It’s almost over. That’s what I keep telling myself. This awful election will take place on November 8, and after that—assuming Clinton wins, which is an outrageously bold assumption even now—we’ll be able to put all this behind us and return these outsized feelings of fear and loathing, misogyny and racism, this bleak unhappiness and seething self-righteousness to the black box of our national soul from whence it came. Soon we’ll vanquish the monster, collect the prize, and go home, and everything will be okay again.
Or am I doing what we on the left have been accused of doing for years: outmaneuvering and out-thinking our opponents and then leaving them behind. If I’m a white person in an all-white town, and my children have left in search of the jobs that left before them, and if my hero has been defeated and my Trump-Pence yard signs, tee-shirts and MAGA hats have been rendered obsolete, what’s to become of the hamburger this rage has made of my heart? How can I forgive the rest of the country for being right about this con man? How am I going to get on with my life when the only powerful person I trust is revealed to be the biggest, sleaziest liar of them all?
The easy answer—easy for me, because of the racial mix in my childhood environment and because of my gender and the fact that I was raised by a pair of atheists and have a gay son—is to say, “Fuck them and the pickup truck they rolled in on.” It’s easy to hate the people who hate the people you love. It’s easy to claim the moral high ground when your Trumpian counterpart is wearing a tee-shirt that screams, SHE’S A CUNT. VOTE FOR TRUMP. It’s not exactly a stretch to be outraged by crowds who can be whipped into a frenzy by scattershot hate and fear-based white nationalism, whose howls of “Lock her up!” can be instigated by the kind of trolling misogynist who’d buy a beauty contest for, apparently, the right to stroll into a dressing room with a bunch of teenage girls as if touring a garage full of sports cars before deciding which one to take for a spin. It’s easy to loathe a guy like that. Easy to despise the people who are trying to elect him. The message and the messenger are deplorable and it’s not a hard sell when the takeaway from my camp is, “Deplore them all.”
But I saw this picture the other day of some Trump supporters at a rally. I’m not sure of the actual context. Maybe they were praying, or had simply grown tired of waiting, their signs dangling half-mast at their sides or propped against their legs, their heads bowed as if by exhaustion, their faces creased atop a sea of brightly hateful tee-shirts seeming already anachronistic and sad. And for a moment I had a flash of sympathy, a flicker of warmth. For one moment I felt the numbness retreat from my heart and I thought, My god, how can I help you? How can I heal you? How can I heal myself?
I have no answers. My tiny epiphany came and went, though the memory of it is enough to sustain me for now. I still hope we win by a landslide. I believe in our platform and the policies we’ve laid out, and I hope we’ll get some things accomplished for the greater good. But part of me also hopes that, before we do anything else, we put some of those clean energy jobs into the red-state communities that need them. I hope we raise the minimum wage, reform the healthcare system, and put people to work building the kind of bridges that might someday become a metaphor for Clinton 2.0. I hope our girl gets into office and shows who she’s been all along: a flawed human being like the rest of us, a badass, a do-gooder, a policy wonk in a pantsuit who really wants to make things right.
I’m with her. I’m with all of us.