It’s shortly after 5 am PT. In the other room, my daughters, already awake, are writing a letter to Hillary Clinton, thanking her for inspiring them and millions of others. I am in the dining room, staring at apoplectic headlines from publications that I trust, knowing that millions of Americans in other cities don’t read or believe the same words.
I live in a city that’s booming economically, and nearly everyone in my peer group — both in my city and in my industry — supported Hillary Clinton. We fretted about the disastrous consequences of a Trump victory, but perhaps I still did not take it seriously, with polls putting the odds of victory at 70%. I shared Facebook posts and tweets and expected that everything would work out okay. The polls favored Hillary, and so did common sense.
As it turns out, not even common sense is guaranteed in America.
The Stranger’s 2004 article on “The United Cities of America” rings truer than ever this morning. We are living in two very different Americas, and we must figure out how to bridge the divide. Something is truly broken in this country — on that, all of us can certainly agree — the problem is we don’t agree on which part is broken. Trump catered to America’s worst fears, and America in turn confirmed them.
If anything, this will be a chance for all of us to rethink our own roles in this democracy. This can be the moment that millions more of us stop watching and start acting. Everyone must play a part, help each other, protect each other from injustice, practice empathy, and use kind, thoughtful words to elevate the conversation. Let’s support the spread of truth versus propaganda. Let’s use all of our skills, tools, and expertise to make change.
For many years, our best and brightest have all but shunned politics and public service. “I decided I could have a much bigger impact in business than dealing with the bureaucracy of politics.” This trope comes from a place of comfort and privilege. Let today be the death of it. We need our best people — people with integrity — to commit themselves to public service. Your business is worthless if the foundation underneath it is crumbling.
To my daughters: you will be tomorrow’s leaders. I look forward to seeing how you embrace this responsibility. The rest of us still have time, too. It’s never too late to ask, “What can I do to help?” And get on with it.
Let’s also resolve to be better creators and consumers of information, as we cannot bridge this divide without a common understanding of what is true in America. Subscribe to your local newspaper. The new media disruptors opted against taking the job seriously, so let today be the death of another trope: “We’re not a media company — we’re a tech platform.” Facebook makes billions but absolved itself of the responsibility to create a more informed electorate and help our communities find common ground. These big social platforms have the tools, money, and power to elevate the discourse in this country — rewarding honesty and removing abuse. There is no more hiding behind algorithms, or just assuming The New York Times and Washington Post will do all of the hardest work for public accountability. If you are in a position of power or privilege, you can always do more, you can always do better.
Today we are still responsible for the next chapter of America — owning the mistakes, making this country better for our daughters and sons. I am saddened and sickened by what the president-elect’s rhetoric exposed inside our country, and I am frightened that the low road led to victory.
I am thankful to have had the chance to support Hillary Clinton. She ran an uplifting campaign, and she has shown a commitment to public service for more than three decades. I am heartened that her work will inspire others.