Hillary Clinton lost. Donald Trump won. But this was no ordinary election. It has terrifying implications for all of the assumptions we have made about our country and continuing our progress toward true equality. Already Trump has elevated known racists, white power nationalists and anti-gay bigots to the highest levels of our government.
How did this happen? Is everyone who voted for Trump a misogynist racist bigot? We don’t really know the answer to that question. I suspect that people who voted for him have as many reasons as there are votes. What we do know though is that these voters accepted Trump’s racist, misogynist, anti-gay views. Those views were not as important as Trump’s promise that he would make America great.
What we also know is that the Republican Party has systematically suppressed votes by gerrymandering, eliminating polling places, reducing voting hours, cutting back on early voting and ignoring court orders in order to win this election. Those actions took place on the state level, where Republicans control most state legislatures and governorships.
We also know that Donald Trump and his supporters lied about almost everything during the presidential race. We know that fake news sites promoted Trump. We know that mainstream media played a major part in letting Trump’s conflicts, business practices and history as a sexual predator go relatively unexamined. We also know now that Hillary Clinton received about 2.5 million more votes than Trump. And we know that nearly 50 percent of those eligible to vote did not.
What does all of this mean, and where do we go from here? We have been so sure that political progress is linear that we have not done enough of the unsexy work at local and state levels that could protect that progress. Many of us engaged in internecine warfare – which of our candidates was more perfect? It is always easier to criticize the people near you rather than those who truly are your enemies. All of this needs to stop in order for us to resist Trump and his government-to-be. And we must develop new strategies to reach those people who simply voted against the status quo. Calling Trump and his supporters misogynist, racist, anti-gay Islamophobic bigots is not a strategy, no matter how much we believe it to be true.
Over the past eight years we have had the luxury of believing that we could work primarily on our issues because President Obama and his administration would work on the others. That time is over, if it ever existed. We must now take a broader and longer view. We cannot be only for our community. We must work together with all of those who are at risk in Trump’s America. We have to do the very non-sexy work of grassroots election organizing, fighting Republicans at state levels, electing Democrats to Republican-held congressional seats. This needs to begin now, in order to prepare for the 2018 mid-terms and new state elections.
Demonstrations are important and they make us feel empowered. But in terms of actual change, they are not as effective as continual, everyday, determined political work. We can’t just show up every four years for the presidential elections. The election of Trump has shown us that anti-gay, anti-immigrant, racist, anti-poor, misogynist bigotry comes in one package. It is now absolutely clear that if any of us is at risk, all of us as are at risk. We must always keep that in mind in all of the work we do going forward.
Michele Zavos is a long-time lesbian activist and founding partner of Zavos Juncker Law Group, PLLC, a family law firm practicing in the Washington metropolitan area.