13 Post-Election Reads Actually Worth Your Time

Haley Nahman | November 15, 2016

What we’ve been reading at MR HQ.

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Last month, so many of us were plagued with election fatigue, quietly counting down the days until November 8th. But the cruel joke was on us, because if we felt enmeshed in a shit storm then, we’re embroiled, now, in what feels like a tornado of unprecedented proportions. Writers are banging out op-eds faster than we can read them, conversations emerge and circulate like a disorganized swarm of cicadas, heads are spinning.

There is so much to do, yes, but there’s also a lot to learn. If you want to cut through the noise but don’t know where to start, we’ve collected some well-written pieces that offer a variety of perspectives on what happened, what might happen and where we go from here. Feel free to read through below and then please share your picks with us, too.


If you want to make sense of what happened, even if it’s grim…

“An American Tragedy” by David Remnick

“In the coming days, commentators will attempt to normalize this event. They will try to soothe their readers and viewers with thoughts about the ‘innate wisdom’ and ‘essential decency’ of the American people. They will downplay the virulence of the nationalism displayed, the cruel decision to elevate a man who rides in a gold-plated airliner but who has staked his claim with the populist rhetoric of blood and soil. George Orwell, the most fearless of commentators, was right to point out that public opinion is no more innately wise than humans are innately kind. People can behave foolishly, recklessly, self-destructively in the aggregate just as they can individually. Sometimes all they require is a leader of cunning, a demagogue who reads the waves of resentment and rides them to a popular victory.”

[via The New Yorker]


If you want to prepare for the worst…

“Autocracy: Rules for Survival” by Masha Gessen

“But Trump is anything but a regular politician and this has been anything but a regular election. Trump will be only the fourth candidate in history and the second in more than a century to win the presidency after losing the popular vote. He is also probably the first candidate in history to win the presidency despite having been shown repeatedly by the national media to be a chronic liar, sexual predator, serial tax-avoider, and race-baiter who has attracted the likes of the Ku Klux Klan. Most important, Trump is the first candidate in memory who ran not for president but for autocrat—and won.

I have lived in autocracies most of my life, and have spent much of my career writing about Vladimir Putin’s Russia. I have learned a few rules for surviving in an autocracy and salvaging your sanity and self-respect. It might be worth considering them now.”

[via NYBooks]


If you’re thinking of leaving the country…

“If You’re Tempted to Move to Canada Because of Trump, Please Read This First” by Eric March

“Leaving for a place where our values are ascendant might be what you or I want. But that’s not what this country needs. We need votes for politicians who oppose Trump’s agenda. We need people to stand in the streets when he tries to deport our colleagues and friends. We need an on-point team to make sure that this weird national freakout only lasts four years. After last night, the Trump machine is up and running at full power. Now it’s time for the American machine — of checks and balances, of free speech and a free press, and the great tradition of political protest — to answer.”

[via Upworthy]


If you want to look back to look forward….

“History Tells Us What May Happen Next with Brexit and Trump” by Tobias Stone

“My point is that this is a cycle. It happens again and again, but as most people only have a 50–100 year historical perspective they don’t see that it’s happening again. As the events that led to the First World War unfolded, there were a few brilliant minds who started to warn that something big was wrong, that the web of treaties across Europe could lead to a war, but they were dismissed as hysterical, mad, or fools, as is always the way, and as people who worry about Putin, Brexit, and Trump are dismissed now.”

[via Medium]


If you don’t understand what Trump supporters have in common…

“The Rise of American Authoritarianism” by Amanda Taub

“Authoritarians are thought to express much deeper fears than the rest of the electorate, to seek the imposition of order where they perceive dangerous change, and to desire a strong leader who will defeat those fears with force. They would thus seek a candidate who promised these things. And the extreme nature of authoritarians’ fears, and of their desire to challenge threats with force, would lead them toward a candidate whose temperament was totally unlike anything we usually see in American politics — and whose policies went far beyond the acceptable norms.

A candidate like Donald Trump.”

[via Vox]


If you want to understand the “white working class”…

“What So Many People Don’t Get About the White Working Class” by Joan C. Williams

“Isn’t what happened to Clinton unfair? Of course it is. It is unfair that she wasn’t a plausible candidate until she was so overqualified she was suddenly unqualified due to past mistakes. It is unfair that Clinton is called a ‘nasty woman’ while Trump is seen as a real man. It’s unfair that Clinton only did so well in the first debate because she wrapped her candidacy in a shimmy of femininity. When she returned to attack mode, it was the right thing for a presidential candidate to do but the wrong thing for a woman to do. The election shows that sexism retains a deeper hold that most imagined. But women don’t stand together: WWC women voted for Trump over Clinton by a whopping 28-point margin — 62% to 34%. If they’d split 50-50, she would have won.”

[via Harvard Business Review]


If you’re not sure where to turn…

“Democrats Have Questions, Black Women Are the Answer” by Melissa Harris-Perry

“If the American media had bothered to follow DuVernay’s lead and put the history, expertise, and experience of African American women firmly at the center of their political analysis, they too would have accurately predicted the outcome of the 2016 election. Instead, the utterly ordinary and exhausting devaluation of black women’s knowledge and experience was the centerpiece of the election and mostly continues to dominate our post-election analysis.”

[via ELLE]


If you want to restore your faith in humanity…

“How to Survive a Disaster” by Rebecca Solnit

“It is important to acknowledge at the outset that disasters are, most basically, terrible, tragic, grievous; they are not to be desired—but by the same measure, those effects should not be ignored because they arise amid devastation. And the point is not to welcome disasters; they do not create these wonders, but they are one avenue through which the gifts arrive. The point is that disasters provide an extraordinary window into social desire and possibility, and what is seen there matters elsewhere, in ordinary times, and in other extraordinary times. The desires and possibilities awakened are so powerful they shine even from wreckage, carnage and ashes.”

[via Literary Hub]


If you want a view on why Trump won…

“Why Hillary Clinton Lost” by Molly Ball

“The postmortem debate over Clinton’s loss is more than just finger-pointing—it has important implications for how the Democratic Party moves forward. Some partisans side with her team in blaming external forces, from events like the Comey letter to the media’s coverage of the race. Others look at Clinton’s lead going into the final weeks, in a nation where most voters view President Obama favorably, and conclude that she blew an eminently winnable race. […] How partisans decide to view Clinton’s loss—as a fluke, as a tactical shortcoming, or as the product of deeper issues—will determine how they attempt to rebuild. For a party that finds itself decimated and powerless at almost every level, those are consequential conclusions indeed.”

[via The Atlantic]


If you’re nervous about media coverage…

“What Normalization Means” by Hua Hsu

“Americanness is a sponge, not an ethnicity; normalization is a key part of how it works. It resides in the way that we speak, in the ideas that get refined and reworked and encoded in ordinary words until they seem harmless enough. It’s the ability to fit things into a narrative that flatters our ability to reason. Normalization is the process through which wisdom becomes conventional and utopian ideals slam against questions of feasibility. And so we should remain suspicious of efforts to welcome Trumpism into the fold of mainstream American ideas, particularly when normalizing him suggests the privilege to pick and choose, to infer the existence of another’s decency and humanity, to laugh, and to think that, at the end of the day, we all just want the same thing.”

[via The New Yorker]


If you want guidance on how to think about Trump…

“Where I Wish President Trump Failure” by Eugene Robinson

“If Trump is beginning to confront reality on some fronts, that’s a first step — in a thousand-mile journey toward credibility and respect. But appointing Bannon is a big step backward. We must watch Trump, and judge him, every single inch of the way.”

[via The Washington Post]


If you want to feel inspired to act…

“Don’t Agonize, Organize” by Lena Dunham

“It’s a privilege to be heartbroken by the system for the first time at age 30. So many people — those in the prison system, those with undocumented American relatives, those who are trans, who are queer, who are people of color, who are Muslim, who are trying to prosecute their abusers — have felt the crushing failure of the system over and over again. This is just another dark week. This isn’t surreal like a death or a bad diagnosis. This is their life.”

[via Lenny Letter]


If you want to feel hope…

“The Pendulum Swings Both Ways” by Alex Young

“I’ve read a lot of hand wringing this morning about all the things that are now sure to be lost — Obamacare, LGBT rights, the EPA etc. Those are very real possibilities and should scare us all. But that assumes the GOP is one solid unit that can stay on point and won’t get greedy. They aren’t and they won’t. I promise. No party ever is. Remember in 2008 when the Dems had the House, almost 60 votes in the Senate and won the White House by 10m votes? We BARELY got Obamacare, a watered-down bailout and a mild Dodd-Frank. That’s it. We didn’t get some massive progressive agenda passed. Why? Because not only can the opposition block a lot, but also because of divisions within our own wing.”

[via Bullshitist]

For more MR election thoughts, Leandra’s letter to readers about the victory of Donald Trump.

Collage by Emily Zirimis.

  • Grace B

    Whew, these might be the last think pieces I actually read. Thanks for sharing!

  • Thanks for including the Hua Hsu piece. Scary how fast folks have tried to spin positive or normalize this election. Obviously unity is the end goal, but we cannot make ambiguous the lines between docility and unity. Keep reading up! Keep fighting for what’s right! Go team!

    • Beatrice

      That’s been (almost) the hardest part about this election result – the call for unity and normalization. I will not give up fighting for human rights and “unify” behind an ideology I deeply disagree with. I am willing to listen. But I am not willing to compromise on racism, sexism, and the rampant spread of misinformation.

      • Yes. It did/does feel a little contradictory or offensive, doesn’t it? These overnight calls for unity, when for the past two years, a campaign has been blasting rhetoric that purports something that is the opposite of unity. To alienate with such divisive language and then to wake up and say: Be together now! is not only unrealistic but also hypocritical.

        That’s why fighting the good fight is important; it’s not about not being unified. It’s about standing up for the things we believe in, and for those who are directly affected by this rhetoric, which will in turn lead to a unity that goes beyond its buzzword status into some real, true, deep.

        • Beatrice

          The hypocrisy has been so hard to stomach. We have got to keep fighting the good fight!

        • Molly D

          Agreed. There’s a distinction between love/unity/hand holding and basic respect. And a distinction between what we feel and how we act towards people.

          Show basic respect to people, even if you deem them and their beliefs to be wrong.

    • Adrianna

      I agree. It was frustrating to be lectured against being angry that Wednesday morning – we all literally just found out. I think it’s better to allow yourself to be livid and angry the first 24 hours.

  • Beatrice

    Haley! I’m loving this list, have read about 5 of these and I can’t wait to read Rebecca Solnit’s piece. In an effort to practice empathy, I just started reading Hilbilly Elegy by JD Vance – it’s a book highly recommended by conservatives and liberals alike, and offers perspective on growing up poor in rural Appalachia. It’s fascinating, and draws deep contrast to my own experiences (despite being raised in Arizona). Also, throwing myself into American history has been soothing. Team of Rivals is one of the best books I have read about uncertain times. I recommend it.

  • Mary

    Another MR posted this deep in the comments section on a post last week, and I found it insightful: http://www.cracked.com/blog/6-reasons-trumps-rise-that-no-one-talks-about/

    • Rebekah Novak

      I’m torn, I read this when it came out and thought it was so good and shared it with my bf and maybe on facebook. But since then I’ve read some pretty good takedowns of the idea that we should just “let them off the hook because they don’t know any better,” and as someone who grew up poor (true, not rural, I get that poor is only half of it), I don’t think any of us get a pass on thinking critically and looking out for others.

      I agree the piece is really good, and I totally recommend it- it was a milestone in my thinking about the subject (I know, from Cracked of all places!). But I worry it can lead two ways- either “we need to cater our message to them because that’s what they need” or “they were wrong, have done damage, and we need to fight them on it,” and I’m feeling a lot more like the latter right now.

      Not that I have any actual idea wtf is the right way to go…

      • Mary

        Right, agreed. I think it helped me understand where the rural population is coming from–it does make sense. The only problem is that not one of Trump’s many, many (cringe at using one of his rhetorical devices) misgivings was a deal breaker for the,. However, I have talked to people on the other side who consider Hillary just as bad as Trump, and no matter what I say, there is no convincing them otherwise. These people aren’t racist, either, but I can’t let them off the hook. I’m still processing and this whole thing has been a huge exercise in listening for me–I immediately lashed out before I gave them a chance to explain themselves. Who am I to say my feelings are more important than theirs, even when it seems so crystal clear that this man is not worthy of the highest office? Ugh. Tough stuff.

  • Court E. Thompson

    These are so good! Question for other readers: I continue reading about the white working class and democrats inability to connect where Trump could. But I live in a large, diverse, liberal city and keep coming across friends who are upper-class white women (and at least one man) who also voted Trump. So it’s not just about the working class – is anyone else experiencing this?

    • nevvvvave

      I just posted a comment abt this!

  • nevvvvave

    Lately it’s been so hard to find pieces that aren’t either normalizing or alarmist in nature, regardless of the politics of the publication 🙁

  • nevvvvave

    Re: who voted for trump and why:
    I live in a middle/upper middle class suburb of Philly in a notorious swing county so the Trump voters here tend not to be the stereotypes of disenfranchised blue collar workers- the people I know who voted Trump almost unanimously did it because they disliked Clinton more. The main reasons given are the classic “she’s a career politician/shady history/etc” to varying extent. Another very specific phenomenon I’ve noticed has to do with inter-immigrant (?) prejudices; our area has a sizeable population of post-soviet jewish immigrants (including my family) and have noticed that our community is equally susceptible to xenophobic (particularly islamophobic) sentiments, which is interesting in comparison to the overall jewish vote which was approx. 71% for Clinton- the most decisively democratic split in several elections. But another weird observation is that the immigrants from Ukraine vs. from Russia (a difference that would have been virtually meaningless a couple yrs ago) most likely split depending on country loyalties so the whole thing is v strange to witness….I could literally write another 1000 words on this lmao

    • Kay

      Omg I would love to read another 1000 words on this, especially considering Russia’s interest in Ukraine and our election!!! Please please write about this someplace!!! Medium?

  • Rebekah Novak

    Thanks! I’ve read a couple of these and am now looking forward to the rest.

  • Guys, I read the Medium article. The resolve and enthusiasm I felt this morning has been completely drained. I have suddenly pictured myself being tortured, attacked, or starving in a Trump era. I know I’m not supposed to lose hope, but if humans don’t change then how will we truly avoid anything. What are we to do? What are the people in this country and the world going to do?

    Here’s an idea: let’s organize the largest peace rallies in the history of the world. Word War 2 is set to have begun around July 7th. How about we plan something for that day. Around the world.

  • Molly D

    I’m still curious about all the Hillary articles you guys had planned 🙁 Did you send them off in a little paper boat down the Hudson at least???

  • nicole

    Thank you for a very thoughtful and thorough list, it is so important to explore each aspect of this election and stay as informed as possible. It is also nice to see an edited collection of articles, since lately I’ve been struggling to filter through all of the different online publications that I see on my feed. And given how much media bias, source dilution and reader polarization have influenced the tragic outcome of this election, I cannot help but wonder what’s in store for the future of all the click-baiting, information-regurgitating sites that have become a large part of the problem. But since you ladies at MR are quite the opposite of that – and i respect and trust your opinion – I want to ask: how do you choose your news sources? Which ones do you reccomend for unbiased, objective reporting and which ones do you think have the most well-supported opinionated articles? And do you think print journalism is a better alternative to online sources in the face of what has happened? Any and all recommendations greatly appreciated.

  • Grace B

    Update: I found the piece in the HBR about the white working class to be the most insightful about Trump voters and clearly spelled out the issues that they care about. And honestly, I really am a middle class person and interact with this group the most often, though it is different in cities vs rural areas.

  • Billee

    Masha is critical reading – understand her expose of what happened to Pussy Riot who dared to speak the truth under Putin. David Remnick is not only brilliant but lived in Russia for years and also has deep insight. Listen to them. Do not be silent. Our hope is that our voices will collectively carry weight and force our Constitution to function. Freedom of speech along with treatment of women is the most revealing elements of how a government views its citizenry. We’re angry now…but it needs to remain consistent, defiant, and truthful.

  • Charlotte
  • Ed

    I’m already full of anxiety since Jo Cox and Brexit, Trump winning has my stomach in knots and now I just read Tobias Stone’s piece I feel much much worse. Are we heading for the end? I am scared for my daughters but know I need to pull myself together because I am not going to let this hatred win.

    • pamplemousseismyjam

      The Tobias Stone piece made me want to get up and go home for the day. Wednesday is cancelled.