Anyone who claims to be philosophical and detached after yesterday is either lying or has something very wrong with him (or her, but I doubt many women are in that camp.) It’s a disaster on multiple levels, and the damage will echo down the decades if not the generations. And like anyone on my side of this debate, I keep feeling waves of grief.
It’s natural, only human, to engage in recriminations, some of which are surely deserved. But while a post-mortem is going to be necessary, lashing out doesn’t seem helpful — or good for the lashers-out themselves.
Eventually those of us on the center-left will have to talk about political strategy. For now, however, I want to share some thoughts on how we should deal with this personally.
First of all, it’s always important to remember that elections determine who has the power, not who has the truth. The stunning upset doesn’t mean that the alt-right is correct to view nonwhites as inferior, that voodoo economics works, whatever. And you have to hold to the truth as best you see it, even if it suffers political defeat.
That said, does it make sense on a personal level to keep struggling after this kind of blow? Why not give up on trying to save the world, and just look out for yourself and those close to you? Quietism does have its appeal. Admission: I spent a lot of today listening to music, working out, reading a novel, basically taking a vacation in my head. You can’t help feeling tired and frustrated after this kind of setback.
But eventually one has to go back to standing for what you believe in. It’s going to be a much harder, longer road than I imagined, and maybe it ends in irreversible defeat, if nothing else from runaway climate change. But I couldn’t live with myself if I just gave up. And I hope others will feel the same.
I tweeted this out earlier, but for blog readers here it is in this form.
Some morning-after thoughts: what hits me and other so hard isn’t just the immense damage Trump will surely do, to climate above all. There’s also a vast disillusionment that as of now I think of as the end of the romantic vision of America (which I still love).
What I mean is the notion of US history as a sort of novel in which there may be great tragedy, but there’s always a happy ending. That is, we tell a story in which at times of crisis we always find the leader — Lincoln, FDR — and the moral courage we need.
It’s a particular kind of American exceptionalism; other countries don’t tell that kind of story about themselves. But I, like others, believed it.
Now it doesn’t look very good, does it? But giving up is not an option. The world needs a decent, democratic America, or we’re all lost. And there’s still a lot of decency in the nation — it’s just not as dominant as I imagined. Time to rethink, for sure. But not to surrender.