This election has been hard on our country. I have had numerous conversations with people who struggle to call home and speak with family or friends because the divisions are too raw. These are people who now live in Los Angeles, San Francisco or New York City but grew up in Cincinnati, Central Florida, Utah, Michigan and similar places where their parents, families or friends may have different political views.
Many friends and colleagues have reached out privately either to grieve or offer kinds words of support. I guess that must mean that my public emoting was obvious and while many prefer private ways of dealing with the world around them I have always found solace in being part of a public, real-time community.
I have personally struggled with the past year. I am aghast that as a country we could elect a person who said such terrible things about women and minorities and who seems to be intolerant to those who don’t share the same religion or sexuality as him. He even mocked a disabled person.
We all know that.
Of course labels are all too easy to throw out and simplify or stereotype the beliefs of other people. If we resort to trying to simplify what happened we are as guilty of the things we resented by some of Trump’s supporters so we need to begin to look beyond the election and understand what happened and how to make it better.
If you haven’t read the letter sent to me by a friend and CEO and a Hillary supporter talking about his father’s decision to vote for Trump I highly recommend it. Here’s some key passages (with minor deletions to shorten)
“i had breakfast with my dad this summer. he is a deeply principled man. a very good person with strong values. he is rust belt middle class. he cares deeply about people, is the kindest person i know, and doesn’t have a racist bone in his body. he coached me and my 3 siblings in basketball and soccer and more. he told me was voting for trump.
this wasn’t about democrats and republicans. it was about bringing down the establishment. and clinton embodied the establishment. he didn’t like trump, but said we needed an outsider. he thought clinton was far more flawed than trump.
This election was about a lot of people like this. Older, working-class, white and had voted for Democrats in the past. On the other side were people who feel devastated because there are not easy words to tell our children to explain how the misogyny, racism and intolerance of the past year spewed and supported and even encouraged by Trump could be awarded by electing him president. From my friend …
“my wife was crying tonight over this election. it felt like the biggest failure of america we’ve ever experienced. we talked about how to we discuss this election with our kids tomorrow. our 7-year-old is very curious.
But more than 60 million people voted for Trump and he won in the system that we have in this country and that we accept as our form of electing a president so we have no other choice but to try and turn over a new leaf and make things better.
I admit to spending most of this week with feelings of loss and despair and a sense of grieving for our country and our people. I know some will find that hard to understand — especially if you either supported Trump or just hated Hillary.
But it felt crushing seeing and reading about stories of hijabs being ripped off of women or chants at high schools shouting “build that wall” or people flying the Nazi flag or the incident at University of Pennsylvania where Black freshman were racist GroupMe accounts with a “daily lynching calendar.”
Racism and intolerance existed before this election and they would have existed with Hillary won or Trump won but the fact that the person who encouraged it at rallies and on Twitter won the election has certainly emboldened this crowd and demoralized the victims.
Labels has defined this election. We in cities are somehow reduced to “elites” even though millions of people in urban cities and even suburban cities in coastal states are struggling financially. Anybody who has had some level of career or personal success is somehow labeled as “establishment” incapable of having empathy for others or wanting change.
I am a white, middle-aged, affluent business person who lives in socially liberal Los Angeles. In an odd way I may actually benefit financially from a Trump presidency if he bends the tax regime to help more people like me.
But I am also an “other” and have felt it my whole life. I grew up Jewish in a town without many Jews where I was always the odd guy who didn’t celebrate Easter or Christmas. I had a father with a funny accent from South America who arrived legally in the late 1950’s. He became a doctor, served in the US military and applied for and received his citizenship. But we grew up with Latin music, food and friends in the house.
It’s why I felt so much resonance with The Joy Luck Club and the struggle of first-generation Americans split between loving their parents and the uniqueness of their culture yet wanting to just fit in and be American. It’s why Invisible Man touched me so much. It’s the story of a Black man growing up in the South wanting to just get along and be like everybody else and when he moves to NYC realizes that there is a Black culture and Black identity that he can be part of and proud of and doesn’t need to assimilate into a White-only world.
That is my journey and why I always feel empathy with those who grow up feeling marginalized. In college I found my sense of discovery and couldn’t believe there were so many Jews amongst us. It was ok to just be … ME. Yet in a job I had in college as a waiter to pay my bills I had a manager announce in the kitchen that he had gotten a “table full of Jews” because they were arguing with him about the food. I took off my apron, told him to “fuck off” and I walked out in the middle of my shift. Since a fellow fraternity brother had gotten me the job in the first place it made for a bit of a legendary story within our chapter.
I had hoped that an Obama presidency followed by what I had hoped would be a female presidency that our country was beginning to become more accepting of “the others.” I still believe that this is the direction that our country is heading but we are still some ways along that journey and it doesn’t offer any solace to those suffering from intolerance today.
And yet Hillary Clinton lost and we must accept that Donald Trump will be president — even those of us who find that to be outrageous. We are better to find and encourage smart people to work for him to help buffer the rest of us from his worst instincts. I put this out on Twitter …
And like anybody grieving you want to grasp for reasons WHY all this happened and WHAT IF things had gone differently:
Jimmy Fallon who patted Trump’s hair and helped normalize him. Jim Comey who weighed in to the election 11 days before voting only to announce 3 days before that there was no new evidence. 3rd-party voters. People who stayed at home. Bernie supporters. The DNC. The Facebook algorithm. Or even the imperfect candidate herself who should have known better than to have that mother forking private email server in the first place.
But why or what ifs never overturn the things you are grieving about. What if it had been diagnosed earlier, what if the doctor hadn’t missed it, what if that drunk driver had left 5 minutes earlier, what if, what if …
Hillary lost. No anger is going to bring that back.
Processing loss requires acceptance in the end. We will suffer through the next 3 months as we watch Trump pick his cabinet, take the oath and assume the White House. It will be a constant stinging on our not-yet-fully healed scars of this election.
But we must turn over a new leaf and try to make tomorrow better for ourselves and our communities.
The demographic trends of our country and indeed of the world, though, are going to continue to push issues like race and religion into the spotlight so we had better be healed in time to fight harder for our beliefs in tolerance in the next cycles.
Fareed Zakaria captured the post-election mood and summary well in his OpEd from November 10th. He argues that economic insecurity certainly tells part of the story of this US election cycle but not all of it. We must admit that part of it involves race — even amongst those who would not easily be described as racist.
“Trump is not unusual. Right-wing populism is on the rise across many Western countries. It is rising in countries in Northern Europe [like Sweden], where economic growth has been robust; in Germany, where manufacturing jobs have stayed strong; and in France, where the state provides many protections for the working class.
The one common trait everywhere is that white majority populations have faced a recent influx of immigrants.
I have made a concerted effort this year to try and understand people who have a different journey than I have had to understand their perspectives and try to expand my own thinking. I am super grateful to J.D. Vance for capturing the lives of the white, working-class population of Appalachia in his wonderful and descriptive book Hillbilly Elegy. I highly recommend it.
I also strongly encourage people to read as a companion book Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book Between the World and Me describing his life growing up in poor Black neighborhoods in Baltimore and then his journey to NYC.
Neither book sugar coats their personal journeys or lays out the fabric of America as a perfect place. They both shine spotlights on communities that those of us who didn’t grow up in hardscrabble neighborhoods need to understand.
If you do want to understand a great historian’s perspective of this election cycle and why it was both predictable and had happened before you may consider watching the great Niall Ferguson’s “Five Ingredients for a Populist Backlash.”
And finally …
I am a venture capitalist and in this blog I try to cover the worlds of technology and finance and the journey of the entrepreneur. Over the past few weeks I didn’t feel like I could seriously write about these topics while so many people were anxious and afterwards when so many people were either grieving or angry.
I also felt I couldn’t just start writing about entrepreneurship again with writing a transitional post like this to turn over a new leaf. So as a writer I must move on, but not forget. As a human I must move on, but not be complacent. As an American I must acknowledge that not everybody agreed with me and my steadfast support for Hillary Clinton to be president of the United States.
I must turn over a new leaf. I want to channel my anger into something productive and that requires acceptance.
I wish all of you well in your personal journeys as well.
(Cross-posted @ Both Sides of the Table)