Well, that certainly was interesting.
It was compelling and surreal and a celebration of the unique creation that is American democracy. Yet while Tuesday night was extraordinary and unprecedented, a funny thing happened Wednesday: The sun came up. It did so again on Thursday and on Friday, as well. And while making long-term predictions should be left to only fools and charlatans, we’ll go out on a limb and guess that the sun will rise on Jan. 21, the first morning of a Donald J. Trump presidency.
Look, I think it was a poor choice. I think Trump is a boorish, unqualified, bigoted hatemonger. And you know what: What I think doesn’t matter now; enough people disagreed with that assessment to make him the president-elect. No amount of whining or caterwauling can change that and, while we will need to consult our pocket U.S. Constitution on this one, we’re guessing that no amount of protest will change it, either.
But that didn’t stop protesters in numerous cities from taking to the streets Tuesday night, Wednesday evening, and beyond.
In Portland, those protesters occupied Interstate 5 and shut down rush-hour traffic in an attempt to accomplish … well, nobody knows exactly what. In so doing, they might have released some tension and mitigated some frustration, but they also harmed their cause. Reinforcing the narrative that progressives are whiny hypocrites with little regard for law and order, the protesters undoubtedly reminded Trump supporters of why those supporters believe this nation needs Trump. Chanting “not my president,” the protesters engaged in a strange manner of cognitive dissonance — unless they are leaving the country.
Because Trump soon will be the president for all of the United States, not just the swaths that voted for him, and the goal now must be a shared one to improve this nation. Suggesting that Trump is not your president or hoping that he fails is like rooting for the pilot to crash the plane you are on just because you don’t like her.
Of course, that’s exactly what conservatives did eight years ago on the occasion of Barack Obama’s election, and the action then was just as insufferable. The fact that Republicans engaged in nearly a decade of demonization and delegitimization of the president, only to have it pay off with the presidency and both houses of Congress, is perhaps the most disheartening aspect of Tuesday’s outcome. The cost of ideological rigidity at the expense of governing, apparently, is nothing.
Reason for hope
And yet, there is reason for hope. You know, if you happen to be one of those glass-half-full people.
For me, the hope can be found in the fact that I am old enough to remember the Bill Clinton administration. As a staunch conservative at the time — before the Republican Party went off the rails — I was convinced that Clinton’s election in 1992 would be closely followed by plague and locusts. Now, when conservatives whose reason is blinded by their demagoguery complain about the Clinton years, there is a ready retort: “Which didn’t you like, the peace or the prosperity?”
In other words, you never know. In other words, this nation is strong enough to survive Donald J. Trump. We survived Richard Nixon, for goodness’ sake.
Yes, Trump’s demonizing of The Other during the campaign was unbecoming. His blatant pandering to bigots and his misogyny were anathema to a civilized society. His egregious disregard for the Constitution was abhorrent (although that argument can levied against Hillary Clinton, as well). But throughout history, we have been reminded that the times forge the president, not the other way around, and we can trust that Trump will be able to rise to the occasion.
Because that is all we have. Hope and trust and faith that the American system and the American people are stronger than a particular president we did or did not support. Oh, and we have an unshaken confidence that the sun will come up tomorrow.