It‘s been a difficult week.
On Tuesday night, as the Florida panhandle vote arrived, as Ohio was called for Trump, as network touchscreen jockeys frantically tapped into counties, looking for votes that wouldn’t come, a special sense of dread flooded half the living rooms in this country. I won’t forget that feeling.
When I first started to collect my thoughts on paper late Wednesday night, I tried to answer how and why this happened. I poured through articles and tweets from both sides. I wrote about how Trump had the better motto, how the democrats fell into the policy fallacy, how the media failed to empathize with rural america. I looked for a single reason for why we elected Trump.
In the days following, I’ve stopped trying to rationalize every facet of Tuesday’s result. Instead, I find myself trying to answer a different question: what comes next?
The answer doesn’t come easy. Even within liberal circles, a divide has emerged.
On one side, there are those who, in the face of a president-elect Trump, mourn the end of this country, who proclaim, with certainty, that Trump’s election will lead to “all manner of national decline and suffering.” Despite the pessimism inherent in these statements, in response to Trump, and everything he’s represented for the past year, they are warranted.
But there’s part of me that still wants to believe in this country, that wants to believe Trump said what he needed to win, that wants to give him a chance. This is the message heard from the moderate side of the liberal base -- that it’s time to work with the right. It’s a positive message but one that’s difficult to accept. We consider Trump, and the misogyny, nationalism, and racism that he, still, has failed to speak against, and feel hopeless.
Many of us, searching for the answer somewhere in between these two sides, find ourselves caught in a paradox between our own values and the values of democracy. A democracy demands that its citizens accept the outcome of its process, and yet, here we are, barred from accepting that outcome by our own morals.
Caught within the seeming impossibility of this paradox, a single, absolute truth emerges: that our great nation must, above all else, persist. That it must endure.
In 1861, faced with an equally divided nation (and a real threat of secession,) a newly inaugurated President Lincoln made the same appeal, that “perpetuity is implied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law of all national governments,” that “descending from these general principles, we find the proposition that in legal contemplation the Union is perpetual confirmed by the history of the Union itself.”
In that history of the Union, in those “general principles,” is the foundation of this country, the belief that there are truths self-evident, “that all men and women* are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
I still have faith that the vast majority of this country, independent of party affiliation, believes in the promise inherent in those words. As long as that continues, I keep faith in “the ultimate justice of the people,” in the belief that there is “no better or equal hope in the world” than the fundamental law of humanity inherent in the declaration of independence and in our country.
If we take this natural law to its furthest logical point, we find a future where anyone can be President, no matter their gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Perhaps this is why Tuesday’s result is so difficult to accept, because we felt so close to that future, because we felt we were already living in it. To have it taken away in a night is to know that we’ve taken a step back.
For now, we hold tight to virtue, we become active members of our local communities, we remain vigilant for those who, in positions of neglect or targeted hate, do not have the privilege to wait until the next election.
We keep an open dialogue between sides.
We keep the faith that “no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can very seriously injure the Government in the short space of four years.”
We keep the faith that the watchful eye of the people will win against the racism seen in the days since Tuesday, that this country, as haven for immigrants, for innovation, and for free will, will remain.