Wednesday, November 9, 2016

You Can Say It's A New Normal. I Won't.

A last thought before I swear off political talk for my vacation. I see some friends today recasting what we saw as a rejection of "elites", a cry for "change" or about "forgotten voters". I understand that urge. There are swaths of America that are hurting, and many corporations who moved for profit and cared little for communities left behind have put the system at risk.

But before we all recast this as some cry for change and inclusion, let's remember that we should not normalize that which is cruel, harsh and wrong. To speak of this as only some anti-establishment retaking of government is silly -- as if there were no Hillary supporters in her diverse coalition who haven't known poverty, pain or racism. Surely the Khan family and Trayvon Martin's parents are not to be recast as elites, or blind sheep to the status quo.  And some Trump voters seem to have no tale of woe harsher than having "Happy Holidays" on their Starbucks cup.

No, we can't sanitize this, normalize it, squeeze it into some narrative of change. People didn't just cry for change, they chose THIS change. They saw a man mock a disabled reporter with their own eyes, and were willing to accept it. They heard a man say judges of Mexican origin were biased, they heard him attack a Gold Star family in language that good people call indecent and mock soldiers who get captured, and they watched him run on a platform that involved using his office to lock up his opponent. These should be disqualifying.  People chose to make them acceptable. 

Bruce Springsteen once wrote that a flag stands for what we will do, and what we won't. And America just erased a lot of what used to be "what they won't do". Those rules of decency and humanity mattered. And rejecting them can't just be cast as a vote for "change". 

And they had so little respect for government that they granted a dangerous learning curve to a man who couldn't explain what NATO was or name a constitutional amendment without coaching. That's not snobbery -- these are understandable omissions in many people, but not for a man who applies for a job like President. 

Don't blame the media. Don't blame WikiLeaks. And don't even blame Clinton. Worse campaigns have won. (Trump's was shambolic). 

Trump's basic ignorance of policy and meanness of spirit were clear for anyone who wanted to see them. No one kept it hidden. And indeed, polls show that when his grotesqueness was active, he fell. If he shut up for three days, people forgot. And if so, they wanted to forget. They wanted something he was selling. 

None of this is a call to delegitimize a fair vote. He won. His voters should be engaged as citizens and not mocked or dismissed. But deep down inside, people knew he was too ignorant, too unstable, and too mean for the job. And they chose not just change, but his kind of change. That means there is something ugly they wanted, on some level. And I beg you, don't intellectually normalize things that should remain deviant. That's how stable countries fall down rabbit holes, and you can now see a rabbit hole from here. 

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