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Post-election trauma - "Don't waste time mourning; organize."

Nov 21, 2016

Here’s the story I’m worried about hearing this weekend: An angry Clinton supporter carving a turkey plunges the knife not into the white meat, but his Trump-supporting uncle.

That’s not as far- fetched as it sounds. Inability to cope with what happened November 8th has meant lots of extra work for grief counselors, therapists, and the like.


Normally, anyone who wanted to talk about any election two weeks after it was over would be seen as a hopeless nerd, and banished to a back room to watch reruns of the West Wing.

Not this year.

I saw a woman watching CNN in a restaurant Friday afternoon and crying. It was very clear what she was crying about.

Across the nation, people are asking how we get past this. Well, being a natural contrarian, I’m not sure we should. That doesn’t mean I’m in favor of combat over the Thanksgiving table, or brothers and sisters never speaking to each other again.

If you are a supporter of Donald Trump, I would suggest you keep this in mind.

What this does mean is that this election exposed some real problems in our political system and in the way we regard our fellow Americans.

If you are a supporter of Donald Trump, I would suggest you keep this in mind. History is full of examples of Republican winners, including Richard Nixon and the first George W. Bush, who won stunning victories, but who were defeated or disgraced, along with their parties, four years later.

For everyone else, I think there are three major reasons this election is so hard to accept.

First, the surprising outcome. Virtually everyone expected a Clinton victory election night. For many people, what happened instead is still hard to believe.

Second, the fact that Hillary Clinton not only won the popular vote, she did so fairly decisively. Believe it or not, they are still counting votes in many states, and it looks to me like her margin – now 1.7 million votes – will be well over two million before this is over.

We’ve never had anything like this in our history.

But finally, and perhaps most importantly, this wasn’t a normal election where candidates argue over the budget deficit and entitlement policies. This one featured the most atrocious sort of personal attacks and attacks on ethnic groups since perhaps the election of 1860.

That one, by the way, led to the Civil War.

... this wasn't a normal election where candidates argue over the budget deficit and entitlement policies.

That’s why people are so traumatized.

What I would suggest to those who don’t like the outcome is that they heed the words of the only civil rights song:

If there is one thing we did right, it was the day we started to fight. Keep your eyes on the prize; hold on.

Clearly, if democracy means anything, it is now time to do something about the Electoral College, which has given us two wrong winners in 16 years.

There’s also going to be a need to work to protect certain groups and rights and freedoms. When Joe Hill, that early icon of the labor movement, was executed a century ago, he said

“Don’t waste time mourning; organize.”

Old Joe was on to something. Work hard and work smart, and try to make this a better nation. It ain’t over till it’s over, and in reality, it’s never over. And in the final analysis, what else is there to do?

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.