So ... Now What?

In the shadow of a Trump presidency, people are wondering what's next.

Over the last few hours, a lot of people have texted me "now what?" Or they've sent a few simple four-letter words and expressed astonishment. 

The narrative that I can see developing already is that liberals and the "city elite" don't know their country, don't know Middle America, and this is what's left of that "silent majority" standing up and slapping us in the face. I'd propose the opposite: rural America doesn't know us. 

They haven't seen diversity work in close quarters, the way I ride the subway with Orthodox Jews and observant Muslims and African-Americans and Hispanics and foreigners every morning. They haven't seen the way we laugh together at the same street performer or groan and sigh with the same remorse when a train is delayed. They don't see the positives of globalization, the innovation and knowledge that is born in places such as New York City and Silicon Valley, the tech and relationships that are coming from overseas. They don't grasp where some of the greatest innovation, growth, and prosperity are coming from: immigrants and young people.

Am I surprised this was the outcome? Yes. Am I shocked? No. 

Months ago, Glenn Greenwald, who helped orchestrate the Snowden leaks, asked a simple question: "Why is everyone so sure that an establishment candidate is going to win in the political climate we're living in?" Being against the government is radical now, it's a movement of frustration and last chances, and it's one we've seen repeated in history time and time again. But it's also one we need to contextualize.

Rural Americans are frustrated, and their voices must be acknowledged. Our world here in the city is more and more distanced from them every day. Our culture and our politics are city-centric, and the rural part of America has finally said "enough is enough."  

This entire election I've never passed an opportunity to argue with someone on Facebook, correct an objective lie or mistruth in an article, or ask someone how they could possibly think a certain thing. A lot of my friends give me crap for that, but I did it because this outcome was entirely possible in my mind and — as we saw last night — every vote truly does matter. I did it because we are all living in our own echo chambers and rarely venturing off into the views and feelings of people who aren't like us. 

So now what? 

Now, if you have a pit in your stomach, and are feeling disgusted and scared, now you have to start engaging in those conversations, too. That's first. Donald J. Trump is about to become president with a Republican House and Senate, his choice of a Supreme Court justice, a vice president who believes in conversion therapy for gays, and he will probably appoint Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani to his cabinet. 

The marriage equality act will be challenged. 

Women's right to abortion will be challenged. 

There's a good chance a re-investment in coal and an attempted pullout of the Paris Climate agreement will truly hurt our planet in ways we fear most. 

Women, my God, women. Think about the girls and young women in our country who need to be told that they matter right now, who need to be reaffirmed that they are better, who need to be treated with more respect. Think about the women who are told their voices matter when they speak out against sexual assault. Think about the women who are supposed to be treated equally in the work place, whose experience is supposed to count above all else. They just watched the most qualified person to ever run for president lose to a man who's never held political office. We need to empower their voices so they can be heard like they've never been before. But also don't forget that 40 percent of U.S. women voted for Trump and their voices need to be heard, too.

So now what? Now we gear up for a long battle, one that will likely last four years and maybe longer, one that requires us to stop and talk, to love our neighbors, to respect and consider rural America, to open our arms to the minorities who in overwhelming numbers voted against Trump, to take to the streets the moment a President Trump oversteps his boundaries.

Trump now has a giant spying apparatus, the most powerful military in the world, and the temperament of a 4-year-old. I fear for myself as a journalist and a Jew, someone who has been harassed repeatedly online by his supporters, threatened, and whose job will be immensely harder under a president willing to sue or imprison me for saying negative things about him. Now we get behind The New York Times and The Washington Post and CNN, and we support the journalists who are going to have to do work we don't do for ourselves. We cannot invest time in reading Breitbart and Infowars and all these inaccurate sources of information; we need to give lip service and share stories that matter, stories shared by real journalists with real experience and knowledge. 

And I will do my best to give that to those of you who are gracious enough to read my work.

So now what? Now we stay engaged. Now we vote in the midterms in two years, we change congress so there are real checks and balances, and we hope for the best. We listen to our trusted leaders: Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and yes, Hillary Clinton. 

We hope the people who say Donald Trump has been slandered by the media and is really a half-decent man are right. We hope we didn't just elect a rapist. We hope his New York City roots show themselves in the best way possible. But we don't look away. We follow the decisions he makes day in and day out, and we talk about them, we put ourselves in the shoes of the millions of Americans who just made him president and we ask ourselves why, and we do it all with love and respect. We remember Michelle Obama: when they go low, we go high.

Today is a tremendously disappointing and sad day for many reasons. I fear not just for the Muslim, Hispanic, African-American and LGBT communities, but I fear for Donald Trump's supporters. 

I fear what's going to happen when he inevitably doesn't build a border wall, when he can't fix the economy overnight, when he doesn't prosecute Hillary, or deport 11 million people, or pull out of every war, or all the crap he's promised. I fear what happens when he doesn't govern because he doesn't know how, and instead much of the status quo stays in tact, and those supporters are left feeling more abandoned than they ever were before. 

There is a lot to fear, but there is also a lot to do. Remember that young people, the 18-29-year-olds, came out in droves against Trump. Clinton would have won 400 electoral votes, a sweeping victory, if it were young people alone who voted. Far too many of us who oppose what Trump represents have been complacent and bored by government, by our leaders, by the progress Obama made for all of us. And now we have to step up and preserve it in every way we can.

For more political commentary, you can follow Isaac Saul on Twitter @Ike_Saul.

Cover photo: Evan El-Amin / Shutterstock.com