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.”