Normally the morning after an election – presidential or off-year – I find myself almost in an alternate reality.
At the publishing group we generally work until the early hours of the morning – this year until 3:30 a.m. – waiting for election returns to allow us to send out an email newsletter blast to the several thousand plus local residents who have signed up to receive online notices about the latest news updates to our website.
Unfortunately, I am cursed. I followed national news and analysis until past 4 a.m. and called it a night, but within a couple of hours my natural body clock commanded that a new day start.
I got my first text at about 7 a.m. from a friend in the Metamora area bemoaning the elections results.
So it was no great imposition that my youngest son, Austen, phoned at 7:56 a.m. from New York to share his experience that morning about the E train ride from 50th Street uptown to Lexington Ave/53rd Street near his office. Like his older brother who lives in the Meatpacking District, and everyone else I know, we had all hung on until the wee hours to get the latest results on the presidential election. We exchanged multiple texts throughout the night as state-by-state results came in and we shared our disappointment with the Trump victory.
Austen's description that morning of the normal rush hour train ride (think noisy ruckus) to work had all the makings of a Rod Serling “One Step Beyond” episode – considerably less crowds than normal, an eerie silence where there was no conversation whatsoever, on the subway and the sidewalks of Manhattan. I first thought of that line from Sounds of Silence – “people talking without speaking.”
His experience was much like what I encountered the day after the election as I interacted with local business people near our office in Birmingham.
As a result, I use my column this month to share some added thoughts for my sons who grew up in a household where politics and the workings of government were common topics of discussion. They have matured into young adults who are intellectually engaged with the world around them. They probably don't need my advice, but I dispense it anyway.
The election this year for me was a bit different than others. As with all elections, voting is a question of deciding between alternatives. For the 2016 general election, the choice was between two flawed candidates. Simple as that. One a continuation of a dynastic tradition who carried with her baggage from the past that overwhelmed any substantive discussion of policy that had been developed. The other, an uninformed media manipulator who shocked many people as he gave rise to followers taking his lead that it was now politically correct to vent publicly their hidden thoughts about race, sexual preference, women, immigrants. You name it. Lack of civility, coupled with no real knowledge of how the government works, which does not portend well for the country.
This election in my case was focused more on preserving for the benefit of my family and the coming generations certain rights and freedoms that we all have enjoyed in our lifetime – all appearing to be in danger during the campaign, and even now as the the president-elect starts to assemble his administration.
The first thought I shared with my sons was that they were fortunate to have been raised and educated in an inclusive environment, where gay rights, women's rights, the civil rights of all populations and religions were both respected and protected. Therefore it was only natural that they, like me, were repulsed by what was heard from our next president.
But I also remind myself that even in educated communities like those served by Downtown newsmagazine, Trump still drew heavy voter support, so I suspect not everyone voting for him could be written off as part of the unholy alt-right and white supremacy crowd we would see at his rallies, although I am completely mystified how anyone could ignore the offensive and exclusionary views the campaign came to embody.
My second observation, made as we all watched the street protests outside Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue and across the nation, was that – done peacefully – there was some value in putting the new administration on notice that claims of having a mandate with this election was just one more falsehood thrown out by the Trump inner circle. Mind you, this is a president-elect who called for citizens to march on Washington when President Obama was first elected. While Trump may have won the election thanks to the outdated electoral college system (worthy of a column by itself), he lost the popular vote by over a million ballots. Without an overwhelming mandate, any attempt by the incoming national leadership to run roughshod on issues such as protection of the environment, government surveillance of select populations in the country, threats to the civil rights of both people of color and members of the LGBT community, restriction of women's reproductive rights, tampering with consumer protection regulation or freedom of the press would be disingenuous at best and set off alarms.
Which brings me to my most important advice – I remind my sons that the democracy is strong and resilient and can withstand Donald Trump. But the democracy only remains strong if we are diligent and challenge the powers that be. Which means we must stay informed, involved and be willing to speak out publicly and contest what we view as not in the public's long-term interest.
COAL TAR SEALCOAT UPDATE: As noted in my column last month, we are now starting our campaign to call on elected officials across Oakland to ban the sale and use of coal tar sealcoat for blacktop driveways and parking lots due to proven threats to human health and aquatic life in the environmentally sensitive county. As you are reading this issue, we are now mailing an information packet (copies of the October Downtown longform feature on the topic; editorial opinion; publisher's column; and a sample ordinance) to nearly 600 elected officials comprising all local municipal councils members, the entire county board of commissioners and the Michigan House and Senate members who represent Oakland County.