American Eclipse, Part 1: The Ignorant Voter Gets the Bliss

There is cold comfort in a number: more Americans voted for Hillary Clinton than for Donald Trump. We are supposed to hear this and take solace that over half the nation did not, in fact, vote to elect Donald Trump. That doesn't matter.

We can look at the votes for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson and wonder how many of those might have gone for Clinton, but that seems like wishful thinking since many of Johnson's votes would have likely gone for Trump or to no one at all.

In the same way, it's a fantasy that Bernie Sanders would have done better against Trump. No poll was ever conducted after a sustained barrage of attacks from the GOP and Trump because such a barrage was never necessary.

We can find hope in small things that are not insignificant, like the Democratic gains in the Senate and the House, but that does little to stem the tide of the Republican wins overall.

We can tell ourselves lies that give us succor. Perhaps Donald Trump won't lead the country in the same way that he campaigned, that he will moderate, that mythical pivot we awaited for so long. What nonsense. Trump is a 70 year-old hedonist who thrives on petty vengeance, race-baiting, power plays, and wealth-flaunting. That won't change just because he's president now.

I watched the results come in last night and early this morning, and I realized that I knew nothing. I had been predicting a Clinton victory for over 2 years. Sure, I had said that Trump was going to be the GOP nominee shortly after he announced his candidacy, but the only chance I gave him for winning was some kind of cataclysmic revelation about Clinton. I knew, hell, we all knew that the nation is a steaming cauldron of racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and piggish individualism pretending to be a governing ideology. I thought that there would be a critical mass of people who despised the first four and who were so invested in the last that they would realize a Trump win would wreck their pocketbooks.

We need to lay the blame for this election and its consequences where it clearly should be, and that's at the feet of the voters. Trump voters decided that no amount of outright lies, no amount of outrageous statements, no amount of personal attacks, no amount of rampant egotism, no amount of ignorance of basic policy, nothing, was more important than what Trump promised them: a return to purity, a nation purged of its undesirables, a righting of a social order that had lost its hierarchical arrangement of groups of people, an isolation from the world unless other countries pay for the protection racket, and money, baby, shitloads of money.

Today, I've gotten into several arguments with people who keep insisting to me that voters wanted "change." My response is always "Change from what?" From the way things are going, they say. "How are they going?" I ask. You know, the way things are bad, they tell me. "What's bad? Crime is down overall, unemployment is down, the deficit is way down. What do they want change from?" And that's the end of the conversation because they can't articulate what people wanted change from other than "the way things are done in Washington."

Ah, dear, sweet, victorious, rancid motherfuckers who voted for Trump, how is it you do not know that the reason that things aren't "done" in Washington is that Republicans allow virtually nothing to pass through Congress? It's because the media has shattered into ideological shards that we pick and gather to form whatever narrative we need to soothe whatever prejudices we might have. Put simply, we don't read or watch the same things anymore. So Trump voters were fed a steady stream of glorification of their candidate, horrific conspiracies about Clinton and President Obama, and, at the end of the day, it was just easier to believe that than to believe that their dearest prejudices and hatreds were simply wrong. Trump was the embodiment of all their fears, a cult leader who was not only entertaining but whose language seemed to imply that to vote for him is to join a group of insiders who really understand how the world works, a counter to the intellectuals and politicians who kept saying they shouldn't be so goddamned afraid all the time. The ignorant have had their say, loudly and ignorantly, and we must suffer their reign.

But we have to acknowledge another simple truth: Democrats just didn't show up. Roughly 7 million fewer people voted in 2016 than in 2012 for the two major candidates. That's an outrage. If you voted for Barack Obama in 2012 and you didn't vote for Clinton in 2016, you wasted your vote in 2012 (and perhaps 2008). Obama's accomplishments are going to be erased faster than you can say, "Pre-existing condition."

I'm tired, rude readers. There is no out here. There is no cathartic thing to be done. I will get to acceptance, I'm sure. But here is denial. Tomorrow, anger, maybe bargaining and depression, followed, I hope, by acceptance. And then a long break.

Here is our country now: In Cookeville, Tennessee, on Monday night, a pickup truck owned by a transgender woman who had served for 8 years in the military was set on fire. The word "Trump" was painted on the wreckage in two places. The woman was home with her 3 year-old son. She had been discharged from the Army after suffering a brain injury in Iraq in 2007. This is America, same as it ever was.

The planets have aligned for Trump -  the hatred of the black president, the hatred of the woman who dared to try to take his place, the hatred of everyone who made the country less white and more tolerant. Trump has risen and he will eclipse the light over the country, making it a cold, desolate place.