Thursday, November 17, 2022

Healing From the 2016 Trauma


Over the last few years I've spent a lot of time reflecting on the fact that, in the weeks before the 2016 election, I assured my friends, "Don't worry. The same country that just elected Obama twice will never elect Donald Trump." Putting aside the fact that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, I was completely and totally wrong.

The fact that so many Americans would vote for a narcissistic lying con man who spewed nothing but hate rocked my world. Perhaps it is overkill to call it trauma. But it shook me to my core and became the lens through which I viewed the next six years. This once optimistic, hopeful person became deeply cynical about the future of this country. I became dour and frightened.

While some of those reactions are still warranted, I feel like the 2022 election helped me turn the corner. For just one example, voters in Arizona not only rejected the narcissistic lying con woman Kari Lake. They also passed a referendum allowing undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition at local colleges and universities. One of the real border states didn't buy into the GOP's fear mongering about immigrants. 

Some of the healing I began to experience came with seeing Barack Obama on the campaign trail during the last days of this election. Take a look at what he said about Tudor Dixon, the Republican running against Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

He did something similar while talking about Herschel Walker in Georgia.
That is vintage Obama. I was reminded of "Romnesia" in the final days of the 2012 election.

 

Less noticed was what he did to Sharon Angle in the 2010 election.

   

Watching Obama in those last few days before the 2022 election reminded me how I'd lost the ability to point and laugh at GOP absurdities. Trump's presidency made these extremists more scary than ridiculous. Obama had me laughing again.

As the results of the midterms started coming in, it also became clear that, under the leadership of Donald Trump, Republicans have lost the last three elections. Sure...they weren't all resounding defeats. But we're not likely to see any of those in the foreseeable future. Instead, we're in a period where small, incremental steps are the most likely pathway to change. 

Let me be clear: the threat to our democracy is still alive and well. The fear of that is not gone. But I'm not going to let the trauma of 2016 color my vision going forward. To paraphrase Cory Booker, "I'm done with letting these extremists steal my joy."

1 comment:

  1. I also became very cynical and angry after the 2016 election. It was a shock to have Trump as president but even more shocking at how far the authoritarian rabbit hole he dragged the country and ultimately how very close we came to a quasi-fascistic post democracy. Not that we're out of the woods but like you this election has helped alleviate those thoughts some for me. There's always a roughly 28% of the country chomping at the bit to give up democracy for authoritarianism. Maybe we'll shift to a more moderate political climate but I no longer feel secure that it will last. I can imagine a craven fevered ego right wing populist with enough intelligence in ways Trump was not, taking this country over the line. It's very difficult to know how to think about possible futures that are anything but challenging but maybe that's more honest than the denialism of neoliberal/conservative politics of the post war era.

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