Home 2016 elections Thoughts in the Wake of This Terrible Loss

Thoughts in the Wake of This Terrible Loss


With Lowell’s permission/encouragement, I am starting this thread to share my thoughts and feelings in the wake of last night’s catastrophe. I’ll start with an opening thought, and time will tell how much more will appear as the day goes on.



They say that when a person’s spouse dies, the survivor should not make big decisions hastily. They should wait until the person’s circumstances and feelings get sorted out and then, on a more stable foundation, make their choices about what their new life will be.

Last night’s shocking election results feels to me like a loss of nearly that magnitude.

In some ways smaller, as the day-to-day domestic situation in which I live, with its love and its companionship and its comforts, is still there to provide the nest in which I dwell.

But also in other ways larger, because the ascendance of Donald Trump to the presidency threatens to inflict untold injury to so much that I love—the nation, the international order, the planet. Not just for four years, but conceivably for generations to come. (Got a text this morning from my younger son, saying of his two young nieces and my two young granddaughters, “Poor Dahlia and Leora.”)

So in some ways, I am a widower this morning, having lost a battle to protect our Constitution, to advance justice in America, to get a Supreme Court that is not in the pockets of the Money Power, to act responsibly to combat climate change.

And so I am not making any fast and firm decisions in the turbulence and despair of this moment.

But for right now, I believe this election will be life-changing for me. For more than twelve years, I have been fighting with all my might to defeat a destructive force that I’ve seen rising in the realm of the American political system. The results of last night leaves that Force in command of the entire field.

My sense of the moment, in response to that terrible and really unbearable darkness, is that I may now retire from the battle. That it may be time for me to turn to other endeavors where I am not compelled to peer all day into what really might well be called the face of evil.

At three-score and ten, and after all these years of looking into the heart of darknesss, I’m just not sure I’ve got the strength of heart to continue the fight while the enemy has this apparent stranglehold on our destiny.

But the beloved is newly lost, and this is not the time for firm decisions. But oh, how my heart aches!



This morning I did my monthly radio show, to talk about politics on the Harrisonburg AM station, WSVA. My interlocutors every month are the host, Jim Britt, who is a mainstream Republican, and Joshua Huffman, a young man who is a libertarian not delighted with the Republican Party with which he has sometimes been connected.

Today of course the topic was Donald Trump’s victory last night over Hillary Clinton.

I feel good about my role in that conversation, and I comment the show to your attention.


It’s good, I assume, that people are talking about “redoubling our efforts.” But that raises (not “begs,” please note) the question: how is the battle to be waged from here?

One of the more trivial losses of last night is that I’ve been building up a small trove of what I think would have been excellent ideas for how Hillary and her gang could fight and prevail in the battle that clearly lay ahead of her had she won the presidency: the battle to overcome the obstructionist intentions of the Republicans in Congress. I’d written one piece I was planning to post tomorrow. (This would have been the second in the series, the first having been an earlier piece about her “Campaign After the Campaign” that I posted here a few weeks back.) And I had several other good strategies that I planned soon to write up and present here– “Attention Vice-President Elect Kaine,” in the hope of getting these ideas into the inner circle of the hoped-for President-Elect.

Now, of course, those ideas have been rendered obsolete by events.

But with the Republicans in control of every component of the government — the presidency, both houses of Congress, and I presume soon again the Supreme Court — I’d like for someone to describe where the battle is to be engaged, and how it can be fought effectively.

Surely, the business of speaking the truth about what’s happening will never be exhausted. (But once again we see how, as I used to say in my congressional campaign against Bob Goodlatte four years ago, “the lie too often defeats the truth.”) But can someone present a scenario for how some kind of good results can be achieved in, say, the next several years?

I’m not saying it can’t. But at the moment, I don’t see a way to “get purchase,” as the expression goes, on the dynamics of our new situation.


My older son just spoke with me on the phone about the “buyer’s remorse” he anticipated these non-college-educated white men are likely to experience when Donald Trump — who likely doesn’t really care a fig about them and their frustrations — doesn’t deliver for them. Or, even worse, when/if he makes a terrible mess of everything, as someone like Trump as president might well do.

That brought to my mind the question: If, four years from now, Trump has made things quite terrible, will the people who put him in office recognize that their guy has messed things up? Or will Trump, who has been able over the past 17 months to convince a lot of these people of some thoroughly false things, be able to persuade them that all the fault lies not with him, but with others he points to –the blacks, the Latinos, the global bankers (read “Jews”)?

Which also opens up a potential line of answer to the previous question, i.e. about how the battle is to be waged: is there anything people like us can do to minimize Trump’s ability to use lies and scapegoating to protect himself from being held accountable by his supporters?


Which reminds me: I fear that there’s a big component of the American people who have become such strangers to the truth, so incapable of drawing clear conclusions from clear evidence, that they may never find their way back to reality.

One particular question: In view of all the evidence that Donald Trump has regularly not kept faith with people who place their trust in him — conning the people who gave their money to Trump University, stiffing contractors he’d hired to do work with him — what made all these angry white people believe he would not stiff them, too?

My stock in trade has always been ferreting out and telling the truth. If there are enough people in America who are wedded to falsehoods to elect a man like Trump president, I am not sure how useful my “trade” can be in the political realm.

  • Glen Bayless

    Mr. Schmookler, we are of the exact same age and sentiments. I, too, began the day wondering if I have the energy and will to continue this battle. A friend,s post however, has altered my thinking. She wrote, “now is not the time to cede the battle…it is the time to redouble our efforts so that these forces do not remain in the fore. It is the time to increase our volunteerism, speak out to injustice, take down bullies, and hold our representatives feet to the fire.” My first step today is a small one..I have shared Lowkell,s projections of the results of Trumps win. My intention is to make a greater effort to bring about different results beginning with the 2017 Va. elections.

    • Andy Schmookler

      I like the spirit of “time to redouble our efforts.” Indeed, I went through that after another terrible, sleepless post-election night in 2004. It was just two months before that I’d seen that Dark Force and devoted myself to fighting it. By the time I got out of bed the next morning, I’d resolved to go all out, and have done so ever since, with blogging, op/ed writing, radio shows, running for Congress, and writing a book to explain WHAT WE’RE UP AGAINST.

      Not sure that’s where I’ll be this time around. (But I do note that here I am, still sharing my thoughts about the political situation. So I haven’t withdrawn from the field yet.)

  • Virginia Lady

    Like you, I am sad, although perhaps bereaved is an apter description. It is sad to find out that America really IS NOT better than this. However, I am blessed (generally) with a sunny and optimistic nature, although it’s going to take me a couple of days to snap out of my funk. The Republic endures, and as long as we don’t just quit–David Frum’s dreadful prognosticating and the possibility of Sister Sarah as the Secretary of the Interior notwithstanding,

    Super majorities like this (Indiana is currently cursed with one) get to thinking they can do anything they want, and for a while, they will. The majority is subject to “over reach” much of which can be countered, at least here in Virginia, though not in the vast swathes of America where those who stayed behind so enthusiastically supported President Trump. I have no doubt the overreach will vicious. And I wonder how his supporters will feel, when they figure out that he cannot, all by himself, give them everything they promised. Chumps, I imagine.

    I think a good first thing for us to consider is that the “lesser educated whites” who Trump used to engineer this victory were not LEFT BEHIND. Hillary made some effort to identify and recruit them, but Trump did better, not because of his economic promises (I forsee a huge, deep recession coming out of this, and clearly neither those coal mining, still milling, or manufacturing jobs are coming back) but because he also pandered to their prejudices: racism, sexism, misogyny, xenophobia and homophobia. He has promised to make all those so called “entitlements” (which his supporters refuse to accept as meaning that everyone should enjoy the same standing as they do) go away.

    What has happened to these men–and it is mostly men–is that they STAYED behind while all the “minorities” that Trump so devastatingly targeted got off their collective behinds and moved forward. In that thought, and probably that one only, I think the otherwise loathsome quitter, Jim Webb does have a point, although as far as I know he has never acknowledged the bigotry involved in this. This really is a group that fancies itself left behind, but not because they can or do compete on an equal playing field, but because they cannot make it on a uneven playing field still balanced in their direction.

    All they really have is their gender and the color of those skins, and the value of those possessions is rapidly eroding in our pluralistic society.

    In 2008, I was a Hillary supporter, and was broken-hearted when Barack Obama won enough primaries to snag the nomination. I never had anything against the President, but I recall being mortified when the DNCC called me, before Hillary had so much as had a chance to concede, and asked me to donate. I remember distinctly telling them that I might, in a couple of weeks, if they had the decency to back off and let me mourn.

    I’m quite sure I will again.

    • Jim B

      “Cannot make it on a an uneven playing field still balanced in their direction” That rings so true. Many of these people have trade jobs where they overcharge for their shoddy work and eventually go broke when their clients stop asking for their services, but you will find them at the corner deli complaining about democrats making their lives miserable.

  • Yellen Fan

    To solve a problem it must first be analyzed. I offer suggested elements of that analysis.
    –Trump got over $1 billion in free advertising
    –this provided him with a lectern from which to tell his story
    –Hillary’s communications were primarily rebukes of the Trump story
    –and therefore negative, rather than painting a positive view of herself.
    I am sure that readers of this thread are way better informed than the majority of the Trumpies, and are aware that she devoted far more of her life to helping the common man than to the pursuit of wealth. But the picture he painted of her by making 4 mole-hills into mountains was pure immoral avarice. In one poll, 26% FEARED her, for Heavens sake.
    How did the typical uneducated Trumpie form his opinion of Hillary?
    What are the chances of making non-partisan objective reviews an important part of the process?

    • Quizzical

      Hillary spent much of the democratic primary elections giving speeches on detailed policy proposals and publishing even more details on her website. As the general election started, her stump speeches constantly included the refrain that the other candidate doesn’t provide details about anything, but she not only provided details of her proposals, but she also explained exactly how she proposed to pay for them. Somehow, by October the meme had started that Hillary only was negative, and never said what she was for. I never got how people could even think that, if they had been paying any kind of attention.

      What could Hillary have done differently though? She couldn’t go into a debate with someone like Trump and talk about policy while he attacked her on a personal level. The debates in the format that was used in this election did not include time enough for wonkish debates on policy, even assuming the public would even watch that.

  • Bill Weir

    People of the Democratic party failed to connect with the struggling working families of this country. We should strive to listen and connect with this big part of America. Once that is done, this group will realize that the Democratic party is their best home. And when Trump and his Republicans fail to deliver, the Democratic party will.

  • mark Jawsz

    You Democrats lost for three simple reasons: (1) your party has totally ignored the white working class in the rust belt; (2) Hillary was a lying corporatist; and (3) Hillary had the misfortune of following the very personally appealing Obama. In short, she was a disappointment who would rather pander to the Jaz-Zs of America, rather than talking to a Croatian-American factory worker in Steubenville, Ohio. You guys and gals despise the working class in flyover country. I know. I come from a Democratic Jewish family and I know what typical liberal Democrats have to say about those rubes and hayseeds in Kansas. Well, it bit you in the ass this election cycle. Biden or Bernie would have trounced Trump.

  • Glen Bayless

    Here is another small step I am taking. I will not patronize any business, local or national that overtly supported Trump. Home Depot is most notable. I am now traveling 2 extra mile to get to Lowes (wish there were still local hardware stores)..the upside of this is that I am finding the staff at Lowes more helpful!

    • True Blue

      I also don’t “do” anything supported by ALEC. OR Chick-Fil-A, Papa Johns, Hobby Lobby, American Greetings (Koch)… I suggest voting with our dollars to support organizations that don’t discriminate against gays, women, minorities, healthcare, workers, etc. – one list I actively boycott:


      • Glen Bayless

        I also do not patronize the companies you mention..do not forget Walmart.