Editorial: Inconceivable! And yet there is hope
President-elect Donald Trump’s stunning victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton left much of the nation hanging its head in dejection and disbelief. It was for many, to use the famous single-word line in the movie Princess Bride, “inconceivable.”
“I simply can’t believe it,” said one local millennial. “America actually chose the schoolyard bully… hate reigns in America. I’m so disappointed and disillusioned about what it means to be an American.”
Trump supporters, on the other hand, were delirious with excitement and glee, shocked, too, that their anti-establishment, boorish, undisciplined, self-sabotaging candidate miraculously defied political pundits and the polls to win in dominant fashion.
But for a state that supported Clinton with 61 percent of the vote to Trump’s 33 percent, the result was grim news on so many fronts.
To try to make sense of Trump’s win, and to suggest ways to move forward, we asked several Vermonters for their reactions to the election and to help us put into context those results and a way forward. We print a few here, and will continue the dialogue online and next week.
One cause that will almost certainly be stymied by a President Trump and a Republican Congress is any further progress on climate change. Rules implemented by President Obama over the past eight years will undoubtedly come under attack and could be reversed, pipelines could be re-energized and no new progress can be expected. With that in mind, we asked environmental activist and Ripton resident Bill McKibben, “what now?”
“The sense that elections change everything is, in one sense, true,” replied McKibben. “There will be no useful action on climate change at a national level, and likely not in Vermont either, for the next years. But other things elections leave untouched: physics, for instance, which is daily heating of the planet. That inexorable process will give us constant opportunities to test our humanity, as we respond to disasters and as we rebuild the case for acting to prevent the worse that is always to come. This is the challenge of our time; it was a tough fight Tuesday and it is a tough fight today. But we have no choice except to fight that fight.”
We asked Middlebury College professor and author Sue Halpern to reflect on what Trump’s election means to women who supported Clinton, Sanders and that liberal perspective.
“The saddest words I heard on election night were from my 23-year-old daughter. ‘I was really looking forward to having children,’ she said, and we laughed, because what else was there to do? The future we both assumed lay ahead is now uncertain, especially because of Donald Trump’s promise to overturn all climate change legislation. In the lead up to the election, after Bernie conceded and the prospect of voting for Hillary was less than enticing to my millennial, even though she was committed to doing so, I kept saying the same three words to her: the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court—code for a woman’s right to control her own body; for marriage equality; for gay rights more generally; for voting rights; for the Constitution itself. The effects of this election will be felt for a very long time. Maybe long enough to decide that having children is not a reasonable option. Let’s hope not. In fact, let’s not just hope.”
On the effect of Trump’s win on state policy, we asked Middlebury College professor emeritus and political analyst Eric Davis what blips he saw on the horizon. The biggest is health care policy, he said, posing several unknowns.
“What will Trump/Republican Congress propose to replace the Affordable Care Act, if it is repealed,” Davis queried. “Will there still be a federal exchange to which VT Health Connect could be transitioned? What about federal money in ACA for subsidies for individual insurance purchasers and state Medicaid expansion?”
As for Trump’s election, Davis wrote: “Yesterday’s presidential outcome was not the result I would have wished… I hope that Trump is able to persuade Republicans with experience in both foreign and economic policy to work in his administration, and that he listens to their advice. I also hope that, with the Republicans now in control of both houses of Congress and the White House, they will focus on governing, rather than partisan game-playing and score-settling, for the next four years. Finally, I hope that Trump realizes our Constitutional system is one of limited government, with separated institutions sharing powers in a federal system along with protection for individual rights and liberties, and governs in that spirit.”
We also reached out to Andy Nagy-Bensen, clergyman at the Congregational Church who hosted a community meeting Wednesday night to console others and to reach out to the community for greater understanding.
“My heart is very heavy,” he wrote, when asked why he was holding the meeting. “Perhaps that is my first step: to name how I feel in the wake of a brutal campaign and the broad support for President-elect Trump. And, perhaps that is one productive step our community can take in this meeting… I would hope that we all find some comfort in being heard and in knowing that none of us is alone. And “hope” is key right now… Hope that “After the final no there comes a yes / And on that yes the future world depends” (Auden). Hope that we will redouble our effort to work for the common good. Hope that God is with us now and will be with us as we move forward.
“In 18 years of pastoral ministry,” he continued, “I have hosted a gathering like this only one other time — the evening of September 11, 2001. I mention this not to draw a connection between deadly terrorist attacks and a free election, but to acknowledge that many people in our community woke up this morning — as they did 15 years ago — feeling unsafe and vulnerable and scared… The flames of vitriol have been fanned for many months, and the fire seems to have caught in many quarters. I can’t un-see that. Nor can I deny that I’ve seen, time and again, the power of people coming together to share their true selves, their deepest longings, and their commitments to work for the common good. That is one step among countless many that we can take.”
That’s a good first step for us all.
— Angelo S. Lynn