It was the best of elections, it was the worst of elections. It is the spring of hope, or the winter of despair. We live in the age of wisdom and the age of foolishness.
This is a tale of two Maines, and of two nations. The question is, can we come back together as one? Can we live up to our motto, e pluribus unum?
We’re not off to a great start.
Modernity’s talking statues — also known as “Facebook” — shouted incredulity at Hillary Clinton’s loss. The emotional outcry of so many Pasquinos levied accusations of “misogyny, bigotry, racism” and other deplorable charges against the other half of the American populace. Or, only slightly less insulting, they claimed Trump’s election was simply letting “the uneducated have their day.”
It’s crazy. Only a few months ago, Trump was — rightly — being called to task for painting all Muslims with a broad brush, including those who served as interpreters with military personnel and placed their own lives on the line alongside Americans. Yet now, with Clinton’s defeat, some of her former supporters are falling into the same broad brush fallacy.
The fact is, each American who cast a ballot had their own reasons for doing so, whatever their background. And while it may be cathartic for those who lost to hurl churlish insults, it does nothing to advance our nation.
That is especially true when it comes to the other cry that populated Facebook feeds: how do we explain this to the children? If your gut says to tell them a bunch of uneducated rubes elected Trump, then stop. In addition to being wrong, that line of argument carries the connotation — and kids are nothing if not intuitive — that it is shameful to not earn a degree. Nothing could be further from the truth.
There are plenty of educated idiots in this world, many with more credentials than sense. Meanwhile, some of the wisest people you would ever care to meet aren’t college graduates. A diploma carries no magic; as we look to grow Maine’s future economy, we need to rebuild a skilled workforce. Denigrating men and women who learn trades instead of pursuing degrees frustrates that.
As does making unhinged accusations. Those who are writing long screeds that “Trump is going to take away our rights” are just as out there as those who believed President Obama was secretly planning U.N.-led martial law. That isn’t how government works; while the Republican congressional majority and President Trump may move the ball on some core initiatives, it won’t happen quickly.
And should they overreach, they will fall flat on their face. Don’t believe it? Look back eight years. Obama’s inability to compromise on the Affordable Care Act lost him Congress and, with it, the ability to get big things done.
After Tuesday, the one certainty is that we are living in interesting times. Yes, Trump is the president-elect while coming up just a bit short on the popular vote. But a majority of New England states will now have Republican governors. In Maine, we split our electoral votes for the first time ever, reflecting the state’s divide on the national news for all to see.
With razor thin margins between the parties in Augusta, that divide may continue. Wild as it might be — and there will need to be analysis done — it is entirely possible that a majority of state House and Senate districts voted against some of the referendums that passed. That presents a question: should direct democracy or representative democracy prevail? Either answer is likely to lead to more strife.
Yet a strong battle of ideas is okay if we remember we’re all in this together. The challenges are very real. We can’t solve them if the players are spending all their time and energy insulting one another.
So whether you were a Trump supporter, filled in the Clinton bubble, or checked off another candidate, let’s acknowledge we each made our own votes for our own reasons. Put the broad brushes away and bust out the pencils; as we fashion solutions, sometimes there will need to be an eraser.
And with hard work and goodwill toward each other, tomorrow will be a far, far better day.