The great state of denial
By RALPH HARDIN
Evening Times Editor I n 2016, I was so sure that Hillary Clinton was going to win the election. I mean, like it wasn’t even a question. I always cover the local elections and it makes for a long night, so I usually write up my main story ahead of time, leaving some blanks to fill in with actual vote tallies and a quote or two.
So, I wrote up my “Hillary Wins!” story early that afternoon. It was a foregone conclusion. It wasn’t “was she going to win?” it was “how much is she going to win by?’ I assure you I was not alone in this thinking. Every poll, survey, metric and analyst was pointing to a Clinton win. Trump had virtually no chance.
But then… well, you know by now. Trump actually won the election. I was still in a bit of shock as I ambled into my office late that night to write up the story. I even remember my headline: “Clinton wins in historic election.” It came with a sub-headline, “America elects first woman president.”
So, I clicked “delete” and watched the words I had so confidently typed hours earlier disappear. Sure there were three states where it was very close, just a few thousand votes separated the two candidates, but the result was all but over, and Donald Trump had won.
I ended up having to scrap the whole story. It was a completely different narrative with a different outcome. I have no problem admitting I did not want it to be true. I had been pulling for Hillary. I was a big fan of her husband’s presidency. I had enjoyed the Obama administration’s run over the previous eight years. A Hillary win promised pretty much more of the same, and that was fine with me.
I found Trump to be repugnant, vile, caustic and, quite frankly the exact opposite of presidential. But he had won, and I had accepted it. I took some flak the next day from some of my Republican friends, family and coworkers. But that was fine. I will say I did not jump aboard the #not mypresident train or hold out hope that some mysterious force would somehow stop this from happening, like a warehouse full of uncounted votes or some rogue electors switching their votes.
Actually, I did the opposite. I decided to root for the guy. I figured if he succeeded, America succeeded, and I am definitely part of America. Rooting for him to fail would be akin to being on an airplane and hoping the pilot crashes just so you can have the satisfaction of being right. But yes, not everyone was on board with that plan. There were many who would have been just fine if Trump had flown U.S. Air right into a mountain.
We saw a few cracks in the Trump facade in 2018 when the Democrats regained control of the House and picked up a few seats in the Senate. Then came the impeachment joke… I mean trial. The two biggest blows came over the past year though, with the civil unrest over racism and the Black Lives Matter movement and, of course, COVID-19.
Now, I’ll be honest here and say I don’t know what anyone else would have done in the face of an unprecedented health crisis, but I know what Trump did, which was almost nothing. And what he did do was pretty much a disaster. His actions were (and still are) almost the direct opposite of what the science and his own health experts were recommending. Historians will probably point to his response to the coronavirus pandemic as probably the single one thing that tipped the scales in favor of president- elect Joe Biden earlier this month.
So, here we are. Biden won. Trump lost. And right on brand for Trump, he’s living in this fantasy world where he’s going to be president come January 1st, 2021. Last year while Christmas shopping, I watched an embarrassed mother dragging her tantrum- throwing toddler out of the Hobby Lobby. Unless Trump decides to face reality some time over the next two months, that’s what the Secret Service is going to look like pulling Trump out of the Oval Office.
He won’t be alone. Somehow, there are millions of Americans out there who honestly believe the Democrats were savvy and unscrupulous enough to orchestrate a nationwide conspiracy to “steal” this election. And they, like many in 2016, are just fooling themselves into thinking somehow the result is going to change. Yes, it was close. It was close in 2016, and in 2000, and in many other elections. But it’s over.
How about this? How about we just give Trump and his followers a big chunk of land somewhere and we can give them their own little fiefdom. He can be president or governor or king or whatever he likes.
We’ll call it the State of Denial.