Last month, so many of us were plagued with election fatigue, quietly counting down the days until November 8th. But the cruel joke was on us, because if we felt enmeshed in a shit storm then, we’re embroiled, now, in what feels like a tornado of unprecedented proportions. Writers are banging out op-eds faster than we can read them, conversations emerge and circulate like a disorganized swarm of cicadas, heads are spinning.
There is so much to do, yes, but there’s also a lot to learn. If you want to cut through the noise but don’t know where to start, we’ve collected some well-written pieces that offer a variety of perspectives on what happened, what might happen and where we go from here. Feel free to read through below and then please share your picks with us, too.
If you want to make sense of what happened, even if it’s grim…
“In the coming days, commentators will attempt to normalize this event. They will try to soothe their readers and viewers with thoughts about the ‘innate wisdom’ and ‘essential decency’ of the American people. They will downplay the virulence of the nationalism displayed, the cruel decision to elevate a man who rides in a gold-plated airliner but who has staked his claim with the populist rhetoric of blood and soil. George Orwell, the most fearless of commentators, was right to point out that public opinion is no more innately wise than humans are innately kind. People can behave foolishly, recklessly, self-destructively in the aggregate just as they can individually. Sometimes all they require is a leader of cunning, a demagogue who reads the waves of resentment and rides them to a popular victory.”
[via The New Yorker]
If you want to prepare for the worst…
“But Trump is anything but a regular politician and this has been anything but a regular election. Trump will be only the fourth candidate in history and the second in more than a century to win the presidency after losing the popular vote. He is also probably the first candidate in history to win the presidency despite having been shown repeatedly by the national media to be a chronic liar, sexual predator, serial tax-avoider, and race-baiter who has attracted the likes of the Ku Klux Klan. Most important, Trump is the first candidate in memory who ran not for president but for autocrat—and won.
I have lived in autocracies most of my life, and have spent much of my career writing about Vladimir Putin’s Russia. I have learned a few rules for surviving in an autocracy and salvaging your sanity and self-respect. It might be worth considering them now.”
If you’re thinking of leaving the country…
“Leaving for a place where our values are ascendant might be what you or I want. But that’s not what this country needs. We need votes for politicians who oppose Trump’s agenda. We need people to stand in the streets when he tries to deport our colleagues and friends. We need an on-point team to make sure that this weird national freakout only lasts four years. After last night, the Trump machine is up and running at full power. Now it’s time for the American machine — of checks and balances, of free speech and a free press, and the great tradition of political protest — to answer.”
If you want to look back to look forward….
“My point is that this is a cycle. It happens again and again, but as most people only have a 50–100 year historical perspective they don’t see that it’s happening again. As the events that led to the First World War unfolded, there were a few brilliant minds who started to warn that something big was wrong, that the web of treaties across Europe could lead to a war, but they were dismissed as hysterical, mad, or fools, as is always the way, and as people who worry about Putin, Brexit, and Trump are dismissed now.”
If you don’t understand what Trump supporters have in common…
“Authoritarians are thought to express much deeper fears than the rest of the electorate, to seek the imposition of order where they perceive dangerous change, and to desire a strong leader who will defeat those fears with force. They would thus seek a candidate who promised these things. And the extreme nature of authoritarians’ fears, and of their desire to challenge threats with force, would lead them toward a candidate whose temperament was totally unlike anything we usually see in American politics — and whose policies went far beyond the acceptable norms.
A candidate like Donald Trump.”
If you want to understand the “white working class”…
“Isn’t what happened to Clinton unfair? Of course it is. It is unfair that she wasn’t a plausible candidate until she was so overqualified she was suddenly unqualified due to past mistakes. It is unfair that Clinton is called a ‘nasty woman’ while Trump is seen as a real man. It’s unfair that Clinton only did so well in the first debate because she wrapped her candidacy in a shimmy of femininity. When she returned to attack mode, it was the right thing for a presidential candidate to do but the wrong thing for a woman to do. The election shows that sexism retains a deeper hold that most imagined. But women don’t stand together: WWC women voted for Trump over Clinton by a whopping 28-point margin — 62% to 34%. If they’d split 50-50, she would have won.”
[via Harvard Business Review]
If you’re not sure where to turn…
“If the American media had bothered to follow DuVernay’s lead and put the history, expertise, and experience of African American women firmly at the center of their political analysis, they too would have accurately predicted the outcome of the 2016 election. Instead, the utterly ordinary and exhausting devaluation of black women’s knowledge and experience was the centerpiece of the election and mostly continues to dominate our post-election analysis.”
If you want to restore your faith in humanity…
“It is important to acknowledge at the outset that disasters are, most basically, terrible, tragic, grievous; they are not to be desired—but by the same measure, those effects should not be ignored because they arise amid devastation. And the point is not to welcome disasters; they do not create these wonders, but they are one avenue through which the gifts arrive. The point is that disasters provide an extraordinary window into social desire and possibility, and what is seen there matters elsewhere, in ordinary times, and in other extraordinary times. The desires and possibilities awakened are so powerful they shine even from wreckage, carnage and ashes.”
[via Literary Hub]
If you want a view on why Trump won…
“The postmortem debate over Clinton’s loss is more than just finger-pointing—it has important implications for how the Democratic Party moves forward. Some partisans side with her team in blaming external forces, from events like the Comey letter to the media’s coverage of the race. Others look at Clinton’s lead going into the final weeks, in a nation where most voters view President Obama favorably, and conclude that she blew an eminently winnable race. […] How partisans decide to view Clinton’s loss—as a fluke, as a tactical shortcoming, or as the product of deeper issues—will determine how they attempt to rebuild. For a party that finds itself decimated and powerless at almost every level, those are consequential conclusions indeed.”
[via The Atlantic]
If you’re nervous about media coverage…
“Americanness is a sponge, not an ethnicity; normalization is a key part of how it works. It resides in the way that we speak, in the ideas that get refined and reworked and encoded in ordinary words until they seem harmless enough. It’s the ability to fit things into a narrative that flatters our ability to reason. Normalization is the process through which wisdom becomes conventional and utopian ideals slam against questions of feasibility. And so we should remain suspicious of efforts to welcome Trumpism into the fold of mainstream American ideas, particularly when normalizing him suggests the privilege to pick and choose, to infer the existence of another’s decency and humanity, to laugh, and to think that, at the end of the day, we all just want the same thing.”
[via The New Yorker]
If you want guidance on how to think about Trump…
“If Trump is beginning to confront reality on some fronts, that’s a first step — in a thousand-mile journey toward credibility and respect. But appointing Bannon is a big step backward. We must watch Trump, and judge him, every single inch of the way.”
[via The Washington Post]
If you want to feel inspired to act…
“It’s a privilege to be heartbroken by the system for the first time at age 30. So many people — those in the prison system, those with undocumented American relatives, those who are trans, who are queer, who are people of color, who are Muslim, who are trying to prosecute their abusers — have felt the crushing failure of the system over and over again. This is just another dark week. This isn’t surreal like a death or a bad diagnosis. This is their life.”
[via Lenny Letter]
If you want to feel hope…
“I’ve read a lot of hand wringing this morning about all the things that are now sure to be lost — Obamacare, LGBT rights, the EPA etc. Those are very real possibilities and should scare us all. But that assumes the GOP is one solid unit that can stay on point and won’t get greedy. They aren’t and they won’t. I promise. No party ever is. Remember in 2008 when the Dems had the House, almost 60 votes in the Senate and won the White House by 10m votes? We BARELY got Obamacare, a watered-down bailout and a mild Dodd-Frank. That’s it. We didn’t get some massive progressive agenda passed. Why? Because not only can the opposition block a lot, but also because of divisions within our own wing.”
For more MR election thoughts, Leandra’s letter to readers about the victory of Donald Trump.
Collage by Emily Zirimis.