By Richy Swinford
Pigeon Press (Portland, Oregon)
Writer’s notes: This article is just a quick summary of my thoughts a few days after the election. I want to recognize my bias and my intention to remain unbiased. These are my opinions and they do not necessarily represent the school or even the editors of this paper. As an alumni living 2,000 miles away, I’m in a unique place where I am removed from Northwest Academy’s community but still connected to the Pigeon Press. I asked for this to be published not because I want to represent alumni or the school, but because I think my message is important and I want people who are important to me to read it.
Democrats, Republicans. Liberals, conservatives. One thing both sides can agree on it is that there are sides. I would find it hard to believe anybody in the country thinks of this as a unifying election. America is vulnerable right now. It is torn apart. A Pew Research Center poll found that about half of the members of each party are afraid of the other party. In a time that should be spent healing, both sides are too busy fighting to understand that no matter the results of the election, this is objectively one of the radical, partisan and polarizing elections to date. For liberals, it killed their idea of America.
I found myself after the election trying to look at the macro scale of everything, mostly because the micro scale looked so bleak and depressing. The eureka moment I came to was that, despite anything that happened during the election, it is everything happening now that is important. Looking at the events and attitudes washing over our nation, over liberals in particular, I saw a unique trend. America is going through the five stages of grief, and if this seems obvious to you or even if you still don’t believe me, give me a moment to explain how this could be dangerous for America as a whole.
I felt it. If you’re reading this piece as an op-ed coming out of a very liberal school newspaper in a very liberal city, you most likely felt it too at about 11 o’clock on Tuesday. Denial. “This can’t be happening, what is even going on?” The common room I was watching the election in was full and buzzing with people even after Trump won Florida and was leading in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Even I kept re-checking projections, re-calculating points, looking for any way in which Clinton might pull through. However, looking back realistically, Trump won after Florida was declared. Florida has predicted nine out of the 10 most recent elections. Yet we kept up hope. This is a textbook case of denial. After the election was over, Americans crashed the Canadian immigration website, looking for way to deny their own responsibility in the outcome, escaping instead of accepting the repercussions of it. It is unhealthy to linger in this stage too long because it can distort ideas of reality.
Anger erupted that night. Students at colleges such as UCLA stormed the streets. People all around the country flocked to Trump-owned property and voiced their disapproval. Whether peaceful or not, it was clear that these crowds were angry. They chanted “F*** Trump!” and “not my president!” While most of these protests were nonviolent, a vocal minority of protesters showed their displeasure through fire bombs, vandalism and violence. In videos such as these , we see the crowd riled up by the presence of Trump supporters, chasing people across traffic and beating the opposition to the ground. Anger is one of the most destructive stages not only for the individual but also the community. It gives me deep sadness to see people planning on continuing these anger-filled protests indefinitely. A positive message of unity and anti-bigotry is valuable, but if these forms of protest continue America will never be able to move on and complete the process of grief. As long as people believe that demonstrating their anger is the best way to move forward, people will never be able to achieve acceptance.
Bargaining has always seemed out of place in my mind when thinking about grief. What can someone possibly bargain when their close friend has just passed? Luckily it is much more clear in terms of the election. People like myself who had been avoiding Facebook following the election would return on Thursday to find long posts about rejecting the electoral college or even seceding from the union. Articles like this one call for electors to resist the outcome and to vote with their conscience, not the people’s. While this seems like a reasonable response since Clinton won the popular vote, the Electoral College was created partly to give each state a more equal voice in the presidency. Additionally this kind of action sets up a dangerous precedent where electors can vote on whichever option they personally agree with. This could completely upset the entire idea of democracy.
It could mean that future presidents are decided with elector votes alone, without a majority nationally or even in the elector’s state, diminishing the country’s over a 100 million voters into just 538. Imagine next election when electors can choose to be free agents and pick whichever candidate they fancy instead of whichever one they were hired to vote for. Despite what Huffington Post claims, this is the exact opposite of what the founding fathers would have wanted. Secession from the union is an even more dangerous concept because not only does it essentially guarantee Republican control of the rest of the country for many years, it also creates a very high under-representation of conservatives in this new country. There were over three million people in California alone who voted for Trump, and those people will represent a significant part of the population if the west coast secedes. Moreover, bargaining creates a false sense of hope in general. The chances that any of these ideas will become reality is minuscule. The fact they people believe that they can shirk the responsibility of the election outcome puts a dark cloak over America’s near future.
While I think extended protests and unrealistic petitions have prolonged the first half of the stages of grief, I think that fear of realization is what keeps liberals from entering the penultimate stage. No one wants to internalize the implications of this decision for America. Trump may be the embodiment of these xenophobic feelings but he is not the cause. I would be very surprised if any reasonable person chose to accept Trump’s bigotry solely because they listened to him. I would argue that people who ended up dismissing his comments about women did so not because they believed his augments, but because they had been thinking the same things all along. Trump did not create racists, only revealed their existence to the rest of us. He saw a portion of the population that had underlying anger and he channeled their anger to win. Trump is just a politician, despite his unwillingness to call himself that. What is really depressing about the election is not that Trump has won, it is that we, all of us as a nation, allowed him to win.
I’m sure many people reading this article don’t feel like Trump is deserving of your acceptance, but I’m not asking you to accept Trump. I’m asking to accept the idea that he won this election. I want you all to accept the America you thought existed is dead. Trump won, regardless of the popular vote, according to the rules of our democracy. America was not repaired under Obama. Electing a black president did not make racism go away. This has been a consistent theme across the last few years. Between #BlackLivesMatter and shootings of minorities, it astounds me that most liberals assumed that this underlying wave of racial tension would not affect the election, that white Americans would not fight back against what many saw as hostile takeover by minorities. Even if a white, liberal activist in Portland felt proud when they saw a #BlackLivesMatter protest pop up on national news, it is clear that white, working-class people living in rural Wisconsin felt ostracized and attacked.
I don’t think that people should stop resisting Trump’s presidency, but I do think people should accept it. It is only when we move on that we can start to heal as a nation. Then we can start to understand how we, the United States, can being to end systemic bigotry and oppression of minorities.