The first Presidential Election I ever watched was in 1968, after a bruising convention Democrats nominated Vice President, Hubert Humphrey. Humphrey didn’t compete in the primaries and at a tumultuous Democratic Convention in Chicago, Humphrey was nominated. Living in a house of active voters, it was the topic of several conversations about how Humphrey would be good for Black people. So, on Election Night 1968, I spent the whole night watching returns and was saddened when Richard Nixon won that night. At 11 years old I felt sad and I didn’t understand why. I’m an 11 year old trying to process an election.
This was when Vietnam anti-war sentiment was sweeping the country; anti-war demonstrations from Syracuse University would routinely pass our house on their way to the Onondaga County War Memorial. Another presidential candidate on the scene was segregationist Alabama Governor, George Wallace, known for standing in front of a school door denying entry to Black students. But at 11 years old, with Hubert Humphry losing the election, i knew it meant something. I was a sad 11 eleven year old. Now, 48 years later I’m feeling those emotions again.
The narrative is different, but the emotions are the same. After insulting every minority on the continent and having a horrendous relationship with minorities, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. A shock to the pollsters’ and pundits, who were already offering their opinions on how large Hillary Clinton’s victory would be, and “how can the Republican Party survive what’s about to happen”.
The political talking heads on cable television news programs were wrong, so wrong they’re now wondering why they “didn’t see that coming”. I did.
Since the election of Barack Obama, there’s been a constant drum beat of disrespect emanating from conservatives and republicans. Even those on the left, felt he didn’t go far enough, move fast enough, on issues progressives felt strongly about. A progressive journalist went as far as to tell me, “Barack Obama in not Black”.
Incidents of angry whites feeling quite comfortable, were saying the most vicious racially offensive things in public. And if you’re Black, saying it to your face. After President Obama’s election it didn’t take long for “Dog whistle “language and racially tinged attitudes to appear in response to having an African-American, President of the United States.
Election Night 2016, it’s a long way from watching returns on a black & white television in the bedroom in my parents’ house. The anti-Obama attitudes are and have been for years on the tips of tongues, since his election to the presidency.
As Election Day approached, you could feel the energy and hopeful uplift Donald Trump gave to his supporters. He spoke directly to white America who’d had enough of “Change you can believe in”. Americans believed the distorted information about Obama Care, strength and depth of our military, and the Birther issue, wild claim after wild claim since the day of President Obama’s Inauguration, top it off with Republicans pledged to make him fail.
As the slogan goes, “Make America Great Again”, this morning after the election I don’t feel so great. I feel like the 11 year old who was upset that his candidate didn’t win. That’s what happens when you have great expectations.