Wednesday, November 09, 2016

What just happened?

November 2016 is shaping up to be pretty terrible.  First the Cubs win the World Series, and now Donald Trump has been elected president.  OK, that first one doesn't really matter that much (especially given how little I care about baseball these days), but let's pretend that it does.

Last week I broke my policy of not voting for people to cast a vote for Hillary Clinton for president; I even went through the "trouble" of casting an absentee ballot from Seattle, which actually ended up being not that much of a hassle.  I did this because I believe that Donald Trump is absolutely unqualified to be the president.  While I think that Hillary has her moral failings and sometimes displays poor judgment, I still respect her intellect.  This is not something that I can say about Trump - most of what he says is devoid of content when he is not being inflammatory.  In addition to his severe moral and intellectual shortcomings, the little that I can gather from his actual policy positions make them seem quite impractical.  I steer clear of the outright name-calling of Trump that you often see on the left (e.g., calling him a bigot, or comparing him to Hitler), but I also struggle mightily to find any redeeming qualities in him.  So I cast my vote as a vote against Trump, and not so much as a vote for Clinton.  It turned out not to matter at all in Missouri, or the country at large.

I was looking forward to the end of this election cycle, as I was tired of all the hubbub about these two unsatisfactory candidates.  Unfortunately, the result of the election has been even more unsatisfying, and there will be even more groaning about the winner for at least the next four years.  Even worse, I am adding to this groaning in an attempt to process what has just happened.  What follows will likely not even be very coherent; I'm just trying to capture some thoughts and questions that I have had over the last day.

My mood as I stayed up late (until after 2 AM ET) to follow the election returns progressed from worried to disbelief to stunned.  The election had not yet been called in Trump's favor when I tried to go to sleep, but it seemed imminent.  I couldn't fall asleep because there were too many thoughts running through my mind; those thoughts inspired this blog post.  I eventually caught a couple of hours of sleep, but I'm not even sure if it was before or after seeing the final call.  The couple of hours attempting to sleep before having to get up in the morning were not very restful, either.

As deeply disappointed as I am with the result, though, there is a not-so-small part of me that wants to laugh at all the people (myself included) who dismissed the prospect of a Trump presidency.  In some ways I think that they/we were out of touch with the motivations of an apparently significant portion of the population.

I'm also laughing at the electoral college system, where the election of the president only seems to really depend on a small fraction of the states.  Based on the latest data, it looks like Clinton will win the popular vote by a small margin but lose the electoral vote fairly handily.  I'm not sure what to think about that, but something doesn't seem right.  Regardless, the system is the system, and the rules were all known going in.

It should be obvious that I don't understand why so many people support Trump.  I am genuinely curious to find out why, though.  How much has to do with party lines?  How much of a factor is a growing distaste for political correctness and/or a desire to shake up the political system that doesn't seem to be working?  How much is an anti-globalization reaction?  How much is a reaction to radical Islam and/or the Middle East refugee crisis?  How much does racism play in this?  How much does gender and sexism play?  How much is related to an opponent with flaws of her own?  How much relates to Trump's actual policy stances?

I'm also left wondering what the impact of a Trump presidency can actually be, though some might argue it is more a symptom of underlying problems than a cause for future ones.  Can he really screw things up that badly, or is there a system in place that will prevent that from happeningOn the other hand, is it possible that Trump can actually be a good president?  Is there some good that can come out of all this for our society as a whole?

Despite my anguish, I must admit that it is certainly more interesting to live through such remarkable events than not. 

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