We’re six months into the Trump era—and how are you today? I’ve mostly stopped feeling shocked that Donald Trump is the president. I’ve also stopped daydreaming that I live in a parallel universe where the person with the most votes wins—because that would be too weird. My husband and I made a rule that we couldn’t talk about Trump after 10 pm, because we were obsessing so much we couldn’t sleep. It was hard at first, but these days we mostly keep to it (“We do not!” he says). For a while, I felt discouraged and stopped going on marches and calling Congress. I found it hard to concentrate on the news or, indeed, much of anything. But now I’m back to ringing up my representatives and reading The Washington Post. I’m donating a lot too, even to candidates that have no real chance of winning.
I know I’m supposed to get out of my bubble, so last weekend I had a long talk with a very conservative Trump supporter in upstate New York. He’s a lovely guy who just happens to have his own set of facts. In his world, there are plenty of jobs but people won’t take them; 35 to 40 percent of people on Medicaid are defrauding the government; and high taxes and regulations have destroyed the economic viability of agriculture in upstate New York. The free market would solve all our problems—supply and demand! Mostly I just listened and asked questions, but we did find common ground in concluding that human beings are mostly terrible and maybe we should concentrate on saving wildlife. “Like big game—elephants and tigers,” he said wistfully. “Soon they’ll all be gone.” I thought of mentioning those noted safari hunters Eric and Don Jr., but why spoil the moment?
I checked in with my Upper West Side “Huddle”—an outgrowth of the Women’s March—and many said their primary feeling was depression. “Seems like every day there are new revelations that only reinforce Trump’s narcissistic dishonesty and lack of humanity, and I cannot begin to understand how anyone could continue to support him,” wrote my neighbor Tina. “Every day seems to get worse and more unreal,” reported Eileen, who says she suffers from “protest fatigue.” My friend Katherine wrote, “Primarily, just depressed. Secondarily, in continuous and ever escalating disbelief. How could anyone be as stupid as Trump has been?”
Stacey, by contrast, is a dervish of activism. She and her husband built and maintain the website for NY Indivisible. “Also, several of us splintered off into our own group that aims to combat resistance fatigue by creating art and live-music events to raise money and awareness for various causes,” Stacey said. “Since I also do a lot of the graphic-design work for NYI, whenever I get anxious about a topic, I just make art about it. Needless to say, I’ve made a lot of art.”
Women, according to one survey, are way overrepresented in the resistance, but in my own unscientific survey of friends and correspondents, they seem particularly harrowed, anxious, and sad. Hilary Bok, a brilliant philosopher engaged for decades in social-justice work, described herself as “Worn down, bewildered, exhausted, distractible…. The realization that Trump could actually become president was just profoundly shocking to me,” she added, “not only because he’s a racist, xenophobic, sexist boor, but because I honestly could not see how people could support him unless the entire idea that political candidates should have some qualification for office other than pissing off liberals had gone by the boards altogether.”
“My experience of fighting against the Trump admin reminds me of when I was raped in my early 20s,” wrote a Facebook friend. “I just couldn’t believe that all of my struggling and fighting wasn’t enough to save me…. My attacker was simply stronger and more powerful than I was.”
Of course, plenty of (white) women are delighted with Trump—remember that feeling, ladies, when you can’t get an appointment at Planned Parenthood because the man you voted for has closed it down. But for feminists, Trump’s triumph is yet more proof that there is no penalty for misogyny and that the least qualified man can beat the most qualified woman. “Living under this president as a woman is so fucking degrading,” wrote former Nation contributor Michelle Goldberg, now reporting at Slate. “It’s an insult that I’m basically aware of every waking moment; it poisons every day.”
But not everyone is walking around in a cloud of rage and foreboding. While some feel their life’s work has been rendered meaningless, others are springing out of bed full of hope. “I am more determined than depressed,” wrote my neighbor Karen, who’s more enthusiastic about the Working Families Party and MoveOn than about the Dems. “I take a renewed sense of urgency to all my work now,” wrote journalist Mark Oppenheimer. “The United States may have a terrible executive branch, but my hometown of New Haven doesn’t. Whenever I worry that freedoms could be corroded here the way they have been in Hungary or Poland, I think: wait, would the people on my street, or on my block, allow that? I don’t think they would.”
No doubt the doughty citizens of New Haven will prove equal to the challenge, but Washington may already be a lost cause. Writes one DC-based journalist: “Watching so many people I know morph from ‘obviously, I can’t support Trump,’ to ‘of course I’ll help Trump confirm birthers to the federal bench’ has whittled down my friend list…. There are old friends I have not spoken to since November 8 and never will speak to again.”
Did I glean anything useful from this mélange of views? Energy and optimism are finite resources, it’s clear, so I’m taking a pledge to shun stupid fights with people I agree with politically 95 percent of the time. As University of Chicago policy wonk Harold Pollack put it, “We need to support each other. We need to be kind and decent to each other, too, across many personal and political divides. We are going to defeat Trump, if he doesn’t defeat himself first. But this race is not a sprint. It’s a long-distance run.”