It was quite a night last night. My day started early, as it often does, with the added rush of trying to get my husband and I out to vote before 8 a.m. I went to our polling place first with our 9-year-old, and we stood in line 25 minutes. He was bored (at one point figuring out how many days he had been alive on my iPhone calculator) but interested in the whole process.
In retrospect, of course, one sees all the signs missed. In this case, literal signs. Those home made Trump signs I saw decking yards in northern Pennsylvania spoke of fervor that was far more widespread than all the professionals imagined. The comment threads over at Free Republic (where I sometimes lurk, just as I lurk on NY Times comment threads – I try to understand all angles) spoke of massive rallies of people excited by the idea of “draining the Washington swamp,” and “making America great again.”
And as for the polls — I was getting called daily in a swing county in a swing state. I never picked up. Maybe many other people of various persuasions did not either. And so the polls of polls that showed Sec. Clinton up by about 3 percentage points nationwide, and more crucially in swing states, were just wrong. It was something to see, last night, the Upshot calculator at the NY Times swing in a matter of hours from Trump having a mere 20% chance of winning to certainty.
I suspect a lack of skepticism about the polls stemmed from the belief, in some quarters, that a Trump victory was impossible. One of the most pointed moments last night for me came in watching my Twitter feed. I follow people from all over the political landscape. Some of the more liberal sorts I follow were tweeting things such as “Who are these people???” As my friend Mollie Hemingway (she’s on the more conservative side of things) tweeted, she had recently been to a dinner party in DC where people claimed they didn’t know anyone who was voting for Trump. Likewise, when I went to the Ideas 42 Behavioral Summit in NY a few weeks ago, Nate Silver and Dan Pink discussed the election from the perspective that everyone in the room shared that perspective (Silver did point out that, statistically, there would be a Trump supporter in the room, but I don’t think anyone owned up to it.)
It is increasingly easy in this country to live in a bubble. Like-minded people live near each other, work together, join the same groups, marry each other. This goes both directions, but the more elite aspects of our society will always find it easier to wall themselves off. In retrospect, perhaps a telling moment in this campaign was when Anna Wintour’s Vogue endorsed Hillary Clinton. I cannot imagine someone in those neighborhoods in northern PA being influenced by the opinion of someone whose livelihood involves telling people which $3000 sequined jacket is “in” this season. I can imagine people being enraged enough by the whole concept that it would nudge them farther toward the Trump category (even if, in great irony, the women in his life wear some gorgeous Vogue-approved clothes!).
For what it’s worth, I’m a registered Republican, but did not vote for our new president in either the primary or the general election (I wrote in a candidate for the first time). I went in and out of sleep a lot last night, partially due to the election, but also because I’ve got a cold and the baby is not sleeping well at all. My husband got up with him at 4, and then came to tell me at 4:30 that Trump had won. We switched over at 6:20 or so, and then got ourselves to our daughter’s parent-teacher conference at 8:15. My 5-year-old desperately wanted there to be a girl president, and she was in tears this morning about it. I told her there would be one soon. In 30 years it could be her! Her teachers told us she was quite the leader, graciously helping the younger children in their multi-age classroom.
I watched Trump’s victory speech this morning and it was gracious in a way that was incredibly welcome. Some aspects of the campaign have been decidedly non-gracious and ugly, which is why there was some complete terror on social media last night. Yet in governing and in daily life, wild assertions often give way to eking out what is possible. There is a huge and important ideological split in the Republican party right now. I don’t know if it looks that way outside of it, but there is much to be argued out. I hope the president will surround himself with wise people and if he can figure out a way to help the country grow swiftly, that would be a good thing. I don’t know if demographics and economic realities make it possible, but perhaps it is. We can hope.
Note: I know the election has inspired strong feelings. If you’d like to leave a comment here, please keep it civil. If you want to email me anything you don’t want to post in a public place, you can email me at lvanderkam at yahoo dot com.