My autumnal allergies hit on Monday afternoon and were raging at full force yesterday. I was sneezing uncontrollably and my nose was running to beat the band, too. Last night, after Kish and I settled down to watch the election returns, I felt exhausted and miserable, so I went to bed before 9 o’clock. At the time, the voting data was showing an enormous turnout of new Latino voters, exit polls were indicating that Hillary Clinton was outperforming President Obama and Donald Trump was underperforming Mitt Romney in key demographics, and the network pundits were confidently predicting a smooth ride to a Hillary Clinton victory.
When a fit of sneezing and coughing woke me up six hours later, as Kish was turning in, the New York Times and the Washington Post were calling the election for Donald Trump. Trump had won Ohio and Florida, but he had also eked out victories in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. (Pennsylvania?) I felt like I had gone to bed in the normal world and awakened in some bizarre alternative universe. It’s the most astonishing turn of events I can remember.
So now we are at the morning after. The election is finally over, and we have a President-elect who seems remarkably ill-suited for the job in just about every category you can think of. We’ll see shock from foreign governments overseas, and a drop in the stock market because of the utter uncertainty about what a Trump presidency might mean, and amazement in other places as people struggle to process a result that no one expected and no polls foresaw. We will hold our breath and wonder who our new leader will enlist to fill Cabinet positions, and staff the White House, and perform the countless other tasks that new Administrations must undertake. And the Republicans who control both the House and the Senate will have to figure out how they are going to deal with President Trump.
Many of my good friends are bitterly disappointed and angry, and are wondering whether this country has changed in some terrible and fundamental way. I hope we all can take a deep breath and hold our fire for a few days before equating the voters from the states that voted for Trump with Nazis or knuckle-dragging ignorants.
Some of the people who stood patiently with me in long lines yesterday, waiting to vote, must have been Trump voters (he won Ohio by 8 points) and they weren’t ogres. Obviously, something motivated them to overlook Trump’s shortcomings and vote for a person who is the most improbable President-elect of the modern era, by a factor of ten. We need to understand what that motivation is.
The period between now and Trump’s inauguration is going to be the most important, and probably strangest, transition period in the history of American politics. We need to figure out how we can get through it without tearing our beloved country apart.