Karen M. guest blogs to share her thoughts and feelings about what’s just happened south of our Canadian border.
On Wednesday, November 9, I woke up and was immediately shrouded in a feeling of immense doom. And sadness. It was when I realized that it wasn’t a bad dream, that Donald Trump had actually been elected President of the United States. The unthinkable had become reality.
I have struggled to articulate why I feel so strongly about this. I’m not an American. I don’t have many friends who are; don’t have relatives who live there. But I am struck by the depth of the emotion I am feeling about his win. On election night, when it became clear that things were not going well for Hillary Clinton and that Trump might pull this off, I actually felt physically ill. I still feel an overwhelming sense of despair.
Full disclosure: I consider myself a conservative. I have worked for the Conservative Party, was the Executive Assistant to a Conservative Member of Parliament for 10 years and on fiscal issues, law and order, personal responsibility and the role of government, I lean to the right of center. I am in no way a social conservative. I am pro-choice, believe in same sex marriage, believe in the separation of church and state and absolutely believe that climate change is real and needs to be addressed. Having said that, my views are more in line with the Democratic Party in the U.S. than the Republican Party, especially of late, as I think it has strayed too far from its roots and has embraced the politics of division and extremism. It is from this viewpoint that I watched the recent Presidential campaign with interest and then with growing horror.
It is hard to explain why I feel so strongly about Donald Trump. I don’t watch reality television, I have never seen The Apprentice and until recently, if I gave him a thought at all, it would be a fleeting one of the “there’s that blowhard real estate guy again” variety. Until this campaign, he wasn’t really on my radar. But once I started paying attention to him, during the primaries and beyond, what I saw deeply disturbed me. He came across to me as a narcissistic bully, a barely literate, ignorant, rude, spoiled, dishonest blowhard. And that only got worse. His treatment of his competitors during the primaries was reprehensible. He yelled at them, called them names, belittled them and generally behaved like a schoolyard bully. It was inconceivable to me that he could win the nomination. His conversational style was infantile, his ideas, such as they were, were ludicrously simplistic, showing a man with no depth of understanding of the issues facing the nation and throwing out one line solutions to problems he clearly didn’t comprehend. But he did win the nomination and his support among certain demographics seemed to be on the rise.
I also want to make it clear that I am not one of these people who preferred Hillary Clinton as the better of two bad choices. I have always liked her, and felt that she has gotten a bad rap. First from her husband for his philandering, then from the Republican Party which has hounded and demonized her for years and then from the media, who picked her apart at every turn, criticizing everything about her, from the way she smiled to the clothes she wore, to even staying with Bill Clinton during that entire fiasco which I don’t need to go into now. So although I did like Bernie Sanders, I was rooting for Hillary Clinton to get the Democratic Party nomination. I thought and still think that warts and all, she would have been a good President and yes, I was excited at the thought of her being the first female President of the United States.
As the campaign got underway, it became clear that this was no ordinary presidential campaign. Trump indicated that this would be a scorched earth battle and he would do anything and say anything to win and he was as good as his word on that. There is no need to go over everything that happened, it’s all too well burned into everyone’s memories. Things started to come out. Wikileaks leaked emails that embarrassed the Democratic Party and painted a negative picture of Clinton. She apologized for using a private server during her time as Secretary of State, but the issue never really went away and Trump was able to use it to portray her as incompetent and dishonest. Whether or not that’s accurate is certainly debatable. I happen to think it’s not, but there is definitely an argument to be made.
But the portrait that emerged of Trump during the campaign was one that elicited in me such pure and utter revulsion that it beggared belief that this man could actually be the Republican nominee and that it was even possible, however remotely, that he might actually win the presidency. Racist? Check. Homophobic? Check. Ridicule the disabled? Check. But that’s only the beginning. Never mind that he surrounded himself with women that met a certain standard of what he considered female attractiveness. Young, shapely, perfect hair and make-up, usually, but not always, blonde. He used pejoratives and profanity to describe women he didn’t like and made it clear that he didn’t care for women who challenged him. As a three times married man who cheated on his first two wives and actually bragged about it, it became increasingly obvious that Trump was as sexist as he was racist and then, pussy-gate.
When it came out that he had been recorded several years earlier, bragging to Billy Bush about how being a star made it possible for him to touch women without their consent, even to “grab their pussies” if he wanted, I thought, there it is, he’s toast. The media was all over it, people were horrified, Republicans denounced him and several women came forward claiming he had done just that, had assaulted or molested them against their will, to which his defense was, in several cases, that they were too “unattractive” for him to have considered assaulting them. Um, ok. But as quick as it came up, the furor over this died down, as more Wikileaks came out and the attention was shifted back to Hillary Clinton. Even Trump’s wife Melania, dismissed what Trump had said as “locker room talk.” Other female surrogates and supporters came to his defense. I was astounded at how little this revelation seemed to affect his support. He took a bit of a dive in the polls, but rebounded whenever something new came about Clinton’s emails, which kept happening, thanks to Wikileaks and the Russian government, but that’s another issue. I also think this illustrates perfectly how race came into play here. Van Jones expounded on this and said it better than I ever could, but does anyone seriously believe that if Barack Obama had had five children by three different women, two of whom he had cheated on, if he had openly bragged about sexually assaulting women, or about walking into teenaged pageant contestant’s dressing rooms to “check” on the girls or joked about dating his daughter if he wasn’t her father, does anyone believe that Barack Obama would have been elected President? Exactly. He probably would have been lynched.
So, yes after all this and more, Trump won the election anyway and I am horrified. Because this man, who said terrible things, who did terrible things, who exemplifies the rape culture in which we live and capitalized on people’s fears, disappointments and prejudices, will now occupy the most important office in the land, if not the world. This man, who called Mexicans rapists, who called for the execution of five young black men in New York City for a crime they were later exonerated by DNA for, this man who cheated contractors and small businesses out of what he owed them by claiming bankruptcy, who won’t even release his taxes. This man, who won the support of the KKK during the campaign and who maligns whole religions, who says he will deport undocumented workers who have been in the U.S. for years, who says he will tear up trade agreements and pull out of NATO. This man who says climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese and who raised his sons to believe that trophy hunting endangered animals is a great hobby. This man, who did all this and much, much more, is now the President of the United States. Perhaps the most terrifying thing is that half of the U.S. population, knowing all of these things, voted for him anyway. Some, in spite of them and some, because of them. And that might just be the most sickening thing of all. I fear for the future.