As long as I live, I will never forget the horror I saw on the faces of disappointed John Kerry supporters outside of Faneuil Hall in Boston on the afternoon of November 3, 2004, just prior to the delivery of his concession speech. The realization that George W. Bush would stay in office for four more years was catastrophic to these young supporters; they could not believe that their country had betrayed them.
When the networks cut to the shots of horrified Clinton supporters in New York City on the night of November 8, I had flashbacks to that afternoon. The same horror. The same fear. The same dread. And for the same reason.
We are a nation of strangers. That was proven, again, on November 8. I have argued for some time now that Andrew Hacker got it right in 1992: that we are two nations, separate, hostile and unequal. Can anyone deny that Hacker was accurate? And can anyone deny that the progressive commentators who warned for years about the reactionary instincts of large portions of the American electorate–most notably Bill Maher and Keith Olbermann–were right all along?
I know this is harsh to say, but President Obama made an explicitly false and profoundly naive statement when he declared the following in the aftermath of Trump’s vicious victory:
Now, everybody is sad when their side loses an election, but the day after we have to remember that we’re actually all on one team. This is an intramural scrimmage. We’re not Democrats first. We’re not Republicans first. We are Americans first. We’re patriots first.
We all want what’s best for this country. That’s what I heard in Mr. Trump’s remarks last night. That’s what I heard when I spoke to him directly. And I was heartened by that. That’s what the country needs — a sense of unity, a sense of inclusion, a respect for our institutions, our way of life, rule of law, and respect for each other.
I hope that he maintains that spirit throughout this transition. And I certainly hope that’s how his presidency has a chance to begin.
Those who supported the bigoted billionaire do not see themselves as “Americans first.” They see themselves as “Americans only.” They do not see Democratic voters as Americans, but as invaders, outsiders, moochers, layabouts, thieves. It’s embarrassing to hear Obama peddle that tired we’re-all-in-this-together claptrap; that false mentality is what led him to embrace the treacherous James Comey.
I heard Obama’s nonsensical remarks live while I was listening to Thom Hartmann’s radio show during lunch on November 9. I went back to Faneuil Hall that day to reflect on how much things have changed, and how much they have stayed the same, since the last time a Democratic presidential candidate conceded. As I ate and listened, I looked at the diverse crowd all around me–black, white, Asian, Latino, Native American, male and female, disabled and able-bodied, gay couples and straight couples–and I couldn’t help thinking that the vast majority of Trump’s supporters would have vomited at the sight of such diversity.
Obama made another naive and false statement in his remarks:
The point, though, is is that we all go forward with a presumption of good faith in our fellow citizens, because that presumption of good faith is essential to a vibrant and functioning democracy.
The harsh reality is that not all of our fellow citizens act in good faith. Sometimes they act out of hate. Sometimes they act out of bigotry. Sometimes they act out of greed. Sometimes they act out of a sense that blacks, Latinos and Muslims have brought America down, and that only a wealthy wingnut can “make America great again.”
I know, I know. It’s not right to assume that every last one of Trump’s supporters are bigots…but is it really wrong to be fearful of what a Trump Administration will mean for those who aren’t rich white right-wing males? Is it really wrong to conclude that there can never be common ground with the right, that the conservative Republican heart is deceitful above all things? Is it really wrong to view supporters of Donald Trump as permanent (and permanently gullible) enemies on the battlefield of ideas?
Consider this an open thread, as I’m not sure what the answer is.