I’ve been struggling to sort through my feelings and articulate just why I am still so upset by the results of the presidential election. I’m not yet trying to think through what we might be in for, come January, with President Trump. I have no interest in “not my president” protests, and only limited curiosity about possible cabinet appointments.
For me at this moment it’s not so much about Trump. It’s about what the election revealed about my country. It’s the fact that 60 million Americans voted for someone who repeatedly and openly denigrated African-Americans, Muslims, Mexicans, the disabled, women. Sixty million Americans put their (often nebulous) desire for “change” above basic human decency.
I know there are white supremacists, gun nuts and simple-minded bigots out there who were always going to vote for Trump. I understand there are voters in Appalachia who hoped Trump would prevent the lightbulb factory where they work from moving to Mexico. I guess, when your livelihood is at stake, you can overlook quite a lot. But 60 million people???
Analysis of voting patterns in Germany’s most recent election shows that the far right, anti-immigrant Alternative für Deutschland was most successful in areas that have very few immigrants or refugees. That suggests it’s easier to hate and fear the Other and easier to overlook abuse of the Other if it’s an abstraction, not tempered by your own daily experience. Indeed, there are few immigrants, refugees or African-Americans in Wyoming, where Trump scored highest, with 70% of the vote.
But what about women – half the population in every state, every town, every rural township in the nation? In the case of women, we must conclude that familiarity breeds contempt, and contempt is what I take away from this presidential election. Given the choice between a superbly qualified woman and a lying bully, 60 million people chose the bully. Throughout the campaign, the public was quick to accept the suggestion that Clinton’s missteps were character flaws and just as quick to dismiss Trump’s character flaws, his indecency, as missteps. Boys will be boys. That’s a double standard. And if it’s not sexist, then let me just say that it looks uncomfortably familiar to many accomplished women.
During the campaign, one of my kids said to me, “If you vote for Hillary just because she’s a woman, isn’t that sexist?” All other things being equal, yes. But all other things aren’t equal, and they never have been.