The Saturday before the election I was on the phone with a Republican. I knew her well, knew that she absolutely abhorred the hateful rhetoric coming from Donald Trump. I knew she couldn’t possibly vote for him. And then I found out that I was wrong, on the last part at least. She was struggling to make up her mind because, while she was absolutely opposed to Donald Trump as a person, she decided that his politics matched hers better than Hillary Clinton’s did. And that might have been enough to get past everything else. I fought that notion, and the more I fought the more I came to understand that she was going to vote for Trump. She was going to vote for him because he had an R next to his name, and there was nothing I could do about it.
I knew, when I got off the phone, that Hillary Clinton was going to lose. I didn’t believe it, but I knew it. All of the little things were already lined up against her—Wikileaks, Comey, “Poll Watchers,” complacency, thirty years of propaganda, the Bernie-or-Bust crowd, third-party candidates (and voters), the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, Crosscheck, media false equivalence—if run-of-the-mill Republicans, people who didn’t explicitly subscribe to the fear and hate of the Trump campaign, were going to let partisan inertia carry their votes then it was simply over. There was nothing to be done.
When things started to look bad for Hillary Clinton, around the Second Comey Incident and maybe a little before, I started fighting. I tried to fight back against all the little things the Republican Hate machine was using to chip away at Hillary Clinton’s support: emails in particular, because I worked in Federal IT for eight years and had a genuine insider’s understanding that that story was a joke from the beginning. I didn’t convince anyone of much. All that fighting probably screwed up a few of my relationships—it certainly lost me Facebook friends and Twitter followers—and the outcome I fought for never came. The Republican hate machine was built to destroy, and it is very good at it.
The truth is, the Democrats tried to run a traditional campaign. They put together a platform and a series of attacks on the opposition like they normally do, and they went all of the places they normally go. The Republicans, lacking a candidate, a platform, and a ground operation with any semblance of coherence, tried something different: driving the numbers down instead of up. There was simply no effective counter in place for all the different strategies they used to keep people home. They knew they had 60 million votes, and that they couldn’t make that number increase, so they chipped away at the other number instead. In the end, they didn’t even need to drive it down below theirs to win, they just needed to keep people home in three states.
Hillary Clinton was abandoned by vast swaths of the Democratic base, for many reasons, and she still won the popular vote by over 1,200,000 as of this writing. They started trying to tear her down twenty-five years ago, and she still got more votes than any Presidential candidate other than Barack Obama ever has. This country has handed all three branches of government over to a man who has literally promised an Orwellian police state, but we can cling to the result of the popular vote for hope. Everything that could have gone wrong did, and there were still more of us than there were of them. With the Republican Hate Machine ascendant we thought criminals have work to do.
After the election, I wanted to write all the things about this loss. I wanted to go point by point, through all the reasons I think Hillary Clinton lost, and explain why none of them will happen again. I wanted to write sweeping, nebulous declarations about “fighting” against the new administration. It took me a week to get to the point where I had anything coherent enough that it felt like it was worth saying.
Here it is: the Republicans just had their game changing, once-in-a-lifetime candidate, who was supposed to bring out all of the disaffected, disenfranchised people, and he got fewer votes than Mitt Romney. He barely beat John McCain. He couldn’t inspire more people than George W. Bush did in 2004, when there were 30 million fewer people in the country. Republicans have lost the National Popular Vote six out of the last seven times. The only time they won they needed 9/11 to do it. They have a ceiling.
Meanwhile, we were uninspired and divided, we stayed home or were dropped from the voter rolls entirely, and we still won. Now we’re inspired, working on uniting, and we’re angry. Remember how mad Republicans were when Obama won? There are a hell of a lot more of us today, and we’re actually right. We’re going to dominate the midterm elections, because we’re going to stay angry. 2020 is going to be a landslide for us, because we’re still going to be angry, we’re going to be inspired, and there are going to be even more of us. And they’re going to stay home, because they’re going to be disappointed as all hell.
I guess that’s all I’ve got. Make sure you stay mad. Make sure you keep paying attention. Donald Trump has given every indication, so far, that he’s terrified of the job he just won. Keep him terrified. Keep protesting, keep demanding the Electoral College be abolished, keep registering new voters and fighting for progressive candidates. Become progressive candidates, if you’ve got it in you. Call your existing representatives, your Senators, your party chairs. Be loud and be omnipresent. Show them what a real majority looks like, and watch them run and hide. Show them what really trumps hate. 62,522,062 people and counting.