The world watched, breathlessly, as America did the unthinkable and voted Donald Trump into the White House. The candidate, whose entire platform was constructed around bigotry, will be our 45th president.
Hardly anyone saw it coming. Nate Silver, renowned data analyst for the site 538, whom progressives leaned on for reassurance in the weeks leading up to the election, consistently called the race in favor of Clinton almost any way the results were dissected.
When I walked into my county’s Democratic election night soiree with my teen—who had been interning with a local campaign—in tow, we were both high on what we felt would surely be a Clinton slam dunk. As soon as we walked in, though, the results were looking scary.
“What the fuck is happening?” I kept blurting out.
“She’s going to win. It doesn’t matter! Don’t worry,” all of the local party leaders, analysts, and those with more know-how than me kept saying. But I couldn’t shake the bad feeling. Trump was leading early on and it was scary.
“What would Nate Silver say now?” I wondered aloud, petrified by the rolling tally on CNN that continued to push Trump to the top. Someone pulled out their phone to see.
538’s latest blog entry predicted a Trump win by a likelihood of better than 70%. The look on my analyst friend’s face shifted, and it told me all I needed to know. This wasn’t just my pessimism—it was serious. And it was over.
As the night wore on and Trump’s win became imminent, my friend looked grimly at me and said, “You know what this means, statistically speaking, don’t you?”
“No,” I said. I’m not the data cruncher—she is.
“It means that there are motherfuckers in this room that voted for him.”
Reconciling the absurdity of that statement with last night’s results was not something that I expected to interface with. This race—and especially these results—have caused me to stare down my privilege in a way I haven’t done before. The shock value, alone, reflects my privileged ability to pretend that Trump’s bigoted base was small and extreme.
I have zero out and proud Trump supporters in my carefully curated newsfeed, but that clearly means nothing. Now that we see the extent of the absurdity, cowardly Trump supporters are easier to identify. They aren’t just the supremacists shouting down BLM actions or online posts with “All lives matter!” They are also the people who dared not speak out against Trump or his platform—either not at all or not too loudly or convincingly.
They are the ones who didn’t want to “get political,” who wanted everyone to “just be nice,” and who wished the rest of us would stop making such a deal out of it all. They’re the ones who wanted to hold space for various opinions, like it was almost basically any other election in recent history.
Who ever thought Dubya or Romney could seem so tame? And at this point, I swear to God that if I hear one more person say something about everyone’s opinion mattering or that it’s petty to unfriend someone over their political views, I might just throw up.
As a woman and sexual assault survivor, I feel deeply afraid of Trump’s hateful rhetoric, which we now get to see in action. I worry about what it means to “punish” a person who seeks an abortion. I fear the increased normalization of sexism and rape culture. I learned last night that when faced with a choice between a monster or a woman, people simply can’t choose the woman.
But I also have a heightened awareness that as a cis white woman, I’m on the privileged end of Trump’s platform of Otherness.
Undocumented immigrants must now fear for their safety and ability to keep their families intact. Refugees, whose children are being massacred in war-torn Syria, know they will not have a home here. Muslims and people of color, already unfairly targeted, have to wonder not only about the laws and new policies they may encounter, but also the emboldened racism they have already experienced as a result of this campaign.
Trump didn’t win by a sliver, he won by a pretty standard margin—51 electoral votes—which tells us something alarming. It tells us that Trump isn’t our only concern.
If we make it out of these next four years, that voting base remains. The folks some of us considered fringe “extremists” have shown themselves to be at least half of the voting block, and half the voting block surely isn’t confederate flag-waving, intimidating racists. A good many of them are likely people we call friends, neighbors, community leaders, and even family. They are the ones that wear their biases close to the vest. And that’s terrifying.
Maybe this should end with an optimistic what-to-do-now, but I just can’t conjure that today. Today, like the majority of Americans with marginalized identities, I’m struggling with the implications of this election and what it reveals about our fellow citizens.