Reconciling my Vote for Trump

I live in a liberal city, work in a liberal industry, and married a liberal tyrant three months ago. Her highly sophisticated, researched and unprejudiced view is that a Republican is either a rich elitist white person or backwards backwoods white person, and there is some combination of loving God and guns and hating women and minorities. Budget and trade deficits and the spectrum of economic effects of complicated anti-regulatory legislation are too boring to look into. Prancing around the kitchen in her Love Trumps Hate shirt suffices for feeling politically engaged. I like how the tailored fit accentuates her rack and wonder if that takes away from the message.

If she saw me physically cast a ballot for Trump, we might be in therapy in November and divorced by December. What a bizarre outcome that would be, to dissolve a deeply personal connection built on so much time and real experience together — all because of differing perceptions of what we read online and watch on television. It would be a hilarious breakup story to tell, and I would tell it openly to elicit sympathy and score a fiscally conservative rebound chick.

Alas, I escaped the domestic wrath because my Trump support was indirect. I am registered to vote in Texas, live in L.A. and missed the deadline for requesting my mail-in ballot. I was too lazy to scrutinize all the candidates and too skeptical that Texas could vote Democratic and the Cubs win the World Series in the span of a week.

I feel bad about not voting and will try to prioritize this civic duty moving forward. But I’m not in the camp that wants to crucify those who don’t. I just think that if you don’t vote, you forfeit the right to complain about the winner. A non-vote means you’re cool with what other people choose.

So I guess deep down I wasn’t opposed to Trump enough to toss in a nominal vote in a red state. I need to be OK with saying that, which is a scary proposition in L.A. I might as well walk down Compton Boulevard with the sign that the bad guy made Bruce Willis wear in Die Hard with a Vengeance.

These liberals out here act like savages with all their good intentions. It is absolutely imperative to absorb their ideas with an open mind, but do not, under any circumstances, voice anything that might dull the luster on their perfect ideals. President Obama is infallible. Secretary Clinton is deserving. Trump is the subject of every sentence ending in -ist.

There is no grey area acknowledged in this cesspool of groupthink, where like-minded people feast on confirmation bias and jerk each other off to see who has more righteous sperm. I can recognize this because I participated.

From the beginning, I set up a narrative of Trump being a stupid caricature. This was my framework to make sense of infinite information. I scrolled through my social news feed and committed to memory any sensational tidbit reinforcing my image of Trump the jerk, bigot, cheat, egomaniac. I neither found any conflicting stories in my liberal cocoon nor sought them. Because that would create dissonance, and I would rather hear what I want to hear. Nuance is a waste of processing power.

Thus in my mind, Trump appealed only to the uneducated and mean, outliers in the big picture. He could never win the most important job in the world, not with that mouth and baggage. He wouldn’t even win the nomination.

When he steamrolled 16 candidates, I chalked it up to the Republican party being a circus. When he debated Clinton, I thought the whole country saw through his tremendously unbelievably great superlatives. When he said this or tweeted that or this video surfaced or that story broke, each time I thought he had finally gone too far and couldn’t recover.

When my wife texted me to come home election night because the race was frighteningly close, I dismissed her panic with a flippant remark about how Clinton just needed to win one of those states. When I saw the numbers, I figured some of the blue districts hadn’t been counted yet.

I stayed in denial past midnight until Donald Trump walked onto the screen, whipped out his allegedly no-problem penis with his allegedly small hands, and slapped me across the face with it. He will be the President of the United States of America. I know nothing.

I watch a little CNN, read a little New York Times, scan a little Facebook and think I know what’s going on in other people’s lives. But I know nothing. More folks need to admit the same. Humility is helpful in political discussion. For every answer you shout, you should ask two questions and really listen.

Take Obamacare for example. I’m tired of pretending whether I know it’s good or bad. I have no clue. I haven’t been to a doctor since a required physical in 2004, excluding a dermatologist visit for my sensitive but masculine skin and an STD check after a regrettable bar night circa 2009.

I have no idea how to balance the poor family in desperate need of health insurance against the small business drowning in the costs of keeping employees. Politics is hard, and the details are tedious. That’s why we elect representatives to trudge in the weeds for us, while we get to argue about fun stuff like the character and temperament of people on TV.

Trump said things that are flat-out embarrassing for America. He resonated with some bad people, and I would have liked to see him take a break from blasting war heroes and Broadway actors to sound off on the Klan a bit.

But look, I’m doing it again. I can cherry-pick headlines to construct whatever narrative I want. My news feed will do it for me. Trump appoints Stephen Bannon, and before I can even look up what a chief White House strategist actually does, I am told in a frenzy that he is racist, sexist, anti-Semitic. Then it’s a race in my liberal bubble to see who can post the most stories of swastikas being spray-painted across the country.

I had never heard of Stephen Bannon or Breitbart, let alone his actual contributions to it and inner beliefs. I would have guessed alt-right was a keyboard shortcut. I don’t think it’s unfair to reserve immediate judgment without fear of being branded as a white power supporter. I’m not even white. I am willing to die to prevent a Holocaust in this country, but I’m not ready to declare a white nationalist revolution because some idiots who were idiots before Trump continue to be idiots while occasionally screaming his name.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is the daughter of immigrants from India. She spearheaded the removal of the Confederate flag from the state capitol and rebuked Trump for not immediately disavowing the Klan, among other things. Trump appointed her to his cabinet as well. That’s at least interesting and worth weaving into the idea of Donald the vindictive bigot.

Again, it’s important to challenge our pre- and post-conceived notions. Rainbow tears of joy washed the world last week when President Obama presented Ellen with the Medal of Freedom. But Uncle Barry did not run on that platform. America did not choose him to be a champion of gay rights:

You can believe that Obama “evolved” on this issue as he said. Here’s what I believe: Our president is one of the smartest people around, and his mind was plenty evolved already. But what do I know, maybe his old buddy David Axelrod knows better:

Axelrod writes that he knew Obama was in favor of same-sex marriages during the first presidential campaign, even as Obama publicly said he only supported civil unions, not full marriages. Axelrod also admits to counseling Obama to conceal that position for political reasons. “Opposition to gay marriage was particularly strong in the black church, and as he ran for higher office, he grudgingly accepted the counsel of more pragmatic folks like me, and modified his position to support civil unions rather than marriage, which he would term a ‘sacred union,’ ” Axelrod writes.

– Zeke Miller, Time Magazine

Hang on, my wires are getting crossed. I want to support black churches as a symbol in the community and bastion of civil rights, but civil rights should include gay rights, yeah? They’re not on the same team? Which march do I join? Does everything not fit into neat little mental buckets for judgment?

Trump grabs women’s genitals. He cannot possibly be trusted with nuclear codes, a hypothetical I brought up in my wedding vows to describe the end of the world.

THROUGHOUT THE MARRIAGE, John always had girls: there were girlfriends and comfort girls; call girls and showgirls; girls on the campaign trail and girls who seemed to materialize out of thin air wherever he was. There was also the occasional wife of a friend, or the aging paramour of his randy pop, for those moments when the fancy ran to mature horseflesh or masculine competition. His penchant for prostitutes demoralized the agents assigned to protect him: “You were on the most elite assignment in the Secret Service,” the former agent Larry Newman told a television interviewer a decade ago, “and you were there watching an elevator door, because the president was inside with two hookers.” Mimi Alford describes a JFK who once asked her to service his friend (and his “baby brother,” Teddy, though she refused), who took her to a sex party and forced drugs on her, and who callously had a functionary line her up with an abortionist when she thought she was pregnant, and yet Janet Maslin can write, accurately, in her New York Times review of Once Upon a Secret, that there’s “not a lot of news” in the book.”

– Caitlin Flanagan, The Atlantic (a publication that has endorsed three presidential candidates in its 159-year history: Abraham Lincoln, Lyndon Johnson and Hillary Clinton)

That’s the same revered Democratic President John F. Kennedy, who took a 19-year-old intern’s virginity on his wife’s private bed, coerced the teenager into blowing his 50-year-old aide while he watched, and navigated the Cuban Missile Crisis.

I’m not trying to crap on J.F.K. or condone Trump’s behavior. I just want to add some angles to my thinking and get smarter because frankly, the election made me feel pretty stupid.

Donald J. Trump turned the system upside down. He pissed off the people candidates generally can’t piss off if they want to win. He beat out card-carrying members of the establishment with more funding, connections, experience, pedigree, polish and certainly knowledge. He broke every rule in an erratic campaign of escalating absurdities.

The fact that Trump won this way is, at a bare minimum, a mandate to challenge assumptions. That is how I reconcile my tacit vote for him. I know nothing, and the price of that ignorance was a president accompanied by perhaps the widest range of uncertainty ever.



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