump’s temperament and behavior near the office occupied by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. It’s also changed what some of us thought of Christianity, now clearly infected with hate, deceit and delusion.
The efforts of a local woman who worked hard to elect Clinton are worth noting: “My disconnect came from people of ‘faith’ attacking my support for the candidate and implying that the state of my eternal rest was in jeopardy. I have been told a couple of times so far — once in the church parking lot — that I will burn in hell. So much for the religious folk.”
After eight years of talk-radio and social-media malignancy, including Trump’s nonsense about Obama, the nation’s first black president, being foreign-born; after a year and a half of derogatory remarks about women, threats to abridge the First Amendment and talk of abandoning our European allies to Russian conquest; after rhetoric about whether federal judges can preside fairly if they’re “Mexican” — well, the damage done may well be irreparable.
The Trib last week twice begged all citizenry to give President-elect Donald Trump a chance and not judge him till we can at least better gauge his potential. But if, say, cabinet posts begin to go to the likes of tea-party lightweight Sarah Palin or buffoonish rodeo cowboy Sid Miller, then hope goes right down the toilet. (One wag suggested ethically compromised New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as Secretary of Transportation.)
For all of our calls for the nation to rally, it’s going to take a lot of time before healing can begin. Too many segments of American society became unnecessary battlefield casualties in Trump’s blitzkrieg to the White House. Open wounds still ooze. Memories will linger. Resentment may build. Defiance looms.
Protests have broken out across our land, from thousands of protesters who surrounded the real-estate magnate’s buildings in New York and Chicago to modest-sized gatherings at Baylor University where Thursday, as Trib staff writer Cassie L. Smith reported, two groups of students faced off — one holding signs that read “I love my country. Why can’t it love me?” “Don’t grab my pussy” and “Not my president,” while some from the other side chanted “Build a wall” and “Lock her up.”
More than 2 million nationwide have signed an absurd online petition demanding that electors in the Electoral College vote for Clinton in December, given she won more popular votes than Trump. Other petitions are gaining traction, too, including one urging Trump to condemn hate crimes done in his name or by his supporters — one Trump ought to embrace. Last week a black student at Baylor alleged she was pushed off the sidewalk and subjected to racially demeaning language from another student. Add this and the protest and counter-protest together, plus a campus scandal over sexual assaults mired in administrative bungling regarding the victims and transparency and football-first impulses at what is a Christian institution, and one could argue that you have a fair microcosm of our divided nation right now.
An articulate Trump supporter assured me in a Facebook debate there is a big difference between what Trump says and what he means, that his comments are meant to invigorate debate — that he will not actually deport 11.5 million illegal immigrants or abandon our NATO allies. I hope he’s right because I remain convinced some Trump fans took Trump quite literally at his rallies. Some already press him to throw Hillary Clinton in prison, even though she hasn’t been convicted, let alone indicted, for anything.
For our nation’s sake, let’s hope for the poise and grace shown by Obama and Trump when they met last week. Obama showed his shrewd understanding of the Constitution in the Framers’ demand for a peaceful transfer of power. He respectfully referred to Trump as “president-elect.” Good for him. Trump called Obama “a very good man” and said he would benefit from Obama’s sage counsel. Good for him.
“This was a meeting that was going to last for maybe 10 or 15 minutes and we were just going to get to know each other,” Trump said. “We had never met each other. I have great respect. The meeting lasted for almost an hour and a half. And it could have — as far as I’m concerned, it could have gone on for a lot longer.”
As for what lies ahead, particularly with Republicans in control of the House, Senate and White House in January, I can only defer to a great friend of mine of four decades, a lifelong Texas Republican now in his 80s who simply couldn’t bring himself to vote for Trump but accepts the political realities of the moment: “The Republicans now control the government. There is no one else to blame. Don’t screw it up.”