The Progressive Response: Grief, and Tears


I wasn’t surprised by the election results. They’re still incomplete, and Biden may yet win, but regardless of the final tally half the country turned out to make clear just what they are. Just what we are.

The thing that did take me aback a bit was the reactions of my friends. Sure, there was some outrage, as you’d expect. But the dominant response of the day was … heartbreak. Disbelief. Sadness.

If you wanted, you could attribute 2016 to ignorance. But 2020? Nobody is blind to what the GOP is anymore. This was a calculated assertion of spite.

This was a sock full of wet sand to the face for too many of the very best people I know, and throughout the day a number of folks weighed in, trying to articulate their heartache.

The best take I saw was a Facebook lament from my friend Dr. Wendy Worrall Redal. With her permission I’d like to share it here:

You’ve got enough pundits to process this election with whose words are more incisive and eloquent than mine. But I work through things in writing, and I need to say this. It’s long. And if you want to read, and converse, great. Just keep it civil.

I went to bed at 2 AM figuring it was over, despite reminders about all the ballots that remained to be counted. I woke up finding it still within reach for Biden. But I am shattered regardless. I had seen enough to make me feel the most profound despair for this country I have ever felt.

A friend posted these words this morning that captured that sorrow: “My heart isn’t broken because last night proved I was wrong about America. It’s broken because I was right.”

I never expected a landslide. But I thought we might see a pushback strong enough to hear a national voice saying, “No, this is not who we are. We do not support the values and vitriol that this man has tried to make the face of our nation for the last four years. We may have varied views on policy, but we won’t ultimately stand for this kind of person in our White House.”

I held out hope that maybe we would come to our senses. But it was naïve and ill-founded.

Four years ago, Trump was a wild card. There were plenty of voters who were fed up with “the system,” who detested Hillary Clinton, who were willing to take a chance on someone way outside the norm. This time around, however, those who voted for Trump knew exactly what they were getting.

To vote for Trump this time is to align yourself with what he says and stands for. No machinations of logic will undermine that conclusion, nor disclaimers that “I don’t care for his personality but I like his policies.” What is so painful for me personally is that I love and care about many Trump voters among friends and family. But I don’t feel like I know them anymore. 

If you voted for Trump, you voted to elevate white nationalists, those “very good people on both sides” in Charlottesville, and to turn your back on legitimate cries for racial justice in our country. You offered no solace, no path to reconciliation. You voted to perpetuate misogyny by aligning with a person who regards women as objects to be used for personal pleasure and abuses them as such. You voted to tear kids from their parents’ arms at our borders, and tell desperate people to go back to their shithole countries while we build a “big, beautiful wall” to keep them out and shut out their cries. You voted to continue the destruction of our earth — to keep heating its atmosphere, removing regulations that control pollution, cutting its irreplaceable old-growth forests, and refusing to do the hard work of making the transition to greener energy to save what we still can. You voted to maximize the fortunes of the extremely wealthy while further undercutting support nets for the poorest Americans while the middle class struggles. You voted to reduce access to healthcare for all Americans. You voted to let the coronavirus rage, because you think your personal freedoms matter more than our shared welfare. You voted to support the presence of armed “militias” in our streets and public places, and to provoke them into plots to kidnap elected leaders. You voted to affirm a leader who bullies, who demeans and who divides. Your candidate hasn’t got a compassionate bone in his body, nor the ability to feel or express empathy, and if you support him, then you are likewise showing none.

To know that almost half our country has avidly chosen to align with these values makes me ache. I know quite a few reasoned conservatives with a moral compass who said they simply could not do so. By supporting a centrist like Biden, however lukewarmly, they voted for a course correction for our country.

But SO MANY did not. There are many “silent Republicans” out there—plenty I know personally, I’m sure—who never speak publicly about politics, who never shared their views on Trump yet who voted for him in private. And I think that is cowardly, especially for those who call themselves Christians. You cannot separate yourself from this uniquely appalling man you have chosen to support. We are now stuck inside these borders together, and I don’t know how we will move forward in any productive way, no matter who this election is ultimately called for.

But I do know that the values of Trump voters are not my values. And I will continue to stand up for the values of Jesus, remembering his admonition in Matthew 25:45, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did not do for me.”


  • The term that kept rolling around in my mind was repudiation. I knew the “blue wave” fantasies were just that. But I was hoping that the reading of the results would be clear. And the popular vote might yet be (that’s a discussionfor another day). But I’m disheartened that Trump has received MORE votes than in 2016. That I do not get.

    • I’m disappointed, but not even a little surprised. We’re what we have always been – the only difference is that now people are admitting it out loud.

  • A few thoughts here.

    To thejadedadguy, “But I’m disheartened that Trump has received MORE votes than in 2016. That I do not get.” A lot more people voted this year. Percentage is what you should be looking at. I haven’t looked, so that might be just as disheartening.

    As a lifelong Republican, I had a weird dissonance Tuesday night to not be rooting for the Republican candidate. I work with a couple other guys in their late 50s-early 60s who are also lifelong Republicans who said they could not vote for Trump. So, some of us see his flaws.

    And what your friend said, “… I don’t know how we will move forward in any productive way, no matter who this election is ultimately called for.” is very discouraging. We need people who are willing to move forward and not react in such a way that people on the other side feel the need to pull back stronger into their corner.

    Very popular Evangelical preacher John Piper wrote a post about how character matters as much as polices. He was speaking specifically to those who vote only for pro-life candidates, no matter what else that candidate does or says. It’s a really good piece, but I don’t know how many read it or agreed with it.

    There are still enough people who think Democrats are closeted communists and anti-christs so any Republican is better than any Democrat, even if they don’t like him.

    And of course, you have those who think his policies have been great, they want a wall, they think the media portrays him as a racist, not that he is (you will say they are racist, but not all are, my Mom is not racist at all), that freedoms matter more than public health, and they like someone who speaks his mind. I don’t get it, but that is how some people are.

  • Mark Galli, former editor of Christianity Today just said in his newsletter, and he says it better than I can about continuing to work together:

    “Some of us were hoping for a landslide, which would repudiate President Trump and his handling of his office, and therefore repudiate all who support him. When I saw that the election was going to be close—razor thin close—I said to my wife, “It’s troubling that so many Americans voted for him. What does that say about our country?”

    Can you see what is happening here? I’m assuming that those who support Trump are stupid, clueless, or driven by unworthy motives. Knowing human nature as I do (personally), no doubt some Trump supporters are such. But so are some Democrats. And socialists. And so am I sometimes. The instinct to merely look with bewilderment at those with whom we have political disagreements—well, that’s both a political and character issue. It suggests that such people aren’t worth thinking about seriously, and the only solution is their political marginalization. Thus my desire that Trump be pulverized in this election–that’ll teach them! Then I wouldn’t have to think about them anymore.

    …But there are thoughtful, sane, and reasonable people who, while agreeing that Trump has serious character flaws and incompetencies, nonetheless thought the good he does outweighs the bad. They constitute nearly half of America. I cannot write them off.”

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