I’m writing this for all those feeling alarm and dismay at the prospect of a ‘Trump Nation’ propelled by the support of nearly half the country. But it’s also for those in a mood to celebrate.
A reality check, before anyone gets too carried away.
A time out for some numbers on what really happened—and did not—in the election of Donald Trump.
There are 235 million citizens eligible to vote.
Of those, 137 million went to the polls, and 98 million did not.
Of those who voted, 63 million voted for Donald Trump.
Which comes out to 26.8% of the total citizenry (that’s 63 million divided by 235 million).
Not half, not almost, not even close.
And that’s not all.
Exit polls show that 25 percent of Trump voters expressed the view that their candidate was not fit to be president, which lowers Trump’s unqualified support to 20 percent of the electorate. Which is on the high side, when you consider those who think he’s disgusting or dishonest or both but voted for him anyway.
It’s important to keep in mind, then, in these troubled times, that 73 percent of adult American citizens did not vote for Donald Trump. And a still higher percentage can reasonably be said to lack confidence in, not to mention enthusiasm for, his presidency.
It is true, of course, that a president Trump and Congressional Republicans will soon control the levers of federal power, and can do lasting harm.
But it is also true that controlling the government is not the same as controlling the country.
Which is what we have been trained to forget. That a nation and its future are to be found not in election results, but in workplaces and families and neighborhoods and schools and places of worship and everywhere else that people come together, through which a country reveals itself, as it happens, one day to the next.
It is found in who shows up and speaks out and for what and how long.
It is found in all the ways there are to organize the withdrawal of consent, to speak truth to power or block the door or fill the streets or just stand your ground and say no.
It is found in what brings out the best in a nation, in response to what brings out the worst.
Whether the United States is about to become Trump Nation is not up to him or Congress. It will depend on what citizens do, on whether we sit back and watch as if what happens has nothing to do with us, or we do what democracy requires, which begins in asking ourselves, every day, not only what are we called to do as workers or students or parents or members of this or that, but as citizens.
And if we do not know what that means, that we make it our business to find out.
(P.S. If you were surprised by these numbers, perhaps you know others who’ll be surprised by them too. Pass it on.)
This article originally appeared on Unraveling the Knot.