He’s done it. He’s actually gone and done it. Gosh.
Actually, come Tuesday night I was rather apathetic: I don’t think it’s controversial to say that both candidates were utterly, utterly awful; what might furrow slightly more brows is the news that I couldn’t decide who was worse. Really. I couldn’t. Nobody could sell me on either nominee. Every time somebody in my Twitter feed said something bad about Trump, I made the point of replying with a similar indictment of Hilary, and, every time Alex Jones or some other Trumpet appeared in my feed (I take the opportunity here to differentiate Trump’s voters with the more deranged “Trumpets”), I explained the disaster that was and may yet be Reaganomics. Whenever somebody brought up Trump’s vow to break all of those climate change regulations, I hit back with his desire to “drain the swamp,” which is the single best pledge I’ve heard in a long time from a politician, and on each occasion an edgy memester began railing about the incredible — and it is truly incredible — corruption in the Clinton Campaign, Foundation and personal bank account, and her unholy and unnatural alliance with the media, I reminded them that she has surrounded herself with relatively competent subordinates: though all of her experience and years in power have made her a no better stateswoman, as her consistent failures and hysterical mistakes have shown, they have given her such allies as Tim Kaine, a not bad VP pick, and Bill, who — let’s be honest — though we all like to laugh at him, was a pretty good president (disregarding his sex life); she’s also got the Democratic establishment on her side, which should be considered (some good in that statement as well as bad).
If I was American, I probably would have voted for the third-party candidate with the best chances in my state, hoping to defer the decision to people allowed to reject both of these catastrophes. I know that will provoke all sorts of silly claims about wasting my time and “a vote for a third party is a vote for the evil enemy” and so on, but there — that’s my position. It doesn’t matter who is more fit for office. Neither of them are. If I ask you, “Why are you voting for the monkey?”, “The other candidate is a slug” is not a valid response. Of the two, in case you insist, I think I instinctively preferred Trump, mainly because he’s an oddball and I’d rather roll a die than take a bad certainty, with the possibility of either a better world or a much worse one. It’s just how my mind works and there’s no way I can intellectually justify it convincingly. My inherent suspicion of establishments in all countries might have played in too, come to think of it — perhaps the only trait actual liberals share with conservatives. Even so, my disappointment had Hilary won would not have been major enough to stop me calling myself neutral.
That said, I was quite excited: no matter how little I care which path to Hell the West goes down, the scenery and paving are so radically different that it’s worth keeping an eye on the decision-making in real time. Thinking such, I sat down to watch the election all night. Considering I live in Blighty, where coverage began at 11:15 and ended at 8:00, that was a pretty big commitment, and I’m proud to say I didn’t fall asleep. I was there when Andrew Neil and co. explained that, while a Trump victory was not impossible, he only had one unlikely path and would have to win almost all of the key battleground states; I was there when he initially pulled ahead and the Dems’ lips tightened; I was there when the news broke he had done much better with minority voters than anticipated; I was there when he pulled ahead in all of the battlegrounds except Pennsylvania; I was there when California caused a cheer in Clinton HQ, though I knew it would make little difference; I was there when Florida turned red, which pretty much sealed the deal; I was there when Virginia, thought an easy, easy Clinton victory, was only won by the smallest of margins; I was there when Podesta told supporters to “go home”; I was there, open-mouthed and staggered, when Trump took the lead in Pennsylvania, where he had been losing by thirty points only hours before; I was there when Trump went from 265 to 275, and left to begin my day after he finished his victory speech; I was very tired.
I staggered like a zombie about the necessary tasks of my day, and returned immediately to bed, comatose, at only 4:30. As such, my only exposure to this momentous, landmark day in political history was a few conversations with friends, and I might as well have skipped the first twenty-four hours of President-Elect Donald J. Trump.
Awaking Thursday morn, it must have taken me ninety minutes to scan the fourteen hours of Twitter I missed (I’m just so neurotic I have to see every tweet of the people I follow, tapping “see more” five or six times), watching a couple of YouTube videos, taking in the statements issued by various world leaders, and catching up with the headlines, and I don’t think I missed much: Clinton realised she couldn’t delay her defeat speech any longer, conservatives and their Disillusioned Left allies gloated, there were tears and hypocrisy from the more sore losers, and most people just got on with their lives. As impossible as the result was to predict, the next day was pretty much what everyone with a working brain could guess, swapping a few names round. Besides a few long-over Twitter conversations I thought I had something to contribute to (mainly the ravings of jubilant “conservatarian” Paul Joseph Watson, whose staunch hatred of the mainstream media is so fiery he turned down no less than three interviews with big networks, like an idiot), and a couple of headlines I would have liked to yell and shake my fist at as they came in, I can’t say Wednesday had much to advertise.
The only thing that struck me, I think, is the scale of both salt and sugar, tears of happiness and pain, fist-bumps and fist-throws. I supposed it was to be expected after Brexit: the winners would make a brief plea to unity and friendship, extending a hand — perhaps genuine, perhaps not — and then it would quickly deteriorate into name-calling, poison and partisanship when the losers didn’t bite. The only difference is that this is a thousand times worse. America has always been less emotionally reserved than Britain, and God did we lose our shit on the 24th, so this was bound to be bad — it was.
Well done — I’ll call you leftists, misnomer though that is: you’ve actually made me sympathise with Trump. When he won he came out on stage and congratulated Mrs. Clinton on a hard-fought campaign, breaking tone with tradition and commending her abysmal record in office; he asked everyone to come together in this difficult time; he finished with a message of what I can only call hope. And what did you do? #StillWithHer. #NotMyPresident. Calls — serious ones, not like London — for Californian secession. Fucking riots! The number one trend on Collins Dictionary at the time of writing is teer, a very old word word with a very specific meaning I have heard only a few times in my life. There are numerous videos out there now of Trump supporters actually being assaulted in the street, you damn thugs. The Internet is rife with tearful teenagers banging on about the end of the world and the new rise of Nazism (My name is Godwin, meme of memes. Look upon my Law, ye idiots, and despair.) and worrying about their rights being stripped away by this dangerous tyrant, as though he is, without exaggeration, evil incarnate. He won. Stop being ridiculous. If you had a problem with the idea of poor people in the Rustbelt being able to vote you should have voiced it before the evil system that’s totally wrong didn’t work in your favour. I’m sure everyone has already seen that video of the “literally shaking” red-faced woman screaming. Oi, scoop up your brothers and sisters in the UK campaigning to strip rights from old people and piss off to China, where your utopia already exists — if only you could petition them to drive electric cars with your sad Instabook and Facegram posts. I mean that. Go. I have nothing but contempt for you and neither does history. Shake your opponent’s hand and do your civic duty in opposition, but don’t think for a moment you can get your way with anything other than civility now.
Trumpets have not behaved much better. After Brexit the winners were relatively conciliatory, even if few people saw it at the time. It was a slim victory and an uncertain time, and everyone realised how important it was to bring the country together. Our new prime minister has preached little except unity — seemingly preferring it even over details of her plan — and the Cabinet is currently pretty mixed, which is healthy. From my perspective the time that could have been whiled away gloating was spent building bridges with frustrated Remainers, and calmly(ish, mostly) explaining things, conceding here, pointing out a truth hitherto unknown there. (Many a Remainer I have shocked with the knowledge the ECJ can issue a warrant and compel UK authorities to arrest someone. This outrageous violation of national autonomy was not even really picked up by Brexiteers.)
It wasn’t exactly comprehensive, but the mood existed. Such cannot be said of victorious Republicans so far. Barring Trump’s very good speech, all I’ve seen is mocking of the “libtards” and “mainstream media”. They’re awful; we know. I hope you know you’ve just elected. Despite losing rather decisively in the EC we should remember that Clinton did win the popular vote, and you’ll need to work with her supporters whether you like it or not. They haven’t stopped existing. The entire political map may have been painted red, with Republicans in Congress, but many of them are hostile to Trump’s trade policy, and it would be easier to work with Democrats in many cases. US presidents are not over powerful: the Constitution was written explicitly with separation of authority in mind; this was supposed to force unity and prevent tyrannical overlordship by a single body, but we all know that instead it has fostered partisanship and dysfunction, which is all the more likely and all the more terrible now in this time.
Trump is going to meet Obama at some point — I think on the weekend really, but it starts today — to begin the transition, and it is imperative that things go smoothly. God alone could say how much that man knows about governments, or indeed governing, but that’s out of our hands now; it would be virtually impossible and totally immoral to prevent him from becoming the world’s foremost statesman, so we need to ensure the handover is calm and set him up as well as possible. Sadly, I fear their egos will prevent that from happening. Their dislike of each other is not a secret, and both are rather imposing personalities, which have a tendency to clash in tense environments.
At the same time as the American political system, the world is going to have to prepare for a Trump presidency, and early signs have not been good. We’ve had a guarded congratulations from Theresa May, and open hostility from Europe. He is not popular with citizens in any countries apart from Russia (and a little in China, where they view him as a clown, though that could change), and indeed only Putin has been warm and welcoming. This is important. If two pieces of land split apart from each other they will crack, and both will be decimated by earthquakes. The hostility has to stop.