It’s post election and people are setting fires in the streets a couple of hours away as I look out my window where the cattle are serenely grazing on the green grass in the field across the street, like they do everyday. Calaveras County is calm, as is a very large percentage of the country I would wager, but that doesn’t mean people aren’t hurt and afraid wondering what will come next.
This has been a bruising presidential campaign season no matter what side of the aisle you’re on. Not too long into the election, everyone in my household was sick to death of the campaign commercials, so you can imagine how sick we were by the end of the election. By that time, most of the political campaign ads were met by a chorus of “Turn it down” and “That commercial’s on again?” One of the highlights in the campaign commercials season actually came toward the end when Sacramento’s Channel 10 ran a short commercial with a dog just lying on the ground with a caption that read something like, “Tired of campaign ads?”
As I mentioned in my last column, “Everyone has a voice (Oct. 3),” we are a household that runs all over the map politically. We have lively conversations and openly disagree with one another, not letting our disagreements get in the way of how we feel about one another – although I must admit, after particularly heated disagreements those feelings often are more irritation than anything else.
Now I must say that throughout the election I said to everyone who asked my opinion – the number of which you could count on one hand – that there was no doubt that Hillary would win. And furthermore, that in California it made no difference who we voted for president, the state would go for Hillary, because that’s just how California rolls. That being said, my mom always said that Trump would win, that she had a gut feeling about it and that was way before he won the Republican nomination. I would promptly respond that should that happen, I would admit that I was wrong – this, in itself, is a rare occurrence in our family, because I’m usually correct about so many things that my family gets downright sick of it. But, I do admit when I’m wrong, and I would admit that I was wrong on the winner of the presidential election, too, even though I was sure I wouldn’t have to.
You can imagine my surprise when I had to. My mom and I sat in our living room while my son sat with his friends in his dorm room as we texted back and forth watching the election results on Nov. 8 as most of the country went red. There were two things on election night that really hit me as turning the tide for Trump and served as a bellwether to the ultimate outcome. The first was when Wisconsin and Michigan began to go very red.
The second was an offhand comment from John King, a CNN commentator. The comment King made that the Democratic operatives in Michigan had been asking Hillary to make appearances there because they were concerned the state would go for Trump. And they hadn’t been asking for a couple of weeks; they had been asking for months. Having been involved in politics and having worked for the state Legislature, I knew that was a very bad sign. If people in an area that is staunchly one-party have to repeatedly ask their candidate to visit because they are concerned about the voters there, that does not bode well for how an election will go. A very hard lesson learned in politics is that you ignore your base at your own peril.
One thing that this election did in spades was point out, as both Trump and Hillary alluded to in their acceptance and concession speeches, that there are great divides in the country. Anyone who has been paying attention for the past decade or so wouldn’t be surprised at this. Yet one of the amazing things about America and its people is their ability to figure out a way to make things work. Even though things look more than little wobbly right now, I still believe this – just go look at the first time Lincoln won the presidency setting into motion the Southern secession and the Civil War, and yet here we are more than 150 years later still a whole country. Beyond that, all you have to do is look at the past 100 years and see the amazing changes that have taken place to see that this is yet another opportunity for us to work together, no matter what our backgrounds and personal beliefs are.
In my household, I look at the great divides between us as opportunities to build bridges. I know there are some issues and beliefs where it is highly unlikely that we will ever see eye to eye and, continuing with the bridge analogy, where our land masses will never meet. There will always be a chasm of division there, but that doesn’t mean we can’t, each of us, build a bridge to the other, meeting somewhere in the middle with the understanding that, even with our differences and division, we are somehow a complete whole. A family.
Sarah Lunsford is a freelance journalist living in Murphys. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.