I had some business at an Ottawa customs office a few days ago, and the four staff working the front desk lived up to everyone's worst stereotype about Canadians. They were helpful, polite and competent and I was in and out of the office in fifteen minutes. But while I was waiting one of them mentioned that day's news, which was that the FBI was reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails. "They're both unfit," he said. "Both unfit to serve." And the others agreed.
That's when I should have known.
Because unless you were in communication with some serious pro-Clinton activists, or decided to basically do a research project on the media coverage of the election, that was the reasonable conclusion to reach from listening to the background noise of the past 18 months. Just about everything she did raised questions, right? Meanwhile Donald Trump's every statement had about the same relationship to the truth as the babblings of a child, and that somehow never became the story. He could have claimed that he personally single-handedly invented the internet and it was the best internet, listen, just the greatest internet you've ever seen and the same people who were writing about Al Gore in 2000 as if he was a pathological liar wouldn't even have blinked.
Here's one reason it was so hard to write about Trump. During the campaign when he threatened to jail his opponent people around the world were shocked and appalled but now it's the day after the election and Trump won and I don't expect him to institute criminal proceedings against Hillary Clinton once he's sworn in. It was just an applause line he threw out to get a response from his base, and many of the people who ended up voting for him knew that. In fact he said so many outrageous things while he was on the stump that every one of his supporters has had to choose which of them to believe or dismiss, assembling their own personal Trump out of a Rorschach blot of pronouncements about NAFTA and sexual assault and border walls and defeating ISIS and on and on and on.
I spent a lot of today looking at Twitter trying to find answers but first of all since people only have 140 characters there is a tendency to settle on a single cause for President Trump rather than try to bring in misogyny and racism and tacit acquiescence to racism and media malpractice and backlash against neoliberalism and Russian involvement and FBI interference and Democrats who wanted Bernie and Republicans who would have enthusiastically voted for Charles Manson over another Clinton in the Oval Office and all the other things.
And second, the key thing is not what progressives are saying today but what they're saying and doing a month or a year from today.
What did I learn from this election? Well, if you're solicitous of white voters, a majority of them will let you get away with just about anything. And if that isn't addressed it leads to catastrophe. I don't know how many wife beaters and KKK members you can get to realise the error of their ways but I have to believe there's hope for at least some of the rest.