I spent yesterday working as an election judge for the first time. There were six of us, four democrats and two republicans. Two of the judges were high school students who volunteered to work their first presidential election; they were excited to be there, and they were awesome – smart, enthusiastic, and total masters of the computer system (thank god, because the rest of us were way out of our league). Together, we had a great time – we cheered high school kids who came in to vote for the first time, helped a few voters maneuver their wheelchairs to reach the electronic voting machines, gave ‘I voted’ stickers to kids who came in with their parents, and thanked the dozen or so people who stayed in line for almost an hour after one of our computers went down. To a voter, people were polite, appreciative and excited to be there; as for the judges, we had a blast. Except for one, an older man named Bob who turned out to be a metaphor for what happened last night.
Bob was the judge in charge of the equipment at the polling place, and he was an angry man. He yelled at me in front of voters, at the young women several times, and after one voter with autism and his dad left, called the young man ‘a retard’ to the shock of all of us. (Don’t worry, I’ve reported him to the board of elections.) We weren’t his only targets – he was mad at the system, concerned he wasn’t going to get his money, and when we asked him not to interpret a ballot question for a voter (per judge rules) he ignored us and did it anyway. We got through it but it bothers me that Bob is part of the memory the two high school judges will have from that day.
I got home last night around 10:00 pm after leaving the house at 4:45 in the morning (yes, it’s a very long day), and all the excitement of working the election (despite Bob) was crushed by what was happening nationally. Turns out Bob was about to be elected president: a man who bullied women, ridiculed a person with disabilities, and forced his will upon people despite them asking him not to. I sat on our couch and watched incredulously as the disrespect we experienced at our polling place was being rewarded with the biggest prize of all: Trump was elected president. I sat with my son and tried (unsuccessfully) not to cry. Then we both went to bed.
Around 2:30am, I started getting texts from friends. “I see you’re awake too, are you okay?” “I can’t believe this is happening.” “WTF is going on?” “How is this possible?” I checked Twitter in time to see the CNN Alert: Trump is elected 45th president, and I started sobbing. I felt like every man who’d ever yelled at me, screwed me over at work, talked down to me or just laughed at me had gathered together in a circle and I was in the middle, and they were kicking the shit out of me.
I’m still tearing up today as I try to understand what this means, not just for the issues I care about (short answer? catastrophe) but what it says about the kind of country we are. Are we at heart a racist, misogynist and bigoted majority who favor mass deportation and prohibitions on civilian refugees; who condone torture, who deny climate change and are willing to repeal health insurance for 20 million people? Are we so cruel as to deny and repeal LGBTQ rights and reproductive choice? Are we really okay with the bullying and cruel language that Trump deals in, and the way he talks about women? Do we honestly believe that a man who exploits an aggressive tax strategy to avoid paying federal income taxes that among other things pay for the Secret Service protection he and his family receive is going to fix the tax code so that it makes people like him pay more? What world do we live in?
I don’t want to hear anything about emails or jail or how hateful Hillary is, may be, or always was. That’s false equivalence. There’s a lot of blame to go around with this election cycle, starting with the media circus that forced this narrative on all of us. Yes, we have serious problems. But yesterday, in our little polling place, I spent the day with a man who embodied the candidate that has become this country’s president-elect, and I am just devastated that this was our country’s choice.
Fox News and Breitbart News have traded in hate, conspiracy, half-truths and outright lies to build their audience, and guess what? Now it’s all theirs. Their boogeymen are gone – the Obamas in two months, and the Clintons forever. Their arguments are over – they control Congress, they will control the Supreme Court for at least a generation, and they have every tool to govern as they see fit at their disposal. I pray that Trump and his government will operate with the country’s best interests at heart, but if you take him at his word that won’t happen. He’s told us what he’s going to do, and the electoral college majority – NOT the popular vote, she won that – has sealed it. It’s time to accept it and move on. But that doesn’t mean I won’t fight against it. Not for a minute.