Tuesday night after class, a few of my classmates and I left campus and walked to a nearby bar. The bar has half-a-dozen flat-screen televisions mounted over the bar, making it well-suited for watching sporting events. Normally the televisions display multiple football, baseball, and basketball games, but last night they were all tuned in to the 2016 presidential election. In a booth not far from the bar, six of us gathered to watch the results of the election.
It would be more poetic to say I was drinking because I had some inkling as to how the election would turn out, but I would be lying. I was drinking beer, but it’s because we were celebrating. I don’t know everyone’s reasons, but personally I was celebrating the fact that this horribly dirty election had come to an end. I’ve lived through a lot of presidential elections, and can’t remember a campaign quite like this one. I don’t think anyone alive can. Between the debates, the leaks, the controversies, the name calling, American politics hit an all time low. Hillary’s campaign slogan was “When they go low, we go high,” but Donald Trump’s lows were so low that her highs were still pretty low, too.
Dating back to Bill Clinton’s election in 1992, I’ve successfully picked every winning presidential candidate, usually many months before the election took place. When one classmate expressed concern about the outcome later that evening, I told them not to worry, and that I was sure Hillary Clinton would win.
For the first time in 24 years, I was wrong.
For the record, I’m not a huge fan of Hillary Clinton. We often use the term “the lesser of two evils,” and that sums up how I felt this year. I didn’t agree with all of her policies and I struggled with the whole email server controversy because, quite frankly, as a government employee, I would be instantly fired for doing the same thing. I felt like a vote for Hillary was a vote for the worst candidate I had seen in a long time, and a vote for Trump was a vote to burn down the system. I voted one way, half the country voted the other, and here we are.
My dad once taught me that a chess match can end in one of four ways: checkmate, stalemate, and forfeit are the three obvious ways, but you can always pick the board up and hurl it across the room as a fourth alternative. Tuesday night, America hurled the board.
I’m still trying to wrap my head around what happened. Yesterday, CNN interviewed several people in Ohio who voted for Trump. “I’m tired of Washington,” said one man. “I wanted to send a message that we wanted change.” I understand this man, but not his actions. I want change, too. If your landlord raises your rent, setting your own apartment on fire isn’t the best form of protest. I’ve tried seeing the other side’s point of view, but being repeatedly called a “middle-aged, male white dipshit who just doesn’t get it” didn’t help.
To my gay friends, my Muslim friends, my hispanic friends with undocumented family members living here in the United States… good luck? I support your rights, your right to freedom and your right to choose. If the government tries to pass laws that will limit your rights I will vote against them, but forgive me for not having a lot of faith in the voting process this week.
Last night on CNN I watched the protests in Chicago, and Philadelphia, and New York City, and Albuquerque, and our nation’s capital. Some people have written these protesters off as sore losers, but there’s more to it than that. Many of them are angry because they’re afraid. I am too.
Regardless of who you voted for, I, along with the rest of the world, will be waiting to see what happens next. Some people claim that the Trump we see on television and in the debates is not the same Trump that works behind closed doors, getting things done. I hope that’s true. I hope the same Trump that yells at people, denigrates women, and gets in Twitter fights at three in the morning is not the same guy that shows up when foreign heads of state come knocking. If they are one and the same, then lord help us.