As this new, unexpected era dawns in the nation and its capital, the presidency of Donald J. Trump has officially become a reality. But as his electoral victory became increasingly apparent on that fateful evening of November 8, 2016, it seemed anything but real.
Surreal is more like it. As if it was some sort of dream. Or nightmare.
Since that day, we have all shared countless stories of where we were that night, what we were doing, how we felt, how we prepared, how we celebrated. Or mourned.
Everyone has swapped stories about the unbridled confidence of the Clinton campaign early in the evening, and how it slowly drained away to the point of radio silence. The inside straight which Trump had to draw, and did. The rolling drama of successive Trump victories in Ohio, Florida, North Carolina and then, deep into the night, the Coup de gracè, Pennsylvania. How, incredibly, Wisconsin and Michigan became gravy.
This is one of those “I remember where I was when….” moments, so few of which occur in a lifetime. And why should it not be? This was a day that changed the world.
Rarely, if ever, have the two sides in a presidential election been more bitterly divided than in 2016. The hatred, distrust, and bitterness flowed like a raging river from each side toward the other. They disagreed on virtually every problem and every solution, and clung to diametrically opposed visions of what America was, is and should be.
But the two sides were in complete lockstep in one critical belief: the stakes were higher than ever, for whoever won would either preserve, protect and defend a disgraced system or blow up that same system. The result, both sides agreed, would be either agony or ecstasy, nothing in between.
And when the dawn broke on November 9, they came to the same conclusion: the world had changed overnight.
Suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye, the fundamental transformation of America had been stopped dead in its tracks, and with it, the seemingly permanent new fixtures of the culture: the prospect of a progressive Supreme Court for a generation or more, the political correctness, the government takeover of healthcare, the radical social agenda framed by Black Lives Matter and transgender bathrooms, the public affirmation of racism as the skunk at every garden party, the settled science of catastrophic climate change, the embrace of millions living illegally among us, the strategy of America leading the world from behind.
All out the window. Overnight.
The Trumpists were punch drunk, hardly believing what they had witnessed. They had dodged the kill shot. How could they possibly be this lucky? Only a couple of weeks ago, everyone said this guy would not only get trounced but would take the Republican party down with him. And now he drags House and Senate majorities across the finish line with him, and authors a total annihilation of everything they hate? Are you kidding? It was simply too good to be true.
Then, of course, there were the losers. There is the temptation to call this their worst nightmare, but it was even more disturbing than that. Because the thing about nightmares is that you do eventually wake up from them. Not this time.
The fundamental transformers became enraged, violent and instantly apocalyptic. Their world was ending. We all suddenly learned the meaning of the word “dystopian.” They blamed everything from fake news to racism to the FBI to election fraud to the Russians. Why wouldn’t they? It just could not be possible that America would actually elect this cretan. This fascist. This pig. And all because of these peasants, this properly labeled basket of deplorables who were responsible for this atrocity.
They had always considered such a defeat unthinkable, inconceivable, impossible. So we should hardly be surprised at their subsequent and persistent refusal to advance past the first of the five stages of grief – denial. The largely irreligious left actually has the same need of religion as the right in times of crisis. The difference is that their God is the government. Consider how you would feel if your deity was attacked, or worse, toppled.
The unprecedented post-election meltdown of the left has been well chronicled, but when it comes to the immediate aftershocks of this political earthquake, one need only consider the wake-up call by MSNBC’s grieving Rachel Maddow to her hard-left audience on November 9: “You’re awake by the way. You’re not having a terrible, terrible dream. Also, you’re not dead, and you haven’t gone to hell. This is your life now, this is our election now, this is us, this is our country – it’s real.”
We are all given to hyperbole at times, but to say the world changed on that fateful November day is no exaggeration. Just ask the Trumpists. Or the Clintonistas.