WASHINGTON – A gloomy American capital has been grappling with its stages of grief this week over the election of a man almost universally detested within a dozen zip codes of the White House.
In solidly blue Washington, D.C., it’s no surprise a Republican performed poorly.
Even by those standards, however, Donald Trump’s performance was a rounding error away from zero. He got four per cent of the popular vote. He got less than Mitt Romney and John McCain, got clobbered in the nearby Virginia and Maryland suburbs, and his numbers weren’t helped by the fact that even Republicans around here don’t like him.
So there’s denial.
Protests have been going on at his hotel near the White House, where people outside security barriers chant things like, “We re-ject the pre-sident elect,” and hold up signs like, “No Trump. No KKK. No fascist U.S.A.”
A Buddhist monk in the crowd has a plan.
He explains that American voters don’t actually elect a president — they elect the electorate. He wants the 538 members of the electoral college to make Hillary Clinton president when they meet Dec. 19.
Monk Jampal Rowe is not alone. About three million people have signed a petition to that effect on change.org.
“We’re all devastated and shocked,” Rowe said.
“We needed a president like Hillary Clinton — who would be inclusive of all, would care about everyone, one who has more integrity and honesty than Donald Trump, whose lies are off the charts, one who has a temperament that can be trusted.”
A fellow monk next to him adds: “There could be different possibilities. Life is unpredictable.” When asked why Trump won, monk Namgyal Johnson turns to the emotion of stage two — anger.
He says frustrations with inequality fuelled Trump. “There is a great deal of anger about it in our country,” he said. “Because there’s a lot of corruption.”
There’s anger about the result, too. It was evident in the four-letter words on the protest signs and in the chants in Washington, and in the smashed windows and vandalized cars in other cities.
Many Democrats remain angry at the next president. The party’s outgoing Senate leader Harry Reid issued a statement calling him a sexual predator who fuelled his campaign with bigotry and hatred. In an interview, congresswoman Maxine Waters mentioned the people Trump insulted and allegedly swindled in business.
She said he lied to supporters.
“He said he’s gonna build a wall. He’s not gonna build anything. He’s not gonna build any wall — and he knows it,” she told MSNBC.
“He’s gonna get rid of Obamacare? He’s not going to do that either.”
She may have a point.
It sounds like Trump is willing to meet Democrats in Stage Three: Bargaining.
After years of lambasting President Barack Obama’s health reform, he’s now suddenly willing to keep key parts. He told the Wall Street Journal he’d spoken with the president about coverage for children, and for those with pre-existing conditions. Trump said: “I like those very much.” He’d have to work out some details with Democrats — who hold enough votes to filibuster a bill in the Senate.
The next stage is common for election-losing partisans: Depression.
For many, this loss is especially troubling.
Counsellors have been working with kids fearing deportation. At the protest, a woman declined to be interviewed because she gave the U.S. government her personal information to participate in a clemency program for undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children.
Now Trump will have those details — and those of more than 800,000 others. He’s promised to cancel the program and accelerate deportations.
“I have many friends (affected by this),” Flannery Wasson said at the protest.
Election losses do hurt.
A group of researchers from Harvard, UCLA, and Washington University measured Republicans’ feelings after the 2012 election and found them in an even gloomier mood than after national tragedies like the Newtown massacre and Boston bombings.
The study’s more positive finding? It got better. People’s feelings rebounded to normal within a week.
Some people walking by the protesters urged them to hurry up and reach the ultimate stage: Acceptance. One woman did so in a very blunt manner. She stepped into a protester’s face, pointed at her own and said: “I voted for him. I voted for him. I’m awesome, huh?”
She added: “My vote? It negated yours.”
A doorman in front of a downtown bar approached that final phase. He encouraged departing patrons not to worry. Trump wouldn’t take away their health care — if he did, he’d be hurting his own supporters.
Some Washingtonians also accept their town is about to change.
A taxi driver approaching the Trump International Hotel, Cheick Ali, heard the cacophony from the protest crowd and sighed: “It’s gonna be a problem. There’s gonna be people there every day.”