This morning marked the second time this year I’ve woken up in the grey fug of pre-dawn, tuned brain FM into the background hum of the radio, and heard news I never imagined I would.
5:06am (it seems that, in 2016, giving a shit about geopolitics is like having a newborn with all of the pain and none of the reward). Radio 4 was reporting that it was likely to be a Trump victory.
This time around I was a bit more prepared than on the morning of June 24. If it taught us nothing else, Brexit showed that we should expect the unexpected. Also, I’d had this horrible feeling all day yesterday…
Commentators on last night’s rolling news spoke of high turnout, and alarm bells rang. You don’t get high turnouts when people want to stick with the status quo.
Also, I’d read a magazine article a few weeks ago that really stuck in my head. It included long interviews with women proudly voting for Trump. These weren’t the caricatures; the Kentucky redneck with babies hanging off each hip; the over-Botoxed octogenarian harking for bygone days when blacks and gays knew their place. These were women in their 30s, from major cities, well-educated and with good careers. These were the type of women Clinton erroneously counted on to get her into the White House. And yet they were happy to look beyond Trump’s misogynistic bile and give their vote to him.
There are lots of reasons why Trump won, and I don’t want to dwell on that here. It’s 24 hours since I settled down on the sofa to watch the rolling coverage; I, like much of the world, am still trying to make sense of it all.
White working classes roaring back at the political elite? Neoliberalism leaving vast swathes of ordinary Amercians behind? Deindustrialisation? Disenfranchised? Protest? It all sounds depressingly familiar, doesn’t it?
But what is clear is that a man who has talked about grabbing women “by the pussy” is now leader of the free world.
Just re-read that sentence a few times. And again.
I know. RIGHT?
It feels as if we’re witnessing America taking an emphatic, defiant step into the past. On civil rights, LGBT rights, gender equality…all those battles that have been so hard-fought, feel as if they’re up for grabs now. Along with the ass of any passing hot twenty-something.
“Nobody respects women more than me” he said in the first Presidential Debate.
Yet in March, Trump said there should be some form of punishment for women who get abortions and promised to defund Planned Parenthood centres (the family planning clinic that carries out cancer screenings and check-ups for women without health insurance).
He’s been accused of sexual assault by a dozen women. And while none of these accusations have been proved, there’s no denying the horrible sexist language he’s unabashed about using.
It’s all been widely reported, but here’s a quick whizz around the highlights.
On Apprentice contestant Brande Roderick: A “pretty picture” if she were to “drop to her knees”.
On his own daughter, Ivanka: Repeated jokes that he would be “dating” her if he were not her father.
On journalist Megyn Kelly: Called her a “bimbo” on Twitter, and later implied her tough questioning was because she was on her period.
It goes on. And on. Yet his defence of it all being “locker room talk” washed – with women as well as men, the votes show. The reasons why are for people far more clever than me to decipher.
What I do know is that it was difficult to explain to J, my nine-year-old son, why a “nasty man who doesn’t like women or black people” is now in the White House. I don’t want him to believe that holding morally reprehensible views is ok, that it won’t stop you getting that top job.
Most of all, I don’t want him to think that treating women as fair game, as objects to be manhandled, as nothing more than “pieces of ass” is somehow acceptable now that Donald J Trump has made it to the Oval Office.
I’m working hard to raise J as a feminist, and I don’t want some clown in a rug to undo all that good work.
My only hope at the moment is that J’s generation will be the one to undo so much of the damage we have done to the world – to its resources, to our fellow human beings – in the name of progress. So I feel like I owe it to him to guide him through this dystopian nightmare with the hope that he can help make a brighter future.
But sometimes, when you’ve had three hours’ sleep, finding the words is really difficult, y’know?
So where now? What of all that progress made – all those lives dedicated and lost in the name of equality?
I guess progress isn’t linear. It comes in fits and starts. The story of human rights is one of hard-won advancement followed by two steps back.
So let’s hope that’s where we are now. Let’s hope this is just a blip, a stumble in the road.
Let’s hope that he’ll be reined in by the machine. That he’ll be a lame duck president. That 2020 will see the candidate the Democrats should have had the cojones to put up this time.
Most of all, let’s just hope.
The alternative is just too horrible.