Last night, when it was clear the quants, who have made a cottage industry of crafting poll-based electoral predictions, had been too clever by half, I received a text.
“What is happening??!”
It wasn’t a request for information — it was an existential shriek, something from a sci-fi movie, the scene where someone’s molecular structure breaks down into a gelatinous pulp due to an unknown disease.
That text came from a number I didn't know. Maybe it was a stranger, randomly sending out queries in a futile attempt to make sense of a world he or she no longer recognized.
Hillary Clinton is not going to be president, but more to the point, for many, Donald Trump is.
It would be hard to hyperbolize the immediate shock and dismay from liberals at Trump’s surprise victory. In my own Facebook feed, among Clinton supporters, a common theme was nausea; one person declared she was leaving the social media network for the foreseeable future, another said he was leaving forever. For them, it was the end of a yearlong episode of "Black Mirror," the cult show set in the near future, when the power of digital mass communications has outpaced society's ability to make use of those tools wisely.
This despair wasn’t much different among the Left's intelligentsia. Here’s New York Times columnist Paul Krugman:
I don’t know how we go forward from here. Is America a failed state and society? It looks truly possible. I guess we have to pick ourselves up and try to find a way forward, but this has been a night of terrible revelations, and I don’t think it’s self-indulgent to feel quite a lot of despair.
It really does now look like President Donald J. Trump, and markets are plunging. When might we expect them to recover?
Frankly, I find it hard to care much, even though this is my specialty. The disaster for America and the world has so many aspects that the economic ramifications are way down my list of things to fear. Still, I guess people want an answer: If the question is when markets will recover, a first-pass answer is never.
The New Yorker’s David Remnick got it together to pound out a middle-of-the-night essay with this lead:
The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency is nothing less than a tragedy for the American republic, a tragedy for the Constitution, and a triumph for the forces, at home and abroad, of nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny, and racism. Trump’s shocking victory, his ascension to the Presidency, is a sickening event in the history of the United States and liberal democracy. ... It is impossible to react to this moment with anything less than revulsion and profound anxiety.
Back on Facebook, a post making the rounds called on California to secede. As this state goes, let’s not mince words: It's profoundly Democratic, with just 26 percent of voters registered Republican. The latest count has Clinton beating Trump in California by almost 2-1. This is a state where Latinos outnumber whites; this is a state with the biggest immigrant population in the U.S. This is a state that just handily sent Kamala Harris, the daughter of an Indian-American mother and a Jamaican-American father, to the United States Senate.
Harris was raised in Berkeley, which is to the San Francisco Bay Area as the Bay Area is to California, and California is to the U.S. — to the left. Trump's victory last night was greeted in Oakland, San Francisco, Berkeley and San Jose by immediate protests. This is a region where Donald Trump’s policies, statements and style are largely anathema. This is a place that is going to be emotionally devastated for some time to come.
Trump, for his part, hewed to convention in his victory speech, calling on America "to bind the wounds of division."
"To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people," he said. "It’s time. I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans, and this is so important to me. For those who have chosen not to support me in the past, of which there were a few people, I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country."
Fair enough. But the fear created by his ascension to the enormous power of the presidency is something that his administration will have to contend with. As will the many people who voted for him. (As of this writing, that's about 200,000 fewer than those who voted for Clinton. Jill Stein voters, more than 1.2 million of them: Prepare to be vilified.)
The fear is genuine. No one knows if Trump will carry out his on-again, off-again, on-again threat to deport as many undocumented immigrants as possible; or how his many negative statements about Muslims will translate into actual policy. But one Muslim-American woman last night seemed to capture a potential reaction for many.
"Stuff he has said about the Muslims. Is he really going to do that?" asked 36-year-old Amna Qazi, speaking to KQED at a Kamala Harris event in Los Angeles. "So at the moment I’m standing here and my heart is pounding and I’m like, what? Do we have to wrap up our bags? Do we have to go?"