I remember November 2008, I was an A Level Politics student at the time, and Obama’s was the first US Presidential election that I’d followed closely. I remember the lead up to voting day, reading his books, watching the celebrity studded ‘Yes We Can’ videos with my politics class and soaking up as much information as I could about everything that was being said and done, marveling at how social media had played such an important role in an election like this.
The next morning, our history teacher told us to put away our books and instead we watched Obama’s acceptance speech from start to finish – she said it was ‘sufficiently historic’ to earn us the break. Our history class being given a break was also historic from what I can remember. We knew history was happening and we were excited about it.
Eight years later, things couldn’t be any more different. I no longer have the doe-eyed enthusiasm for all things political. Reality happens and the US political system doesn’t have the same wondrous appeal that it once did for me. After becoming a little more aware and a lot more cynical, the image of Barack and Michelle Obama dancing at the inauguration ball seems like nothing more than a fairy tale.
Last night, I’d hoped to write a piece this morning on what it meant to see a woman elected President of the US for the first time and why it matters so much. I thought that whatever her flaws, Clinton’s election would have, like in 2008, shown that with all the flaws and problems with the American political system there was at least glimmers of hope. Far from perfect would be an understatement, but the election of the first woman to the Oval Office could show that things can and will move forward, and that we should have faith.
Instead, Trump’s election has validated racism, sexism, homophobia, elitism and so much else of what is revolting about society. Hate speech has worked its way into political discourse and the idea of being ‘presidential’ is a distant memory. A man who inspires hate and exploits fears has manipulated his way into the most powerful political office in the world. The appeal of this man for his voters seems to be that he has awakened in them the darkest and previously unspeakable feelings that they had and has legitimised these regressive and frankly terrifying tendencies which have no place in modern society, let alone in world politics.
Pundits and politicos will look at this election for years to come trying to determine just how we found ourselves at this point. How is it that 8 years after ‘Hope’ and ‘Change’ the American people have elected a xenophobic, misogynistic, 70 year old toddler? People are scared. No one really knows what comes next. Will the rest of the political establishment in America be able to exert some sort of control over him or will the madman make good on the promises he made on the election campaign?
Never mind God bless America, God help them.