It’s been five days since the most critical election in generations, one in which the outcome stunned more than half the voters. (Sadly, those more-than-half were in the wrong states, so their votes didn’t count as much as those of voters in other states.) I didn’t sleep Tuesday night, as every time I started drifting off, nightmare scenarios of what might happen now that a bigoted, sexist, xenophobic, lying demagogue has been elected as the leader of our nation.
As time has gone by, I’ve realized there are two disturbing aspects to this election.
- Trump is morally revolting. He is a blatant liar, he’s sexually assaulted at least a dozen women, he’s racist, he’s completely selfish, he has no apparent moral compass beyond enriching himself and maintaining his own prestige. He mocks women and disabled people. He stiffs contractors to whom he owes money. He engages in tax gymnastics skirting so close to the edge of legality it’s astonishing he’s not already in jail. He has no moral compunctions about splitting up families to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants who are helping drive our economy. He is willing to trample the Constitution by sorting people by race and religion. He has absolutely zero filter and says every filthy, disgusting, and revolting thing that comes into his head. I’m going to stop now, but that’s a clearly non-comprehensive list. I could go on.
The bottom line is that Trump wants attention, and will do anything to get it — and, honestly, it’s worked. He’s gotten boatloads more attention than any other political candidate ever.
Okay, so, moral repugnance. I think many people who voted for Trump did so with their noses held, acknowledging that he’s not the most savory or desirable Republican candidate. I imagine many of them voted Republican because that’s what they do, regardless of the candidate himself. I also imagine that many would have preferred a Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, or even Ted Cruz over the choice they got. However, that being the choice, they sucked it up and voted for a guy they are fully aware is weak in the ethics department.
Why? For reason number two, I’m guessing.
- Republicans now have free reign for at least two, and maybe four, years. For Republicans, who have been waiting and stalling and hoping for this day, this is great! At last, they can finally repeal all that onerous weight of cruft Obama has done: Obamacare, protections for illegal immigrants, environmental regulations and protections, taxing the wealthiest to provide social services for the poorest. It’s got to be an amazing feeling of elation to at last have full and total control with the ability to do whatever they think is the right thing.
That’s the second thing that’s so alarming for those of us on the other side. We believe in the value of all those things: healthcare for millions of more people who haven’t been covered before; allowing hardworking people to participate in our workforce and find a way to legal citizenship; protection and action to combat the existential threat that climate change presents to our nation and world; the federal government’s role in caring for the vulnerable and disenfranchised.
In these philosophical issues of economics and governance, it really doesn’t matter if it’s Trump or another Republican. Any Republican will do these things–perhaps even more so than Trump, who’s flip-flopped on his political affiliations along with so many other things. But it’s clear that Republicans and their political philosophy will have their day, and we’ll get to see what they reap.
I sincerely hope that all the liberal doomsayers are wrong, and that if the tide does rise (no guarantees, if trade is stifled as many economists expect) it will lift all boats. In short, I hope we’re all wrong and that the Republicans are right, because otherwise it’s going to be a very painful future for many people.
I think the heartfelt sorrow and mourning felt by so many; the angry, massive, ongoing protests; and so many of the punditry’s analyses focus on the former of these issues: The fact that we elected a man with the moral compass of a slug. We, as a nation, don’t want to be seen as condoning a man who’s the moral equivalent of a pile of horse apples. We, as a nation, want the world to know that we’re not all racist, we don’t all want to ban Muslims on the basis of their religion, we don’t all believe Mexicans are rapists and drug dealers. And we don’t want to be seen as the idiots who elected someone who does believe all those things.
And we don’t want to live in a nation where these people groups get trampled, where all the gains of the last 50 years are rolled back in favor of wealthy white straight men. Ethically, we don’t want to go back to the dark ages of the 1950s and before. But we can replace those reforms. We can help people, through nonprofit organizations and other channels, even if the federal government chooses to turn a blind eye to the suffering it will inflict on millions of people. We can use law suits and protests to slow these processes. We can continue to fight for social change and equality. Indeed, this may be the kick in the pants many social justice causes have needed for a long time.
But what about the second aspect? This is where I think the worst damage will occur. Overturning trade deals, ignoring international agreements, shrugging off hard-wrought environmental concessions: These things will ultimately hurt the nation and the world on an inconceivable scale. The global climate change devastation that’s likely to occur will echo down generations long after we’re dead. The economic impacts of the kind of regressive, isolationist trade philosophy (if you can call it that) espoused on the campaign trail would likely plunge us into a global economic disaster the likes of which we haven’t seen in generations. The harm to hardworking low-income families who lose healthcare and governmental social services; the damage to businesses who lose international trades; the crushing burden of debt likely to be incurred in the next four years — these big, sweeping nightmare scenarios are what frightens me the most.
In many ways, I’m utterly powerless to influence any of these issues. I cast my vote, for what it was worth; I’ll abide by the election results, even if I don’t like them, although I understand and empathize with the thousands (millions?) of people out protesting. What I can do, though, is support organizations that work to support those most likely to be harmed in the coming years. I can, and will, increase my contributions to organizations that fight for our rights and protect the vulnerable. I’m not sure which those organizations will be, but we as a family are going to figure out our priorities and put our money where our values are.
If our taxes are cut and we get money back, we’re giving it away. If the federal government won’t use that money to help people, we will choose to do so ourselves as individuals. We can’t directly stop climate change, we can’t stop a global recession, we can’t stop deportation of immigrants or racial profiling or hate crimes or any of that wrongs that are likely to occur, but we can and will give our money and our time to causes that fight against those wrongs.
Jesus called us to help those most vulnerable, who were exploited and trampled by the system. He reached out to those most despised and scorned the approval of society. The church is here continue that work, protecting those who need it most. It’s time for us to double down on that promise, to stop thinking about ourselves, and instead focus on being light and salt in an increasingly dark and dire world.
More on this another time. But those are my thoughts as this painful reality is slowly sinking in.