Tuesday nights are long and stressful for Progress editors. We come in and string a paper together, then straggle in the next morning to finalize edits and send it off to the printer. It’s a cycle I was sucked into three years ago, and I’ve succumbed to its will.
But this Tuesday was different. I couldn’t write, edit or barely read, let alone hone in on a single thought. A grotesque, perverse monster had a firm clutch on my mind, prying my eyes open to keep focused on election night.
I hate politics. I hate what it does to people and I hate that the best our political system could come up with is a loose cannon pervert and a tracks-covering career politician. I also hate that no matter what these two do, no matter what lines they cross or laws they break, no one cares and no one will change their mind.
In August of 2015 I wrote in a column, “Donald Trump came right out of left field with his campaign announcement, solidifying the saying ‘nothing is impossible.’” Over a year later, I never thought I’d see him beat out a field of (somewhat) perfectly qualified Republican candidates. Not once had I taken his campaign seriously, no matter how far he got, and I spent my time wondering what’s happened to the Republican party.
That ignorance kicked me square in the nuts election night, and it left my stomach tightened and ass clenched.
When I saw Trump leading by 60 electoral votes in the heat of the night, and then only down by 10 after Clinton won California, I took Trump seriously for the first time. I genuinely considered a country under his leadership, and I was genuinely scared. I’m not Hillary’s number one fan, or even a supporter, but I trust a leader with legitimate, tested experience–no matter how controversial–over a fear-mongering, answerless child.
Regardless of my views, I started preparing myself for a life under Trump. But it started scaring me shitless and I needed air. I knew there was a viewing party going on in Middle Powell, so I grabbed a laptop and camera and shuffled through the rain to watch how others were taking it.
The crowd was smaller than I anticipated, but they were real, average people, and needed a different perspective than my like-minded editors. I sat down at a table near a huddled group watching FOX News, and then looked up to see Trump up 238-209 over Clinton.
I sat in awe, thinking about what could have been streaking through Hillary’s mind. She had to be as clenched as I was. Was Bill trying to stop her from destroying everything in her path? Was she drinking heavily to ease the tension? Had she even written a concession speech? I thought of her glass ceiling at her headquarters, and how it was about to come crashing down over her and everyone in the building.
When Trump reached 238, FOX switched the camera to the thousands of raging “deplorables” (as Clinton would call them) waving their bright red hats and going apeshit, and I realized everything I thought I knew about Trump and his disciples was way off course. For months I held the theory that Trump’s support was vastly smaller than the media played it out to be–
My thoughts were broken by FOX blaring that Trump was at 254.
The Trump support is so loud, so furious, that I thought the whole time it equated to a pissed-off small group at the First Church of Trump, and that the electoral votes would finally show the true substance of this election. With each new vote being reported, Trump was becoming less of a trigger word and more the face of America.
He was grabbing us all by the you-know-what, and like the countless uncomfortable women who had crossed his path, there was nothing we could do.
I looked up again to see I was the only person left in Middle Powell, save for a janitor sweeping up popcorn off the carpet. The clock read midnight, and I gathered my electronics and shuffled back out in the rain.
But I couldn’t bring myself to go back to the Progress office. There were too many thoughts railing through my skull to face other humans, so I found a damp picnic table and huddled in my jacket over the computer.
I hopped over to CNN to see how similar their coverage was, and it still had Trump with a considerable lead. The stream was focused on the Clinton headquarters, and I’d never seen a more heartless group of sulkers. The room was quiet and deadfaced. Some hung their head in their hands and others shook their heads watching the results come in.
The numbers were tight across the remaining states, with Trump leading in nearly all of them. Hell, Clinton was tied early at 21.5 percent with third party candidate Evan McMullin in Utah. Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin were all razor thin margins and way too close to call.
At this point, I started to question my own sanity. Was everything I thought I knew wrong? Were my values all completely out of whack? Could Trump really make sense?
Was I the deplorable one?
I hold a constant belief that something’s about to go horribly wrong, and that feeling was strangling my lungs. The bitter cold and rain didn’t help, so I rushed back over to the office to warm up and try to keep up with reality. The editors were all gone, assumingly curled away in bed dreading the future. I plopped on the couch, and finally said it to myself.
“Donald J. Trump is going to win the election.”
At this point, all I could do was wait. No point in speculation now–it was all happening before my still-peeled eyes. But I knew, Trump knew, and even Clinton knew as she sent her supporters home and didn’t stay to make a speech before all the votes were in.
Then the announcement came that Hillary had called Trump to concede, and it was all over.
And now, I have to figure out how to live in Trump’s America, and how I ended up so wrong.