In the past four years I have never referred to Donald Trump as anything other than “Donald Trump,” or “Trump,” as well as various appellations of contempt that would take far too long to compile. The words “P------— Trump” have never escaped my lips (or fingers), because even the act of trying to say (or write) them continues to this day to induce a feeling of acute nausea.
I don’t think I’m alone in this regard.
And like others, I’ve also ditched my fair share of former “friends” whose support of Trump revealed their value systems were fundamentally alien to my own. I don’t disparage others who have chosen to continue their association with such people, through unavoidable family ties or for a hundred other reasons. I’ve just decided I’m not doing this.
This was a close election, far closer than it should have been, and there is simply no excuse for that. Yes, suburban women turned against Trump and so did a smaller group of college-educated white men, but by and large, in the face of record-shattering turnout, most of the same people who voted for him in 2016 voted for him again. And that is just sick—there is no other word for it.
I can understand people voting for a scumbag like Trump because their 401ks did well over the past four years. I get the fact that most Americans don’t give a damn about anything but themselves; that’s been true forever, and it isn’t news.
But this is a guy who intentionally turned his back on Americans in the face of a national emergency. A quarter million Americans are dead, and hundreds of thousands more are likely to die, because he prioritized his own reelection prospects over saving American lives. He lied about the danger of COVID-19, over and over, causing other people to lie as well. That’s not forgivable—it’s actually beyond any reasonable capacity to forgive, or forget.
And yet 70 million or so Americans supported that, tried to rationalize it, and they went right back and voted for Trump. That’s what I can’t get past. Is there anything, in fact, that this person could have done that would have been a bridge too far for them?
And what he’s doing right now is unforgivable as well. There’s nothing unusual about this election, other than the fact that it’s occurring during a pandemic. There has been no “fraud” or any cause for bringing 10 lawsuits to try to stop votes from being counted. It’s simply anti-American behavior. If it weren’t so dangerous, it would actually be embarrassing.
And yet, people are supporting him in this.
I guess I’m wondering—and I’ve wondered this a lot over the past four years—what the hell happened to these folks? Did they learn nothing in high school? Or college, if they went? Didn’t their parents give them some sense of what it means to be an American citizen?
Roxane Gay, writing for The New York Times, is shaking her head at this naive white boy.
This is America. This is not an aberration. This is indeed our country and who the proverbial “we” are. The way this election has played out shouldn’t be a surprise if you’ve been paying attention or if you understand racism and how systemic it really is. Polling can account for a great many factors, but unless they ask about the extent to which racism motivates voters — and find a way to get honest answers on this topic — they will never be able to account for this.
Some Trump voters are proud about their political affiliation. They attend his rallies. They drive around with their cars draped in Trump posters and flags and other paraphernalia. They proudly crow about America and pride and nationalism. They are the subjects of fawning profiles that aim to explain their voting tendencies as the result of “economic anxiety,” as if they are tragically misunderstood. They aren’t. We know exactly who they are.
One thing I noticed about the campaign was the preponderance of the “in-your-face” element of Trumpism. From the flags draped on pickup trucks to the obnoxious, oversized signs in their yards, to the fact that half of the voters in my precinct showed up in some type of Trump garb, whether it was a stupid hat or a T-shirt, it made me realize that these people were making known their aggression toward me. Whereas Joe Biden voters certainly supported their candidate, it was evident that Trump supporters wielded their allegiance like a bludgeon. It was intended to offend, to threaten; not only to hurt others, but to negate their existence.
In other words, it was just what you’d expect by taking a magic marker out and scrawling the word “FASCIST” across huge swaths of the country. And like spoiled, full-grown infants, they were proud of themselves, as they basked in their imagined power.
But there was another type, too, like the GOP poll observers I worked next to on Tuesday. Buttoned up in Oxford shirts and sweaters, they kept their nature well-disguised. Gay also talks about these types, the doctors, the lawyers, the so-called educated among Trump’s base of support.
The ones who want to seem urbane. The ones who want to be invited to all the good parties. They lie to pollsters. They lie to family and friends. And when they fill out their ballots, they finally tell the truth.
The truth, as Gay observes, is that what we’re seeing is all about identity politics—just not the kind conservatives would prefer to talk about. As she puts it, “There is no greater identity politics than that of white people trying to build a firewall around what remains of their empire as this country’s demographics continue to shift.”
So we continue to have two Americas: one which respects democratic institutions and is willing to work for the betterment of society as a whole; and one willing to dispense with those same institutions for their own gain, by surrendering whatever shred of decency and integrity they have to someone like Donald Trump.
And as Gay notes, the past few days have proved they’re still out there. They’re not going anywhere, no matter what words of solace or unity are offered.
They are not concerned with the collective, because they believe any success they achieve by virtue of their white privilege is achieved by virtue of merit. They see equity as oppression. They are so terrified, in fact, that as the final votes were counted in Detroit, a group of them swarmed the venue shouting, “Stop the count.” In Arizona, others swarmed a venue shouting, “Count the votes.” The citizens of this version of America only believe in democracy that serves their interests.
It will be a relief to have a president who I can comfortably refer to as a “President.” Who actually works for the good of the American people, and who doesn’t spend all his time trying to divide us all with hatred. It will be a relief not to wake up each day to some new horror or angry, monstrous tweet from an unbalanced sociopath.
But I won’t have any more illusions about my fellow citizens. I won’t forget this or forgive them for putting the rest of us through this nightmare. As Gay says, by now, I know exactly who they are.