WASHINGTON – When I opened my front door Wednesday morning after little sleep and numb from a bad dream that wasn’t a dream, a dreary rainfall glazed the sidewalk as two neighbors gazed blankly in my direction.
As I leaned down to pick up my newspaper, a Carole King song filtered through my pre-coffee brain fog: Something inside has died, and I can’t hide, and I just can’t fake it. Oh, no, no. Good ol’ Carole King.
From there, my morning proceeded mechanically: Find remote control, turn on “Morning Joe,” fix coffee, open refrigerator door, close refrigerator door, turn off sound on ringing cellphone, turn off TV, lie on floor. I’m guessing this routine sounds familiar to fellow election-dazed denizens.
As regular readers of this column know, I rejected Donald Trump on Day One and have spent the past year highlighting the many reasons I found him unacceptable for the job of president.
My opinion hasn’t changed, but as Hillary Clinton said in her concession speech, “Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and a chance to lead.” And Trump, in his victory speech, said without irony that now it’s time to heal the wounds of division.
Head hurting, but OK.
To begin, there needs to be an honest assessment of what just happened. It isn’t really that complicated or mysterious, if you’ve spent any time in the America where Trump voters live. As one who ventured inside the Beltway only 12 or so years ago – as a “spy for Bubba,” I introduced myself – I’ve spent most of my life among the indigenous peoples.
Two weeks ago, I began saying that Trump would win, whether I liked it or not. Today, I offer a clarification: He didn’t win the election. Clinton lost it.
For voters who couldn’t stand Trump, she was a terrible alternative. Never a great candidate, she was also, tragically, a Clinton when people were ready to move on. She received several million fewer votes than Obama did in 2012.
And speaking of Obama, he also lost this election to Trump, despite exit polling that showed the president’s approval rating at 50 percent-plus.
The 2016 election was as much a referendum on his legacy as it was on the candidates themselves. When people want the country to change course, they don’t typically vote for a third term of the current president.
Thus, a vote for Trump was really a vote against Obamacare and the rising costs of health insurance. It was a vote against the doubling of the national debt to nearly $20 trillion under Obama. It was a vote against a foreign policy that saw the Islamic State’s expansion rather than its defeat.
Clinton’s promise to continue Obama’s policies was a suicide agenda to a majority of Americans, especially those whose lives haven’t improved during the economic recovery of the past eight years.
And, yes, too, some Trump voters probably resented the exacerbation of racial discord under Obama’s watch when Americans had hoped for the opposite result.
Race as a factor in Republican opposition to Obama can’t be ignored or minimized. Nor can Trump’s role in nurturing hostility toward Muslims and Mexicans – or his antipathy toward women, the disabled and even a war hero’s parents – be dismissed in victory.
But leaning primarily on racism, bigotry or sexism to explain what happened Tuesday is too facile by half.
Missing from the audiences that television cameras focused on were millions of others – Republicans, independents, libertarians and maybe even some Democrats – who would rather be horse-whipped than attend a Trump rally but were compelled to vote “R” against the likelihood of a liberal Supreme Court, lax immigration laws and an increasingly costly health care system, among other concerns.
Trump captured a moment and promised to make America great again. He also said that he’ll be the president of everybody. Let’s hope he wasn’t just reading from a teleprompter – and that the word trickles down.