When people are generally passionate about things, they sometimes exceed the bounds of reason.
Donald Trump won the electoral vote in the dark hours of Wednesday morning, and the clocks stopped. This was followed by the Amazon River evaporating into the mists of the Brazilian jungle, Mount Aetna erupting and swallowing half of Sicily, the polar ice caps melting, and every resident of South Philadelphia finding a parking space within less than five minutes.
A miracle, I tell you. Of course, it wasn’t a miracle to those who had been listening to the voices of working-class Americans, mostly white, mostly unnoticed by the establishment that addresses the loudest and most obvious voices of anger and grievance. Trump had found a way to capture lightning in a bottle by speaking to their despair, their worries about lost jobs, vanished opportunities and crushing poverty.
Before the election, I posted this on Facebook, anticipating a presidential loss for this flamboyant populist-cum-showman: “If you voted for Trump, and he lost, understand that the message was a good one, that there is indeed too much entrenched corruption and inbreeding in Washington, but the messenger mangled the words before they could be understood and digested by everyone not wearing a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat. Keep fighting the good fight, alongside of the Americans of all colors and creeds who agree with you that, as Sam Cooke sang, a change is gonna come.”
I was wrong.
The truth is that much of what has been labeled vicious and un-American, the attempts to link our future president to the KKK, the allegations that sick racists who scribble graffiti on walls and burn down Southern churches are his responsibility, the absolutely ridiculous accusations that he lusted after 10-year-old girls and had a vaguely incestuous relationship with his daughter, the conflation of his campaign commercials with the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and all of the other hysterical attempts to turn the man into evil incarnate didn’t stop the forgotten classes from listening to his message. And that message was not “Let’s keep them out,” but rather “Let’s bring you in.”
The sophisticated folk on CNN and MSNBC, at the New York Times and on NPR, heard dog whistles of racism in his dialogue. But, as Salena Zito, a Pennsylvania journalist noted, “the press takes (Trump) literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.” The media think he wants to deport all 11 million undocumented. His supporters don’t think he’ll be using a calculator.
While not a #nevertrumper, I wasn’t a fan of the man, and my inbox overflowed with insults from those who linked me to the hoity-toity mainstream media. But I fully understand why he won in such a convincing fashion on Wednesday morning, and I do not blame the Americans who embraced his message.
I also do not blame the people who hoped for shards of that glass ceiling to come raining down on us this week for their absolute devastation. They were tricked into believing it was there, only a few electoral votes away. I remember what it felt like to believe so profoundly in Mitt Romney and to have invested blood, sweat and tears in an idea and then have it ripped away. I wrote about it four years ago this week.
But I do blame these people for their violent, cruel, absolutely inexcusable reactions. I blame them for filling up my social media newsfeeds with accusations of racism, with hysterical finger-pointing and threats, with bitter salty tears, with doomsday prophecies, with ridiculous exclamations about a “lost America,” with slanderous descriptions of the uneducated Neanderthals who dared deprive their icon of her rightful place in history, with images of bloody coat hangers and Kristallnacht for immigrants, with all of the basest and most histrionic things that people who have had a rude awakening can summon from the depths of their embittered souls.
This is despicable. I’m sickened by the adults who have used their children as proxies in a war against the man who will soon take the oath of office, teachers who tell their little charges that the educated people weren’t numerous enough to balance out the bigotry of the stupid white yokels.
I’m angry that Catholics who voted their conscience and for the unborn are being blamed for hoisting a serial sexual abuser on the women of America. I’m tired of hearing minorities and women and gays and lesbians accuse those who voted for Trump of hating them and wanting them to disappear.
Yes, I said I was depressed after Obama won a second term. I got grief for it, and I understand why. But I never looked across the aisle at a person who voted for him and said, “You despise me, and you despise America.”
How dare anyone say that, now, to others who simply stood in line and said, “I matter, too.”
Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, and can be reached at email@example.com