I don’t usually write about politics. There’s so much about the subject that I don’t know or don’t understand, but maybe I should have been talking about it more. I should have written about the things I thought we all agreed on that last night I learned so many of us don’t. Maybe it would have made a difference.
As someone who lives in the Chicagoland area of Illinois, the democratic stronghold of the Midwest that has voted predominantly democratic in presidential elections since 1992, Trump supporters seemed like fictional beings who existed only in caps lock on comment threads. Rationally, of course I knew they were real, flesh and blood voting people with opinions and beliefs, but they seemed so far away, and not just in ideology. They weren’t in my friend groups. They weren’t at my office. They were just the lawn signs out in front of some houses. I underestimated their numbers and their influence.
I was at an election party for a little while last night. There were men and women in attendance, blacks and whites, and even a few people who came to the United States from Russia. There were donkey balloons, and we were all eating and drinking as liberally as our political leanings. I remember the first states to go red were Indiana and Kentucky, and we all shrugged because on election night, some states are foregone conclusions. But then as the night went on, the map was bleeding more and more. A friend and I were looking at the map and doing the math after we left – simple addition to 270 – and realizing what was happening.
On my walk home from the train each night, I pass two houses with political signs. They’re two of the nicer houses on the block and they both have that je ne sais quoi curb appeal. One house has a Trump/Pence flag hanging from the front door and the other has a Clinton/Kaine lawn sign. Every day I saw these neighbors, I thought about how satisfying it would be for the Clinton house when this is all over. There was never any doubt in my mind which of these two homeowners would get to say, “I told you so,” after the votes were counted, and that’s the attitude I’ve had this whole election. All this time, I thought we were just counting down to when Kate McKinnon would parody Hillary’s victory celebration on SNL.
I’m lucky, because apart from being a woman, the outcome of the vote won’t affect my life as profoundly as it affects others. I’m white, straight, cis, middle-class; I go through life basically wearing a privilege Snuggie, but that isn’t true for everyone, and those are the people for whom our votes were so important.
I have a lot of thoughts about people who decided not to vote in protest or decided that this was the time to change the world by voting for a third party, but bemoaning their lack of pragmatism and foresight isn’t productive now that the polls are closed. What demands our attention now is how devastatingly we misunderstood how people in this country feel about women, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, minorities, bad toupees, and the color orange.
When I was walking to the train station this morning, the day after the election, I was looking around at all the familiar sights as if I’d find a clue I missed or a tangible consequence. I don’t know what I expected to see. A geyser of lava. A woman holding an infant and screaming hysterically in the street. I was searching for something that I’d missed when I didn’t think this was possible.
The worst part was realizing that it was the same world, with all the same people in it–I was just looking at it differently and seeing it for what it really was.