I volunteered for Hillary and here are my takeaways.
I was texting with my sister yesterday and she hit on something when she said with any tragedy you basically don’t see it coming and are shocked, then devastated and then you begin to pick up the pieces. The problem with this is election is it’s not a breakup or a car crash one-time thing. it’s an everyday, gut-wrenching, soul-crushing, assault-on-the-senses, punishing mess. This country already has effing PTSD from the campaign and I’m not quite sure it can handle years and years and years of this.
I celebrated the end of the campaign by doing some phone banking for Hillary on Monday—all in Arizona. Basically it boiled down to if the person’s last name ended in ‘ez’ they were down to vote and down for Hillary and courteous on the phone and willing to chat, even if there was a language barrier. If it was a woman, regardless of age or nationality, she was very kind and considerate and expressed her feelings (mostly anxious ones) as well. It seemed like every white guy (and yes, I can tell a white guy’s voice, call me racist) I encouraged to go out and vote for Hillary barely listened to my talking points and then claimed he was undecided. Granted, the talking points were shopworn at best (her lifetime of experience, her work with children, her policies to lift the working class up etc.) “I think Hillary is a crook and Trump’s not much better but she should be in jail!” was a common refrain. And keep in mind these are Democratic Party lists. When one guy did engage, he asked about work she has done for underprivileged families. “Can she get my kid a Playstation? I see Trump getting my kid a Playstation a lot sooner than her.”
These encounters, of course, are anecdotal, but I came away from that experience shaken and not hopeful. America, a good portion of it anyway, has turned into a giant consumer masturbation machine and they see Trump’s perceived success as plausible if not possible for themselves in spite of circumstances that say otherwise. They view the world through the lens of lottery winners and say, “Why not me?”
So there you go. I do not know what the answer is except for despair. The Onion had a great piece about how a liberal millennial’s fanciful dream of what he thought America was was shattered. I think that basically sums it up. A native Californian who lives three blocks from the ocean, I definitely am protected by a neoliberal elite bubble and I have always blithely given lip service to how “bad it is”’ out there in the flyovers… but really had no idea or wasn’t willing to admit it how bad it actually is.
Now there’s no hiding from it.
Also, we have accidentally on purpose created these privileged pockets that the rest of the country fucking hates. Kid moves out of small town/a little ass-backwards community goes to a liberal arts college and doesn’t look back. I do believe the norm 50 years ago was people would go off, grab their degrees or go serve (or both) and come back home and do good work. Small plates restaurants and big dating pools and …well, jobs… have taken care of all that. So those who have been “left behind” even in Rust Belt places that are still pretty OK, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Ohio—are pissed off.
I’m starting to HATE when the New York Times rolls out the token “Why we need to reach out/understand the Trump voter” think piece. No. No we don’t. One of my buddies, a Navy vet who lives in Vegas, went to a Trump rally “just to see” in August and he texted me, “Hillary’s 50 percent deplorable estimate was WAAAAAY off…I’d say 99.8 percent horrible people …and .2 percent journalists.” It’s OK to say we have a country full of ignorant assholes who don’t eat right, decry education and are basically fucking miserably shitting and waiting to die. Or at least I’m OK with saying that. There is nothing more to see here, nothing more to understand.
Another friend, who works in another bubble, Washington DC, wrote me in the wake of Tuesday’s orgy of back boils and open-mouth sores: “its fundamental mindset that has left a gaping wound on the Democratic Party. It’s condescending, and it’s in the same vein of my big beef with Democrats, which is that they treat conservatives, the poor/middle class, like children who need to be taken care of. No wonder there was a revolt. Instead, why don’t we fight the horribleness tooth and nail?! Yeah, go spend some time with Trump supporters but don’t do it to understand them, do it to convince them that supporting that dangerous Cheeto is like setting your house on fire because you have a leaky kitchen sink. This isn’t even shooting yourself in the foot, it’s shooting yourself in the head.”
We agreed that the most egregious tactical mistake of the Clinton campaign was not spending a single moment in Wisconsin and only visiting Michigan once. The heartland is still the bellwether for this country and ultimately, they felt ignored and cast a “fuck you” vote at the top of the ballot because of it. Or maybe nobody anywhere outside the Commonwealth of Virginia (and Whoville) really “got” Tim Kaine. Who knows?
I do think the answer (if you’re a straight white male especially) is to consider moving to a small town in a red state where your skills are needed and you can make a difference for the better in the community, instead of just being one of a thousand assholes texting about where to get lunch/drinks from the safety of your cubicle. Get out there and see how you can help. That’s the only way—under the current system at least—things will change. The question is, how long will the current system last?