The Presidential Election: a eulogy for decency?

I’ve read the coverage of Trump’s “win” with interest. I could take many roads: the plethora of even more disgusting information about him that’s come out post-election and why the %#*)!! is the media just publishing it now?. Hasn’t Meghan Kelly ever heard the phrase “too little too late”? The NYT is just now exploring Guiliani’s financial interests?

My own personal take runs a little bit deeper: what we’re seeing is not the disease, but the symptom

Despite Clinton’s continued insistence that Trump’s rhetoric of hate and divisiveness does not reflect who we are as a people, the fact is that his election may very well be all too indicative of who we are: that we were inured to not just racism, but greed, graft, vindictiveness and dishonesty long before the man threw his hat in the ring. He may very well be the culmination of something that has been brewing in our culture for a long time.

I look around just my little corner of the world, and I see mini-Trumps populating the landscape. I look in the news, and see plenty of people in authority self-dealing and abusing the very people they are sworn to protect. Trump is nothing new; in fact, he’s not even the bottom of the barrel.

Pennsylvania AG goes to prisonJudges over-sentence children to a private institution for kickbacks. Colleges ignoring or retaliating against student rape survivors. Of course, my personal favorite social services social workers, betraying children’s privacy, harassing private citizens with false allegations (personal favorite of the personal favorites), or indirectly killing children (of course, they’ll always be welcome in our state where social workers are loved and embraced despite the body count.)

Even with all of this, I have to admit, though, I didn’t see it coming. It’s understandable: I’m not a pollster, a statistician or political analyst. If they all didn’t see it heading straight for us like an out-of-control locomotive barreling down the tracks to which we were helplessly tied, why should I?

Yet, in hindsight, it all makes sense to me now. It even seems inevitable. Unlike many of the news analysts, pollsters and academics, I have a ground-level, first hand view of exactly the kind of social b.s. that probably helped this happen.

A little biography may help show how it suddenly hit me, in a very personal way, how inevitable this all may have been. For the past two years, I have been struggling to bring accountability and investigation to my family’s tragic encounter with a cluster of individuals in state government whose conduct was, to say the least, unethical. Many have called it cruel (and it was). Some officials may find one day, if we have our way, that these people acted illegally. These women destroyed lives for no greater purpose than their own professional advancement or concealment of misconduct, or to enact their own inner rage and frustration without consequence on helpless victims, including children. In the most tragic of ironies, their conduct resembled that which so many have condemned in Trump.

I wish this had been an isolated situation, or we had been an isolated case. It hadn’t. Barely covered news stories and statistics show other families have similar problems. As far as aggressive graft, self-dealing and general lousy behavior: I’d seen it in schools, caregiving organizations, on the news, social grounds, facebook pages and online forums. Everybody seems to be at everybody’s throats these days.

If we don’t stop this kind of thing at the ground level, of course it’s going to escalate until we find that same kind of behavior ensconced in the Oval Office.

nipitinthebudThe worst part is: no one is doing anything. Narrative form dictates I raise this point at the end, but it’s too important to wait. If we don’t stop this kind of thing at the ground level, of course it’s going to escalate until we find that same kind of behavior ensconced in the Oval Office. Though paraphrasing Barny Fife will force me to grind my teeth into migraines nightly for the next eight weeks, quote him I will:
we need to nip this shit in the bud.

But we don’t. Try reporting just one instance of misconduct by a school official. I did. There aren’t even crickets.

I’d contacted one of our state representatives, a well-known state politician who has been quite vocal in criticizing Trump. Ironically, much of the behavior for which Trump is so reviled is the same behavior we encountered ourselves: threats, groundless damage to our reputation, verbally abusive conduct, physical intimidation, abuse of power for personal gain or vendettas. And that was on their good days.

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I don’t live in PA, but my state is just as bad … wait, lemme check … no, worse.

Yet, this representative’s staff — along with several so-called “oversight” agencies — has passed the buck, ducked phone calls, done nothing, given excuses and generally swept the problem under the rug.

Am I paranoid? Or maybe I just don’t have a case and don’t know it. Well, a recent study by Johns Hopkins University suggests that instead, I might be on to something. And if it weren’t for Jeff Guo at the Washington Post, I’d be stuck in the quicksand of self-doubt myself.

Image result for what washington gets wrong bookIn summarizing a new book by Jennifer Bachner and Benjamin Ginsberg of Johns Hopkins University, my experience is pretty typical, and the dismissiveness I perceived is very real:

Bachner and Ginsberg argue that Washington’s bureaucrats have grown too dismissive of the people they are supposed to serve.

Bachner and Ginsberg recently sent around an informal survey to selected members of this technocratic class, and the results, they say, were shocking.“Many civil servants expressed utter contempt for the citizens they served,” they write in their book, “What Washington Gets Wrong.” “Further, we found a wide gulf between the life experiences of ordinary Americans and the denizens of official Washington. We were left deeply worried about the health and future of popular government in the United States.”

So how am I to believe it when the so-called “liberal” politician claiming the moral high ground takes the podium and passionately swears to stand up to the “bully” in the highest office in the nation, if this same politician’s own staff can’t stand up to a few bureaucratic bullies in a regional office at the state and local level?

It starts to look like grandstanding. It starts to look like marketing, or (ahem), campaigning.

Adding insult to injury, I voted for this person. I supported this person publicly.

Yet, when push came to shove …

So, for the past week, I’ve been driving around asking myself if that’s how many of the “rust belt” voters must have felt.  To take it a step further, every time some news anchor or political analyst talks about how “these people” must have felt left out, etc., I start to ask myself if maybe they were.

News articles and opinion pieces abound now (CNN summaries several theories here),  all falling over themselves trying to explain what it was that “the experts” didn’t see. Well, I think they didn’t see what a lot of other liberals (including me) didn’t see: us. White people who, for whatever reason, face discrimination (age or socio-economic background, gender) or injustice. White people who still suffer economic hardships may feel excluded from narratives for equality and recovery, even though severe intra-racial hierarchies of division-by-prejudice exist by class, region, education. One can argue the legitimacy or fairness of those feelings, given the history of white privilege and tremendous racial exploitation in this country. However, many voters acted on those feelings and here we are post-election, faced with this reality created out of those very feelings..

In our personal efforts for justice, we’ve reached out several news agencies to cover our story. While we definitely want to rectify our situation, we want to bring attention to the legal loopholes and unregulated authority that has led to this problem for us and other families. We want reform so no family goes through this again. Not a single reporter has agreed to cover our story. One reporter from a very liberal, erudite public news outlet was actually insulting and condescending. Interestingly, her position seemed to me to be driven by sentimental myths and emotion, not facts. Another has simply ignored me altogether, not offering me the courtesy of returning my calls.

For all the explanations of why people who weren’t expected to vote for Trump did, maybe that extreme act was the only way they would be seen and heard, and they knew it.

I’ve lived the very dismissive elitism these folks were protesting. In fact, I’ve lived both sides of it. I’m a woman from the Deep South living in New England. For all of my liberal arts education and accomplishments, there are a bevy of unspoken assumptions and stereotypes about me that come into play any time I open my mouth, some of it very overt. One of the very government employees with whom we worked clearly operated on decades-old stereotypes about people from my “Red State.”

The thing is, I never tied it into how others may have felt in other parts of the country at the voting booth. The irony is, of course, how opposed to Trump I was. When I look at the news media now, and examine the reaction to how some states “flipped,” I can see the dismissive prejudices and stereotypes about certain white “demographics” camouflage by the passionate criticisms of prejudices assumed to be held by such people.

And thus, liberal media, and progressives may have created their own problem: looking down upon any group, even so-called “Blue Collar” workers, etc., as inferior will not endear them to your cause. Not giving them a narrative where they can feel engaged and recognized, where their unique problems are addressed, well, that won’t earn you any brownie points, or votes, either. Just sayin’.

So, I scan news articles and opinion pieces explaining the surprising “rural vote” with a new sense of … empathy. No, identification. I’ve been dismissed by the very political bloc of which I was an enthusiastic member. I’ve been derided by the press’s elitist stereotypes of my “demographic,” which amounts to little more than its own form of bigotry. I’ve been rendered helpless, powerless and voiceless by the bureaucratic machinery in my “Blue State” which so vehemently criticizes a newly-elected leader whose behavior so closely aligns with the bullying, aggression, deceit, graft and disregard I’ve seen by state and local officials. I have been, as many analysts theorize the “rural voter” was, forgotten and left behind.

So, the question in my mind becomes: why should we be surprised that a person of this caliber reached such a high office when people with the authority to do so have done nothing about the same problems at a much more manageable local and state level, or when we as private citizens engage in that behavior, or look the other way silently when others do?

And when I see all of this, I have only one response: of course Trump won. Of course he did.