Like many Americans, I was shocked when it became clear that Donald Trump was going to win the election. It just didn't seem possible after months of watching the strange orange billionaire TV star say awful things over and over. All the polling sites seemed to indicate that a Trump presidency was unlikely, and that Hillary Clinton would claim the prize. But Trump won, and I've been watching people's reactions since then, thinking about the many angles of the election and its outcome. Facebook has been a nonstop glut of post-election political discourse, and, predictably, it has been emotionally charged. Here are a few things that seem to mark this election's aftermath.
8. Many Are Scared and Upset in Ways That Seem Unique to This Election.
Sure, all elections have consequences, as President Obama said several years ago, but for many people, the stakes seemed particularly high this time. It's understandable too — Trump ran a campaign that often slid into alarming territory, and his derogatory statements regarding immigrants, women and others...That's scary stuff. I can't recall another time when so many people seemed as anxious in the aftermath of an election, and can't blame folks for expressing their fear and outrage. Donald Trump wasn't a normal candidate, and there's no reason to think he'll be traditionally "Presidential." He's an agent of chaos, and that's largely what his appeal was to many voters — they seem to have felt abandoned by "business-as-usual" Washington, and wanted someone unafraid of shaking things up. For those who feel they're now in a dangerous position, telling them that "everything will be okay" isn't going to cut it. If Facebook is any indication, we have to figure out a way to come together and support one another in a time when many are finding it difficult to cope.
7. People Are Looking for Someone to Blame.
And how. If the majority of posts in my Facebook newsfeed are an indication, people are pissed off and blaming others for the election results. Of course, much of that anger is directed at those who actually voted for Trump, but there's plenty more going around. There are fingers pointing at those who didn't vote, third-party voters, white working-class people who voted for Trump because they felt abandoned by the establishment, the electoral college, James Comey; the list goes on and on. I even saw a couple of folks furious at Bernie Sanders (presumably for having the audacity to run against Clinton in the primaries), and of course lots of probably deserved blame being directed toward the Clinton campaign and the DNC for fumbling things so badly.
6. Many People Think Sanders Would've Been a Stronger Candidate Against Trump.
Many people spent the primaries hoping the Democrats would select Bernie Sanders as their candidate, as he seemed to be a breath of fresh air in American politics. It was clear that this election was different, one in which many people were looking to outsider candidates out of frustration with business-as-usual politics. His idealism might not have been entirely realistic, but Sanders was obviously generating a lot of excitement among young voters and the working-class people who have grown to feel increasingly marginalized and abandoned by the Democratic Party. Sanders seemed to me to be the candidate most able to inherit the kind of "Hope and Change" enthusiasm that could put a Progressive in the White House.
Could he have won against Trump? We'll never know now, but a lot of people seem to think he might have. It appears as if some within the DNC worked to hobble his chances, which makes things even more contentious. Many think his message was too extreme and he wouldn't have fared well in the election, but Sanders had the same sort of anti-establishment momentum that Trump ultimately won with. In an election that seems to have been a repudiation of establishment politics, the Democrats passed on running a popular outsider candidate in favor of one who seemed like the personification of establishment politics. Was that a mistake?
5. Lots of People Want to Get Rid of the Electoral College.
There's an enormous amount of support growing for getting rid of the Electoral College, and that debate is playing out on social media. Since this election was especially emotional and the stakes were high, the fact that Clinton won the popular vote and still lost isn't sitting well with many people, and their anger is understandably aimed at the electoral college system, which seems to many people to be contrary to a truly democratic process. Some are even hoping for a "do-over" of sorts, in which the Presidential electors would award their support to Clinton instead of Trump, but that's probably not going to happen. Whether or not the Electoral College could be dismantled in favor of a more direct form of voting is an interesting question, and one a lot of people are wondering about right now.
4. A Bunch of People Are Apparently Thinking of Moving to Canada.
So many that the Canadian immigration website crashed from all the hits it was getting as our election results were rolling in. What probably was initially said as a joke before the election, when a Trump victory seemed like a major long shot, went to the top of many Americans' "things to do" list when it became obvious he was winning. This makes me sad, because it's a measure of the very real despair and desperation that many of us are feeling now, but it's also a bad idea. Emigrating to another country is a pretty big deal — a major life decision that usually takes lots of planning and resources to pull off. I know a whole bunch of Canadians and have spent a fair amount of time in their country. It's a beautiful place, and its people are lovely. But Canada isn't "America Lite" — it's a sovereign nation with its own culture and its own problems; it's not looking to take in millions of upset Americans, and it's not easy to emigrate there anyway.
In the event of a draconian crackdown on human rights, I'm sure Canadians would welcome real refugees from our country. But that hasn't happened, and frankly, we need to stick together and work at fixing our problems so there isn't a draconian crackdown on human rights here. However, it does seem like a lot of us are looking at our northern neighbor as a possible escape. I'd be curious to know how many of those folks know anything about Canada's government, how it's organized or anything about the country's history and culture. It's not all about poutine and hockey, eh.
3. California Is Talking About Secession Again.
Like Texas, there's been fringy support for years among some Californians in regards to leaving the United States and becoming their own country. The state has the world's sixth-largest economy and quite a few other traits that put it on par with many countries. With the Democrats reeling in defeat, our West Coast friends are once again indicating that they'd like to break away from the rest of us. However, the chances of that happening are so minuscule that it's almost not measurable as a pipe dream. There's no really clear path to secession, and the plans for California to exit the Union lean heavily on some problematic legal issues. The Civil War went a long way to deciding that the federal government has final say in these matters, so Californian efforts to leave are up against almost impossible odds.
2. The Democrats Lost, but Both Parties Are Going Through Tumultuous Changes.
It's clear that this election shook things up in our political establishment. The Democratic Party is clearly going through a major upheaval in which blame is being assigned and the neoliberal establishment is under fire; quite a few major players might find themselves at risk. It appears House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is being challenged for her position, for example.
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It's probably not going to be smooth sailing for the Republicans either. Trump doesn't fit in well with their establishment, and since he's an agent of chaos, it's unclear what changes he might bring to their party and power structure. It's probably certain that the Democrats are trying to figure out what went wrong and how they can gain back the support of people they've lost, and the Republicans will be under incredible pressure to deliver on Trump's campaign promises without destroying the country. What happens next is anybody's guess.
1. The Role of Media and Social Media Is Being Criticized.
The way our media covered the election is among the list of things being blamed for electing Trump President, and Facebook is taking a hit for allowing so much fake news and misinformation to be shared over its network. There's also talk about people being stuck in their bubble — losing an objective view of what's happening outside of it because the information Facebook feeds us is tailored to our preferences. Most news media ran with the idea that a Clinton loss was almost impossible, with polls mostly favoring her by a huge margin, so it was certainly shocking for many of us to discover just how incorrect they were.