In a matter of months, we leaped from unthinkable to acceptable. I remember that during the primaries many of my friends - regardless of their party affiliation - denounced Donald Trump's behavior. His attacks on the other republican candidates, his nicknames for them, his absolute lack of respect or self-control - all of that was considered inexcusable. When he clinched the nomination, many of those same people decided that out of all the options on the table, he was the only one they could vote for. With that decision, the inexcusable suddenly became excusable. And now that Donald Trump is the president-elect, they not only accept the excuses for his behavior, they actively make them up. This is how fast we moved from condemnation to glorification.
This progression isn't limited to Donald Trump. Many people voted for Hillary Clinton not because they agreed with every single point on her agenda, but rather because they wanted to stop her opponent. Yet today, the nostalgia is already placing her on pedestal she would have most likely never achieved had she won the presidency. Think about the emotional response to Kate McKinnon's Clinton "Hallelujah" performance on Saturday Night Live.
Hillary Clinton was far from a perfect candidate - not necessarily because she was a Clinton, but because there is no such thing as a perfect candidate. This is especially true in the country that only has two major parties. Candidates come as a full package. Some parts we love and some we'd rather flush down the toilet. Yet instead of remaining sharp-eyed critics, we turn into blind cheerleaders. We turn politics into a sporting event. We paint our faces with our favorite team's colors, put on a jersey and yell obscenities at our opponents. Instead of pointing out the shortcomings, we blame the referee, the foul play, the bad luck, the useless coach - anything but our favorite player.
Who are we really electing - public servants, representatives, leaders or saviors? Can you be critical of a public servant? Can you be equally critical of a savior? Or do we not really care as long as the team we bet on pulls ahead on the score board?
Below is an excerpt from my book, written long before Donald Trump was relevant. Reminder - this is a work of fiction, and any resemblance to actual persons is purely coincidental. (It's not about the president, anyways. It's about us.)
“Have you ever wondered about our obsession with heroes? People constantly search for one. They look for someone who would lead them, speak their truth, bring meaning into their lives. They look for someone who would take away their suffering. They hang onto the idea of a single savior with all their might. And when someone offers to take on the role, they pour all their energy into perfecting him. The more time and effort they spend, the less willing they are to acknowledge the flaws. The hero becomes their own beloved creation, and they will not allow any criticism. Instead, they find excuses. Take Aurel Swann. What did he do? He fueled the fears and fanned the flames of violence. But it was the people who did the actual work for him. None of the dirty work was done by him. And then they thanked him for saving them. By the time they realized he was not a savior but a monster, it was too late. You can't destroy the legacy of your savior without destroying your own."
Today, I worry that for the sake of being right we will get it catastrophically wrong.