10pm on the 9th of November 2016. I walked past the Trump International Hotel and Tower on Columbus Circle – a crowd of a hundred-odd people was there, in the drizzle, shouting and ranting about abortion and Trump and racism. Nobody was listening. The police stood by, mostly looking bored. Rich people, returning from dinner, were ushered in by bellboys through a side-entrance. Tourists took photos on their phones. One girl got up on the concrete barricade and shouted about her body and her choice, in a very hoarse, angry, desperate voice. They were all in their twenties and probably unemployed, living with their parents or at college. Poor little snowflake generation. Across America and the world, precious millennials woke up to the fact that being woke was worthless.
A white, straight, male, able-bodied, privileged, cis-gender billionaire who says politically incorrect and offensive things had broken down the walls of their safe spaces and macro-aggressed their soft, fat body-shamed asses. America decided it was time for a recalibration, as happens every few years, and the “First Woman President in the White House” idea was thrown in the rubbish bin.
Eight years of President Obama have been mostly good for the world. On the whole, he kept a lot of what he inherited going – Guantanamo bay is still open for business and drones keep striking parts of the Middle East. He had a hard time with a recalcitrant Congress – blocked at every turn by the Senate and House Republicans, but he managed to make a few meaningful policies come to fruition, and undoubtedly grew the economy. Obama is charismatic, likeable, scandal-free, dignified, intelligent and very middle-class. He was criticized for not talking enough about race or identity politics by the left, but there’s no evidence to show that he regards himself as any kind of a victim – despite the President-Elect denying his citizenship, and others worse. Obama is also a centrist. He understood that free speech meant you’d have to be willing to listen to unwelcome ideas in order to freely express yours. That’s not what college students and leftists in enclaves on the east and west coast think.
A portent of the election results, and the left’s first disappointment came when Bernie Sanders failed dismally in the primaries against Hillary. She used money, established political clout, celebrities and experience to defeat him – the system. Bernie crumpled like his own economic policies and succumbed almost without a fight. America’s broke, socialist grandpa felt the same heat of Hillary’s ire that Obama felt seven years before, except she beat Sanders and got burnt by Obama. Nobody really likes Hillary, but they like Sanders even less. To the people who use the echo-chamber of Twitter, Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, Tumblr and The Vox as their major news input, this was anathema. The people who were taken in by the mainstream media in the run-up to the election itself, couldn’t believe how wrong they’d got it. It never occurred to either that confirmation-bias, false-equivalence, an abundance of hyperbole about fascism and Hitler, or a total inability to stomach any rational opinion against their own position was misleading them, and their circles. They started to drink the kool-aid and forgot the taste of everything else. After a few months of watching MSNBC, CNN, Bill Maher, and our own horrible local knock-offs, I was starting to doubt myself too. “The smart money’s on Hillary”, I told people who asked me who would win. I placed actual money on Donald-and won, but I should have known better. We all should have.
Not even a last-minute celebrity super-tsunami of Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Madonna and Katy Perry could swing the vote to a win for Hillary. This election will also prove that those celebrities, along with Bruce Springsteen, Lena Dunham, Barbra Streisand and Kim and Kanye, need not be relied upon for their political opinions in the future, nor their ‘influence’. In short, the metrics for making sense of the world have changed. Poor President Obama spent a hefty amount of his substantial political capital on endorsing Hillary and denouncing Trump. Now that will diminish his legacy, when he hands over the keys to the Oval Office to an orange man with tiny hands in January.
When Obama swept into the White House he had widespread support from all kinds of Americans – whites, blacks, women, men, gays and immigrants – not that those things matter. His slogan “Yes we can!” mattered. We bought it. Hope was the offering. “I’m with her” just isn’t as good. It means nothing except that you’re willing to help propel a crooked, overambitious lawyer into a White House that had become Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton dynastic property in her mind. Trump offered to “Make America Great Again” – and by the way, America has never been better, but it’s nice to imagine it could improve. Trump was selling change.
Let me explain to my friends on the left why some smart people voted for Trump, because some of you still think this is like a vote for Hitler, or that only stupid hicks and rednecks voted for him. Not only does that reveal you to be an elitist of the most un-egalitarian kind, but it shows a disdain for the opinions of those you don’t agree with, which is the mark of someone who thinks they don’t have anything else to learn. Let us hope this election has humbled you. In case it hasn’t, let’s give it one more try:
People are sick of Washington’s rotten politics. Even Obama will tell you he’s sick of it. Here’s an outsider – a reality TV star and property mogul who turns the whole system on it’s head. People like the idea of pressing the ‘reset’ button. In a political swamp full of lobbyists, corporate and international money, threats and scandals, here’s a guy who owes nobody any political favours (who didn’t even have his own truly horrible party’s support until he overwhelmed and digested them).
Here’s a guy who believes in the things that nations are built on – success, hard work, merit, strength and pride – not welfare, victim hierarchies, gender studies and manufactured outrage.
Here’s a guy who says things that 70-year olds say because well, he’s a 70 year-old. He’s real. Hillary hanging out with stupid Kim and Kanye isn’t real – it’s her scrambling to win the youth vote.
Here’s a guy who takes responsibility for the things he has done – even the bad things and says what he thinks – not what he thinks you want to hear. Salt-of-the-earth people respond to that better than they do to someone who deletes e-mails they think you shouldn’t see.
The things we criticize Trump for – his objectification of women, his mocking the people he ran against, his unpredictability and inability to work off a script – those are the things that make him real to ordinary people. They’ve all had affairs, or made and lost money, or called someone a loser. Politicians don’t know anything about that world – and neither do their bedfellows in the mainstream media.
Maybe, psychologically, Trump is the old-fashioned Mr. Warbucks who took Annie in and rescued her from the orphanage to the millions of Americans who feel orphaned by their government and the world. Is that so hard to comprehend? Annoyed and bored with being called misogynists, racists, transphobes and fascists by precocious liberal arts students, perhaps middle America felt like showing up and doing what effective minorities have always done – showing up and showing some solidarity. We can hate them for that, but then we have to hate the civil rights movement, feminism and Black Lives Matter too.
I hate to break it to other people in my generation, but you’re the softest people ever – you don’t know about the hardships or the sacrifices of the generations that built the nation you live in. You’re looking for a way to be loved, to be relevant, to be meaningful – and you’re tilting at windmills. Real life isn’t like social media where you can like things, block things, post things and pretend your life is better than it is. The people who voted Trump knew that when they went to the polls. If you want to understand the world that has materialized around you, you need to abandon the news networks and celebrities you followed – who misinformed you. You need to talk to people outside your circle and you need to learn the difference between equality and equity. Study history and see what actually happened in Europe in the 1930s so you can start making comparisons that fit, and read Marx so you can figure out why going further left won’t save the Democratic Party.
Every time Hillary, a pundit, the media or the left criticized some aspect of Trump’s political incorrectness, some farmer or construction worker in the USA took it personally, and now they’ve got THEIR President, THEIR Senate, THEIR House, THEIR Governors and soon THEIR Supreme Court majority.
The left’s failure is complete. There is no safe space left to run to.
It turns out being woke doesn’t mean blogging, filtering your Insta pic or protesting – it means when the vote comes round you have to show the fuck up and wake the fuck up.