PHOTO BY DONNA ACETO/ DESIGN BY MICHAEL SHIREY
We could have done it. Had the first female president of the US. And one of the smartest, most prepared executives ever, but never underestimate misogyny. Never underestimate the vast selling power of hate and fear, and a sensationalist, ratings-grabbing media that insisted on covering Trump as if he was a candidate like any other. Not a crook, a predator, a thug, a sleazebag racist openly endorsed by the KKK, and helped into office by a Russian dictator, a cowed FBI director, and the likes of Julian Assange who’s not a radical truth-teller, just a resentful, but powerful little fuck in some embassy basement.
What I really want to know is, what are we going to do about it? What are the Democrats? When Florida Republicans stole the vote in 2000 (later verified by the New York Times), none of the white Senate Dems protested during the roll call, and Gore was like, “Gee shucks, what’s a guy gonna do?” Then the whole party rolled over as George W. conned the country about weapons of mass destruction, and followed him into a war that most of them now, including Hillary Clinton, acknowledge was a huge mistake.
So there you go. Afghanistan was succeeded by Iraq. And environmental treaties gutted or put aside and almost every international agreement suspended for oil profiteering, with Bush aided and abetted by a mainstream media that didn’t dare, for instance, use the word torture to describe what resulted. Why? Because his administration was so vindictive that rags like the Times were afraid their journalists would be excluded from a press conference or something. Then, the impact was mostly abroad. Domestically Bush made nice, never once called Latinos rapists, and had in his cabinet black and brown people like Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and torture apologist Alberto Gonzales.
Trump is not even gonna play that. Not with a Republican Congress at his back. We’re gonna see wackjob Giuliani redux, a Gingrich thrilled that Trump has promised to deport immigrants, destroy the Supreme Court and Roe v. Wade, roll back marriage equality, among other monstrous things. On the global level, Trump scorns not just specific agreements but the whole idea of international cooperation on trade, on defense. If somebody annoys you, just nuke ‘em, though handsomely reward your extreme right pals like Putin and France’s Marine Le Pen.
So what I want to know is, are the Democrats and the media gonna roll over again, kiss goodbye the rule of law, accept dirty and missing votes, suppression of speech, of assembly, a politicized judiciary just so they can keep access? Make money? There’s no question that all the Republicans who turned their backs on Trump last week are gonna kiss his ass today. But will the Democrats and the media bipartisan and cooperate this country to death? Are they gonna throw the entire world under that very big fucking bus?
I really do need to know. My household’s kinda vulnerable you see. Two queer females. One dependent on Obamacare. Another an immigrant. I wish I’d done more. But I’ve been paralyzed with a kind of sick fear. This country can be so ugly. The only moment I felt vaguely hopeful was last Saturday, when I went to Clinton’s campaign headquarters downtown to get tickets to her election night rally and saw the enthusiastic mix of races and ages bent over their phones, sending texts to get out the vote under a distant banner acknowledging Orlando.
Everybody looked so calm and happy it made me a little teary. When I saw a woman take her two young daughters to pose in front of some Hillary signs, I nearly sobbed. I wonder if they’re going to find some way to keep participating now that my fellow Americans have voted, not just for Trump, but against Hillary, against the last eight years of LGBT progress, against new black and Native American activism, and against women, women, everywhere.
Some of us will get lost in fear or embrace an ugly cynicism because many of us imagined as I did growing up that our system of democracy was somehow as fixed and invulnerable as a statue of blindfolded Justice in which her scale never wavered. And when I began to understand misogyny, racism, homophobia, classism, and that nothing was fixed or guaranteed, the whole thing did seem rigged, like lies. I felt ashamed and guilty, and ready to keep the whole country at arm’s length as if I could avoid contamination.
We can’t. We shouldn’t. The truth is that we are not the best country in the world, nor are we the worse. Not yet. We have done great things, and horrible things. What redeems us are the people here who understand that words like liberty, equality, justice are not facts, but aspirations, which require unending vigilance and the kind of hard work Clinton, anyway, was known for. It is time to recommit ourselves to the fight.
Kelly Cogswell is the author of “Eating Fire: My Life as a Lesbian Avenger,” from the University of Minnesota Press.