Two days after Donald Trump was elected, I was having dinner in a Middle Eastern country with an American diplomat – a tough senior Obama political appointee, with hard-fought policy achievements to her name – when she burst into tears mid-conversation. Like the entire commentariat, and virtually everyone in the US political establishment (including, arguably, Hillary Clinton), she had so taken for granted Clinton’s impending elevation that the election hit her like a physical blow. Now she was watching her role in a Clinton administration evaporate; she’d been crying on and off, she said, for days.
She wasn’t the only one. Celebrities (scores of whom promised to move to Canada if Mr Trump won, but later discovered they’d been joking), feminists who regarded Trump’s victory as an assault from a revenant patriarchy and activists who mounted last-ditch legal challenges to deny him the presidency were inconsolable. Bernie Sanders’ supporters were torn between outrage and schadenfreude, claiming their boy could have won if he hadn’t been robbed in the primary. Women marched in nationwide protests alleged to outnumber the inauguration crowd (the real crowd, not President Trump’s imaginary one, which numbered millions, in what his adviser Kellyanne Conway dubbed “alternative fact”). The Resistance – a loose movement viewing Trump as dictator-in-waiting, including factions willing to oppose him “by any means necessary” – was born.