Post-Election 2016: Where Do We Go From Here?

I’ve needed some time to process what happened last week. I’m sure many others are in the same boat. There are things I want to say — so many things I have to say about not only the election results, but also the aftermath: the shock, the rage, the exuberance, the arguments, the calls to action, the calls for peace, the pledges for unity, the pledges for revolution.

Here’s what we know right now: Donald Trump won the presidential election this year.

Here’s what we don’t know: how closely his presidential initiatives will mirror his campaign promises, how Congress will interact with him, what life will be like under his administration, if the abounding animosity and divisiveness will wane or intensify.

The unknowns, for me, are the most terrifying as well as the most comforting aspects of this season in our national history. We don’t know what will happen. It might be devastating, but maybe it will lead to something great. We don’t know. We can’t know, but we can hope.

One thing I will say, though, is that some of things I have heard and experienced since last Tuesday have concerned me.  We hear a lot about the phenomenon of confirmation bias in our social media activities — that is to say that we surround ourselves with so many like-minded people and perspectives that our constant feedback is affirmation of these views. At a certain point, the constant affirmation leads to a sense of false security and lack of awareness of just how many other and different viewpoints exist in the world. Perhaps the realities of this election will highlight just how jarring that confirmation bias can be, once it is removed.  But even more noteworthy, I think, are the number of people even within these circles of confirmation bias that have secretly, or at least quietly, held their tongues until immediately after the election. Among circles of Clinton supporters, previously-silent Trump supporters seem to have suddenly become more vocal in stating their support, denouncing those who identify them as racist or misogynist, and increasingly gaining confidence with the knowledge that their views are perhaps not quite so unpopular as the pre-election data would have had us believe. The resultant surprise among Clinton supporters is added to the initial shock from Election Night: You voted for Trump? How could you? Why? How did I not know this before?

Is this trend the result of privately racist or bigoted viewpoints that have now been given a national platform of acceptance? Or are more people comfortable with voicing support for the candidate who won while clarifying that their support is for other reasons — economic, party-oriented, or driven by social issues alone?

If Trump’s win has emboldened his supporters to speak out, it has equally horrified his opponents enough to express their outrage. There are rallies, protests, and a wellspring of secret online communities springing up as support systems for those who are devastated by the election results and fearful of the future that awaits.

The only certainty of this season, for now, is uncertainty. The national mood is a mottled mix of elation among Trump supporters, confidence among party loyalists, dismay and dejection among the anti-Trump crowd, and mistrust abounding everywhere.

I’d like to say that the future of our country is definitively on the upswing; I’d love to express my hope for American national unity, for peace and stability, and for minorities to feel accepted and their interests represented in our government. But for now, I can’t say or express those things. There are too many unknowns.

Where do we go from here? We all want to know. The only answer I have for now is to wait, see, and continually strive to work for the things that matter. It’s all we can do. I hope it’s enough.