“And I don’t know how much it really means to be right / And what a joy it’d be to see some peace in this life” — El-P (“2100 ft. BOOTS” — Run the Jewels)
Well, I don’t think many of us saw that coming. Between the start and end of my 15-minute presentation on the futility of American Green Party electoral success on election night, the forecast reversed completely — I think there was even some ominous thunder outside.
It was a blow, not because anyone I knew was particularly excited about four years of establishment and dynastic hum-drum under Hillary, but because of what the Trump win meant. Their country is just a few kilometres away from most of us and we live under Washington’s shadow in just as many ways as we do Ottawa’s. I’m not dramatizing when I say there was a gnawing and almost primal feeling in the pit of my stomach, the same one you get before a fight or in the midst of a natural disaster. The one that compels you to find a way to survive the next few moments. Yeah, maybe we all got a little caught up in the narrative. We built him in our minds as such a complete disaster that we never shored up our minds to the possibility. In that immediate haze, we ran through the scenarios: nuclear codes, race riots, the fact that Americans have such an entitlement to arms.
But then we had a drink, maybe two, let the immediate haze slip off and thought seriously about what tomorrow would bring. If you’re anything like me, one of your immediate concerns was the type of beliefs that had just been validated. It’s hard to parse out what drove people to him, but what we have to remember is that many more people were driven to just stay home. For the 40-something per cent of the American population that didn’t vote, there wasn’t much of a choice. All they were told for the last year is you support either a madman or the same broken and unfair system that had spied, lied, and left your way of life behind.
At the same time however, giving Trump that power gives power to every shitty attitude and belief he has endorsed or cultivated in the last year, the fear and blame put on immigrants, the hostility to women and marginalized groups. If Obama’s election was supposed to mean something for race relations, then so does this. If Hillary’s election was supposed to provide a role model to girls all over the world, then Trump does the same for every backward troll. Not to say all his supporters are trolls, there are some who held their noses the same way Hillary voters did and refused to take up his hateful rhetoric with the same gusto their compatriots did. Some.
So who’s to blame?
It wasn’t social justice warriors. As many problems as the Left has, and as tiresome, divisive, and useless as the rhetoric and “progressive” ideal can get on campus, it’s no excuse. It has to be tempered sure, but there’s only been a decade where the culture has been open enough for these discussions to be had — for institutional and societal failures to be admonished and inspected. There are definitely people caught in the crossfire unfairly, but to take that challenge, and if it motivates you enough to cast a ballot for a man-child it means there was no real point in reaching out to you anyways. Grow a little, meet some people, open your heart, speak your mind, be humble but be challenging. We’ll regroup later.
It’s not the working-class whites against free trade. The ones who have swapped between parties as a political tool in the same way minorities and marginalized are left on the democratic mantel above the dying embers of progress towards a better tomorrow.
The blame is with the ones who forgot both of these groups, the ones so entangled in a political machine oiled with corporate funds and self-aggrandizing ego that they forgot what people needed. They need something to vote for. They need something to change, that would let them keep up with a world that every day is looking grimmer and more uncertain. When’s the last time we have even felt that way here? That we voted for principle and trust instead of strategy and payback? If you haven’t felt that way in your lifetime yet, look for it.
Not to say that staying home and disengaging is in any way principled or brave. In any election, not bothering to form an opinion isn’t showing courage — it’s complacency and consent. At least the Harambe voters might have had a say in their local elections. There are silver linings here for our neighbours — 2020 could be interesting for new and grassroots-oriented political parties. There should be some solace in the low turnout too, it’s not half of America that supports whatever Trump believes (it’s changing by the minute), it’s just half of the people motivated enough to show up that day.
But what now, what about the next four years? Well, we wait, gather strength, and stand firm. We have our own fights even here at home that are coming, that are happening, that we aren’t even watching yet, that we have already forgotten. Whatever that feeling it was you felt Tuesday night, don’t forget it — whether it was good or bad. Let it keep your eyes open, your mind busy, and your politicians accountable.