Wednesday, November 9, 2016

“Is it raining all across the country?”

For me, when it came time to cast my ballot, it all came down to one thing: my daughter.

For the past few weeks, when we were together, we’d often watch pre-election coverage on CNN. And though she is only nine years old, she was able to determine that Donald Trump was not a nice person. He was not, she said, presidential material. When the “Access Hollywood” tape story broke a few weeks ago - you know, the “I can just grab their p-ssy” story - I actually asked her and her little brother to step out of the room for a minute while I watched the report. And that saddened me. Families should be able to watch pre-election coverage together and not worry about such things. But Trump’s boorish comments clearly showed that my little girl was right.

Donald Trump was not a nice person. He was not presidential material.

The fact that Trump was still even in the race at that point was remarkable in itself. By that point, he’d insulted people with disabilities. He’d insulted veterans and POWS. (“I like people that aren’t captured.”) He’d insulted immigrants. Women started coming out of the woodwork claiming he had acted inappropriately towards them. He flirted with his own daughter. (Creepy.) He would not reveal his taxes. He behaved oddly during the debates. And in an interview which he had done about 10 years ago with Howard Stern, he talked with a sense of bravado about his sexist ways and basically freely admitted to doing all of the horrible things that he had been accused of doing. With his businesses, he had hired people to do jobs for him and then stiffed them on payment. He seemed to ridicule Hillary Clinton because her husband had affairs and he tried to paint it as a character flaw, against her, even though he himself had had affairs. And in doing so, he revealed himself as a hypocrite. He also said that if he didn’t win the election, he might not accept the results. I wasn’t even really sure what the hell that meant. Did that mean he’d whine about it for the rest of his life? Who cares? Eventually, if he lost, he’d just have to go away.

For two months, week after week, we learned more and more awful things about Donald Trump. The Clinton campaign team, to its credit, framed all of this well. One TV spot, which offered a collection of awful Trump sound bites, featured young children listening to his words. It was powerful. And it did exactly what it had intended to do. It made you think there was no way that a man like that could be our President. My daughter - who did see that spot on TV a few times - had already figured that out for herself.     

And yet none of it mattered. Trump would always dip in the polls for a few days after his latest snafu - and there were times when the revelations about him were so horrid that it looked like he might actually have to drop out of the race – and yet he just kept marching on. Even his own party was not behind him, but he kept hanging in there. How could it be? Politically speaking, the man was a joke. Like a child being punished, even his own campaign people had to take away his Twitter account. He could not even be trusted to communicate with the public on his own. How could this man be in charge of the free world?

Last night, he was elected the new President of The United States.

Today, everyone is trying to figure it all out. Hillary Clinton was a qualified candidate. We all know her resume. Yes, she misspoke a few times - “What difference does it make?” and “Deplorables” come to mind – but it was nothing anywhere near the foulness of Trump. So what happened? Everyone has theories and I'd certainly trust the opinion of an experienced political analyst much more than I’d trust mine. But, to me, a few things are obvious. Clinton, for some reason, had a likability problem. When she raised her voice at her rallies – which you must do when you’re speaking at a rally – it was sometimes painful to listen to. It was the proverbial nails on a chalkboard. I remember thinking, “Thankfully, when she becomes President, she won’t have to do that anymore.” She also, of course, came under fire for some of her work as Secretary of State and the decisions that she made that some feel cost people their lives. And then, of course, there were the e-mails.

But you know what? I don’t think Trump supporters cared so much about the e-mails. I doubt most of them really even understood it. What they didn’t like was that she lied about it. (She did lie about it. That’s a fact.) And they didn’t like the fact that, compared to others that had been involved in similar breaches of national security, she got off easy, though she was told, by the FBI, that her actions were reckless. And then there was that secret meeting on the airplane runway, which became not-so-secret, when her husband basically tried to get her out of trouble. At least that was the perception. And people didn’t like that.   

Wikileaks is another story, but in the end – even with all of the shady Clinton Foundation stuff - every time a new story broke about Clinton’s missteps, Trump would say something so dumb, outrageous or insulting that such stories never did nearly as much damage to Clinton as they should have if she was running against any other candidate. (Even Anderson Cooper admitted that on CNN one night, only about a week ago.)  And then, of course, there was the DNC scandal which clearly showed inner-party favoritism. And it came at the expense of Bernie Sanders, who was drawing huge crowds across the nation during the primaries and was exciting young voters.  Once it was revealed that the DNC had acted so unethically towards one of its own, and that Clinton was apparently the anointed one all along, the party was divided. Sanders tried to play nice afterwards and would later join the Clinton campaign, but the damage was done. His people were ticked off. Really, really ticked off. And many never got over it.

All of these things hurt Hillary Clinton. She scored very low on “likability” and “trustworthiness,” she was caught in lies, and she was involved in scandals. And yet I still thought she was going to be elected President last night.  And by a landslide. Hillary might have been a bit shady, but Trump? No way.

So, again, what happened?

Well, again, I really don’t think Trump’s supporters really cared that much about the e-mails. And though Clinton, because of all of the dark clouds around her, became an easy target and the Trump faithful took plenty of cheap shots at her, I don’t think they cared that much about her at all.  I don’t think most of them are bigots or racists. I don’t think they care that much about what restroom a transgender person uses. And, deep down, I really don’t think they feel democrats are going to take away their hunting rifles. (Sadly, some asinine NRA gun nuts still can’t see the difference between their right to own a hunting rifle or a handgun and not being able to own an automatic weapon. That, I will never understand.) The abortion issue always seems to come up, but I think even Catholics are now resigned to the fact that Roe v. Wade is not going anywhere and many are now willing to vote for a pro-choice candidate as long as they agree with that candidate on a majority of other topics. Where democrats lose many Christians is when they speak of repealing the Hyde Amendment. And until they realize that, they’ll always lose many Christian votes. And, in my opinion, rightly so. Democrats don’t like it when you tell them that, because either they don’t believe it’s true, or they simply disagree. Too many of them would just rather drink the liberal Kool-Aid. And that’s one of the reasons they lost last night.

Yesterday’s election, however, wasn’t really about those things as much as something much bigger. It was about the very disenfranchised segment of America’s blue collar former middle class. It was about people that are tired of working harder and harder each year, year after year, and getting less and less in return. What democrats and liberals don’t understand, in my opinion, is that the lower middle class doesn’t resent the wealthy. They resent people that work less than they do and seem to have more. They resent standing in line at the grocery store with a marginal order, hoping it will be enough food to get their family through the week, and then seeing someone in line in front of them getting a much larger order for free - an order that they, working two jobs, would never be able to afford. And they don’t resent immigrants. They resent illegal immigrants, because they feel that if 25-percent of their paycheck is always gone - because of taxes - that should also be the case for everyone. Taxes are good. They help pay for schools and fire and police protection and our military. Freedom is not free. And some people – and apparently many Trump supporters - are simply tired of seeing a lot of people getting a free ride. Democrats and liberals don’t like it when you tell them that either, and that’s another reason that they lost last night. And that's why I feel that Joe Biden, not Bernie Sanders, would have crushed Trump in last night’s election. Biden would have outperformed Trump in the debates, but without the federal investigations and trust issues of Clinton and, in the case of Sanders, without the specter of added socialism.

Trump supporters, simply put, were more angry about their own lives than they were concerned about anyone else’s lives. It's not that all 60 million of them hate other people. It's more that they hate what's happened to them. It’s really that simple. The fact that Hilary Clinton is a woman and could have been our first female President wasn’t even discussed in most conversations. And I saw that as a good thing. It meant that being male or female is not an even issue in modern politics. And should the right female candidate come along, she will win. The 60 million people that also voted for Clinton last night  – which was the majority of the popular vote - proved it.

Take a few minutes to watch this video. Cut and paste the link. And watch it. I’ve never been a real big fan of Michael Moore, but that’s mostly because he once went on “60 Minutes” to do an interview with Mike Wallace looking like he just crawled out of bed. I thought, if nothing else, he should have put a razor on his face and showed the legendary newsman more respect.  But here, Moore pretty much nails it:

I did not vote for Donald Trump. I found his behavior during the campaign - and apparently for most of his life - to be vile and repulsive. I voted for Hillary Clinton. Despite her many flaws, and despite disagreeing with her on one major issue which involves my faith, I found her to be the best candidate. She was, in the end, far more presidential and I do think she cares about people.  And I truly thought she would win. And a part of me wanted that for my daughter, who I took with me to the polls last night. On the way there, I asked her who we should vote for. Of course I knew what her answer would be, as she had determined, all on her own, that Trump was not a very nice man. Before we went into the voting booth, I got down on eye-level with her and told her that we were helping to make history and that there was nothing in the world that she couldn’t do in her life, and that tonight would prove it. I told her to always remember it. And when we went into the booth, I let her cast the ballot.

Later, as I watched the returns come in, and I could see what was happening in places like Florida, Ohio and Michigan, I knew where things were heading. And when I woke my daughter up for school today, I had to tell her what had happened. And all I could think about, before I did so, was that commercial, the one with the kids – the one showing Trump ridiculing people and saying horrible things about women. And now how I had to wake her up and tell her that he was her new President. 

When I gave her the news, she was a bit sad, and a little later, when we headed out the door on the way to her to school, we walked through the cold November rain. And, in a very thoughtful voice, she asked me if it was raining all across the country.

Think about that, coming from a nine year-old.

She knows nothing about Benghazi, or e-mails, or the DNC. But she had seen Donald Trump on TV. And that's all she needed to see.  

I told her we all need to hope that our new President can do good things, because that’s what's best for all of us. And I’m certainly not teaching her to dislike people that voted the other way. And that's because, whenever I found myself feeling stunned today about the fact that this actually happened, I thought of Michael Moore.

Perhaps now, everyone will pay more attention to what's really going on in this country and what a lot of people are really feeling. 

For my daughter’s sake – as well as my son’s – I hope so.

                                                                                                          Alan K. Stout
                                                                                                          November 9, 2016