On Nov. 8 I went to bed feeling numb at the prospect that a truly unqualified man might be about to become the president of the United States, yet hopeful that I might wake to a popular rejection of the ugliness that man has visited on this nation.
I was naive.
At 4 a.m., when my lovely wife Carolyn checked the news on her smartphone, her words “Trump won” hit me with the force of a death in the family. I got out of bed with frissons of anxiety flashing through my body. It was like waking from a nightmare only to discover that the nightmare is real. I went through the five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – before I got back into bed 10 minutes later.
Denial: Surely, the American people are not misguided enough to hand the nuclear trigger to a man so petty as to engage in twitter wars with beauty queens in the middle of the night.
Anger: Oh, yes, they are! What damn fools!
Bargaining: But wait a minute. What about the polls? Hillary should have won by five points. Okay, the polls are almost always wrong. But what about the popular vote? She got 185,000 more votes than Trump did. There must be some mistake. Can’t we file a court challenge? Demand a recount? Something?
Depression: There is no mistake. We went to bed in one country and woke up in another. Somewhere in Ameristan, Trump supporters are celebrating. But how long will it be before they realize what a terrible mistake they have made? Will it be when the stock market crashes? When all foreign investment dries up? When there is a run on the banks? When the bill comes due for Trump’s police state? When federal troops start dragging people out of their homes and deporting them? When he discovers he can’t build his wall? When Trump launches World War III just to show Putin or Kim Jong-un he’s man enough to nuke them? (Oops, sorry, slipped back into anger there for a second.)
Acceptance: Oh well, Trump’s victory probably forestalled the violence that would have followed a Clinton win. The 59.6 million of us who voted for Clinton may not have much respect for Trump or the 59.4 million who voted for him, but we still accept the result, as shocking as it may be. It’s almost as though America attempted suicide on Election Day.
We can only hope that Congress and the courts limit the damage Trump can do, just as the state Legislature and the courts managed to limit the damage Gov. Paul LePage could do to Maine, at least in his first term. Perhaps a bipartisan coalition of responsible adults will develop in Congress to keep Trump from making horrible mistakes in the nomination of judges, in trying to force his vision of a police state with prisons, walls, storm troopers and religious bans, and in projecting U.S. military power abroad for purely personal reasons.
And perhaps there may be a silver lining for Maine, if Trump finds something for LePage to do (ambassador to Jamaica?) that gets him off our backs.
The American people are fickle and their political will is a will-o’-the-wisp. So we get eight Republican years of Reagan and four of George H.W. Bush, followed by eight Democratic years of Clinton, eight Republican years of Bush II and eight Democratic years of Obama. So maybe it was just time for a reactionary swing to the right.
With less than half of the popular vote in a year when voters stayed away from the polls in droves, Trump does not have a mandate. McCain and Romney got more votes in losing than Trump did in winning. Democrats just didn’t support Hillary, and let America down in historic fashion.
My own plan is to take a few deep breaths, to not write about Trump again until he takes office, to not argue with his supporters, to be prepared to accept the reasonable measures the new president undertakes, and to resist with every fiber of my being – my time, my talent and my treasure – any and all attacks the new administration might launch on immigrants, minorities, women and the poor.
I will also be praying for America. Forgive them for they know not what they do.
Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.