There’s a post going around Facebook these days that asks: Why are you so scared [of a Donald Trump Presidency]? In it the author implies among other things: that people shouldn’t be afraid of potentially being pushed into war by our new President, because the country is already at war, and that we shouldn’t be afraid of racial divide because the country is already divided. After having read parts of this effort to school those of us who’d voted for the status quo over the potential for turbulent change and are now concerned, and after having heard one Trump-supporter refer to the growing number of protesters angry over the election results as ‘children throwing a tantrum because they didn’t get their way,’ my heart sank even deeper into the pit of my stomach.
They just don’t get it.
For me, the grim feeling that keeps me up nights has nothing to do with Hillary Clinton having lost. I’d never liked her or the President-Elect, probably because each had been in America’s spot light for my adult life. I remember when Hillary tried to co-president with Bill and how the country resented her for it. I remember how she campaigned for her ‘socialized’ health care system and how furiously people opposed her. I remember the scandals.
I remember Donald Trump’s rise too. How he built Trump Towers, now a landmark in New York City. How he overspent by millions on airlines and yachts. How he defaulted on loans, went bankrupt and couldn’t pay many of the workers who’d built his Atlantic City casino. (Recently, he’d claimed he’d refused to pay because of their shoddy work.) I remember too, how he picked himself up, sold his name to businesses around the globe, and then rebranded himself as a reality TV star.
In comparing both candidates on toughness, resilience, survival, they’ve each held their own. Still, as I watched the way each carried themselves during all the debates and listened to the tenor of their discourses throughout the campaign, I perceived in them two very different types of human beings. Trump is the antithesis of political correctness. A thin-skinned businessman, who’d never held a political office, he saw an untapped vein of potential voters and delivered what they wanted to hear in sound bites and tweets. Clinton, a thirty-five year veteran of politics, with two terms on the Senate and twelve years in the White House as First Lady and Secretary of State, did her homework before each debate, knew her stuff, held her own against a bare knuckle street-fighter. As I watched them go toe-to-toe I was impressed with Clinton’s smart answers and I was disturbed by how disrespectful Trump was to his opponent. He rarely chose a substantive response over sticking it to her.
For me, the devil that perpetuates my insomnia lies in part with the character of this man who will soon become our Commander and Chief and in part with the support he’d gained despite it. While it cannot be denied that Trump’s capacity for diverting attention from his flaws and failings is impressive; in that he’d kept his campaign alive by artfully dodging questions about things like his tax returns, which he still has not produced, it bothers me that his supporters seemed not to have cared about the dodging. Whenever a question about some potentially damaging situation arose, rather than answer it, Trump would call out his opponent on issues unrelated again and again until the question was dropped. Whenever the media reported on some issue, like the pending civil suite by students who’d attended his Trump University, Trump would repeatedly top the story by firing off allegations sure to stir his base until it was forgotten. Yet, for his supporters these tactics never diminished his appeal.
I, like many others who’d voted against Trump, am struggling to understand how his practice of the art of the dodge, and his hateful language, and his disrespect for others, and his never owning up to his mistakes were not deal breakers for most Americans. But my tantrum here has nothing to do with wanting a recount of the election. Election Day has past. Forty three percent of Americans chose not vote. Donald Trump was elected President. Done. My fears have nothing to do with the possibility of him pushing us into war. We are always at war. We are always at risk of a hit to the homeland. But during this campaign Donald Trump had driven American politics to a new low, and to me he is no more than an opportunist who’d brought out the worst in us as a Country. After all those nasty exchanges, tweets that played the blame game, personal attacks, accusations, and frightening promises, he owns the backlash of assaults on American Muslims and Latinos, protests and riots. They are responses to his rhetoric. Yet, he has made no tweets to help us heal and unify. Based on his history, he is not a man who owns his mistakes.
My fear is that this is who he will continue to be as President; a man who blames the media for inciting protestors that have come out because of his hate speech; a man who has speculated about how the media would react more critically if it were HIS people protesting. That prompts the question: Aren’t we all HIS people now? Whether we love him or hate him, trust him or fear him, he will soon be OUR President and we, the people of a richly diverse Nation, are his. My fear, based on his rallying cries and whom they were meant to call, is that he and many of his supporters don’t see it that way. I’m afraid that over the next four years he will enact legislation that will unfairly impact some minorities, like women, Latinos and Muslims. I’m afraid that enemies like ISIS and Putin will exploit the discord this might cause. I’m afraid for our relations with foreign allies now and in the aftermath of his Presidency. Will reading Trump tweets about conspiracy theories regarding foreign leaders who disagree with him become our new normal? Based on his hateful rhetoric during the campaign, which had served to deepen divides within our Nation, will he now point fingers at people and countries around the world and add to the dangerous divides there as well?
One more thing high on my list of Trump-related fears, I’m afraid of climate change, which science has proven is a progressive event brought on by manmade carbon emissions that will have devastating consequences, and Trump has said is fake. When leaders of many countries had come together earlier this year to sign the Paris Climate Agreement, I felt hopeful about our future. There are changes we must make for our children. Deep down we all know it. Trump plans to bow out on that agreement, to cut the program that the EPA had put into place, which would have regulated the amount of carbon emissions large industries produce, and to channel money away from development of green technology. He plans to push coal, the Keystone Pipeline, oil drilling and fracking; all things that might serve us economically now, but which will lead to continued rise in global temperatures.
I would love nothing more than to be wrong about why I’m scared; to wake up one morning four years from today (that is, if I ever do get a good nights sleep between now and then) and say, “That Facebook post was right. I was being silly and childish.” But for now, I take solace in the final comment of one of the guys from The Circus, a Showtime series that had followed the election since the primaries. In regard to Donald Trump’s looming presidency he projects that: “Our highest hopes may not be realized, but our worst fears probably won’t be either.”
I’d settle for that.