I’ve spent much of the past 36 hours speaking with members of my extended community—angry, devastated and terrified women of all stripes, members of the LGBTQ community, women and men who are either undocumented immigrants or those with very personal ties to those without documentation. Our shared devastation lies in the perception that this vote was an indictment of our legitimacy. A vote against “us”; all the “us’s.” A vote against anyone who is not one of “them.”
I have also spent this time speaking with five women — women who chose to cast their votes for Donald Trump. With blood boiling, I called these five, three of whom are mothers of my friends, their LGBTQ children. I asked THE questions. What were you thinking? As a woman, HOW could you vote for this man, a man who clearly hates women? As a mother of an LGBTQ person, how could you vote to jeopardize his/her basic civil rights? How could you vote for this man who wants to eliminate health care, deport hard-working people who’ve been in this country for years, who wants to overturn Roe v. Wade, defund Planned Parenthood, and reinforce and create attitudes and policies that are devastating to so many already marginalized groups?
The answers across the board were consistent and completely dumbfounding to me, but I am grateful for the “education.”
These women ALL maintained they were voting only for “change,” protesting a perceived “political establishment” and banking on a departure from “business as usual” and “the crooks” in Washington; that they were voting against Hillary, NOT FOR Trump. Regarding his platform, so threatening to their children, two stated that in their “hearts,” they didn’t believe that “it would come to THAT.”
“You guys HAVE marriage — they can’t take that away, right?”
Other statements included: “Oh, he’s not going to deport GOOD people, only criminals.”
And the most difficult to process: “I don’t understand what you guys are so concerned about.”
I learned that four of the five Trumpsters voted for Barack Obama—twice.
Now armed with this “information,” I’m embarking on MY four-year plan. I’m going to get through this by staying focused on what I CAN DO to ensure that all that is good; that all WE have accomplished is not obliterated. This election, this “shock” to so many, must serve as an urgent call to real, measurable action.
I’m going to stop looking to assign blame. There’s certainly plenty to go around. Instead, I’m going to force myself to read ALL the exit polls. All of them. And I’m going to pay attention and I’m going to learn. I’m going to remind myself that President Obama was elected by an America that was also “looking for change.” I’m going to remind myself that a strong “anti-business-as-usual” climate helped open the door to elect the first African-American U.S. President. I’m going to remind myself that immediately following that historic election, the pendulum swung and the reactionary Tea Party—and ultimately the Trump “movement”—were spawned.
I’m going to remind myself of a few facts, and I’m going to invite you to JOIN ME in processing these facts, turning our collective fury, frustration and despondence into action.
FACT: 50 percent of this country voted for Hillary.
FACT: Hillary won the popular vote. Americans are not lost to us.
FACT: We did not achieve all of our successes to date without the support of some who, however misguidedly, pulled the lever for Trump yesterday, or simply chose not to show up at all.
FACT: While we will never have the support of racists, xenophobes and misogynists on the extreme right, nor that of the closet haters masquerading as liberals and progressives, some single issue Trump supporters and the apathetic lefty no-shows of 2016 are NOT forever lost to us.
FACT: A significant percentage of Trump voters did not actively vote a “hate ticket.” There are those who do not support the majority of his stated agenda. There are those who are sickened by his rhetoric and misdeeds, but for one stupid, short-sighted reason or another, voted only for what they call “change.” Well, we all know they’re in for their own “education.”
So let’s HELP EDUCATE THEM. Because in four years, based on the numbers, we will NEED their votes to reclaim all branches of the government.
Instead of “deleting” those we feel to be otherwise reasonable people who supported Trump this time around, let’s work to reclaim and inform them, bringing all that is frightening to us to THEIR attention.
FACT: (And yes, this is infuriating) Many Trumpsters I’ve made an effort to speak with are actually “shocked” that Roe V. Wade is on the line, that LGBTQ rights are on the line, that healthcare is on the line, that families might be deported, that there has ALREADY BEEN A METEORIC RISE IN HATE SPEECH AND HATE CRIMES.
THEY ARE DANGEROUSLY ILL-INFORMED. LET’S INFORM THEM NOW. LET’S INFORM THEM AS TRUMP’S AGENDA TAKES FORM. LET’S DO IT AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN.
Let’s work to identify candidates NOW who are electable in four years, or progressive congressional and local candidates who could help alter the course of things if they prevail in the midterm elections two years from now. Let’s start looking NOW at all of our options to reclaim our nation.
Let us also continue to donate to and work with our local and national advocacy groups that are actively working to promote all our interests and preserve and expand all of our rights.
Once the initial hurt and shock of this loss subsides, let’s try to find common ground with those who have either willfully ignored the dangers to our community promised by a Trump administration, especially those who chose to “stick their heads in the sand” focusing instead on issues they view as “convenient” for their own self-interests. Time and again, statistics show that among the “general public,” knowing someone who is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender is linked with greater acceptance of LGBTQ persons, same-sex marriage, and other crucial issues for our community.
So let’s again “get to know” our Trumpster colleagues, neighbors, friends and even family, better. The more they realize that we all bleed red; that we all want better lives for ourselves, our children and fellow citizens; that we all want and deserve economic prosperity, social acceptance and equal opportunities and protections for all, the more likely they are to understand just why we’re so devastated and feel so alienated by a man and a movement pledging to, at best, reverse progress. And the more likely they are to do something about it the next time they vote.