Looking around, pop culture has been shaken. I personally blame Donald Trump. He’s made the people who make progressive taxation necessary choke a bit on their fruit infused water every time they see his name. If you’re technologically sound, you might’ve noticed the trend amongst the line of A-list celebrities that recently threatened to leave the country if he managed to win the presidency. Bryan Cranston became a man of God. Lena Dunham, who’s decided to step away from making black men feel uncomfortable, thought about dipping her toes in Vancouver. Cher cheekily said she’d move to Jupiter (That’s not going to happen, but at least Elon can get her to Mars). Neil Young told him to fuck off; YG brought an effigy of him on stage and had people beat it. Even Mr. Nice Guy, Frank Ocean, got in on the action. Point is — Donald Trump, among the savants of pop culture, isn’t popular.
Hillary Clinton didn’t get pop culture, either. But she knew how to flex her funds to make it gravitate towards her. Her campaign was the politically correct version of Jay Z’s The Blueprint 3: diluted by mainstream trends, imbued with a touch of growing elitism, sponsored by the biggest brand names (Hello, LeBron) and burdened by the shaking sense that its best days was behind it. Beyoncé strutted around on stage to throw support towards her; Rae Sremmurd’s suddenly viral, always excellent, “Black Beatles,” hummed along as her team attempted the mannequin challenge. Wherever you went, Hillary had shamelessly soaked up whatever commercial appeal there was to attract young voters. If I wasn’t forced to side with her, I would have called her antics plainly transparent.
But the election wasn’t decided by star power. It was won and lost by the underground, something the Clinton campaign realized too late. They’ve admitted as much: Wisconsin, thought to be the load bearing brick in the Democrat’s wall of blue states, fell on Tuesday night. So did Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan. The odds of Trump winning all four of them were like playing the Powerball, but then again, last November, his odds of winning the presidency was a big fat zero. He didn’t just beat the odds — he buried it six feet under, insulted it and then proceeded to build a wall around it that gets 10 feet taller every time someone mentions it.
The problem for Clinton (and any poor soul that got trampled in his path — I am never going to forget his “Little Marco” quote), was that Trump tapped into the frustrated, rural, white vote. I’m not sure it was righteous anger. Some of it was blatantly racist, xenophobic and frankly, appalling. But it was anger nonetheless. Perhaps the most defining moment of the Clinton Campaign was the simple but memorable slogan “Love Trumps Hate.” It was a clever play on words, and casted a rather dichotomous feeling to the whole election. Love does trump hate! The problem was that the general electorate never loved Hillary the way she should’ve been. Blame it on the emails. Blame it on the Clinton Foundation. Blame it on the forever smug James Comey. But by the end, the people more or less accepted her only because who she opposed, or who had endorsed her. A lot of people tolerated her. But tolerance is still 70 electoral votes short of love.
On the other hand — that guy. I’m not sure what else I can say about Donald Trump that hasn’t been said. The most dissected, psychoanalyzed, questioned, unpopular, flame inducing candidate in American political history has dominated the year. His rise inflamed the Black Lives Matter movement. He became a choice target for Colin Kaepernick. And, like it was said earlier, he became easy meat for pop culture fixtures. John Oliver is the funniest man alive in America, and whenever his comedy dips into the never ending cycle of Trumpism, it becomes must watch TV. Frankly, if you haven’t formed an opinion on Donald Trump by now, you must be a converted Movementarian.
“The Donald” didn’t rely much on star power. For a time, he was the modern John Tyler — the man without a party. He lashed at those who opposed him, and was denounced by multiple members of the GOP after the tape that was heard ‘round the world was leaked. He and Paul Ryan turned politics into performance art, where each took an increasingly passive aggressive dig at each other. But he won through the populist route, the route, frankly, that each party had tossed away in hopes of an elitist utopia. He won through social media, he won through soundbites, vicious attacks that were unbecoming of the politicians he faced. The level of vitriol he embraced was satirical. At some point, his campaign devolved from a ground movement into a constantly whirring, hellacious, unfiltered parody of a parody. He did Mel Brooks proud.
But something’s changed about him recently. In the lead up to the election, his stance softened. He quieted down a bit. His twitter became dull (His staff took it away from him). In that moment, he might have realized the rising probability that he would become president. I don’t think Donald Trump ever fully wanted the presidency job. It’s a stressful job, and unbelievably taxing on the human body. He’s an old 71, if not a very angry one. But watching him greet President Obama after his election night victory was something spectacularly above irony. The same man who abused Obama through ludicrous suggestions that he wasn’t a U.S. citizen was smiling meekly, outstretching his hand for a shake as Obama beamed and declared they had an “excellent conversation.” Trump declared, to a press corps in disbelief, that it was an “honor” to meet President Obama. Continuing on his victory speech tone, he was nice and respectful, perhaps a bit unsure. It would have been less shocking if Vladimir Putin had walked in shirtless with a fly fish rod.
But a swath of American could care less about the president elect’s reform. And why should they? He’s denigrated Mexicans, bragged about groping women and threatened a Muslim ban. The joy of sect has dissolved. The anger at his victory has turned into marching and chanting, Facebook posts that call for unity, tears and frustration, confusion, infighting amongst families. But while that has gotten the media’s attention, a larger, disturbing trend has emerged. Minorities, women, victims, have been attacked from the moment of the election. Supporters of Trump, extremists yes, criminals also, have been emboldened and inspired by their victory and lashed out at those against them The coincidence isn’t a coincidence; the abstract isn’t abstract. Real people are getting hurt. You hear stories that crawl up through the muck of the internet. The girl at school who has her hijab yanked off (“I know of at least 50 instances of this happening in the past 48 hours.” Shaun King tweets, who is a reporter for the N.Y. Daily News). Or maybe it’s at Shasta High School in California where Latino students are given “deportation letters.” It gets worse. Students posing next to the Confederate Flag, wearing blackface. An Indian guy who is greeted by “Time to get out of this country, Apu!” A Spanish speaking woman, never once harassed in her life, told to speak English when she has the audacity to speak her own language. African American men told to pick cotton; cars defaced by slurs. Students chanting “Heil, Hitler” at local high schools. The number of acts keep growing by the day, and it’s hard not to find where the sparkplug is.
Donald Trump isn’t responsible for all of this. He didn’t create appalling human beings, and he didn’t invent racism. But his whiplash rhetoric has fueled the growing hate and sexism in this country and led to others following his act. His presence has driven a feeding frenzy, and innocent, decent people are suffering because of it. It was easy to pass of his words as just that — words. But we’re past that. We’re past “Donald Trump can’t be serious” or “Donald Trump will never win.” We’re at Donald Trump, future President of the United States of America. Whether you like it or not, some people consider him a role model, so it’s up to him to accept the burden of being the most influential man in the world. He must denounce the kind of action that is going on in this country today, and call out his followers who attack others because of their race, gender or beliefs. Until he does, people who support him will continue believing their actions are acceptable. It isn’t. Proclaiming this moral mantle won’t solve everything. But if he’s committed to the idea of being a president for all American people, then I’d nudge him to this path. It’s not the necessary thing to do, or frankly, the practical thing to do. It is, however, the right thing to do.
William Wang is a freshman in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Willpower appears alternate Mondays this semester.