In my town, and many towns across the nation, people are protesting “the steal.” Because in 2021 it’s more believable that the opposing party orchestrated an elaborate plan to take the Presidency (and not the Senate – major eye roll ) than a majority of the country decided a narcissistic man-child uninterested in the job of running the country wasn’t the best person to lead the country during a raging pandemic and economic crisis.
I’ve been trying to get at the root of why this bothers me so much (and why the response of “just let them do it, it’ll go away) completely unravels me.
Here’s my attempt at sussing it out.
Let’s go back to 2016 (sorry but we have to). I was devastated and confused when Trump won. I also understood I was hurt on a deeper level that other women and marginalized folx can relate to; losing out on a job you’re more qualified for because you’re up against a less-qualified white man who belongs to a club that will forever evade you. That you don’t want to join, but you wish the boss (American people) would stop seeing as the more palatable choice for power.
Even the first Women’s March the day after Trump’s inauguration was about more than Trump and it certainly wasn’t about stopping him from taking office. That march was an awakening* (*for some, many women, especially WOC have been awake out of necessity for their entire lives – it’s a privilege to have risen as late as 2016). Trump wasn’t protested against because he was a Republican; he was protested against for being an “alleged” rapist & sexual assaulter known for calling women he doesn’t like “dogs” and threatening to take away their reproductive rights on the campaign trail. This was bigger than D vs. R. This was reminding the now President that we women & marginalized folx are here and he now works for all of us, not just those who pressed the button for him.
Again I was upset but then – and now with all the information that has come to light – I don’t believe 2016 was stolen in the sense of faulty voting machines and overt Russian tampering (to the extent they coordinated with the Trump Campaign is still tbd – but let’s put that aside for arguments sake). The election was stolen legally; the gutting of the Voting Rights Act to make voter suppression easier, gerrymandering to create favorable Republican districts, etc. Russians sought to stoke the fires of racism and nationalism while depressing Democratic turnout online, but it only worked because the conditions were right, the ground dry, the kindling waiting for a match. It wouldn’t have succeeded in a healthier democracy – excuse me – democratic republic, as people who have no idea what that means like to use as an argument whenever someone talks about our democracy in a way they disagree with.
What’s happening right now is a protest to overturn a free and fair election. It’s a protest against democracy. It’s more than any anti-Democratic country could wish for. Americans sowing the seeds of distrust in their own political system they claim to love. These patriots who fly Confederate flags next to their American ones, not even recognizing the irony. Maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that some of the same people who take pride in flying the flag of a group of people who committed treason against the U.S.A. are claiming a democratic election is unpatriotic.
They are right – on some level – to be surprised. Incumbents generally win re-election. Voter suppression designed by the GOP is baked into our election processes DNA, not to mention we were voting during a pandemic with efforts to vote by mail threatened at every turn. Hell they even tried (and somewhat succeeded) in destroying the USPS to hurt/depress vote by mail. The odds were against Democrats – and maybe they succeeded down ballot. But not at the Presidential level. Not where it counts – to Trump voters.
Surprise and shock is no excuse for weeks of protest, GOP Senators making headlines that they won’t certify the results, issuing lawsuits, etc. They’re like a child who has lost a Little League Game despite having the best individual game of their life. Do you let them stomp their feet, cry that it was rigged, fight to overturn an accurate score? Or, do you teach them that losing is a part of life? That even the best players lose sometimes. That there is a way to lose graciously while continuing to train and get better and that’s a better use of their time than stewing over the balls and strikes of one game.
I think the root of my anger is I don’t know what the solution is, but “ignore them, it’ll go away,” doesn’t ring true to me. In regards to our representatives there’s precedent for expelling treasonous Senators. The House could refuse to seat the roughly 106 GOP members who signed on to a lawsuit to overturn the results of the election.
But what do we do about the people on the corner every weekend with “Stop the Steal” signs? How do we coexist? How does our democracy survive – let alone grow and thrive – in these conditions? Do they just disappear or do they morph into something more insidious when Trump is no longer the center of their political beliefs? What then will they believe in? What then will the fight for?
Will they win?
And what are the consequences for the rest of us?