After the results of the election, I simply watched as the votes trickled in. I wasn’t particularly surprised with the outcome, though the potential impacts of the Donald Trump presidency wouldn’t be internalized until many days later. This was America’s choice for president and undoubtedly the end result of the political system in the United States.
At first, some responded by decrying the Electoral College as an outdated system, not representative of American democracy. Hillary Clinton’s winning of the popular vote, now by a margin greater than 1 million votes, provided a rallying call for those who believed that the democratic process failed along the way, fueling change.org petitions to have Clinton become POTUS.
I’m sorry America, stop signing your petitions and calling the election rigged on Facebook. Donald Trump is your shiny new turd, the prize you won on Decision Night 2016. You can denounce his politics and his Electoral College victory all you want, but Donald Trump is the legitimized outcome of American democracy.
How could that be? How could a misogynistic, racist, homophobic demagogue like Trump become president of the United States? Because the nature of the political system relies upon the votes of the 60 million Americans whose priorities either align with Trump or who are so insulated from his dangerous rhetoric that they can afford to ignore it. Because millions of white Americans either are unconcerned about the safety of people of color, queer individuals or undocumented immigrants, or are actively seeking to destroy, demonize and deport these populations. Because America is misogynistic, racist and homophobic, easily swayed by demagogues and by emotive appeals to nationalism, by sexual abusers and politicians, by rapists and frauds.
And this statement will clearly make some individuals uncomfortable. They cry out that there are millions of Americans furiously upset with the results of the election, with Trump and the new, hostile and dangerous climate. They shout in disgruntled protest that American democracy elected Barack Obama, the first Black president! American democracy fought for Hillary Clinton, the first female candidate in a presidential election nominated by a major party! American democracy espouses freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and is working to protect people of color, queers and marginalized populations!
While all of those things sound true, they don’t change material reality. This new hostility and danger created by Trump is actually only the overt bubbling-up of hate and violence that has existed in America since before transgender bathroom restrictions, before separate but equal, before U.S. military service members massacred 150 to 300 Americans at Wounded Knee, before Americans owned, traded in and killed other Americans for profit.
Obama was the first Black president, but his administration deported more than 2.5 million undocumented individuals, more than any other president in American history, earning him the moniker of Deporter in Chief. Obama approved relentless drone strikes on civilian populations, inciting hatred and condemnation across the Middle East and across Muslim communities.
Clinton stood in 2008 and said that marriage was between a man and woman, and though she was widely praised for having same-sex couples in her announcement for her bid for president, these queer individuals served only to politically pander — to convince that somehow, Clinton does not represent the same political establishment that demonizes, criminalizes and trivializes queer individuals through its legislation, the same establishment that only commodifies and uses queerness as a political tool to increase its constituency and get votes.
Many postelection thoughts, especially by my more privileged or white peers, reflect attitudes of unity in the political process. They want more inclusion in the political process, accounting for more disgruntled or unrepresented voices, obviously not of more marginalized people-of-color communities, such as indigenous groups; not of the millions of former felons who are disenfranchised; not of more transgender individuals; not of more differently abled individuals — but of white Americans. They advocate not to leave behind the millions of working-class Americans who feel as though Trump is an empowering figure who best represents their political interests in order to reunite our country and prevent any further division.
Regardless of how much rural white Americans feel disenfranchised by the political system, by the Grand Ol’ Party, by their elected representatives, their votes for Trump still make them responsible for the legitimization of white nationalism and the alt-right, for the emboldening of white supremacy and openly racist and violent groups, for the dehumanization and invisibilization of minority populations and marginalized groups. And unfortunately, this is America, and this is who American democracy caters to. Their unabashed racism and xenophobia do not make them any less American than any Clinton supporter or Bernie Bro. Their xenophobia and misogyny does not strip away their American citizenship or their proud white heritage tracing their family back to Minutemen revolutionaries and slave-owning plantation owners.
American democracy is the vehicle, the catalyst by which voices such as Mike Pence, Rudy Giuliani, David Duke and the KKK, Stephen Bannon and Breitbart, and Donald Trump become the gatekeepers of rhetoric and politics in the United States.
The reality is that American democracy has never truly represented or protected people of color, indigenous groups, queer individuals or plenty of other marginalized groups in society. These groups are included when convenient and are sidelined when not. They are included when they vote for Clinton, when they vote blue or lean left. They’re sidelined when they protest too disruptively, when they prioritize their safety over white money, material protections over ideological consensus.
If American democracy doesn’t represent me, doesn’t protect me and uses me only as political capital to win votes, then why should I protect it? I’m not sure what a better alternative should be, but at least I can start by saying that what we have now has never failed me so spectacularly as it did in 2016.
J Jung writes the Wednesday blog on genderqueerness and transitioning. Contact her at [email protected]