It Happened Here

November 8, 2016 started out as a good day for me, a day filled with hope and eager anticipation of what was to come. That morning my Facebook status read “Never before have I woken up with such a strong feeling that today is a day that will go down in history. Or shall we say a day that will go down in herstory?”

I really thought I was going to see our country elect its first female president. I was going to start reading “It Can’t Happen Here, a political satire novel in honor of Donald Trump but I’d decided it wasn’t going to happen here so instead I would read “I Am Malala” in honor of Hillary breaking the glass ceiling. That day I voted more joyously than I had ever voted before. I wore white to honor the suffragettes and my mother wore a pantsuit to honor Hillary. We had our pictures taken in front of the voting station, big grins plastered on our faces and proudly posted those pictures on Facebook. My mom joked that if Trump won, those pictures would commemorate the last time we were ever happy.

It wasn’t entirely a joke though. We would both be very unhappy if he won and my mother was seriously afraid that he would win. There was a part of me that was also afraid he would win but I brushed those fears aside and told my mother there was nothing to worry about. Actually I did more than that. I scoffed at her and all the other Hillary supporters who at this point were expressing fear that Trump would win. A few months ago I would have considered that fear to be valid and I’d expressed it myself but I’d been checking the political forecasts on a daily basis and the odds were now strongly in Hillary’s favor. Some prediction meters put her chances of winning the election as high as 99%. I’d read articles that said that while it was technically possible for Trump to win the election, it was very unlikely, then went on to explain why with all sorts of comforting facts, figure and data. I figured a Trump win would be akin to a lottery win or a lighting strike, depending on how you looked at it. When on November 7th Hillary supporters were expressing fears that Trump would win, I wondered if perhaps they didn’t seriously believe she was going to win but were engaging in a form of magical thinking that said “If I fear Trump winning that will prevent him from actually winning.”

Statistics were on my side and logic was also on my side. Our country had been crazy enough to select Donald Trump as the republican presidential nominee but surely we wouldn’t be crazy enough to select him as our next president. A hateful, misogynistic, racist, xenophobic hot headed bully with no political experience was obviously not suited to lead our country. Hillary certainly had her flaws but she was obviously a much better, more qualified candidate for the job than Donald Trump.

When it was first announced that Trump was running for president I thought of him as a joke candidate. I assumed he would drop or be forced out of the race soon enough because  he was just so ridiculous and so horrible in so many ways. I watched in horror and disbelief as he rose to the top of the republican polls and became the party’s official nominee. I watched in horror as he mocked a disabled reporter, called Mexicans rapists, proposed to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. and deport the ones that were here, had to stop and think for a few days before disavowing a member of the KKK, shamed women for having abortions, having their periods, using the bathroom and not having perfect bodies. I watched in horror and disbelief as it was revealed that he was going to court for a financial scam he’d run through Trump university, that he’d sexually harassed several women, that he and his father had denied people housing based on their skin color. I watched in horror and disbelief as he demeaned, insulted, bullied and threatened anyone who did not live up to his standards,who dared to speak out against him and who displeased him in any way. I watched in horror and disbelief as despite all this people continued to support him.

Who were these people who supported him and why did they support him? Before the election most of the people I talked to about Trump found him to be as awful as I did. However, there was one person in my life who told me he wasn’t going to bother voting but if he did vote he would vote for Trump because he thought he was awesome. Why did he think he was so awesome? Because he just tells it like it is without worrying about political correctness!

I’ve heard that line of reasoning from other people and every time I hear it, I feel like my eyes are going to roll out of my head. I can respect a person who isn’t afraid to tell the truth even if it might make them unpopular but I will only respect them if the things they say are actually true, intelligent and helpful.  They do not get credit for spewing a bunch of hateful, hurtful, idiotic, asinine bullshit. Really, this guy’s pie hole had become indistinguishable from his asshole because there was so much shit coming out of both ends.

Good, reasonable people don’t refrain from saying the things he says because they’re afraid saying them will make them unpopular. They refrain from saying them because they realize they’re not true, kind or necessary. Trump hadn’t just eschewed political correctness, he had eschewed basic human decency. Trump was not the hero of The Emperor’s New Clothes, speaking the truths others are too afraid to voice, he was the emperor who was too stupid and incompetent for the job. My feelings on the people who applauded Trump for “telling it like it is” are best summed up by a political cartoon I saw in which a flock of sheep are looking at a billboard of a wolf with the slogan “I’m going to eat you” and they’re saying “At least he’s telling it like it is.”

The other reasons people gave for voting for Trump were just as ridiculous and nonsensical to me. You don’t like Obamacare? I’ve yet to hear the details of Trump’s brilliant healthcare reform plan. You think we need to kick those darn Mexicans who are taking our jobs and those scary Muslims who are terrorizing us out of this country? I think we face bigger threats from own white American born citizens. I also think racism and Islamophobia are very harmful  and ineffective strategies for addressing unemployment and terrorism. You think Trump’s hateful policies and rhetoric will only harm all those bad, evil members of those minority groups and all those good, upstanding citizens will be just fine? How sad that you’re that naive, that you have such a poor understanding of the ways racism and xenophobia are proliferated. You think Trump will be great for the economy because he was a successful business man? Running a country is a bit different from running a business and that successful business man filed for bankruptcy six times.

It seemed some people weren’t voting for Trump as much as they were not voting for Hillary. Why did my non-voting but Trump supporting brother dislike Hillary? Because he thought she was a bitch. Trump accused Hillary of “playing the woman card.” There were a lot of people who were excited at the prospect of a female president but I’m pretty sure being a woman harmed her presidential campaign more than it helped it. Unfortunately misogyny is alive and well in America. An assertive man is a bitchy woman.

I was one of those people who was excited at the prospect of seeing a woman elected president. We were just about the only developed country in the world that had never had a female leader. A woman becoming president would be a nice symbol that the walls of patriarchy were crumbling and women could now become anything they wanted to be. Please don’t think I was voting with my vagina though. I voted for Hillary because I truly felt she was the best, most qualified candidate. If she was the female version of Trump, if she said and did the kind of things he said and did I would not have voted for her.

Some people were horribly offended that Hillary said half the people who were voting for Trump  belonged in a basket of deplorables and yet they gave a pass to the million and one horribly offensive comments Trump made. I’d say she was truly telling it like it is and that half is a generously conservative estimate. That comment was also made in the context of acknowledging that the other half of Trump supporters were decent people who had been let down by the government and who should be empathized with.

I get that some people believe life begins at conception and thus feel that Hillary’s pro-choice stance makes her a baby killer but I believe in a woman’s right to bodily autonomy. I believe that if we can’t take away organs from a dead person in order to save the life of someone with legal personhood unless the dead person has given their prior consent than we certainly shouldn’t be able to force a living, breathing woman to be a human incubator for 9 months in order to preserve the life of a fetus.  Moreover, it’s much more important to me to have a president who will focus on improving the quality of life of our citizens with legal personhood rather than one who will focus on just keeping fetuses alive at the expense of the women gestating them and who will stop caring about those fetuses once they’re born.

It drove me crazy the way people would point to Hillary’s less than perfect political record and argue that Trump was a better choice because he had a clean record in politics. The reason he had a clean record in politics was because he had no experience in politics whatsoever. I’ll take someone with a long history of experience with some mistakes made along the way over someone no experience and every indication that if given a chance, they will royally fuck things up.

In what other profession would someone with no experience in the field even be considered for a high ranking position? I know people have become disillusioned with politicians but many people have become disillusioned with lawyers and doctors as well. Would those people see allowing someone with no medical training to operate on them or allowing  someone who hadn’t been to law school to defend them in court as solutions to their problems?

Speaking of defense lawyers the argument against Hillary that always had me rolling my eyes was that she was a bad person because she defended a child rapist in court. How awful of her to do the job she was expected and paid to do to the best of her ability. We all know the justice system is founded on the premise that some crimes are just too horrible to defend and never mind that Trump was accused of raping a child himself.

I hate to minimize anyone’s death or quantify tragedy in numbers but sometimes it seemed as though Hillary got more grief over the four deaths in Benghazi that she might have had something to do with than George W. Bush got over the hundreds of thousands of deaths he caused with the Iraq war. I was not pleased with he way Hillary handled her e-mails but that paled in comparison to all of Trump’s egregious sins and I hear Trump has an e-mail scandal of his own. Oh yeah, in addition to being a racist, a bigot, a misogynist, a bully and an asshole, he’s also a hypocrite.

In 2016 I began to lose my ability to tell the difference between real news stories and satire.  Real news stories were reading  like pieces from The Onion. I’d read about things Trump said and did and I would assume it was satire but nope, he’d actually said and done those things. Later in the year I’d read satire and assume it was a real news story because nothing Trump said and did could even surprise me at that point. Some things were so ridiculous that I was about 95% they were satire but with the way this election was going you just never knew.

Had we somehow been catapulted in to an alternate universe that was a parody of the real world? In what kind of bizzare-o world was Donald J. Trump a serious contender for president? In some parts of the world at some times in history it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see someone like him rise to power but this was America in 2016 for god’s sake. The week before election day I posted a meme on Facebook that said “On Sunday remember to set the clock back 60 minutes and on Tuesday remember not to set the country back 60 years.”

I can’t believe it took me as long as it did to realize just how creepy Trump’s campaign slogan of “Make America Great Again” is. Again? What time period in America’s history does he think is so great that we should aspire to return to it? I suspect “Make America Great Again” is really code for “Make America White Again.”

No matter what horrible thing Trump said or did, his supporters continued to try to justify his words and actions, to make excuses for him. That one quote of his wasn’t so bad when you put it in context, he didn’t really mean that other thing the way people thought he did and of course he did racist things in the 70s, everyone was racist in the 70’s. The liberal media was just biased against him. They were telling lies about him and painting a false picture of him. He was really an all around great guy.

Then a video emerged of him talking about sexually harassing the women he worked with and grabbing them by their pussies. Some people dismissed it as innocent locker room talk but a lot of people seemed to realize that this was kind of a big deal. His approval ratings and his odds of winning the election plummeted. He was being pressured to drop out of the race. Then his campaign staff seized away his control of his twitter account. I was hoping people would realize that a man who couldn’t even be trusted with a twitter account, shouldn’t be trusted with the nuclear codes. I was hoping his goose was finally cooked.

About 11 days before election day it was announced that new information had been found regarding Hillary’s e-mails and that the FBI was reopening its investigation in to her activity. This revelation was brought to us courtesy of Weiner’s weiner.  Of course it was. That was the 2016 election for you. This latest development alarmed me and I worried it would hurt her chances of being elected but when a few days later it was announced “Oh no, just kidding. We’re not reopening the investigation. She’s in the clear” I figured things were all good and that she would win the election.

At a message board I participated in someone said that ordinarily the e-mail scandal would be a much bigger deal, maybe it would even be a deal breaker but then the republicans went and nominated an over ripe papaya with a twitter addiction. Unless Hillary was found doing something really horrible like chewing on the corpse of Ryan Seacrest, she had this election in the bag. Someone else replied that she would have to be found chewing on the corpse of a celebrity much more beloved than Ryan Seacrest in order to lose this election. I read an article in which people were asked what it would take for them to vote for Trump and someone replied “Hillary could die and I’d still vote for her over the vile alternative to her corpse.” That pretty much summed up my feelings on the matter.

As the time to tally the votes approached, I felt hopeful and confident that Hillary would win, probably by a landslide. I was hopeful and confident that a few months from now Hillary would be making history as our nation’s first female president and Trump would seem like a nightmare we had put behind us. Years from now when people referenced him it would be to say “Remember when we had a presidential candidate that resembled both a Nazi and a Cheeto? What were the people who supported him thinking? For a while I was afraid he might win the election but thank god our country came to its senses. Imagine what the world would be like today if he had become president.”

I told my my mother that we needed to go get snacks and drinks for election night because this was going to be a festive, celebratory occasion. My mother replied that since it was going to be a historic occasion, she didn’t want to miss an hour of it in order to go to the grocery store. I would have preferred to eat popcorn and drink sparkling apple cider as I cheered Hillary’s victory but even without those things watching her win the election would be pretty damn awesome. I had spent election night 2008 in a mental hospital so I had missed experiencing the joyful, celebratory atmosphere of the nation as we elected our first black president but I would be there to experience the celebration of a woman being elected president in all its glory.

My confidence that Hillary would win the election was cemented when it was reported that Trump’s own campaign manager had said it would take a miracle for him to win. I’d never believed in God and I thought that if he did exist he was a real asshole. He was a special kind of asshole if he refused to grant us all the miracles that should have happened like allowing kids to recover from terminal cancer but then granted us the miraculous disaster of a Trump presidency.

The election results started pouring in and Trump was in the lead. My mom started freaking out but I told her not to worry. It was still early and those states where Trump had won were states where we had expected him to win. The other states where it looked like he was going to win had only tallied one percent of the vote. I reminded her of election night 2012. In the beginning Romney was ahead but in the end Obama won.

I posted a Facebook status that said “I wish they weren’t announcing the Trumperific states first. It makes me feel like I need Xanax to get through this election night.”

As he won more states my anxiety level rose. My mother was really upset when it looked like he was going to win Florida but I pointed out that while it had been said that he needed Florida in order to have a shot at winning the election, that didn’t mean that taking Florida guaranteed that he would win the election.

I started to really get concerned  when swing states and states that had solidly gone democrat for years went to him. I turned to the New York Times for comfort. They had been my source of comfort in the months, weeks and days leading up to the election, with the chances they gave of Trump winning the election often being in the single digits. They now had a live meter measuring Trump’s chances of winning the election. I noticed with alarm that his chances were now above 50% and that the arrow was moving steadily upward, crossing over from the tossup section of the meter to the likely section and heading towards very likely.

My next Facebook status read “Okay, I’m really starting to worry now. Can this not be real life?” My Facebook friends were expressing similar sentiments. “How could the cheeto be in the lead? ” they wondered. There was talk about which states Hillary had lost, which states she had won and which states she would need to win if she was to still have any hope of winning the election. “She’s won Virginia. There’s still hope yet” one of my friends said to me. “Once she wins California she’ll pull ahead in electoral college votes” my mom said. I informed her that she’d already won California and it had already been counted towards her electoral college votes.  “Oh crap” my mom replied.

She went downstairs and attended to the cookies that were baking in the oven. We had hoped to make them as celebration foods but they were turning in to comfort foods. This party was taking on the air of a funeral. As we sat in front of the TV we battled feelings of nausea and struggled to find the simple words we needed to express what we wanted to say.

My next Facebook status read “There are no atheists in foxholes. This quote feels disturbingly relevant to to me right now.”

I had never been religious but now I found myself praying to God, the universe or whatever force was out there that Trump would not win this election.

Things just went downhill from there. Trump continued to win more states and a widening pool of redness was spreading across a map of the United States.  I watched in horror as Trump’s chances of winning the election went from 60% to 75% to to 85% to 90% until my mom came in to my room to say “Trump’s chances of winning the election are now over fucking 95%.”

My next Facebook status read “Welp, Canada’s immigration site just crashed and so did my morale” followed by “It’s 1:30. Just put us out of our misery already.”

I saw a Facebook comment by someone saying they’d done the math and it was technically still possible for Hillary to win the election. Shortly afterwards I saw a comment by someone saying they’d done the math and it was impossible for her to win at this point.

When Hillary’s dejected campaign manager came on stage to inform everyone that Hillary would not be speaking tonight and that they should go home, I wrote a Facebook status that said :

“When I was three years old I cried over Michael Dukakis losing the election but that’s nothing compared to the devastation I now feel over Hillary’s projected loss. I was looking forward to seeing our country elect its first woman president and instead I get to watch it elect its first orange president.

I want to wake up and discover this has all been a bad dream. On election day I wore white and I feel like the day after election day I should wear black. Rest in peace, America. You can be buried next to my faith in humanity.”

A few minutes later my mom came in to my room to inform me that Hillary had called Trump to concede the election to him. My heart sank. Donald J. Trump was officially our president elect. It had happened here.

To be continued…