My habit, after each election, is to think about those categories of "winners and losers" - it goes along with thinking post mortem thoughts about what my side did good and bad, and the other side, too.
And then, this... thing... happened.
So, I'm a little late to the winner and loser phase. And still, it feels a little soon for the post mortems. Democrats are already off on a wave of self flagellation, wishful reimagining of the election, and the early phases of a circular firing squad. Republicans , naturally, now believe they've solved at least 10 years of painful implosion with a lucky break. None of that seems especially necessary or true. And so, as I shake off the sadness, regain a sense of humor, and let my rage reignite my instincts to put words on paper... let's at least start with my own quixotic view of how this all went down.
And, since this year is topsy turvy, let's go bottoms up:
Donald Trump - You can see it in his eyes - that sudden, overwhelmed look that "this is serious" and "get your sh*t together" of someone who himself never entirely believed this would really work. We know what he wanted - a loss that he could ride to new financial success, reinventing his brand, and selling himself as the ultimate sore loser to an audience of sore losers. And then... oops. He's not ready for this, he's not up for it, he hates to be criticized and he needs mass love. This job will wreck him. Warren Harding had higher morals and Richard Nixon wore villainy better than he ever will. This disaster has only begun to reveal itself.
Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi - at some point, people will notice that the leadership of the Democratic Party is stale, static and itself resistant to even the most mild energy for change. Then they might ask why 70 year olds with 20 to 30 plus years of their lives spent in government really represent the kind of fresh notions people want to see. When "blame the Clintons" fades as an easy excuse, Democrats will have to answer why a party that wants to sell the idea of "change" has party leaders who never do. And that might have something to with why, lately, they don't seem to win that much, either.
The Others - there's no nice way to put how damaging this election will be for some of the country's most vulnerable populations - Muslims, Hispanic immigrants, LGB but especially T, even many women, certainly poor women with families to raise and healthcare needs of their own. Lets not sugar coat it. Let's not pretend this will somehow be okay. And then let's get angry enough to stand up and start doing something about it.
Joe Arpaio, Kelly Ayotte and Pat McCrory - Lest Republicans crow gleefully about a wholesale endorsement of their hateful ways, this election had at least a few bright spot examples of the reality that this electorate was not on a wholesale endorsement of the right. Arpaio finally paid the price of years of immigrant bashing and harassment; McCrory went down for at least that horrendous "bathroom bill" attack on transgender people, though a litany of scandals related to his past life as a power company executive and that company's role in polluting NC's rivers surely added fuel. Ayotte was in many ways the ultimate get - a hard talking foreign policy chickenhawk who flailed embarrassingly as the Trump debacle unfolded. These are the races to study to understand how hate and fear can be beaten.
Common Decency - these are unpleasant times, made worse by an ugly campaign season in which nothing was off limits, no words were left unsaid, and fear and hatred ruled. "Let's come together for unity" cooed the most naive of Trump's supporters in the days since the election, as if 18 months of brutal incitement meant nothing, as if hard feelings are something only for Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity to gin up every afternoon on the air. That's not how this works - people are angry, sad, and in no mood to make nice. And we will all be a little less as a result.
Hillary Clinton - She won the popular vote. She handled herself from start to finish with grace and class and the kind of strength you'd expect in... well, a President. She is free to follow her commitment to a life of service and helping others and showing everyone who doubted it that she was, simply, what her supporters said she was. Apparently, actual ability to do a good job was never going to be enough.
The Trump Handlers - History is told by the winners, and however grudgingly, the folks who put Trump over on the American public can't be denied. Unpack a basket of hatefulness, stoke a traditional batch of familiar resentments, feign surprise at the appeal of your message to extremists, turn up the heat and stir. Even I can't deny that the recipe will keep Kellyanne Conway employed as long as she wants to stay in the game. Though I like to think Steve Bannon will never enjoy this level of import ever again.
Tammy Duckworth (and Maggie Hassan and Kamala Harris) - Yet more evidence that Republicans down ballot couldn't really ride the wave of Trump class resentment to success, Duckworth proved an able campaigner, slowly eroding all of Mark Kirk's perceived advantages until he made one of the worst live debate miscalculations of any candidate this cycle (easy second: Kelly Ayotte). More candidates as strong as Duckworth, Hassan, and California's Harris and this might have been a different election. And that's the only hypothetical I'll begin to entertain.
Barack Hussein Obama - Nothing will ennoble our first black President like the man who follows him into office. However much reasonable criticism his presidency deserves - the kind of realistic assessment that might have helped liberals realize that not everyone loved his eight years in office more than they like to admit before the election was lost - he will look like a calm oasis next to the deserts that preceded and followed him. And he wears greatness so well on that cool, detached looking face of his.
White Rage - Let's take a moment and acknowledge the obvious overriding message of this election: a rage against change, against the triumph of urbanism, modernity and diversity, a rage that couldn't be reasoned with or argued against or stopped. Let's not pretend that a fantasy candidate (old white men like Sanders or Biden, promulgated by, mostly, other white liberal men) could have solved this - that way lies the wreckage of John Kerry, Michael Dukakis, Walter Mondale, and probably most of all, McGovern. Let's be honest enough to face that "economic populism" and "xenphobic jingoism" are simply ways to try and put racism and prejudice into a shiny new dress. Let's admit that fear is a powerful motivator, and it leads people, often, into poor choices. The rage is real. And this year, the rage won. And if Democrats want to change that, they need to work a lot harder to understand it, face it, and respect its power. Denying it, running from it, and wishing it away won't work. Surely we ought to admit we've at least learned that.