If you are reading this, you were probably shocked, horrified and/or deeply saddened by the outcome of the 2016 election. Theories are emerging as to how this unanticipated outcome came to be, and many of them seem to be relevant. In the end, it’s probably multiple factors that led to the unthinkable outcome of having a coarse, vulgar bigot become president-elect. And yet here we are – it did indeed happen and we’re in mourning because bigotry has now gained the biggest megaphone on the planet – the US Presidency. Predictably, hate crimes have spiked as previously marginalized hate groups now feel validated:
- USA Today: Post-election spate of hate crimes worse than post-9/11, experts say
- USA Today: Fringe far-right groups emboldened by Trump victory
- CNN: “Make America White Again:” Hate speech and crimes post-election
- CBS News: Hate, harassment incidents spike since Trump election
And yet when pressed on the subject in a television interview, the president-elect only offered a skeptical comment to “stop it.”
As we think about our efforts here in Wake County, our voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts over several months delivered positive results, especially when compared to the state and national rates. With just 37.7% of voters being registered democratic, the high democratic turnout plus positive engagement among the unaffiliated in favor of democratic candidates made a big impact.
These Wake County results didn’t just happen on their own –getting thousands of new voters registered over several months helped. And so did the homestretch canvassing and phone banking – one location (Region 16C) yielded over 2,000 doors knocked and over 1,000 calls placed each weekend across the 3.5 weekends of active canvassing and phone banking. Knowing that, imagine what we achieved across Wake County!
Those are results we can all be proud of. So if we put the same purposeful effort from prior to the election into how we deal with the outcome, we can channel our grief into positive energy in 5 steps.
- Accept your grief
Start by looking no further than yourself. One of the many things life teaches us is that feelings and emotions matter, and it’s never good to repress them or try to invalidate them in others. So when you hear “get over it” or “it will all work out,” it’s certainly annoying, but it’s also not helpful. And since every person deals with grief differently, let’s remember to be mindful and patient of others as they grieve.
In addition, you should understand that your feelings are similar to what people experience with the loss of a loved one. Swiss psychiatrist Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross developed a widely-accepted model for the 5-stages of grief that you may experience in any possible order: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Simply accept that what you’re feeling is normal and allow yourself to experience it so you can eventually move on.
- Treat each interaction as an opportunity
As for yourself, you owe it to the other person (and yourself) to respond to those brush-offs and not simply walk away or remain silent. The key is to do it positively so your feelings are not invalidated and the other person gains an appreciation for why you are grieving.You may even need to say that you know they won’t change their mind about how they voted, and you’re not trying to do that. Your response might open their eyes to the real threat to the hard-fought gains in basic rights that whole swaths of our population may lose. We cannot let the narrative stand that it’s simply sour grapes about “your candidate losing” when the loss is specific, real and personal for you.
As an example, a coworker of mine, who is a republican, commented that I’ve not been my usual, outgoing self and commented that she missed the way we would chat, adding that she felt sorry for me. I thanked her, but I also suggested that she not feel sorry for me but instead feel sorry for everyone in America whose basic rights would now be traded like chips in a poker game – including those of herself and her daughters. Maybe she will hear the same thing from others.
- Reach out to help and be helpedSome people have embraced the safety pin on their lapel to signify that they resist all forms of bigotry and will stand up to it when they bear witness to it. Others may have added a gray filter to cover their social media avatars to signal their state of mind. And then the “private” and “secret” groups on social media have endured and emerged to provide comfort among friends, such as “Pantsuit Nation” on Facebook. If you are hesitant about one-on-one interactions outside of those forums, you could always check the other person’s voter registration (public record in NC) at www.ncsbe.gov as a way of knowing who you might be dealing with.
Those are some initial ways for you to find support in addition to offering support to others. More proactive steps cab be taken by donating time and money to organizations that serve the disaffected and disenfranchised.
In some cases, you could make those contributions in the name of a friend or foe – as we’ve seen a surge in donations since the election made to Planned Parenthood in Mike Pence’s name.
Here is a sampling of the kinds of organizations you could help support either in your own name or your favorite Trumpkin (so they get a thank-you for the donation):
- Urban Ministries of Wake County
- Urban Ministries of Durham
- The Center for Reproductive Rights
- Planned Parenthood Action Fund
- The NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People)
- The Southern Poverty Law Center
- The Human Rights Campaign
- PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays)
- GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation)
- The Anti-Defamation League
- The Council on American-Islamic Relations
- US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
- Church World Service Durham (refugee and immigrant assistance)
- the International Refugee Assistance Fund
Additional resources for refugee assistance can be found on the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website. And you can also search and find other worthy organizations on the web, or by just looking in your community.
- Know that the majority of Americans are not bigotsLogic tells us that a vote for Trump means the voter either accepts the bigotry his campaign normalized, or they don’t feel the bigotry is worse than whatever they found wrong with Hillary Clinton or the other candidates. With that in mind and with Trump winning the election, one might conclude that a majority of Americans are either bigots or find the bigotry acceptable.
But the reality is that with a 64.9% voter turnout and with just 46.37% of the popular vote for Trump, that means that only 30% of our population can be thought of as either bigoted or comfortable with bigotry. And despite Clinton garnering over 2 million more popular votes than Donald Trump, he will become our next president unless the recounts of votes in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania deliver a different outcome, or that electors in the electoral college do not vote for Trump as expected.
- Make yourself heardEven with the grim prospect of a Trump Presidency, we still have the right to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and our representative government. Turn your grief into positive energy by seizing opportunities to participate in rallies and protests. There is strength in numbers even if you are not using the megaphone or holding the placards. So show your support for the causes you feel are threatened by being there in person.
And remember to reach out more frequently to your county, state and federal government representatives. In the case of our US Senators and Representatives, know that the most effective way can be the phone call placed to the local office. Do this on a regular basis so your views are regularly registered among his or her constituents.
Here are some resources to get you started:
- Find out who your representatives are by looking yourself up on the NC State Board of Elections site.
- Find your NC Senator and Representative by district number by scrolling down on the NC General Assembly “Who Represents Me” page.
- Call Senator Richard Burr’s Winston-Salem office: (336) 631-5125.
- Call Senator Thom Tillis’ Raleigh office: (919) 856-4630.
For tips on how to make the most of these contacts, check out “Best Methods to Reach Your Congressman,” by Brent Willis, a contributor to the Votility civic engagement and advocacy blog.
Once you have taken these five steps to turn your grief into positive energy, you should be on your way to recovery. And equally importantly, you will continue to move the needle for progressive causes.
Please add your thoughts in a comment below with other ways you’ve seen people cope with post-election grief.