Many months ago, after too many shots of vodka with friends, I made a foolish bet on the presidential election.
I placed my bet on Hillary Clinton.
I was joined by my Russian friend Yury, who also thought Hillary would win. (Our respective partners believed Trump would prevail.)
If our candidates lost, we each had a special circle of hell (I guess I should say "additional" circle of hell since Trump winning the election might will be its own hell) that we would be subjected to. My friends decided that I would have to swallow my feminist pride and spend an evening at Hooters. My friend Yury would be forced to spend eight hours glued to the TV screen, watching the Russian TV equivalent of Fox News—and the attendant parade of majestic images of Vladimir Putin.
Later that week, I would be a dejected figure slouching toward Hooters in the rainy Baltimore dusk and Yury, who was so gleeful to leave Putin behind when he moved to the United States several years ago, would likely be watching Russian TV coverage of Trump's victory mulling his out-of-the-frying-pan-into-the-fire moment.
So I admit it. I place myself firmly in the camp of "media who got it wrong."
I did this even after going to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and, by the last night, finding myself horrified by the rabid crowd, softly sharing my critique of Trump's speech in whispered tones to CP photographer J.M. Giordano as we stood surrounded by boisterous supporters waiting to get through security, self-censoring in fear, already.
And I did this even after going to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia and watching the disaffected Bernie Sanders supporters insisting that he was the better candidate, that Clinton was not electable.
And I did this at 9 a.m. last Tuesday as I saw the crowded polls in Baltimore and at 9 p.m. as results started to roll in. And I stayed that way—stubbornly optimistic—until just about midnight. Then despair set in.
By 2 a.m. I railed against the Pollyannas on social media who chided, "Don't mourn, organize," because they reminded me of President Bush's visit to New York City the day after 9/11 when he vowed "vengeance" against terrorists; from a New Yorker's perspective, he was moving too fast to revenge when we were still in shock and mourning. Can we just fucking mourn for minute, I wanted to scream to the activists. Can we have a brief moment of silence at least?
I had been so sure Hillary Clinton would win. She wasn't ideal; she was barely inspirational—but she would be a psychological victory for women, had experience, would be competent, and was certainly the lesser of two evils. The polls indicated most Americans agreed.
But, of course, the media got it wrong.
As the sun struggled to rise the next morning amid the dark skies and dismal rain, I looked out the window at our awakening city and wondered if I was completely tone-deaf. What had I been thinking, I wondered.
I looked at the City Paper cover that hit the stands that day (we had to send to press at midnight on Monday; a full 24 hours before election results started suggesting a Trump victory) and our newspaper was all about "the first 100 days" of new leadership and was full of hope and reforms and the brave new world of Baltimore that 100 citizens envisioned. It reads strangely now. We focused on the local races and Baltimore, of course. Still, I can't help thinking that any cover about "the first 100 days"—given the outcome of the presidential race—would have looked decidedly different.
In the spirit of reflection—or course correction—I parsed my optimism. Why, one week ago, did I feel so differently about the political landscape? Where did this stubborn optimism come from? I spend my days editing articles about what is wrong with this city and yet they are peopled with players—activists, public defenders, prosecutors, agency heads, ordinary citizens—who are fighting fiercely to bring change to Baltimore. And steeped in this job, in this city, in this state, I misjudged the tide of hatred toward "the other" that would sweep Trump into power.
All I can say is this: There are so many smart people who care deeply about the fate of this city, and our country, and today I am glad to be at City Paper in Baltimore City, Maryland where we are proudly marching out of lockstep with the nation's majority—even if that means a detour to Hooters. (Karen Houppert)