Monday, December 26, 2016
December 26, 2016: 2016 in Review: That Damn Election
[As usual, I’ll end the year—even this most frustrating of years—by AmericanStudying a handful of major stories. This time featuring a special Friday Guest Post from one of the wonderful student papers in my Senior Seminar on 21st Century America! Please add your year in review responses, thoughts, and airing of grievances in comments.]
On two ways to respond to a still unbelievably awful political moment.
I’m writing this post on December 19th, the day that members of the Electoral College vote all over the country to formally confirm Donald Trump as the next President of the United States. I’m sure I’m not alone in having spent the six weeks after the election in a vague and admittedly nonsensical state of both denial and optimism, believing somehow that we wouldn’t really get to this point. But we’re here, and while the results aren’t official as of the moment I write these words [serious inside baseball stuff in this paragraph and I apologize, but it feels relevant to the immediacy of this particular post’s topics and moment], I don’t think any faithless electors or emoluments clause aficionados are going to stop or even delay the inevitable. Hell, I don’t even think Joe Biden will do the cool thing he could do in early January to confirm Merrick Garland as a Supreme Court Justice, although that one seems to be eminently fair and reasonable (and not just because it’s quite possible Trump will nominate Judge Judy or Judge Reinhold, although also yes).
So we’re entering the Trump era, and I’ve been thinking a lot about how to respond to that new political and national reality, in my public scholarly work as in every other way. I would say that my first three post-election Huffington Post pieces—on Reconstruction/reconciliation, Japanese internment, and the Wilmington coup and massacre—offer clear examples of one main response I’m determined to pursue. In each case, I’ve tried to engage with under-remembered American histories not only to contextualize present situations and debates, but also and most importantly to express both fears about where we might be headed and goals for how we just might learn from the past and move in a different direction instead. I don’t believe that the present is simply an echo or repetition of the past, but rather that many of the issues, narratives, and perspectives that have contributed to our histories remain very much present and in play. And public AmericanStudies scholars are in a particularly good place to help us remember, engage with, and again learn from those histories as we move into a future that is both uncertain and up to us to help determine.
So that’s one thing I can and plan to do in the election’s aftermath and over the next four (or more, although on that note I remain in that combination of denial and optimism!) years. But I believe there’s another important way to respond, and I’ll put it more briefly for obvious reasons: to listen to all those fellow Americans for whom Trump poses a far greater threat. From Syrian refugees to the LGBT community, Mexican Americans to the young Americans affected by DACA, incarcerated Americans to workers in minimum wage jobs, there are countless American communities who will likely bear the brunt of Trump’s policies and effects. I’m not going to pretend like I know or can even imagine what that will mean—but I can and do promise to listen to all these fellow Americans, and then to do everything I can to support them in these battles. There are few, if any, more significant efforts we can all undertake in 2017.
Next 2016 review tomorrow,
PS. What do you think? Other 2016 stories you’d highlight?