Thursday, November 10, 2016

What the hell happened.

King of the deplorables
Two years ago, when we had to purchase private health insurance for a brief period, I had my first brush with the Affordable Care Act. I learned that I would be required to purchase a plan swollen with benefits that I wouldn't use. Then I learned that I would pay thousands in monthly premiums and even higher deductibles before I would experience one dime of coverage.

Our alternative while we waited for new employer coverage was to purchase a slimmer, but non-compliant plan, and be taxed 1% of income for each month that we carried it. 

Did I resent this requirement? I did. Did I resent the ACA? I did. Did I offset the feeling of having something forced down my throat with gratitude for the sake of others who would not otherwise be covered? Eventually. Not at first, I didn't. 

When Trump came along and said that five minutes after taking office he'd dump the ACA, did I vote for him?

I did not.

My disgust with Trump's mindset, temperament, attitude toward anyone not like him, poor self-control and frat-boy maturity reminded me of my compassion for others who struggle, which was greater than my disgust at being forced to purchase something I didn't need.  

I went to bed on election night before Trump won, but not before I saw Hillary lose the election one state at a time, and realized that we were seeing for the first time, the real number of Americans who had found some voice in Trump's.

At 5:40 yesterday morning, before I read a text, a tweet, an email or column, I pulled up the Washington Post for the headline, and there it was: 


I expected that at least some of this would be laid at the feet of FBI director James Comey. It was.

I expected the population that voted for Trump would be eviscerated in the media. It was.

Finally, now, one day and a better night's sleep later, we appear to be shutting up long enough to understand what we've done to create the population we didn't see coming.

We could have seen it coming back in September, when Hillary Clinton, face and voice of the liberal elite, made her "deplorables" comment, a horribly considered, "them and us" message meant to liken those drawn to any part of Trump's message to the worst of his supporters. 

If Trump did irreparable damage to his campaign with his raunchy Access Hollywood expose, Hillary did maybe as much when she characterized the dilemma of people not like her in such dismissive terms. 

Her followers included fence-walkers – the once-loyal but now conflicted Obama supporter, crushed by economic strain, unwilling to look away from a Clinton presidency quite yet, but repelled by the elitist rhetoric. She could have alienated more people with that comment only if she'd pushed them off the fence herself. 

Right out loud, I said, "Oh God, you shouldn't have said that." Because while I hated Trump's comments, I wasn't surprised by them. But that spray of bullets from Hillary, was more than upsetting, it was honest, and not in a good way. 

I felt manipulated and used by the ACA. Was I a "deplorable"? No, but did any campaign language from that side try hard enough to make the distinction?

When you screw with people's money or futures or economic viability or feeling of safety and assume they will continue to be other-focused, and not self-preserving in their ideals, you get unhappily surprised when the way to protect their interests presents itself on election day. .

What's more, I don't think Trump, in the beginning even expected to do more than make a point. I think he stumbled upon his base of frustrated, marginalized, fed-up Americans more than he cultivated it. But there they were, all those "deplorables," misunderstood and forgotten by everyone and what Trump, king of the deplorables did about this was say, "Hand me that ladle and bullhorn."

Stir the pot he did, enraging his supporters – from the infantile to the mature – with his own big fat messages of "them and us": 

"We're losing our homes, our identity, our jobs, our country. Are we going to let them get away with that?" 

Storms of outrage and  ridicule rained down on Trump and his supporters, and he only dug in further. His signature bombast became dangerous, his polarizing style threatening.  He had his gang, and his gang had gangs and they powered through, not only willing  to offend protesters, but delighting in it when they did.

There were comparisons to Hitler. There were seething characterizations of Trump supporters that only drew them closer to their leader for solace. They were all in it together. 

On Tuesday night, "they" hopped into their camo-wear and pick up trucks, and plowed through "us." 

Except that they didn't. 

A bunch of profane, crass guys with obscene t-shirts and guts and mud flaps with pole dancers on them didn't do this to us. 

We did this to us. 

We loathed a public Trump, vocally, viciously, but we ignored that many, many people were in the kind of straits that would allow them to find agreement with the softer ideas of a dialed-down Trump.

And as we've seen, in the minds of some deplorables, Hillary's transgressions were as morally difficult to reconcile as Trump's comments about women were sickening to listen to.  

I know that most of us had no question about the candidate who was best for us. I didn't reject Hillary for her flaws, nor did I give her my vote because I thought it was expected of me as an "adorable." I voted for Hillary because I wanted a kick-ass, competent, savvy woman in the white house, AND because I loathed Donald Trump for the truly awful things he's said, and has said he'd do.

I agree with those who have attributed this wildly unexpected turn to the Trumpets Anonymous, shamed away from showing themselves in the pre-election numbers, but who quietly closed the curtain, took out their anonymity, and voted against Hillary. 

If that's true, and it was certainly true when we elected cowboy George, what does it say about us, that we intimidate others or are intimidated by them into hiding our politics? 

Trump didn't win the people as much as he carried their bullhorn. It was loud enough to be heard through that closet door, where the other Trump supporters gathered, to choose the best of the bad. 

I can  soothe my soul by remembering in the future: while we differ out loud, we often agree in the privacy of our hearts. May all our hearts open to the possibility of a presidency that will not hurt us, but unite us. We have that one thing to hope for, in common, finally.

May that be what the hell happens now. 


  1. Well well well. Garrison Keillor got cranky. Michael Moore got silly. And Susan Bonifant got sharp and Mark Twained our a$&. You better submit this to Mother Jones or some publication worthy of your brilliance. Will be sharing far and wide.

  2. Well, thank you Mithra for that, and for the Mark Twain compliment which made me dizzy. Truth: it was how I felt after observing the many differing but compelling points of view of thinking people. This election was revealing, to say the least.

  3. His base supporters promote a blend of might-makes-right and blame-of-others ideology that has all the hallmarks of 1930's Germany.

    Not all fascists are genocidal Nazis. But they are a danger to what I understand American society to represent.

    American freedom is not only about guns and speech. Since its inception, it includes religion. But altogether it means freedom from fear of persecution and loss of life and being subjected to the tyrannical aspirations of an irrational despot.

  4. Your points are interesting and made me think. Yes, the manic rhetoric was alarming, but I never quite bought that he believed it himself. Let's hope the Trump who said everything he could to make us marry him for four years will settle down now that the dog has caught the car.

    Sorry about the metaphors. I liked them both and couldn't decide on the best one.