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The Morning After: The Election of Donald Trump

The Morning After: The Election of Donald Trump

By Whitney Hoth

It’s been suggested to me that some of my colleagues would welcome a word from me about last night’s election results.  It’s flattering to think anyone might be interested, but I’m afraid I haven’t much to offer.  I never allowed myself to imagine the possibility of a Trump presidency, and now that it’s upon us, I’m stunned.  Although I was not thinking about it, I was dreading it.  In the days before the election, I returned over and over to online polling sites to reassure myself that he had to lose, but I was never really comforted.  I leaned on my wife’s determined confidence that he was unelectable as a refuge from my own stubborn misgivings.  I resolutely refused to believe what I feared might be true, and now that it’s an accomplished fact, I’m horrified.  I was not prepared.

I suppose unpreparedness is what many others are experiencing this terrible morning in November.  Everyone is asking how the polls could be so utterly wrong, how the triumph of mathematical analysis could have failed so spectacularly.  As it turns out, even data-nerds are human, and data-nerds are just as susceptible to confirmation bias as the rest of us, so they ended up looking for what they wanted to find.  I cannot blame them.  All night long watching CNN, I seized on every specious suggestion of hope John King offered on his state-by-state election map.  If Wolf Blitzer interrupted John while he was spinning one of these gossamer dreams, I was furious.  Finally, I gave up and went to bed.  At 4:00 AM, I woke abruptly, turned on my phone, and read the results.  The unthinkable had happened.

I expect the worst.  I do not know if I have ever experienced a feeling quite like this one before.  What I feel can only be described as dread, a real sense of terrible foreboding.  This has not been helped, of course, by all the calls and emails I have received from friends and relatives in the States who are also shocked and horrified.  For them, as for me, this man is reprehensible — a con-artist, fraud, racist, misogynist, liar and cheat.  One of the terrors of this outcome is the realization that I will have to live year after year seeing and hearing this offensive brute who fills me with disgust the moment he opens his mouth.

Long ago, I had no love for Ronald Reagan, neither I nor my parents, but although he often exasperated me, I never felt a fraction of the antipathy toward him that Trump inspires.  Obama disappointed me.  He was often feckless and ineffective, but he was decent.  He was out of his depth, a junior senator unprepared for the dogfight of American politics, but he had a heart and a mind and consulted both before he spoke.  Hillary was not what I wanted, but she could be endured.  Bernie seemed unrealistic and even reckless, but if Trump was the alternative, then Bernie would do.  Only Trump is unendurable.  He is the nadir of American politics.  He is the nightmare of democracy.  The demagogue in command of the mob.  The ghost of James Madison cries his warning to us.  We will see if the constitutional net Madison and others created will be strong enough to hold a reckless fool.  It held Nixon (who was no fool), can it hold Trump?

Some are already saying that Trump will not govern as he campaigned, that he will now move to the centre as presidents always do, but these are the same people who pervaded false comfort about how he could not be elected.  These are the same experts grasping at straws.  I had some special insight into why Trump made an attractive candidate to many Americans, but I have no insight whatever as to what lies ahead in a Trump presidency.  I do not know what to think about it.  All I have at the moment is a powerful feeling of fear mixed with shame for America.

In this new day of triumphant and sneering anti-intellectualism, when ignorance is now considered a gift and a virtue, let me conclude with a quotation from a poet (a poet!):

But oh! I backward cast my eye

On prospects drear!

And forward though I cannot see,

I guess and fear!


God help us all.