Wednesday, November 9, 2016

So Trump Enters the Big Show, from
flckr user Gage Skidmore.
Hillary Clinton.
Compare the speeches: Clearly the one who was more presidential got the most votes.

But sadly, she didn’t win. Hillary Clinton delivered a good concession speech. She offered to aid President-elect Trump. And she avoided much of the bitter rancor that has lit up the social media universe in the wake of Tuesday’s Trump victory.

I applaud her for that. I understand the fear, anger and frustration of the many who are worried about fundamental human rights and healthcare as the Republicans are champing at the bit to repeal the Affordable Care Act and name near Neanderthals to the federal bench, and I share the sense that difficult times are ahead.

But I won’t raise my middle finger at America nor declare the electorate fatally mentally challenged. I think we—the collective we, I voted for Hillary—are in for a boatload of buyer’s remorse soon. But Clinton is right. Trump now gets to enter the world stage for the biggest act of his Reality TV career.

The depressing truth, to me, is that I think Trump treated the campaign as a Reality TV show. He Tweeted and said provocative, outrageous, misogynist, bigoted things and then denied them—just to draw attention, like a compelling but slightly evil camper on “Survivor.” He never carried much of a narrative thread—that is, he never had a coherent policy position that allowed his voters to support something of substance. And the Trump Reality TV campaign worked. American went for the “as-seen-on-TV” candidate.

The odd thing, of course, is that in fact the plurality of votes when to Hillary Clinton. More Americans chose her than chose Donald Trump, but under our odd, anachronistic electoral system, Trump won.

Trump was right. The system is rigged. And the media were part of it. He was just wrong—it was the Reality TV star who benefitted from the biases and unfairness built into the system.

Now Trump gets to try to govern. I doubt he has any idea what he’s in for. The Republicans have two years before mid-term elections to not mess it up, and I don’t have high hopes.

“I will be president for all Americans,” Trump said. After that hopeful line, the Trump victory speech was pretty terrible. He said the uniting line, his best line, in the first few seconds, but then the speech became rather like the most boring of Academy Awards acceptance speech. “I’d like to thank, Rudy Giuliani, who was always lurking in the background of my campaign like some vampire.” I may be slightly paraphrasing.
Same site, same user, Donald Trump.

The Trump speech was a missed opportunity. He gets lost in the thanks and didn’t do much to calm the fears of the national that he now will lead. There was no articulate or memorable line from the new boss of the free world. I guess I should just be glad he managed to stay on script, even if it was a bland, poor script.

Anyway, other random media-related thoughts sparked by this improbable election:
  • The walled garden is a thing. Our First Amendment was written to foster the “marketplace of ideas,” but that, sadly, is now closed and America has moved into gated idea suburbs, where we echo only the like-minded. I recognize that cutting off people from your Facebook feed who irritate you is OK—Facebook is your own personal place to be in contact with who you want; it’s a cocktail party where you don’t’ have to say in an unpleasant conversation—but the immediate instinct of some Clinton voters to shut off all contact with anybody who voted for Trump still bugs me. And many of us experience ideas and news through links that are posted on our badly named Facebook “news” feed. We, the liberals of this cold new world, are almost as bad as the conservatives in wanting to shut out the other. It’s official now. The Marketplace of Ideas is an empty Main Street with tumbleweeds, and we’re all off in our own, competing, realities. Truth doesn’t grapple with Falsehood. They both stay at their own private barbecues, no strangers invited.

  • The news media isn’t much of a thing. It’s always irritated me that we tended to misuse the word “media,” an elegant Latin plural, as a singular word anyway—and yes, I know that I did it in this point. That was deliberate. There never was one mainstream media, and with the alt-right nuts now firmly in control of the top of our politics, a reality-based media almost seems passé. I don’t mean to write as if that’s a good reality—in fact, I think it’s the great tragedy of our times—but it doesn’t matter much, anymore, what facts “The New York Times” or “Washington Post” or “The Gazette” reports. We’re in a post-news, post-fact world. I don’t want to give up on journalism or journalists, and I hope we find a niche that works, but I think the harsh reality is just a lesson from this election.

  • Our democracy isn’t a democracy. One person’s vote is not equal to the vote of any other person. The system, as Trump charges, is indeed rigged; he was just dishonest about who benefited from the rigging. The GOP engineered a Gerrymander takeover of Congress in the last two Census cycles. Since Citizens United put government up for sale, voters sensed there was something wrong and wanted to toss a brick through the window. But, handing the reigns of undisputed power to the party that carefully crafted the building to its advantage doesn’t seem to me like it will lead to meaningful reform. The people have spoken, but their voices were inarticulate, muted and warped.
And, in this year of magical thinking, I’m not sure of the way forward.

Trump won’t deliver on many of his empty campaign promises, because they were fantasies from the Trump TV show to begin with. Mexico won’t pay for a wall. The wall itself won’t mean much if it is built—in 2,000 miles, there will be some weak points, and airplanes and boats will bypass it entirely. Clinton may be endlessly investigated, but she never came close to an indictable crime in many, heavily investigated, decades of public service. She won’t be locked up. American manufacturing jobs are part of a global economy that doesn’t care who POTUS is, and those jobs won’t come flowing back because The Donald orders it to be so. The rural, uneducated white voters who handed the keys of the White House to a New York billionaire are, I think, in for years of disappointments.

Well, life goes on, even if it feels like it has careened into a scary place. Yet, if the shoe were on the other foot, if Clinton’s electoral fortunes reflected her plurality because her voters had been spread out more in the states like Iowa that gets its votes magnified, I think we Clinton supporters would be rightly indignant at Trump supporters who were too quick to grab their muskets or claim it’s the end of America.

Remember when the scandal was that Trump would only accept the election results if he won? He won. He accepts the results.

So does Hillary Clinton.

We can cry, scream, rend our garments, gird our loins for the long fight, etc. But, Clinton liberals, the vote has happened. If we would have expected DJT to concede had he lost, we should be a bit consistent and accept, unhappily, that he won.

And yes, I would reform the system so that he wouldn’t’ win again under the same circumstances—we do need boatloads of election reform—but Trump’s win was “clean” in the sense that it did fit the twisted, insane rules we live under.

No, I don’t mean we have to sing “Kumbaya” or forget our deep divisions or not be on alert for the tragic coming attempts to take away fundamental rights form the vulnerable among us.

But calm down. If need be—and I think need will be—we can beat him in a landslide next time.

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