It’s been a hideous 24 hours, I’m not going to lie.
With Trump’s victory as President looking fairly likely from lunchtime yesterday, like so many people I’ve gone through all the stages of grief and then back to the start and through them again. And again. And still I can’t believe it’s happened. President Trump.
After so many months being glued to media coverage of this election, I’ve found the result to be utterly overwhelming. And I’ve instinctively done something I never expected: shut down.
I’m not listening to any of my favourite political podcasts or visiting my favourite news websites or feverishly exchanging links to good stories with my close girlfriends who are equally obsessed.
I haven’t seen Trump’s victory speech. I don’t want to see Hillary concede. I can’t bear any of it. I’ve reached saturation point and I have to look away from this tragedy.
Hear Mia Freedman and Mamamia staffers debriefing about the US election on a special Mamamia Out Loud bonus episode. (Post continues…)
I’ve been thinking deeply about how this happened.
And the only way I can process my tumultuous, distressing, depressing feelings about all this and figure out how I feel is to write some things down.
Some things I’ve learned. About Trump. About myself. About America. About people.
Here they are:
1. I live in a bubble.
Every single one of my Facebook friends opposes Trump, is appalled by him. Their feelings range from disdain and derision to bemusement and horror. Me too. Throughout this campaign, I’ve sought out media that supports my view of the world: tolerant, in favour of equality and progressive. Each morning, I’ve been going to Twitter and looking up the accounts of some of my favourite US political pundits, like Jon Favreau and Dan Pfeiffer, who used to work for Obama, to see what they have to say. I’ve nodded along with them. They’ve made me feel better. I read articles that chronicled his failings as a human and a politician. I nodded along. I shared those articles with my like-minded friends. They liked them. We nodded along.
I retweeted people I agree with. People who called out Trump for the racist, bigoted, misogynist he is. I shared polls that said Hillary was going to win and I steadfastly avoided media like Fox News who I found to be distressingly biased. This all made me feel good. But it wasn’t reality. There’s a whole America – perhaps a whole world – I know (or choose to know) nothing about.
I thought people like me – who cared about equality and tolerance and social justice and fairness – were the majority. I thought there were more of us than them. It turns out there isn’t. Or if there is (I’m clinging onto this), the fact that voting isn’t compulsory in the US means the angry people were more motivated to come out and vote. It turns out hate Trumps love.
2. The Internet is an echo-chamber.
The Internet and cable TV, but specifically the Internet, has allowed us all to create our own echo-chambers. We share information we like and opinons we agree with on social media. The primary news source for most people these days are their friends on Facebook. We rely on what other people post to inform us about the world. We are myopic and closed in our world view, whether it’s left or right. We avoid information we don’t like or agree with and gravitate to information we do. This gives us all wildly inaccurate impressions of reality.
3. Facts no longer matter.
We’re living in an age where opinion is the new fact. I suspected this during the campaign where the idea of ‘fact checkers’ spun off almost into a separate identity from what people said. As if facts somehow existed OVER THERE and didn’t matter. The right, particularly the alternative right (or far right, known as the alt-right) have always been untroubled by facts. In fact, they automatically distrust them. “We are sick of hearing from experts” they say. Think about that. They no longer want to be told things by people who know more about those things than they do. They distrust intelligence. They are scathing of smart people and their facts. As if facts themselves were partisan. You and your science. You and your statistics. I don’t believe them. You’re just making it up. It’s rigged.
Like anti-vaxxers, they choose who they want to believe. They see no difference between a fact and something Donald Trump says. Facts have lost all currency and status. This is impossible to counteract. When Trump just makes stuff up, how are you meant to respond? If your opponent is utterly unconstrained by the truth then you’re at an enormous disadvantage unless you start lying too – something Hillary was never going to do.
The saying “on the one hand there’s science and there is no other hand” no longer applies in 2016. On one hand there are facts and on the other, who cares. Tell people what they want to hear – that all their problems are caused by Mexicans and Muslims and “floods” of illegal immigrants and African Americans and fat bitches and Hillary Clinton and promise you can fix all of it. No matter that it’s bullshit. No matter that you can’t.
4. White people are furious that their power is being taken away.
When Obama was elected in 2008, 56 percent of the American population identified as white and Christian. Eight years later, that number is down to 48 percent. We are witnessing a fundamental demographic shift in the makeup of the American population. White people are no longer the majority. There are more people who don’t look like them living in their towns, working beside them and going to their kids’ schools. This is making them feel scared and fear of difference is very easily harnessed into anger towards it.
White people comprise at least 73 percent – and depending on how you count it maybe 77 per cent of the US population. For example North Carolina has a large black population – 30 per cent. They turned up for Obama but sat this one out. So Trump won by targeting the 70 per cent of the state that was white.
There are a lot of white people who are clearly pissed off that they can no longer be racist or sexist or homophobic or bigotted without being criticised it thanks to political correctness – which is really just a term for being civil and fair and polite. They hate that they’ve been told to be more tolerant by an African American president who doesn’t look like them for the past eight years. That bitterness runs deep and now it’s erupted.
The thought of having someone else in the Whitehouse who isn’t a white man is intolerable. That’s why “Make America Great Again” was (with the wisdom of hindsight) such a genius slogan. It’s about make America white again. Make America Christian again. Make America the way it was before people started telling Donald Trump he couldn’t grab women by the pussy or call someone a fat bitch or mock a disabled person. Before people started telling him he needed to respect someone’s right to believe in a different God to me or wear a hijab.
That’s when America was great, these people think. Before all these RULES.
Hillary’s slogan, ‘Stronger Together’ was (again, in hindsight) never going to resonate because the majority of Americans – the white majority – don’t want to be together with the people who are different to them. They want to be as far apart from them as possible. They want to build a wall and send them to jail.
5. Jewish people have always understood the threat of Trump.
While 81% of Evangelical Christians voted for Trump, only 24% of Jewish people and 26% of atheists did. Jewish people have seen what happens when you elect a dictator who stokes the fires of racial and religious intolerance and who rides a wave of bigotry into power. They’ve seen how catastrophic things can become when you give power to someone who openly stigmatises minorities as a way to marginalise them, make them ‘other’ and incite anger among the population towards them. A population with pitchforks who are desperate for someone to blame for everything that’s wrong with their lives. Someone who doesn’t look or sound like them.
6. The world is behaving a lot like a three-year-old right now.
This desire to 'blow things up' by voting for reckless, radical things and people? Trump? Brexit? How old are we? Blowing things up leaves rubble at your feet. Is that what people want just because they feel things aren't going their way? Rubble? How do you argue with that kind of brainless toddler logic? Have you ever tried to argue with an overtired toddler? This is the state of the world right now.
Again and again, Trump supporters point to the idea of him 'blowing things up' as why they love him. He uses that phrase often. Drain the swamp. Blow things up. Build a wall. They're the phrases - and logic - toddlers use. Do Americans really think Trump can rebuild anything after he blows it up? I don't even think they care in the same way toddlers can't see consequences. It's the blowing up they want to see. They have blood lust for destruction. They want revenge.
7. Trump appealed to the lowest common denominator and it worked.
Michelle Obama said 'when they go low, we go high' but high didn't work. High is out of reach when your opponent keeps grabbing your ankles and dragging you down into the swamp to splash around in his disgusting muck. Even watching Hillary on the stage with Trump during the debates felt demeaning. People - ha, people like me - talked about needing a shower afterwards. What could she have done differently> Do you ignore the shit he says, let the lies and the bullying slide? Bite your tongue every time he attacks something you so passionately believe in or do you defend yourself and your beliefs from his lies? Lose lose. As we've seen.
8. The alt-right media has a lock on middle America.
Remember the part about the bubble? Imagine if your bubble was made of actual fiction. My bubble, the centre-left, is at least made of facts. I don't mean the part about Trump being a buffoon, I mean facts about the true state of immigration (there is no 'illegal flood') and Hillary's emails and crime rate and all the things Trump has so cynically used to stoke the basest instincts of his supporters. The alt-right, Breitbart and Fox News and the National Enquirer - all the kinds of media propagated among Trump supporters and shared among them in their echo chamber, simply make shit up.
They say Barack Obama started ISIS and Michelle is a man. They say the Obama's children were kidnapped from another couple and they had Joan Rivers murdered when she made a joke about Michelle's true identity. They say Hillary has all manner of diseases including schizophrenia, epilepsy and a brain tumour and that she started the birther rumours. And on and on and on and on.
Conspiracy theories and fiction are far more entertaining than facts. They're a pack of Tim Tams compared to a bowl of quinoa. The Bold and the Beautiful instead of Four Corners. Fast and easy to digest. Delicious to eat. Under-educated people digest this fiction and believe it to be true. How do you argue against that?
WATCH: What's really the deal with Hillary's emails? (Post continues...)
9. Reality TV has a lot to answer for.
There are studies that show girls who watch reality TV are far more likely to be drawn towards drama at school and manufacture it in their own lives. For the most part, politics is incredibly boring. Why do you think we've all become obsessed with this election? It's been reality TV. Every day more plot points. Characters to follow: Trump, Hilllary, Huma, Weiner, Melania, Ivanka, Kellyanne Conway, Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, Billy Bush, Meaghan Kelly.....good guys and bad guys and twists and scandals and outrages and ENTERTAINMENT.
This is a disaster. Politicians are not here to entertain us. They're here to be smarter than us, to know more than us and to get on with the mostly boring business of running the country. The fact we are drawn towards flash over substance is hugely alarming. It's why some people would prefer to get their information about vaccination from Playboy model Jenny McCarthy instead of every medical professional and scientist in the world.
It's why Donald Trump is now the President instead of the most qualified person ever to run for office.
10. Children are scared.
My own children are scared and they are white and privileged and live on the other side of the world from America. Trump is not their president. And yet they are scared of what him becoming President means for them. I had to reassure then last night that everything would be OK.
I lied through my teeth. As Mamamia features editor, Jacqueline Lunn said on our election podcast debrief yesterday, "How do I tell my three daughters the most powerful person in the world is a man who wants to grab your pussy and rate you out of 10?"
But what about the American parents who have Muslim children and African American children and female children and Latino children and disabled children and LGTBQ children? The children whose parents are undocumented? The children who are not white and Christian? What about them? What can their parents say to them about this ugly new America they've woken up in? Do they even have a place in it? Not according to their new President.
11. The lid has been ripped off something very ugly.
When you have a presidential candidate who normalises bullying and abuse, misogyny and racism, name-calling and aggression... you can quickly re-calibrate society. The speed of this calibration is terrifying. It's already happening. Before Trump's win had even been confirmed, I saw a disturbing shift right here in Australia.
Yesterday afternoon on Channel Seven, Miranda Devine called the 11 women who accused Trump of sexual assault and harassment "those bimbo accusers". Yesterday afternoon, former liberal MP Ross Cameron punched the head off a Hillary cardboard cutout at a Trump media party. Yesterday, students at Sydney Uni chanted "lock her up" and "build that wall" as they watched election coverage.
I'm frightened for what has been unleashed. I feel like we've just gone back 100 years.
So. I have no uplifting note on which to end. I have no words of comfort or reassurance. I am heartsick and despondent and my confidence in the kind of world we live in has been shaken to the core. I am struggling to remember that people are inherently good. But still.
We will bounce back. We will. And until then, here is a picture of my dog wearing a hot dog costume while she's asleep. That's all I've got.
Remember: it's hard out there and you need to be kind to yourself and each other. Reach out. Ask a friend how they're doing. I'm not remotely kidding. I know so many of us are struggling with this and it's OK to feel upset and traumatised. The important part is to reach out and share how you're feeling. Don't suffer in silence, OK? Self-care is paramount.
If you are struggling, Mamamia urges you to contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 for 24 hour support, or visit their website here.