I can’t believe I just uploaded this picture. I can’t believe the words “President Elect Donald J. Trump” actually exist.
On Tuesday night, election night in the USA, I was headed back to Canada after a week-long conference in Orlando. It was a long day of travelling as my wife and I left our hotel at 6:30 AM to arrive for our flight three hours early as Delta had suggested. It gave us a lot of time to begin watching the pre-vote analysis. We flew to Atlanta and then to Minneapolis. By the time I hopped on a plane at 7:30 PM for the final flight back to Saskatoon, the returns were coming in. And for the next 2.5 hours, I watched the drama unfold 32,000 feet below me. I just kept reloading the #electionnight hashtag on Twitter, stunned by the fact that Donald Trump was actually winning.
People were losing their minds with each announcement that Trump had carried a state. Gnashing of teeth, social media style. It was, in a word, surreal. It still is, actually.
And look, you know what you get with Trump. He’s going to do what he’s going to do until he changes his mind five minutes from now and does something opposite. He’s unpredictable. He’s a reality TV star who suddenly became the President of the United States after running probably the most disastrous, racist, misogynistic, gaffe-filled campaign I’ve ever seen in my life.
But it isn’t the fact he won that has me worried. No, it’s the fact that people voted for someone who was facing a civil trial after being accused of raping 13 year old girl back in 1994. (She just dropped her case, BTW.) And everybody knew this when they voted for him. It’s the fact that his boorish, bullying behavior; a nightly feature on the evening news, didn’t stop people from voting for him. Or the fact that he’s totally cool with grabbing women by the genitalia the way that we grab avocados in the grocery produce department. Or the fact that he flippantly suggests that nuclear weapons are always an option. I could go on … everybody knows that Trump is, frankly, a rich white douchebag who doesn’t pay his taxes.
But he won. He defeated Hillary Clinton against all the predictions of pollsters and pundits.
And what worries me is that when people elect someone who they know is dangerous. When they throw their support behind someone who was accused of raping a 13 year old girl and who thinks grabbing women by the pussy is fine and dandy, it tells me that folks are desperate for change.
Desperate people do desperate things. They did it in Germany in 1933. Hitler seized power after he was democratically elected. Trump could, conceivably, do the same. Republicans now control the House and the Senate. As a political junkie, it’s frightening to think that Trump now has the power to push through laws that could increase his hold over America if he chooses to.
I think it’s important to point out that folks who voted for Trump are not imbeciles who fell head first out of the back of a turnip truck. These are men and women who were fed up and wanted change. These are people who, for a multitude of reasons, the political process in the United States has failed. Yep, they are white. Yep, they feel disenfranchised … but they got out the vote.
(And by the way, up here in Canada, our political system ain’t exactly working out for everyone. People here are also fed up. We just chose to elect a hipster who likes to hug people and photobomb weddings as our Prime Minister.)
A couple of things stand out about election day in the USA. First is a conversation between two African-American women I overheard while in Orlando. One of the women said, “Either way we are screwed. With Hillary we’re going to get The Hunger Games and with Trump it’s going to be The Purge.”
The second thing is the American man standing in line at Canada customs in Saskatoon who was literally beaming with the news that Trump had won. His industry had shut down. He was facing job loss. Many of his friends had lost their jobs. He said, “Now that Trump is in, we’re going to get to keep our jobs. It never would have happened with Hillary.” I just politely smiled and nodded my head.
It shouldn’t have come to this, but it did. It’s a lesson for everyone who loves democracy and it is a lesson for people in government all over the world today: the democracy can come back to bite you in the ass.
So where do we go from here?
Nowhere for the time being. He’ll be sworn in as President in January.
What has me worried is that every great civilization throughout history reaches its pinnacle and then crumbles to dust either through internal rot or by being conquered. The internal rot can be anything: a broken political system, vice and debauchery, you name it.
I have had a niggling fear as I watched the phenomenon on Donald Trump unfold in 2016 that America might be facing that moment where it too will begin to crumble into dust. Rome has fallen … again.
I’m going to continue writing my detective novel for my agent. I’m going to shore myself up against the madness that’s about to be unleashed on the world with a healthy dose of daily creativity. Marijuana is going to be legalized in Canada next year.
Bring it. Bring all of it. We’re going to need it for the next four years. Hopefully Trump won’t blow us up between now and the next US election.