Admit it. Like me, you never really believed it was possible, America would come to its senses sooner or later and do the right thing once it was actually time to vote.
Ok sure, many of us told ourselves, maybe Hillary Clinton isn’t the perfect presidential candidate, but everyone knows that she has to be better than that racist bigot misogynist Donald Trump, right? America is a country with no shortage of flaws, but surely we’re not so completely screwed up that we’d elect a cartoon supervillain to the highest office in the land?
Apparently, not so much.
The problem is that we, as Americans and more specifically as progressives, have only ourselves to blame. Our first key mistake was allowing the DNC to choose our candidate for us. We didn’t make enough noise when Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign, was installed as the head of the DNC. The fix was in for Clinton from Day One and everyone knew it, but progressives barely objected at all.
Even then, we knew this election would be a battle of liberal and conservative ideologies but instead of insisting on a true progressive agent of real change like Bernie Sanders as our candidate, we allowed the DNC to manipulate the primary process to ensure that a centrist corporatist who ran on a platform of maintaining the status quo got the nomination instead.
Is it really any wonder that progressives failed to get excited about Clinton in the same way that Trump successfully fired up his base? Regardless of whether voters agreed with some or all of his policy positions, voters responded to Trump because he promised to shake things up, bring change and get stuff done, while all Hillary Clinton promised was basically more of the same. While Donald Trump was constantly and unflinchingly talking about big ideas that appealed to his base in front of the cameras, Hillary Clinton hid her light under a bushel, preferring instead to speak in slogans in the media while fleshing out the actual details of her policies on her campaign website. I mean seriously, did the Clinton campaign actually expect enough voters to take the time to go to her website and read all that stuff to make a real difference, especially when Trump was putting his positions out there and headlining news programs pretty much every day in the mainstream media? If so, then Clinton and her staff clearly weren’t enough in tune with how American voters get our information to run a successful presidential campaign. The internet is a wonderful tool, but it’s no replacement for a live television camera during a political campaign.
Donald Trump told his followers what they wanted to hear, bluntly and without qualification. While Clinton presented herself as a consummate politician and played by all of the traditional rules of politics, Trump did just the opposite, generating excitement about his candidacy and his policies precisely because he came across as a fearless loudmouth who was willing to give voice to what a large portion of the electorate was feeling. That’s why Trump won. Unlike Clinton, Trump gave his own base promises of real change to fight for and believe in, something Clinton proved herself unwilling to do.
Clinton certainly didn’t help herself with the selection of Tim Kaine as her running mate either. She chose an inoffensive milquetoast senator who stands for basically nothing interesting while Trump chose Mike Pence, a rabidly anti-LGBT culture warrior whom the far right of his base absolutely love.
Here’s the truth, whether we want to accept it or not: Clinton, of course, completely outclassed Trump in credible policy and administrative capability, but Trump played the mainstream media like a Stradivarius. What’s more, the media eagerly let him do it because he made for good copy and great ratings. By shooting his mouth off on a near-daily basis, Trump probably got almost as much airtime on MSNBC as he did on FOX. With FBI Director Jim Comey’s last-minute letters to Congress added to the mix, Trump won the media battle easily and in so doing, won the election.
You don’t need me to tell you that we’re heading into a rough time in this country as LGBT people, no matter what happens once Trump takes office. If, as some say to expect, Donald Trump manages to get himself impeached, Mike Pence will finish out his term, which for us is probably even worse. Trump is a racist misogynist bigot to be sure, but Mike Pence is a raging homophobe and transphobe who has made a successful political career of punishing LGBT people in every way he can.
Of course, we have to fight back. What we need to do now is figure out how.