Shock and awe. That’s what the day after Election Day 2016 feels like. Today’s gray skies over metro New York are perfectly matched with the angst of disappointed Clinton supporters.
After watching hours of election returns and slowly realizing what was unfolding, I had, as it turns out, a feeling of false optimism. It was confirmed when I woke up to discover the nastiest presidential campaign in history ended with the most unqualified candidate who ever ran for the office was our 45th president.
What I wanted to be a nightmare was real. Two of the most stunningly, cringe-worthy words in the English language today are President Trump. I squirm just writing that.
Election Day greeted the sunrise with uncertainty, but hours after sundown, with most of the votes counted, half of America started to squirm. As results were analyzed, it became apparent that Donald John Trump had defied the polls to propel him to the nation's highest office and Hillary Rodham Clinton’s quest to become America’s first female president was crushed.
After conducting an aggressive campaign, marred by too many unconfirmed accusations of unlawful activity, Trump supporters boomeranged his iconic message back at Clinton: “You’re fired!”
Heading into the homestretch last weekend, polls indicated Trump had closed the gap, though Clinton still held a slim margin. Still, after sixteen or so months of disturbing rhetoric, assorted allegations and disputed revelations, compounded by the FBI’s unfounded October E-mail surprise, the nation opted for the populist not the politician.
Republicans, saddled with the most unstable horse after the primaries, have retaken the White House after Barack Obama’s positive and progressive presidency. Let’s hope they don’t make any changes to reverse the successes of the last eight years.
Following week after week of racist remarks and insufferable comments about women, veterans, Hispanics and Muslims, many political observers presumed the Trump campaign would falter after hitting more bumps and potholes than New York City streets. Yet, he prevailed in the primaries and gained momentum with his presidential campaign. A few weeks ago, his crusade appeared to weaken when a 2005 videotape emerged, in which he casually boasted to groping and kissing unsuspecting women, some of whom subsequently accused him of unwelcome sexual advances. But, when the smoke of suspicion cleared, his mission was barely deterred and maintained its enthusiasm.
His campaign suggested there was “a big hidden Trump vote in this country” and that component obviously surfaced with him getting the proverbial last laugh.
When Trump emerged victorious from the Republican primaries, most pundits presumed Hillary Clinton would likely have been defeated by any other GOP opponent. Nonetheless, the GOP loyally — albeit reluctantly and desperately — supported Trump even when his rants became wilder and countless endless pledges for change lacked any depth. However, even a flawed Hillary Clinton — investigated multiple times and never accused of any wrongdoing or other unverified scintillas of misconduct — was the better, much more suitable, common sense candidate. Ultimately, she won the popular vote, but in the American political process, that is not always the path to victory.
For nearly a decade the American character has been sharply divided into red — largely conservative Republicans — and blue — Democrats and a sprinkling of progressives. This acrimonious polarization was set in motion with the emergence of the Tea Party eight years ago, and gained momentum following Barack Obama’s inauguration. As its far right agenda developed, it was a magnet for clusters of the Republican Party that weakened bipartisanship and gridlocked a dysfunctional Congress. Donald Trump’s victory is the ultimate fallout of that movement.
To some extent, Donald Trump’s appeal is logical. He tapped into the anger and frustration of a disgruntled electorate that perceives traditional political change as nothing more than the same old wine in a brand new bottle. However, his self-serving approach, mixed with a superficial, inflammatory narrative was often disturbing and, sometimes, deranged. Trump supporters blindly accepted the latter and became less concerned with the former.
It remains to be seen if Trump reins in the contemptible, irrational ravings perpetuated during his unrestrained campaign, to quell the atmosphere of fear he encouraged and assuage the anger of devoted supporters. By his inauguration, Donald Trump has to present a rational strategy to reassure everyone he insulted and offended for months that he will be the American, not just a Republican, president.
For more than a year, in the primaries and ensuing campaign, Trump dominated the national political scene, frustrating, angering and irritating opponents, while fostering a devoted following. Now it’s time for Trump to prove to them, and to those who loathe him, that he’s not only worthy to be president, by dialing back his malicious campaign demeanor to restore confidence to a profoundly restless nation.
Despite imperfections, American democracy will withstand the challenges of a Trump presidency. Even so, this recent campaign miserably failed to reconcile, or even slightly transform, the collective dissatisfaction that permeates this country. Trump’s victory was not overwhelming, but it demonstrates that Republicans and Democrats must make concerted efforts to turn around the antagonism that led to the stunning election of a plainly unqualified candidate.
Nine days after Halloween, it feels like America’s was tricked into recklessly electing a sanctimonious, self-absorbed, paranoid racist. Perhaps, as the Trump presidency evolves — and he attempts to live up to his campaign slogan to make America great again — he can cultivate an atmosphere of reconciliation to disperse the mood of an overwhelmingly disillusioned and dissatisfied nation, as opposed to his devil in disguise public persona.
|Mock up cover of |
an unrequited dream.
Eight years ago, much of the nation was energized following the election of the first African-American president; Trump’s self-styled anti-establishment triumph, however, neither elicits the same the coast-to-coast vibe nor the equivalent passion. Some dread a Donald Trump presidency doesn’t become a clear and present national nightmare.
After he was declared the winner early Wednesday morning and Hillary Clinton conceded, Donald Trump said, “It is time for us to come together as one united people. I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans.”
Nevertheless, based on his tumultuous and divisive campaign rhetoric, not since the Civil War have the words to the preamble of the U.S. Constitution — in order to form a more perfect Union — been more critical and in danger of becoming more ambiguous.
As time and the gloomy mood of those embittered by yesterday’s results perceive any glimmer of optimism, perhaps we’ll remember this long, strange presidential race with these Bruce Springsteen lyrics, “Someday we’ll look back on this and it will all seem funny.”