Election History, Second Draft


Killing the Buddha is going to have a lot to say in the coming weeks about the presidential election of a man best described as Voldemort. We will be bringing you first-person dispatches from the margins, as per usual, only just now a lot more of us are feeling “on the margins” than is usual. Start with Gordon Haber’s DC diaries here.

But in the meantime, as your trusty editor, about all that I have the mental capacity to do is edit. The narrative, that is, that’s built up around the election and how Hillary Clinton lost. When I was in seventh grade, my English teacher forbade us from using the words “very” and “interesting” because they were meaningless, and worse–because they took up space that could be used actually trying to explain the thing in question.  In that spirit, I humbly offer a list of words and phrases that I would like to see eliminated from the election story in favor of more evocative constructions.

“Media elites” as way of describing why the media assumed Hillary Clinton would win. I would ask you to recall that it is not the media’s job to predict the future, but to report the important stories around them, which plenty of great media friends have been doing. This phrase also sets up a false dichotomy between “elites” and….

“The white working class,” is not an explanation for Clinton’s loss. It conflates class and partisan politics in a way that is both unhelpful in the long term and of minimal explanatory value in the election. Reporter Sarah Smarsh has been on this from the beginning, so I’ll suggest you check out her work here.

Clinton as a “flawed candidate.” What does that even mean? A candidate who loses? Okay. But describing Clinton as “flawed” goes no way toward explaining why she lost, and goes one step closer toward a misogynist, victim-blaming narrative of “If only you had smiled more….”

Minority voters “underperforming” at the polls. I understand that this is a statistical term, meaning that they voted in fewer numbers for Clinton than they did for Obama. But here again we run the risk of putting the blame where it doesn’t belong, as this very smart piece in Very Smart Brothas points out: once again, women of color are doing the work white women are refusing to do. That is to say, voting for Clinton.

So what should I say instead, you ask? Here are a couple of more original phrases I’d like to get out there in circulation:

“Whitelash” Still the most incisive one-word analysis of the election, as coined by Van Jones on live TV as the election results came in, and for which he got in trouble.

Also, “Ratfucked”, meaning redistricted beyond belief, which is something we’re going to have to undo if we want the popular vote, which Clinton won, to actually represent the populace. There’s a book by this title, you can read about it here.

And now, back to resisting autocracy.


Brook Wilensky-Lanford is the author of Paradise Lust: Searching for the Garden of Eden (Grove Press, 2011). An editor of Killing the Buddha, she lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Follow Brook on Twitter: @modmyth