Fabiola Santiago

I thought America was better than that. My mistake.

President-elect Donald Trump speaks during an election rally early Wednesday in New York after clinching the election.
President-elect Donald Trump speaks during an election rally early Wednesday in New York after clinching the election. The Washington Post

He didn’t win South Florida — hold on to this illuminating fact in the darkness of the post-election hour.

He didn’t win the national popular vote. More than half the nation didn’t vote for Donald Trump. The majority rejected his stirring of fear and his using the alleged party of family values, the GOP, to flagrantly endorse bigotry, xenophobia, and misogyny.

But enough angry white men and women — and minorities, too, unbelievably so — responded to Trump in the same way the rainbow coalition of minorities, Democrats, and moderate Republicans came together twice to help Barack Obama win the White House.

The vast difference between the two historical elections, however, is the emotional timber: Then, ever sweet hope; now, the lingering fear of being led by an anti-media bully who rallied other bullies to an upset victory. That’s terrifying.

Trump rose on a well-documented wave of hate of the Other, not widely and forcefully displayed in this country since the civil rights struggles of the 1960s. Obama rose on the promise that everyone has a place at the table and that we can all work together for the common good. On the campaign trail and to a fault in office, he was a unifier, not a divider as Trump followers depict him. But the disrespect for the first African-American president was evident from Day One — enabled by an obstructionist Republican majority Congress — and it paved the way for Trump’s modus operandi and victory.

Racism and sexism are a Machiavellian combination. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was fighting a tougher battle than we ever gave her credit for from the perch of South Florida, where Broward tea partiers and hard-line Miami Cubans seem more minority factions than groups capable of a show of political prowess. Not so. Three exit polls show Trump took between 52-54 percent of the Cuban-American vote, more than Mitt Romney’s 47 percent.

Clinton, too, was a unifier. But the Obama coalition wasn’t there for her in the necessary strength in North, Central and Southwest Florida. Her election depended on which Florida turned out to vote. The Hannity-ized and Coulter-ized white suburban Florida — the one that blames problems on immigrants, the one afraid of the new neighbor, the one rejecting the urbanization of rural areas and equating it with immigration failures instead of inevitable growth — showed up in greater numbers. A similar scenario played out in other battleground states where voter turnout was highest and throughout the solidly red states that voted party line, no matter how hateful their candidate.

Worse yet, far too many people didn’t vote or wasted their votes on the independent distractions, essentially handing the win to Trump. No shame in electing a man who mocked a disabled man and war veterans, who bragged about sexually assaulting women and paying off corrupt politicians.

I thought America was better than that. My mistake.

Living in our multicultural cocoon might have blinded us to reality, shielded us from the electoral power of a divided America that wasn’t with us. But this home is our strength — and our shield now.

“The forgotten man and woman will never be forgotten again,” Trump tweeted early Wednesday morning, reassuring followers with the same supremacist coded language of the campaign.

Then he did what he said he was going to do, graciously accepting election results — because he won.

Yet he debuted his new title Wednesday with enough presidential demeanor to move the markets, which had plummeted after his election, to rally and rise. There’s your silver lining.

The rabid who voted for Trump, however, are still at it, drunk on hate, assigning epithets to opponents — “weak morons,” “you’re fired,” etc. — and passing around more untruths on social media and in mass emails.

This would be the moment for them to get classy, but spewing vitriol is all they know — and they and their behavior are Trump’s problem now.

And with Trump, you never know what’s what.

He may re-freeze Cuba-U.S. relations — or play a round of golf with Vladimir Putin and the military heirs to the Castros in Havana.

How we fare as a nation hangs on the president-elect’s ability to govern, and Americans chose the Pandora’s box candidate. Before he put on the villain suit and tie, he was once a Democrat and a friend of the Clintons. As a Republican, he ran on an anti-GOP establishment platform. The party wrapped its arms around him Tuesday and is running the victory lap. But they’d be wrong to read too much into his win. We got too comfortable, poll-result happy, and confident under President Obama. I’ll give them that.

But Trump’s election didn’t come with a strong mandate.

And no president can erase what’s ingrained into the fabric of a country built on immigration. You can’t make America white again; it never was.

This country is multiethnic, multiracial, and pluralistic, whether the haters who elected Donald Trump like it or not. Soon enough, they will realize that the deep, ugly rage in their heart has no cure — and that the rest of the country, maybe including President Trump, has left them behind.

I came of age — female and Hispanic — in the divided ugly America that elected Donald Trump.

For every bigot I encountered, there was an army of Americans embracing me.

Then — and now.

We will survive, I assure you, President-elect Donald Trump.

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