WHAT. THE. FUCK. AMERICA???
Pardon my swearing. But if there’s ever a day that requires the bluest of language, it’s today.
I went to sleep last night a little worried on your behalf, Americans, but not overly so. Clinton had consistently led in the polls. The electoral math seemed to be in her favour. I was concerned that Trump was closing the gap, but, like many of you, I never really thought he’d win. I figured, okay, Hillary Clinton would edge him out, she’d make a fine and decent president, and life would go on.
I woke up this morning to three things: A lovely home-cooked breakfast by Sophie, the owner of the B&B, approximately fifty unread messages in my inbox, and the sinking news that I’d been wrong. Very, very wrong.
Since then, I’ve basically had one long panic attack. I can’t concentrate on my trip. I can’t think past tomorrow.
At the moment, I’m at Schiphol Airport, waiting to board my flight to India. On the train on the way here, a couple of Americans sitting next to me started singing Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows”. “Everybody knows that the dice are loaded / everybody rolls with their fingers crossed / everybody knows that the war is over / everybody knows that the good guys lost.” Quite apt for the end of the world, if you ask me. People around me at the gate are talking about nothing else. Even in Dutch, it’s easy enough to make out the reactions.
This is bad. Very, very bad.
I don’t have a lot of coherent thoughts gathered yet. They’re all swirling around my head — or, more accurately, churning around in my gut — so I fear the best I can do is to just share with you, stream-of-consciousness style, what’s in my head right now.
A victory for Trump; a defeat for democracy
The American democratic “experiment” now has an end date. RIP Lady Liberty: 1776-2016.
Americans are far from the only citizens of a democracy to voluntarily vote to end it. In all those cases, it’s gone extremely bad for the citizens.
The problem is, they have no idea what they just set in motion. Americans can’t know. They, like us Canadians but unlike most of the rest of the world, can’t contemplate the consequences here. They’ve never lived through anything like it before. But just ask the citizens of Russia, Turkey, the Philippines, Venezuela, Zimbabwe… I could go on here.
Voting for the strongman demagogue who PROMISES to jail his opponents, silence the media, purge the public service and bomb the shit out of anyone he wakes up and decides he doesn’t like? BAD idea. (Trump-ism: BAD. The WORST.)
How the HELL did you go from Barack Obama, the epitome of class and damn near the best president you’ve ever had, to the Orange Nightmare?
First they came for the Jews..
Godwin’s Law is a double-edged sword. There have been so many ridiculous Nazi comparisons, that it’s like crying wolf. And the problem with the corollary to Godwin’s Law is that it shuts down legitimate comparisons. Because really, [insert politician you don't like]-is-a-Nazi is a ridiculous claim to make, offensive and insulting to the victims of the Holocaust, and short-sighted… most of the time.
But there are too many chilling comparisons to 1933 here to avoid bringing them up. Like Trump, Hitler was a joke at first. Nobody took him seriously until it was too late. Like Trump, Hitler rose to power amidst anger and economic hard times, and on a platform of blaming an easy scapegoat of the “other” for everyone’s troubles. Like Trump, Hitler set out in chilling detail what he planned to do once he assumed power — namely, make Germany “great” again by rounding up minorities, invading neighbours and purging all opposition — and then he went ahead and did it.
A favourite trope in books and movies about time travel is to say, what if you could travel back in time and prevent Hitler from coming to power? Should you do it? Would altering the course of history that way have worse unintended consequences? As much as these sci-fi fictional scenarios grapple with those ethical dilemmas, I’ve long said that they missed the fucking point. The question’s not should you stop Hitler; the real question is could you. Because we’ve been shouting from the rooftops for months now as the Trump train was coming at us, and nobody listened. NOBODY. At least the people of Germany in 1933 didn’t have the benefit of hindsight when they voted. They didn’t know what could go wrong. What’s your fucking excuse, America?
How did this happen?
Isaac Azimov famously said, “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”
That cult of ignorance wove fake scandals about Hillary Clinton to the point where Trump voters were convinced that she covered up UFO landings and stabbed babies for breakfast. The American voters didn’t come to a different conclusion on the same facts; they were starting from a whole different set of facts.
The narrative of the rural, uneducated, boorish, small-town Angry White Male voter was inadequate to capture what happened here. That might explain Trump getting a small percentage of votes. It doesn’t explain how he won the popular vote in states across the country.
There is just so much anger from so many people. That’s the only way I can fathom to explain this. The level of anger that it must take to deliberately choose the WORST POSSIBLE HUMAN as leader is just a giant ‘fuck you’ to the whole system. This is a burn-the-fields, if-I-can’t-have-her-noone-can blind rage by people who just want to watch the whole world burn.
The #NeverHillary crowd must be so proud of themselves right now. Feeling smug for casting a vote for Jill Stein, a write-in for Bernie Sanders, or simply staying home and refusing to take part now? Congratulations. Your stand for your principles helped create this nightmare.
For that matter, Bernie Sanders himself deserves a lot of the blame for this. Many of the Trump campaign themes, like Hillary’s ties to Wall Street, her email scandal, and the idea of “rigged” voting, were created and perpetuated by the Sanders team. All Trump had to do was to pick up the baton. Sanders did eventually halfheartedly urge his supporters to vote for Clinton, but it was too little, too late by then.
One thing is for sure: Polling as we know it is dead. The pollsters couldn’t see this coming. Their models were all based on what usually happens in politics. There was nothing usual about Donald Trump. Any one of the thousands of things he said in the campaign should have been enough to end anyone else’s candidacy; they only made his numbers rise. The pollsters had no idea what to do with this.
Don’t feed the trolls
The first rule of social media? Even the most junior community manager knows it: DON’T FEED THE TROLLS.
Well, congratulations, American media. You did it. You fed the ultimate troll. Donald Trump is basically the Youtube comments section come to life. He says outrageous, insulting, ridiculous things for attention. He keeps getting attention. He keeps saying more of them. And now he’s — god help us — the leader of the (formerly) free world.
The media bears a fair amount of responsibility here. Social media, like Facebook, bears a lot too; the echo chambers and clickbait editorial style used on these platforms has helped create these divisions and a world where people would rather be ignorant than be informed.
Trump is a politician a la Rob Ford; people kept tuning in because he was such a train wreck that they couldn’t resist seeing what he would do next. And every time people tuned in, his ratings went up. The problem is, this isn’t a TV show. This is real life.
No outs, no reprieves, no do-overs
The UK messed up bigtime earlier this year with Brexit. They regretted it instantly. But there were no takebacks. Did you learn nothing from them, Americans?
Actually, I take that back: At least in the UK, as bad as things are, the referendum on Brexit was technically non-binding. And it’s unclear what the government will do next. There’s still a chance (albeit not a very big one) of a last-minute reprieve there. For the US? Nada, zilch, zero. This is your vote. There’s nothing but a steady march to the handover of power in January.
It’s 2016. We have hoverboards, self-lacing shoes, the Cubs won the World Series… and Biff is going to be president. Holy shit, we’re in Back To The Future! Sadly, there’s no Doc Brown or Marty McFly to go back in time and set things right.
This is real life. There are no do-overs.
A defeat for women, minorities, everyone
We don’t need feminism anymore, some would argue? Well, here’s exhibit A. Have no doubt, a good part of the reason Clinton lost is that she’s a woman. So much of the vitriol directed against her — people calling her a “bitch”, people hating her for staying with her husband when he had an affair (while forgiving him for having the affair in the first place), people blaming her for smiling too much / not enough / being too tough / being too soft… and then turning around and electing the most misogynistic asshole to ever run for office? How could it not be gender related?
Consider this: The most qualified woman in the country just lost out on the highest job in the land to perhaps the least qualified man in history. Apparently there’s no amount of experience or know-how that is enough to compensate for the lack of having a penis in America.
And Trump will be a Republican president, with a Republican-controlled House and (likely) a Republican-controlled Senate. There will be almost nothing he can’t do: Appointing Supreme Court justices at will, repealing Obamacare, and reversing the last 50 years’ worth of human rights gains are only the start.
As usual, the people who are the most vulnerable will suffer the most.
The Cold War is over; Russia won
Everyone in Amsterdam today is talking about Vladimir Putin. And with good reason. He had his hands all over this election.
The entire free world lost out yesterday. Russia is perhaps the only winner. He has his puppet Trump in the White House now. This is bad in so, so many ways.
Canada’s screwed, too
We couldn’t vote in this one, but we sure as heck will have to live with the consequences. 75% of us live within 100 miles of the US border. The US is by far our largest trading partner and economic influence. We share the world’s longest undefended border, and we rely on our warm friendship with the US for security and defence. Most of the things we enjoy as Canadians — good quality of life, openness, free healthcare — are made possible by our solid relationship with the United States.
To my American friends looking for information on moving to Canada — no, not jokingly — I can refer you to here, for starters. (Apparently the immigration sites are going down due to a spike in traffic this morning.) It’s difficult but not impossible; it helps to have a job offer from a Canadian company willing to sponsor you for a visa — or a Canadian spouse.
But I stress this — Canada is not the safe haven from Trump that you think it is. Our jobs, our security, our livelihood are at risk. We’re under threat from Russia now, too, even moreso if the US can’t meaningfully defend us through deterrence. And if Trump — heaven forbid — launches World War III, we’re in close proximity when the shit hits the fan.
Don’t get me wrong: I’ve never felt so lucky to be a Canadian as I do today. But I’m not naive enough to think that we’ll escape this unscathed. Nobody will. The US just has too much influence on the rest of the world.
Get out now
Whether or not fleeing to Canada is a realistic option, I do worry for you.
This is a nighmare from which we cannot wake up. I know some people will call me alarmist. But history has proven again and again that it’s better to be a little alarmist than a lot sorry.
Again, going back to Germany in the 1930s, the common refrain was “oh, it will blow over” and “democracy is too strong here” and “he’ll never actually do the crazy things he says he’ll do.”
If you don’t grant me that comparison, then at least look at what’s happened in the world since. Look at modern-day examples if you don’t believe me.
So, if you’re female, a minority, or a sane human, and you have the chance, I don’t think I’m being overly dramatic when I say, get out now. If you can. You have until January. Start looking into options now.
Note: This post has been cross-posted from my India travel blog.