Donald Trump has been our president-elect for only two weeks, and already we are told to look at the bright side. Find the silver linings. Figure out a way to time-travel to 2020. Remember that love prevails.
We need to stop deluding ourselves. There is no bright side. There are no silver linings. It is 2016, Donald Trump will be our president, and there was never any love to begin with.
We are inclined, in times of crisis, to escape. We want to cover our heads with blankets and pretend that everything will somehow be okay, that the liberal ideal of social justice can still be upheld if we continue to believe in it hard enough.
This inclination is selfish. It is that same selfishness, and the ignorance that comes with it, that enabled liberals to turn away from the glaringly obvious possibility that a candidate like Trump could take office. We desperately believed that Hillary Clinton, a shoddy and alienating candidate, would be able to secure the United States’ highest office. We hid from the truth that most people do not give a shit about the issues she campaigned on.
Clinton herself bought into this delusion. She ignored the plight of middle America, as the Democratic Party has done for so long, and instead spent her time mocking her opponents’ supporters when she should have been courting them. When she was not wedging that divide, she was surrounding herself with celebrity support. She flaunted her ties to Beyoncé and Katy Perry, guested on “Broad City” and drew accolades from the likes of Lena Dunham, as if this mattered to anybody other than coastal Democrats.
And still we fail to see the error of our ways. Buzzfeed ran a piece last Wednesday about how people are turning to Harry Potter for solace. Patton Oswalt compared Trump’s victory to “Star Wars” in a tweet arguing that this whole mess is simply America’s Empire Strikes Back phase. Vox published a cringe-inducing open letter from fictional “Parks and Recreation” character Leslie Knope. Memes featuring cutesy fictional dialogue between Barack Obama and Joe Biden abound (conveniently ignoring the fact that those two paved the way for many of Trump’s nightmarish policies).
Clearly, we have learned nothing.
Diverting our attention, insulating ourselves with our favorite TV shows and hiding from the reality that half of the country expressed overwhelming support for one of the most outwardly bigoted presidential candidates in US history is, in large part, what got us here. Thinking about politics in terms of “The Hunger Games” shows just how desperately we want to keep our eyes shut.
Meanwhile, those of us who can’t stomach the silly commentary of a fictional government official are shutting this nightmare out by reassuring ourselves that there’s no way Trump could enact many of his policies.
The Washington Post published a think piece arguing that Trump will face significant barriers to fulfilling his promise to build a wall on the US-Mexico border, or ordering surveillance on mosques. An opinion column from PoliticusUSA published in September is re-circulating on social media, arguing that President Obama’s tightening of Title X funding for family planning clinics protects Planned Parenthood from any attacks on its livelihood.
Days before the election, these same publications, and scores of others like them, were saying that a Trump victory was a near-impossibility.
Already, we have taken steps toward insulating ourselves from the coming reign of Trump. We did not think it was possible, and we still do our best to believe it.
We spent the entire election cycle patting ourselves on the back for supporting a candidate that claimed to believe in issues of equality and oppression. We laughed along with “The Daily Show’s” mockery of ignorant Trump diehards. We wrote the burgeoning “alt-right” off as a kooky new threat incapable of affecting actual change. We constantly assured ourselves that there would be a female president, that it would be Hillary Clinton, and that nothing would stand in her way of getting there.
We were wrong. We failed to accurately gauge this threat, and are now left to deal with what was so grossly underestimated. It’s time to own our mistake, and recognize just how damning it was.
Now is not the time to tearily find solace in children’s fantasy and Comedy Central. John Oliver will not save us. Our liberal safeguards isolated us, and in doing so, shrouded us in smug certainty that things would go our way. If we fail to recognize the enormity of the threat that is currently casting its shadow across Washington, it will kill us.
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