The threat of authoritarianism requires all hands on deck.
Clara Jeffrey writes in Mother Jones:
Decades from now, when the election of 2016 is distilled to its essence, what will that be? Many hoped the central lesson would be a shattered glass ceiling and a cementing of the Obama legacy. An expansion of rights and tolerance.
Instead, a small electoral majority chose a candidate who openly embraced bigotry, who slurred war heroes and mocked the disabled, who bragged of sexual assault, who said he’d roll back the protections of a free press, who was cheered on by white supremacists, who said he’d upend our alliances and the world’s long-overdue climate deal, and who is ignorant and cavalier about the basics of safeguarding a nuclear arsenal.
There is no way to sugarcoat it. The election of Donald Trump is a brutal affront to women, people of color, Jews and Muslims, and all who value kindness and tolerance. Paranoia and divisiveness won the day. If we feared that the Trump campaign would give white nationalists and other political predators a road map for a lasting presence as a disruptive opposition, we have instead handed them the keys to the Oval Office, and the nuclear codes.
In the horrible months leading up to the election, there were moments we all crossed our fingers and hoped the Trump campaign’s predilection for inflaming bigotry might, ultimately, improve the health of the body politic. Maybe he represented a high fever that, once broken, would leave us more immune to old hatreds. Maybe, just as videos of police shootings shoved the most heinous forms of structural racism into the social-media feeds of white America, so would the actions of Trump and his most virulent supporters cast a light on an ugliness that needed to be confronted to be at last overcome.
Except, it seems this ugliness was far, far more pervasive than we had let ourselves imagine. With every chant of “build the wall,” with every racist tweet, with every “Trump that bitch” T-shirt, his supporters hardened—to the horror of more than half of those who voted (and many who didn’t), and despite the entreaties of political, diplomatic, scientific, and economic experts.
It would be counterproductive to say, as some have, that all those who voted for Trump are stone-cold racists. People voted for him for various and complicated reasons. But it must be said that all who voted for Trump did not find naked bigotry and misogyny to be disqualifying. Some discounted it, and some thrilled to it. That is gutting.
The next weeks and months and years will be spent analyzing how we got here. It will be a grim accounting for every institution, and a painful airing of recriminations among families and friends.
As the author and comedian Baratunde Thurston put it, Trump’s campaign is best understood as a denial-of-service attack on our political system. Despite or perhaps because he is a thin-skinned, shallow narcissist, he instinctively found weaknesses in our national firewall. He knew that with 16 primary opponents, each would happily support his attacks on the manhood, looks, and dignity of the others, until it was too late and the momentum was on his side.
He realized that his bombastic, bigoted statements would be heralded by some corners of the media, mocked by others, and given wall-to-wall coverage by all. Newsroom traditions of putting separate teams of reporters on each candidate also helped ensure that Hillary Clinton’s email scandals were given the same weight as the mountain of evidence of Trump’s wrongdoing. The nation’s great newspapers and networks did vital work, but when it came to proportionality, they utterly failed. And the obsession with polling aggregators and fancy widgets, coupled with the failings of the polls themselves, lulled people into slacktivism, inaction, or even showy obstructionism.
And social media failed us most of all. . .
Later in the article:
Authoritarian movements rise by dividing us and can only last so long as they do. My heart broke on election night to see my Twitter feed full of quotes like “I knew my country hated me, but I didn’t know how much,” or “I don’t recognize my country.” In the days after the election, there was a surge of hate crimes. Parents had to answer questions like: What will happen to my friends? What will happen to us? Why does he hate us?
I repeat: United we stand, divided we fall. If we don’t find a way to come together, we’re toast.