That’s your right as an American…
-My Father’s response to an email from my sister who was freaking out after Trump won.
On the morning of November 8th, I expected the following things:
- A resounding Hillary Clinton victory.
- The chance of a Democratic majority in Senate.
- The fact that I would missing morning mass at work.
- Long lines at the voting polls.
- The shutting up of every Tea Party extremist and racist, misogynist and bigoted Trump voter (note that I didn’t say Republican; more on that later).
- Popping champagne past midnight when they announced that Hillary was the projected winner on CNN and taking shots if Jason Kander actually pulled off the upset over Roy Blunt for Senate. (My friends and I actually had the champagne and liquor ready.)
But low and behold, here is how it actually turned out.
- Hillary lost, including three key battleground states that cost her the election (Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania which had been solidly blue the last few elections).
- The Republicans won both the Senate and House majority.
- There was no morning mass apparently, so I missed nothing.
- After early reports of long lines in Kansas City (including my own), the lines seemed to die off by mid-morning. A lot of polling centers in the afternoon and mid-day looked deserted in the urban areas of Kansas City from videos I saw on my friend’s Snapchat.
- The Tea Party won…so you know how they’re handling it (let’s just say not modestly).
- No champagne. No shots. Hillary and Kander both lost. Just depression and Black and Milds.
In the words of my sister, who called me twice on election night to share her displeasure and anger (all while drunk of course), “what…the…fuck.”
Never in my wildest dreams did I think Donald Trump would pull this off. Yes, he won the Republican primary. But I credited that less to him, and more to the hordes of shitty candidates they trotted out there (Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz…that’s it I got to stop). If there was another Mitt Romney or John McCain or anybody legitimate, Trump would have not stood a chance. He would have been a celebrity “flash in the pan”, much like his short-lived candidacy for the Reform party presidential slot back in 2000.
Oh how I was wrong.
The signs were there. Bernie Sanders challenged her so hard in the Democratic Primary, and perhaps should have won. But the DNC had promised this thing to Hillary after she lost to Barack in 2008. It was her turn, and they weren’t going to let a Jewish senator out of the tiny state of Vermont fuck with that plan. And so we heard the rumors and read the WikiLeaks and witnessed the protests and the head scratching results during the primaries and caucuses. Most young and liberal Democrats felt Bernie had a better shot at beating Trump than Hillary did. I remember arguing about that in hookah lounges and bars on frequent occasion during those summer primary months.
And yet, Hillary was chosen to be the Democratic nominee. She was the nation’s best bet to prevent the xenophobia, and crazy policies of a potential Trump presidency. Yes, she was flawed. Yes, she had scandal with her e-mails. Yes, she and the Clinton Foundation represented the worst of a “corporate interests” affecting our Federal Government. Yes, she sucked with public speeches. Yes, she was so coached as a candidate that everything felt rather inauthentic at times from her.
But she was our nation’s best shot. And she was a woman. The first female president. That would be enough. Her experience would be enough. Her debate performance would be enough. Her name would be enough.
Oh how Democrats were wrong.
The morning of November 9th proved it.
I grew up in a primarily Republican-voting family. My grandparents supported Ronald Reagan’s campaign not only for President in 1980, but also when he ran for governor of California in the 60’s. My great aunt on my dad’s side was so conservative and Republican that she voted for Richard Nixon in the presidential election over John F. Kennedy, even though he would eventually be the first Irish-American and Catholic president, traits she (and I) shared as well. My father voted for George W. Bush twice, and Mitt Romney in 2012 (though he did vote for Barack Obama in 2008). My mother has voted Republican in every presidential election since 2000, and actually registered as a Republican in 2000. And in the 2000 election, at my school, I represented George W. Bush in a mock debate to my middle school student body. (I had the vouchers and gun lock issues on point.)
Yes, my background was probably characteristic of any member of a Young or College Republican club.
But since graduating college, I have grown to adopt more liberal and Democrat stances. My experience in the Jesuit order of priests as a novice molded that. Working with migrant workers in East LA confirmed that we needed to change our immigration system in America. Working in the hospitals in South Central LA proved that “privately funded” health care wasn’t the answer, especially when people weren’t getting the care they desperately needed. Working in the juvenile hall in Sylmar, and at the Restorative Justice Initiative in downtown LA demonstrated to me that not only our prison system, but the way we treated African American and Hispanics in the justice system was extremely flawed. My job as a teacher’s aide on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation inspired my career path (teaching) and where I needed to be (in communities where there was high need, like the people of the Lakota tribe I taught for nearly three years). If my Jesuit schooling in high school and college nudged me more toward the left (as I have heard from people on frequent occasions who also are Jesuit education alums), my experience with the Jesuit priests and novices helped me jump without fear or doubt.
Since 2011, I have grown more and more blue on the political spectrum. And that hasn’t been easy, especially considering my business and personal background. I studied economics in college (and journalism as well ironically). I am a big fan of limited regulation in a lot of cases, and was even more so when I was in college (I definitely leaned more toward the Milton Friedman school of Economics). I believe in globalization, free markets and competition, and getting rid of bailouts of big corporations who can’t get their shit together. I believe in limited taxes, especially when those tax dollars end up being abused or under-utilized. And I am a practicing Roman Catholic, a party whose congregation to the most part has gone from more blue to more red over the past decade due to the pro-choice/pro-life argument.
Those aren’t things people think of when they think of democrats, and yet those are some of my core economic beliefs (though in varying shades and modifications; I could write more but I don’t want this to be a fucking college thesis). So why do I identify as a Democrat rather than a Republican? Why did I vote for every Democratic candidate on the Missouri ballot this past Tuesday? Why am I campaigning for Democratic candidates and donating money to them as well and putting their bumper stickers on my car? My economic and religious background scream GOP.
It’s difficult to say. Perhaps because it’s the social issues that fuel my passion into politics, not economic ones. I don’t need to worry about jobs because I am a teacher: I punted the idea of a great retirement package and making six figures long ago. I don’t care about the global market beyond the economics class I teach to high school upperclassmen. Instead, I care about young people who fear their family members getting deported (including some I teach now or have taught in the past). I care about young people in the city not getting the same educational opportunities as those outside of it. I care about too many prisons being filled by people who shouldn’t be there, either literally or figuratively. If my political makeup is a sliding scale between social and economic, the social side will always weigh more than the economic side considerably, and as of now, that advantage is clearly blue.
As long as the Democrats stand for those listed social ideals, the ideals for social justice and protecting the rights of those who need protection and not just throwing them out to the dogs in a laissez faire fashion, I will continue to consider myself a Democrat, irregardless of the economic policies or pro-life announcements from the Catholic Archbishops that come my way.
But Democrats lost.
We lost the house. We lost the senate. And we lost the Presidency…to him.
What do I do?
The easy solution would be to run. Go to a different country. Immigrate to Canada or some foreign country. I’m young. I’m a teacher. I have a master’s degree. I could teach abroad for four or more years and perhaps enter the country again if Trump is out of office by 2020.
But that’s a coward’s way out. I love my country, and I love where I live, Kansas City and the people within it. I am not moving because of the threat of one man.
Another solution would be to give up. Either accept a Trump presidency because he’s our president and we have no choice. I could give up on the issues I care about and see how I could mold my views to the Republican party for the sake of unity in the nation, and perhaps helping the party be seen in a more positive light.
But that would be another coward’s way out. I am not going to throw out everything I have grown to care and be passionate about due to “fitting in.”
Another solution would just be an anarchist and/or revolutionary. Quit my job and protest. Get arrested. Protest Trump at every turn.
But I have a life, a career I care about (students). And yelling only does so much. Protesting only does so much. Action, concrete, constructive, real society-forming action is what makes a difference, not just a sign or a blow horn. After all, what matters in change are “deeds, not words.”
So what’s the right solution?
I don’t know. I know it’s not the three above.
And honestly, I don’t know if I will uncover that right solution in a year, two years or by the end of the Trump presidency whether that is four more years or eight.
Because one “fix-all” solutions don’t exist. The problems I am facing as an American citizen and adopted Kansas City denizen are layers deep, like a Redwood Tree. The future is too murky; the solutions too disheartening; the people too unpredictable; and the world too evolving for one choice, no matter how bold or noble, to change things, be it myself or the community I live in.
But what can I do? I don’t want to live in a world where I have to accept some of the injustices I might see under this Trump presidency/Republican coup. I have to do something.
I could keep teaching. Keep promoting to students their importance and role in changing America and Kansas City, especially my students of color, which make up over 70 percent of the students at my school.
I could keep getting involved. Keep going to events and meeting people and organizations where constructive dialogue is encouraged to form plans and programs that bring more equality and opportunities for all in our country and in Kansas City.
I could keep reading. Reading not just the Buzzfeed bits or shit I see on fivethirtyeight.com, but articles and studies written and conducted by people who really want to make a difference or who have done so in various ways through different approaches in educational or civic matters.
I could keep living life. My life. Not the life Republicans tell me to live, and not exactly the life Democrats tell me to live either.
Because we are people. Not Donkeys or Elephants.
I thought November 9th, a day ago when Donald Trump was elected president that this was the end of the world. I thought I would be depressed and give up on life. I thought that racism and sexism and prejudice won.
But I am motivated to do more. I am motivated to stay in teaching, which wasn’t exactly the case less than a month ago. I am motivated to be even more involved in my community, Jackson County, Wyandotte County and Kansas City in general more than ever, looking to advocate and aid in whatever area I can, in whatever aspect that would be a good fit for both me and whom I’m helping.
There is hope. Not just for me. But for Hillary voters. For Democrat voters.
We can and will be better. And the journey will be worth it, because people will say it won’t matter or will be a waste of time and effort. Trump won November 9th, remember? He got 279 electoral votes and counting.
That doesn’t mean he can decide how I can help people or tell me what issues I need to believe in.
Trump won an election. He won paper votes.
Winning over a person’s ideals takes a lot more than showing them the results of an election.
What am I thinking today, November 10th?
Optimism. Drive. Hope. The future. Our people. Kansas City. Social justice. Immigration reform. Health care reform. Optimism. Real change, not fear-mongering or vitriol. Catholic AND Muslim unity. The long, peaceful, arduous road. One day at a time.
All this DESPITE Trump and Trump surrogates and supporters pointing fingers, laughing and telling me “You lost!”
Damn. I wonder if I would have felt this way if Hillary won…