I cried. I know many people did, so I’m not ashamed to admit it at this point. I started out simply scared, clutching my phone with white knuckles as I frantically refreshed Fivethirtyeight.com. The predictions coming in were increasingly bad for us Democrats, and I started cursing out Nate Silver and lamenting each state that turned red. I thought this might happen — I’d feared that they had underestimated the white working class vote — but my suspicions were confirmed as that nightmarish red bled across the electoral map.
I still didn’t cry at that point. But then, I thought of Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton, a dedicated public servant who had sacrificed 30 years of her life for public service; Hillary Clinton, who was forced to sand off any offending quirks in her personality to appease the American voter — and then was told she was too “robotic”; Hillary Clinton, who had worked so hard for the United States and then had to sit there as she was told that America had preferred a virulently xenophobic tangerine moron to her. Then, I cried — out of anger, out of a profound sense of loss.
Except the truth is that most of that America did not prefer a screaming misogynist yam. Instead, the white working class in a few key swing states, after decades of shooting themselves in the foot by voting for the Republican Party, decided to do it one more time. Once everything is counted, Clinton is expected to win the popular vote by a sizeable margin — but thanks to the Electoral College, we end up with a silenced majority and a fascist Home Depot bucket sitting in the Oval Office.
To make a gross understatement, we lost. We don’t have a lot of options left to us: we have lost the House of Representatives, and we’re two or three seats away from Senate control. All that’s left now is the filibuster, which is not as comforting as it seems. And so, we find ourselves asking how we got here.
Think pieces will pick over the carcass of the campaign in the coming months, but they’re not entirely relevant now. We Democrats have some serious systemic issues that we have yet to resolve, and which would have continued regardless of a Hillary Clinton presidency. So here we are: ruled by quite possibly a madman, who pursues Vladimir Putin’s affection like a lovestruck schoolgirl, and a Congress that will blindly rubber-stamp his every notion. It is in a system like this that we will face our greatest challenge: we will have to learn to have backbone.
Democrats have become a party of compromise, a party of bowing to Republican pressure. We’ve refused to stand our ground, gutting vital pieces of legislation such as the Affordable Care Act, and letting the Republican Party run roughshod over our government. We’ve allowed them to be obstructionist and demanding, and we’ve suffered. This defeat is a culmination of that: not pushing our social programs, not defending unions, ignoring immigration reform. All of these hurt us, and may continue to hurt us unless we show some integrity.
The stakes are much higher here: women, people of color, Muslims, immigrants, journalists even — all of these people stand to get crushed under Trump’s ill-fitting boot. We have to encourage our lawmakers to fight back and stand tall against Trump’s fascist disregard for our Constitution and our values. We have to hold the upcoming administration accountable, and we have to stop the media from normalizing this deplorable melted marshmallow.
Standing up for our ideals will be our survival tactic for the time being. We can’t afford to take a “wait and see” approach here, and we can’t afford an extended grieving period for our nation.
Don’t get sad. Get mad. And we’ll see what changes come in 2018.
B.A. History ’19