I am very tired and not particularly clear headed today. I stayed awake until almost 3:00 A.M. and was up and about by 6:30 this morning. I am presently confounded by the results of our Presidential election. I have been absolutely wrong from the first days of the primaries. I assured former students and friends and loved ones that Donald Trump would not make it past a few weeks of voting in those early days. Of course my predictions were way off. When he earned the nomination I insisted that he would never win. In fact I expected him to lose in the manner of George McGovern. As late as yesterday evening I thought that Hillary Clinton would be making an acceptance speech by 10:00 and I would be in bed by 11:00. I was utterly shocked as the returns came in and they kept favoring President Elect Trump.
Anyone who has kept up with my blogs has read the reasons why I did not think Donald Trump worthy of the presidency. I have outlined my views again and again. To be honest I wasn’t particularly jazzed about Secretary Clinton either. I crafted a humorous piece in which I made suggestions as to how she might become more relatable to the average person but of course my words were ignored. Along the way Ms. Clinton’s loyal followers began to deify her and that really worried me because we all know in our hearts that she is as deeply flawed as any of us are. It would have been far better to admit that both of the candidates needed to do some soul searching and then note that of the two Hillary had the better temperament for the job. I feared that creating a story that she was perhaps one of the most wonderful individuals ever to run for the office would be a big turn off to many voters and I suspect that I was correct.
In the end I had to follow my conscience just as everyone else did. I could not have voted for Donald Trump even if someone put a gun to my head. I could not bring myself to vote for Hillary Clinton either. I chose to submit a write in vote even knowing that it would not count. That is how I reconciled all of the misgivings that I had.
I have spent the last year and a half reading voraciously about both candidates and about our Constitution and form of government. I have learned about previous presidents who were far from noble. I have listened to viewpoints from both avid supporters of Donald Trump and those who were excited about Hillary Clinton. What I learned is just how earnest each side truly is. I even had one of my former students who is a young millennial minority explain why he felt that it was so important to vote for Donald Trump in spite of his obvious deficiencies.
I was often surprised by the sincerity of the arguments that I heard. I don’t have friends or family members who are deplorable people. They are all exemplary human beings with generous hearts and good intentions but some of them were wholeheartedly in the Trump camp. I wanted to know why and so rather than trying to convince them to change their minds I simply listened. I found that their reasons varied. Some of them were upset by economic setbacks that they had experienced. Others were concerned about the Supreme Court. There were individuals who were now struggling to afford healthcare since the enactment of the Affordable Care Act. I spoke with highly religious people who were worried that their faith was being ignored by our leaders. There were many adamantly against abortion who felt unable to abide by Ms. Clinton’s views. Always in the back of many of their minds was the sense that Secretary Clinton had not always been forthcoming in her dealings with the nation. Not one of them ever mentioned race, sexual preferences or the fact the Hillary Clinton is a woman as deciding factors in their decisions to support Donald Trump. They also noted that they found it insulting to be viewed by so many as ignorant and mean spirited. They felt that nobody had been listening to them until Trump came along.
I travel a great deal down the side roads of America. I have been through the heart of our country far from the urban areas that almost unanimously voted for Hillary Clinton. I have seen places where factories are abandoned and towns have all but blown away unnoticed. I have felt a sense of guilt as I pass by beat up trailers and dilapidated homes occupied by people who sit in their yards staring vacantly into the distance. I suspect from the evidence that I saw last night that many of these people have felt as though nobody has been listening to them for a very long time. Donald Trump took the time to visit with them and provide them with a ray of hope. He won because he was able to earn votes in places like Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, traditional bastions of blue collar Democrats. They have been hurting and we have ignored them as a nation.
I am a well educated woman who lives in the fourth largest city in the country. Most of my friends were loyal supporters of Hillary Clinton. They are deeply hurt today. Their tears are real. They believed in Hillary’s message with all of their hearts. They are afraid that the ugliness that Donald Trump has so often voiced will become standard operating procedure in our country. They worry about the environment and fear that we will fall back into old habits that have harmed our land. They wonder who will advocate for minorities and the LGBT community. Their concerns are very real and just as visceral as the ones that Trump supporters have.
Perhaps the finest election speeches came from both the winners and the losers. President Elect Trump indicated that he wants to bind wounds. Secretary Clinton had one of her noblest hours as she urged her followers to work with the new President and within the system. President Obama spoke of the American tradition of a smooth transition which he will help to initiate.
Many times of late I have written of our need to communicate with one another in a spirit of compromise and optimism. The fighting between brother and brother, friend and friend, younger and older, one race and another should cease. I have learned that it really isn’t all that difficult to truly listen to what others have to say without thinking of what my response will be to those who do not share my views.
Many people were asking this morning what they should say to their children. I suspect that it isn’t really as hard to have an honest response as it may seem. Here is how I would approach it:
“We live in a great country but not one that is without its flaws. We are a nation of many differences so it is only natural that our political views will run the gamut of possibilities. Every four years we get the glorious opportunity to choose our President. In our history such moments have often been contentious. One election literally lead to the Civil War. Our candidates win sometimes and at other times they lose. Over the long haul things have a way of evening out. Our nation has been able to weather wars, depressions, assassinations and other difficulties that seemed at the time to spell doom. Over and over again we adjust and manage to keep moving forward. Each successive generation steps forward to hold the reigns and guide the United States to a better and better version of itself. In such a grand undertaking there are bound to be setbacks but we will always be okay as long as we work together in a spirit of cooperation and love of country. If we elect someone who is not up to the job we need only wait four years to find a more suitable replacement. We have certainly had to do that before and will no doubt have to do it again. Our system works so long as we do not allow our differences to cause us to turn on one another. Taking the high road is always the best path even when others choose not to do so. We can only hope for the best and if we believe in God, pray that He will guide us. Regardless of whether we are part of the winning team or not this is not a time for despair but one to celebrate our freedoms. They will still be ours long after the dust settles. History shows us that we will move ever forward. As more eloquent people have reminded us in the past there should be no red America or blue America, no Republican America or Democrat America. There should only be the United States of America”