Ok, everyone. I have to get some things off my chest that have been stewing since Tuesday night. I’m warning you now that this post has very little to do with parenting and a whole lot to do with American politics. I won’t be offended if you choose not to read. If you do choose to read, please read all the way to the end before passing judgment. Since I have this wonderful platform on which to voice my opinions, I’m going to take full advantage of it. And once I say my piece, I’ll get back to the regularly scheduled programming. So I say to you either thanks for reading or sorry for wasting your time.
Trying to find sleep when the fate of your way of life and that of the entire nation hangs in the balance is a tall order indeed. Knowing that the results of the election would continue to pour in until the wee hours of the morning, I still had an obligation to wake up the next morning, get my kids ready for daycare, and go to work; my day-to-day wasn’t going to cease being, no matter who won. I managed to fall into a fitful sleep for a few hours, but was roused at 2:00 am by four words that disturbed me more profoundly than I thought possible: Donald Trump is president.
My wife was in tears, informing me that he also had a fully complicit legislative body at his disposal that would do little to stand in the way of his agenda. I simply held her, letting her vent her emotions. “Will our boys be ok?” she asked.
“I hope so,” was all I was able to manage.
Eventually sleep came for her, but my thoughts were still reeling. I had hoped against hope that he would not win the election. I did my part to ensure the contrary, but I had no idea how hard I would be impacted when faced with the prospect—the impending reality—of a Trump presidency. After two hours of trying in vain to sleep through what I was certain was going to be a living nightmare, I threw in the towel. I checked the internet, just to be sure something miraculous hadn’t happened, only to reaffirm what I already knew. Trump.
The day was a struggle for me. I texted the people I knew who voted for the guy, asking them to help me understand what just happened and why I shouldn’t be terrified for my children’s futures. Their outlooks were understandably far less skeptical than my own. Still I was not convinced.
A few days have now passed and the raw, intense emotion of our uncertain future has dissipated somewhat. Wife and I have had a number of conversations, hashing out what we think might happen, the best and worst case scenarios, trying to remain open-minded to views that contrast starkly with our own, because that’s what we do. We are passionate but fully willing to listen to opposing viewpoints and concede to points we hadn’t previously considered. While it would be a stretch to say we are now optimistic, we are…hopeful?
We hold out hope that things won’t be as bad as we first feared. There is a possibility that mainstream media is just as culpable as Mr. Trump in tapping into and stoking the flames of fear that yielded this outcome in the first place. Hatemongering was certainly a key element of this campaign, but maybe—maybe—the media latched onto it and turned it into something bigger than it really is. I don’t necessarily believe that to be true, but I hope I’m wrong.
We hold out hope that the gridlock will be broken in Congress. While I disagree with many of his—and by extension the Republican-controlled Congress’s—views, there is no denying that more legislation will make it’s way into law than has been the case in the past four years. It’s hard for me to believe our government wants to do real harm to the nation, so I’m willing to keep an open mind when it comes to the bills introduced by the new administration, even though my personal beliefs are at odds with much that will make its way forward.
We hold out hope that his actions will prove to be less extreme and divisive than his rhetoric, and that he will speak out against violence at the hands of both his supporters and his protestors. How many presidential candidates can you remember who didn’t bluster and exaggerate during their campaigns? They all say and do things that are farther to the left or the right than what they actually believe, or at least what they actually believe they can get through Congress. I supported Bernie Sanders in the primaries, not because I agreed with everything he said, but because I believed in the direction he wanted to take the country. Perhaps the same can be said for Trump, that his grand promises and radical ideas will be scaled down to real solutions. Perhaps his great wall can instead become stronger enforcement and collaboration between the United States and Mexico. Perhaps his ban on Muslims can instead be more effective vetting of only those wishing to do us harm, while still offering those whose lives are in danger a sanctuary from the war-torn Middle East. Perhaps his destruction of the Affordable Care Act will instead become real healthcare reform that works for everyone.
We hold out hope that he can make good on his promise to “drain the swamp.” After the news broke Wednesday morning, I made an effort to look with an objective eye at the President-elect’s plan for his first hundred days in office (which can be found here). On paper, a number of his goals seem palatable. I don’t agree with everything on the list, but I would not have agreed with everything on Clinton’s list either. Among those measures with which I do agree is the implementation of term limits for members of Congress and a ban on who can become lobbyists and when. You would be hard-pressed in America to find anyone who feels like the House and the Senate are just fine the way they are. Perhaps these two ideas can help churn out change, folding in new blood and new perspectives every so often. While the legislators in Washington will certainly be less than enthusiastic about taking up these proposals, we have all witnessed how effective Trump can be at energizing people into action. I don’t see it as a stretch that he could rile up enough constituents to hold their representatives’ feet to the fire and force a vote on the issue. If, that is, he makes good on this promise.
We hold out hope that this campaign will act as a wake-up call to those who are displeased with the outcome. How did this happen? Maybe too many people cast that controversial protest vote in favor of a third-party candidate on November 8. Maybe too many people simply stayed home on November 8. Or maybe this all started well before November 8. The overarching theme of this election cycle was one of choosing between the lesser of two evils. Relatively few people actually believed that either of the candidates would make a great president. From the time the nominations were locked up way back in July, we had people asking, “This is it? These are our choices?” Guess what, America: we made this ok. We sat on our laurels for too long, content to stand back and let politics as usual play out without our intervention. Those who voted for Mr. Trump feel they have now made their point, that the American people are fed up with career politicians making decisions in their own best interests and not those of their constituents. And by virtue of their unorthodox choice, one can reasonably assume those people will not put up with more of the same from their next president. Those who voted for someone else now have ample motivation to take a step back, take a real good look in the mirror, and decide what to do next. Will we give up and just decide to stop paying attention? Or will we choose to become more involved, perhaps even running for public office ourselves?
The past eighteen months have caused a lot of tears, a lot of unease, a lot of soul-searching. They have disenfranchised many and galvanized many more. They have broken a few and strengthened a great many. For me the past eighteen months have proven that anything can happen. What began as a silly publicity stunt has ended as a reality star holding more power than anyone on the planet. What will the next four years mean to you? Will you simply shake your head and accept whatever may be? There is no shame in that. The world will most likely continue to turn. Will you get involved in a school board, a city council, a nonprofit organization? That’s my plan. I simply cannot not care anymore. Maybe it’s because I have kids. Maybe it’s because I have some subconscious megalomaniacal idea that I know what’s best for others.
A lot of us are trying to make the best of an uncertain situation. Agree or disagree, like it or not, our path for the next four years has been set. Or we at least know the general direction of that path. But just keep in mind that uncertainty has two sides. Maybe we will continue to be the divided nation that showed up at the ballot box on Tuesday. Or maybe unity and togetherness and acceptance will rule the day. It is up to each of us to make what we will of the next four years. And the next four years start today.