I write this post the morning after Donald Trump has won the election for the U.S. presidency. There's a lot of panic in the air and I have had very little sleep. Still, I feel now is as good a time as any to reflect on this ridiculous election cycle and the role of media.
First, you've got to love the irony that Roger Ailes has been deposed from FOX News just before all his dreams essentially came true. Trump is the ne plus ultra of the FOX News style demagogue, but one so egotistical that even Ailes gave up on coaching him for the debates. With the Republicans controlling every branch of the federal government and most of the states, I have to wonder who their new Big Government scapegoat is going to be. And whether they'll warm up to Putin.
The late night comedians were all behind Hillary, but the Trump win means that they'll have plenty of material for the next four years. I just finished watching the final few minutes of Stephen Colbert's Showtime election special, which has gone viral. It's the best reaction to the election that I've seen so far, stressing that the country has become too divided and we've all got to find some common ground. I haven't had a chance to look at the other shows yet, but I will be, after I've recovered some nerve. I'm especially looking forward to John Oliver after his multiple pieces on Trump.
I actually had a lot of fun watching some of the election-themed media during this season. "The Daily Show" and all its progeny got to be a bit much, especially toward the end as they were directly pitching for Hillary Clinton, but I loved the "SNL" skits with Alec Baldwin and Kate McKinnon. I loved the Clinton installment of "Between Two Ferns." Heck, it was even nice to see the cast of "Will & Grace" reunite for a skit (and maybe a revival, natch). I did my best to stay out of the way of the ads and the cable news personalities, keeping my television set mostly off. On election night, I put on PBS.
Online, however, was a different story. I've been a Hillary supporter since her first run in 2008, and got caught up in reading election blogs and the cycle of scandals and outrage through digital print media. I fully admit I fell victim to the echo chamber. Most of the polling turned out to be way off, but there were a few outlets that did point to a Trump victory, which I chose to mentally downplay or ignore. I kept my Facebook feed fairly clear of pro-Trump postings, to the extent that I know I didn't appreciate how much of the American populace actually was on his side beyond the alt-right pests.
I mentally treated Trump supporters as one and the same as the kids on 4chan and E-mail spammers, which was a big mistake. Sure, there were Russian bots and troll brigades mucking around, but a lot of the support came from a very real place. It was just hard to see when the most vocal Trump boosters seemed to communicate entirely in Pepe memes and conspiracy theories. Trump's campaign appeared to be a total shambles, and the ever-growing pile of scandals masked the fact that he was connecting to people. A lot of people.
So I go blindisded last night, like so many others. While the television was on, I was getting most of my election updates from various bloggers and tracking sites. The New York Times page with the forecast needle was especially nailbiting to watch, as it swung from a Clinton to a Trump victory fairly early in the evening. I wound up going to bed well before the election was called, already sure how it would turn out. I didn't sleep much. And I got up this morning to several people venting their spleen on my Facebook page about the results.
But this is what America wants, so I'm holding my tongue. Part of me is relieved that the whole election mess is over and we won't have to go through it again for at least another two years - until the midterms roll around. However, another part of me that was really looking forward to not having Donald Trump plastered all over my newsfeeds, is worried that the Donald show is just beginning. And some small part of me feels a little sorry for Donald Trump today, because he clearly has no idea what he's getting himself into.
Until next time. If there is a next time.