Paradigm shift. It’s painful. to discover that your assumptions about the fundamental workings of things, were wrong. I’ve only ever been emotionally invested in one Presidential election. That was 2012, when Romney lost, and it seemed to me I did not understand my own country. I thought Romney had it in the bag. I thought there was no way the country could sign on for four more years of Obama. I didn’t sleep at all, after Romney conceded. I was in a supremely unhappy state the following day. A great many things made no sense.
I thought, “This is probably how the Kerry voters felt in 2004.”
Now, the pendulum swings again.
I wasn’t invested this time, the way I was four years ago. Mostly because I so disliked both major candidates, I felt like I’d “lost” the instant it became clear Trump or Hillary would claim the Oval Office. I still kinda feel that way, though I confess relief that a known crook such as Hillary has been denied access to the highest levers of power — bad things happen when that lady is given control. Bad things may happen, now that Trump is the man, but there is a degree of chance and uncertainty, whereas Hillary was a known quantity.
So, Tuesday night, I felt like I didn’t really have a dog in this fight, just because Hillary and Donald seemed equivalently unpalatable. But I watched with fascination as Trump did the impossible. Or, rather, Hillary’s true unfitness made voters do the impossible, and vote for Trump.
Then, I watched the unbelieving outpouring of emotion, from Hillary’s faithful. Confusion. Denial. Gradual realization of what was happening. Anger. So much anger. A tidal wave of anger. It could not be happening. It must not be allowed to happen. Who let this happen?! What is wrong with our country that this is happening??!?
Yep, I get it. I really do.
I’ve lived through ten Presidential elections, of which I was old enough to be aware. Six of which I was old enough to vote in. Out of those six, only two times did my choice actually win the Oval Office. I was very bummed when Perot lost — it was my first time — but I was a teenager, and it’s easy to move on when you’re a teenager. By my twenties I was voting Clinton (second term) and then Gore (hanging chads!) and I was bummed about Gore losing too; it’s easy to be a small-l liberal in your twenties. Not until after 9/11 did I really start taking things seriously — talk about a paradigm shift, 9/11 was a life-changer! I was relieved when Bush won the second time (we will be debating the Bush years until I die) and then I wrote in Romney/Rice for 2008; because I knew McCain would get crushed.
Then came 2012, the election I was sure would go to Romney. And when it didn’t, I was supremely bent out of shape. It took me the better part of a week to calm down. It seemed like my countrymen had been offered a clear choice between hope, and doom, and they chose doom. It also seemed like my countrymen had rejected me personally in the process. Or at least, a part of me. The part which had been all in. The part which had given a damn. When Rachel Maddow spent the morning after the Romney loss, gloating, and concern-trolling conservatives and the Republican party, it felt viscerally scalding. She was so pleased with herself and her “team” and she was so eager to rub our (the Romney fans) faces in it. Her smug cup runneth over.
Come November 9, 2016:
Well now . . . . sauce for the goose, and all that.
Probably, Maddow and Co. feel (about the Hillary loss) like I felt about the Romney loss. If the outrage and protesting I am seeing since Tuesday night are an indicator, Maddow’s sentiment is widely shared. Hillary’s fans were all in. They had given a damn. And reality chose to deviate from their expectations.
In the words of Lemongrab, it was (and is) wholly unacceptable.
I get it. I really, really do.
The thing is, American national politics is a pendulum. Every time one “side” thinks they have a permanent majority, or a mandate, or some kind of endless license to ill, or they make a raft of pie-in-the-sky promises, they always overreach, underperform, become embroiled in scandal, then the fortunes reverse. Democrat, to Republican, then back to Democrat, then back to Republican again. Liberal, to conservative, to liberal, to conservative, yadda yadda yadda. It’s probably inevitable in a Republic governing almost 400 million people, all of whom span a spectrum of belief and ideology. If the mechanisms of democracy are functioning correctly, that pendulum should probably keep swinging. Therefore, a Trump win after the Obama years is as predictable as the Obama win after the Bush years.
I know each “side” keeps wishing the pendulum would swing their way, and get stuck. Forever.
But it just ‘aint gonna happen. After living through the Reagan years, then the Clinton years, then the Bush years, then the Obama years, and now come the Trump years, I think I’ve seen this oscillating waveform enough to be certain that it’s going to continue like this for the rest of my life. Maybe, for the rest of my daughter’s life too? And beyond? Again, we’re 400 million people spanning a spectrum of belief and ideology. Barring the instituting of an autocracy, or one half of the spectrum simply dropping out of the vote, these oscillations are baked into the fabric of the country.
I probably won’t ever be all in for a candidate like Romney again. I sorta suspect I learned some things about myself and about this country, during that traumatic loss.
Hopefully, most of the Hillary faithful will learn the same things. And chill out a little bit.