A friend of mine is a longtime cashier at the Middlebury co-op. She says last Wednesday, Nov. 9, was the toughest work day that she can recall there.
The co-op cash register is as much a social gathering as a place for financial transactions. So my friend’s work day last Wednesday was filled with a procession of grieving liberals dismayed by Donald Trump’s “victory” in the presidential election.
I say “victory” because of course Trump will come in to office as a minority president who lost the popular vote. It’s the second time in 16 years that’s happened — a fact of which Al Gore, Hillary Clinton and the rest of the Democratic Party are painfully aware.
John Melanson, owner of the popular Carol’s Hungry Mind café, says wryly that the two most frequent comments he heard from customers on the day after the election were about buying land in Canada and darkly humorous requests for whiskey in their coffee.
Even most Republicans would agree that we’ve just been through the worst campaign in the life of any Baby Boomer.
Now we are living with the shocking result. We all tuned in Tuesday night expecting to watch a coronation. Instead it was a beheading.
More than a week after the election, a lot of people are still walking around in a zombie-like trance of grief and disbelief.
Some lines by the country singer-songwriter Jason Isbell come to mind:
You thought God was an architect
Now you know
He’s something like a pipe bomb
Ready to blow
So when it come to American politics, which is it?
Will rationality prevail? Or now that a temperamental man with no government experience will take over the mot powerful job in the world — are we all just waiting for the bomb to explode?
On an optimistic note, think for a minute about 1972.
Richard Nixon won re-election that year in the midst of spreading the immoral Vietnam war throughout most of Southeast Asia. His Democratic opponent, Sen. George McGovern, won only the state of Massachusetts.
Yet less than two years later, Vice President Spiro Agnew had left in disgrace and Nixon was facing impeachment, exposed as a corrupt criminal. He resigned in August 1974, to be replaced by Vice President Gerald Ford, a decent and well meaning man.
I 1974 we elected a president, Jimmy Carter, who moved the nation toward energy conservation and negotiated a peace between Israel and Egypt that lasts to this day.
In politics as in the rest of life, things can change very quickly.
But let’s not kid ourselves. It’s going to be a miserable four years.
Trump & Co. can be counted on to ram through legislation and executive orders that will counteract much of the Obama legacy.
When Republicans repeal Obamacare, for example, millions of Americans will probably lose their health insurance and Medicaid coverage. Here in Vermont, innovative efforts to further extend coverage and control healthcare costs will fade.
This election has also reminded us of a few unpleasant facts about human beings.
Witness the support Trump received from avowedly racist groups – and the installation of Stephen Bannon as the chief White House strategist. Bannon headed the odious Breitbart operation, which has a long history of providing an online home for commentary that denigrates women, Muslim, African-Americans and other minorities.
In an election where many of us thought women would come out more strongly for Clinton, many women instead voted out of economic, racial and ideological concerns for a man who is a self-confessed sexual predator.
We’ve also seen that without economic security, many people are willing to overlook flaws that would have previously disqualified a presidential candidate. That insecurity was crucial to Trump’s victories in Pennsylvania and Midwestern states where globalization has swept away blue collar jobs.
On the biggest issue of our time — climate change — Clinton was no leader. But she was coming around to support broader measures that would combat the worst of the melting that will flood our coastlines.
Instead of Clinton, America has elected a man who claims climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese to take American jobs.
Without American leadership, we are inexorably headed toward climate disasters: more destructive weather like hurricanes Irene and Sandy, and many more droughts and crop failures such as those that killed hundreds of thousands of Somalians.
So, yeah: pipe bomb ready to blow.
But there’s hope, too.
Spurred by social media, thousands of people have responded to the hate from the Trump campaign by pinning a safety pin to a piece of clothing.
As a show of support for those minorities who feel threatened in this new environment, the New York Times reports, “groups of people across America are attaching safety pins to their lapels, shirts and dresses to signify that they are linked, willing to stand up for the vulnerable.”
I just put safety pins on two of my jackets.
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