Late last night as the election results calcified, I received a text from a very good friend of mine in Wyoming reminding me that I had correctly called the election this summer. I told my disbelieving liberal friends in June that Trump had a very strong chance of winning. When FBI Director Comey announced 11 days ago that the Clinton email fiasco re-emerged, I knew in my heart that Hillary’s chances of winning were minimal.
What led me to have such a strong sense of Trump success even though I vote Democratic? First, Hillary never could shake, even among highly educated white women, the tinge of dishonesty or more correctly, covertness. Everyone says Hillary is a private person but I believe in transparency in government. Hillary began her national career at Bill’s side as First Lady leading the failed health care reform effort behind closed doors. I totally disagreed with her policy approach at the time though not the recommendations for a national health card. This sense that Hilary is not being completely candid has haunted her for years. I wanted to love her but I couldn’t. I respect her years of tenacious advocacy for women and children, her policy knowledge, her ability to be knocked down and get back up again but I never got chills when I thought about voting for her. I would love to live to see the first woman elected President of the United States. I would have been fine if that woman was Hillary but personally I was never captivated by her. Today, I could feel Hillary’s pain when she conceded. She has given it her all to lead this country on two different occasions and I think we all realize now that this is a dream that will elude her.
I am not sure Hillary could have done anything differently during this campaign. Her failure is one of charisma which I’m not sure one can learn. The Obamas both have it in spades. I cried with joy when Obama won the Presidency the first time. When he and his family walked on stage after winning, I felt the world had moved. I had goose bumps when Michelle Obama spoke at the 2016 Democrat Convention about how “When they go low, we go high!” Having watched The Apprentice for many years with my daughter when she was younger, I know that Donald Trump is capable of captivating an audience. In a world of social media, the personal image is political reality. Trump correctly assumed as the polls and pundits did not that the large crowds he was drawing would result in a swell of passionate, dedicated Trump voters. These folks were what I call shadow supporters, not readily available to traditional pollsters. Can you see a big think tank reaching out to someone who goes to a rally wrapped in fake green turf to show their “grass roots support.” My guess is Trump supporters got chills voting for him and cried when they saw the swing states predicted blue turning to bright red right before our eyes.
Winning a national election requires great outpourings of emotion (Of course, it can be argued Trump didn’t win the election since Clinton got more votes but given our electoral college approach, he put together the strategic states to run the board). In our electronic world, the charismatic individual whether we like their ideas or not has an advantage from the starting line. Trump is nothing if not charismatic; even his greatest detracters followed his every move providing tons of free publicity for him through tweets, late night comedy shows, news stories. I admit to some dark part of me daily checking what new strange tweet he had sent out. Silencing his tweeting near the end of the campaign and keeping Trump on message further strengthened my sense that he could win this thing. Throughout the campaign, he had been his own worst enemy. Once someone wrapped up his spontaneous outbursts and put him on an airplane crisscrossing rural America, Trump’s personal image solidified as a political outsider, pro-life business man who could build our economy, relished a fight, told it like it was and was focused on protectionism. HIs consistent mantra that America needed change struck a cord in America’s heartland. His other failings such as sexual predator, misogynist, inconsistent statements from day-to-day, no clear policy positions on many issues, and a protectionist approach based on racism never stuck. Hillary’s image on the other hand, as a policy wonk, part of the power elite establishment and probably dishonest to boot was with her from day one and stayed with her throughout the long arduous campaign, the dishonesty piece finally solidified for undecided voters with the Comey announcement of more emails for the FBI to check (so much smoke there must be fire).
The Republicans now control the Presidency, Congress, and with Trump’s nomination in January the Supreme Court. Our nation will no longer have divided government though we remain poltically and socially divided as a country.
It will be interesting to see what a Republican health care approach looks like. My bet is thousands of individuals will once again be thrown off insurance. But a step backward may be the only way to leap forward. I agree with Bernie Sanders that the only viable long-term health care solution for the U.S. is a national health care plan. Radical right regression may be what will unite progressives where nothing else has.
Democrats have every reason to be discouraged. They are without any recognizable leaders, they won the national vote, lost the election, failed to gain control of the Senate, lost the opportunity to transform the Supreme Court and will need to reorganize and re-energize. But as another friend of mine says, America made it through the Civil War and we will make it through this.
I was in McCall, Idaho last weekend when the Christmas Tree for the nation came into town. It was cut down at the little ski hill outside of McCall. There were crowds of people mulling around, an announcer shouting repeatedly the tree was coming, , the giant Idaho Potato came into sight, the McCall High School Band came by on a truck, a hundred or so disorganized children paraded by and then this big shining red semi-truck turned the corner dragging a gaily wrapped something which turned out to be the tree, covered for its journey East. I thought at that moment this is America at its best, small town America coming together and celebrating something as simple as a giant pine tree on the move across our great country.
My husband and I were probably the only two Democrats in the entire crowd given how the voting across Idaho went. Idaho Democrats lost five legislative races on Tuesday bringing the Republican Legislative Super Majority to 84%. Idaho is the redest state in the Union. I have a friend who chides me that Idaho Democrats can meet in a phone booth there are so few of us if we can find a phone booth anymore. I still hope to see a woman elected president (Preferably a Democrat though I open to any strong, thoughtful female leader) in my life time. But for now I am glad to be an American. I celebrate we can have a contentious, nasty, close election and get up the next morning knowing we will be free to walk out the door, talk about how crazy the voting was yesterday over a cup of coffee, express our opinions openly on Facebook or a blog and not worry about our safety.
God Bless America!