Ever since the tide started to turn toward a Trump presidency last night my mind has been buzzing with so many different angles and thoughts that could become entire articles on their own. Right now I think the most salient and certainly the most emotionally present topic to talk about is the reaction of many of my white, liberal friends who attended a four year college and have successful parents who support them. This entire election, Bernie Sanders was the closest I had ever come to supporting a candidate for president. Period. As many of you know I’m a “little l” libertarian, so this might seem a little insane, given Bernie’s policies. That’s a topic for another post. When Clinton rigged the primary election against him and publicly stole an election, I watched people on my facebook, twitter and in my own life start to just accept it. I really lost hope in this entire race. To those who are calling anyone out who didn’t vote for Clinton: After you showed your support for the fundamental removal of your fellow citizens voice in who governs them, you don’t get to sling epithets, not without looking foolish.
I was upset and depressed to watch as all of these pro-Hillary messages came through. My friends did not care about democracy, as long as their team “won”. In truth I don’t really know many Trump supporters, but the ones I did see on my social media were slightly racist old white ladies. I am none of those things. At the point when it became a Trump V Clinton race, I knew that the nation was split into camps of people, none of whom had my interests in mind or shared my political philosophies. I was a man without a camp, and don’t you dare say “what about Gary Johnson”. What about Mr. I don’t know where Aleppo is? What about Mr. I can’t name another world leader? What about Mr. Don’t worry about climate change because eventually the Sun will explode?
In any case, I know it’s kind of spiteful, but watching the wreckage on social media has had a tinge of schadenfreude associated with it for me. Through the past few months Clinton supporters have been so smug, so condescending, so utterly hateful toward anyone who didn’t immediately fall in line and vote Clinton. As one of my favorite news show hosts, Dave Rubin, put it:
“It’s almost as if you endlessly call people bigots and racists they’ll eventually get fed up and turn on you”
The Clinton campaign (and I was sad to see, my otherwise kind and reasonable friends) has been incredibly derisive toward anyone who supported Trump, and before that, to anyone who supported Bernie. In other words “anyone who doesn’t vote for me is a bigot and racist”. And that shame tactic has worked for social justice in the past, but I think this election was an inflection point. I think people started to realize and think for themselves I know I’m not a racist. If you call everything racist and everything misogynistic and everything sexist, then honestly people get desensitized. People don’t care if you call them these things anymore. Or they do, but you’re driving them to secretly vote for the candidate that doesn’t think they are literally all deplorable. How could anyone think Hillary Clinton would be a president for everyone? Best case scenario she is a president for half the nation, leaving hundreds of millions of people disenfranchise. Worst case scenario, she’s a president for Hillary Clinton and the donating elites. (Of course, you might ask how could Trump be a president for everyone when he has openly expressed anti-muslim and anti-immigrant attitudes, and overall behaved like an ass for a year straight in the national spotlight? The answer: he won’t be. He is going to be terrible, a terrible awful president. My hopes are higher that he will at least be a president for more than one person, unlike his opponent.)
It was honestly refreshing to see people who have been so smug and unfair and hateful to their fellow Americans have their candidate defeated. I didn’t vote for Trump because my position has been, for a long time, that both options are horrible people to their core, people who I could not ethically and in good conscience state my support for.
I sometimes genuinely believe that my Facebook feed is full of people who just don’t know that the world around them exists. I saw a status today from one of my fellow grad students that actually described this exact illusion. Directly, she said
“I’ve never felt so confused or disconnected from my country. My news feed tells me nearly everyone feels like I do, but if this were true, the election would not have turned out this way.”
These people have become so buried in their safe spaces, spirited away from the (now evident) wave of dissent that vehemently disagreed with their political opinions. Facebook and media outlets show us what we like to hear because we are more likely to continue to engage for longer. A HUGE portion of the country has forced white liberals to come to terms with the idea that they actually don’t have the mandate of the country. They are not representing as many people as they think. When it comes down to it I think the scariest part for these privileged Hillary voters is this: When it’s just a dozen people on a CNN video of a Trump rally, it’s easy to say “those are just some bigoted hillbillies”. When you see over 60 million people vote for Trump, this becomes a more difficult moral calculus. You can, technically, choose to say “wow, I had no idea there were 60 million racists and bigots in America. Or, once you become less emotional, you can say “I had no idea this many people were frustrated, fed up, and not feeling represented by our current status quo.” If we are being honest, nobody chose not to vote for Hillary solely because she has a vagina. Let it go. Trump is the one doing the pussy grabbing. People chose not to vote for Hillary because she is corrupt, because she represents in every way the status quo, because they don’t feel that she cares about their struggles at all. These are poor people, some extremely poor. My father is a working-class immigrant, and while he is a lifetime democrat, his struggle brings into context the struggles of many other working-class people. These are heroes who are working sometimes 7-days a week to support a family and to make a good life for them and their loved ones. To expect them to prioritize your feelings, or even your safety and livelihood over theirs is idiotic. Yet I have still heard people sitting in the same classroom as me, at a private university, who are white, who wear nice clothes and drive nice cars and have little trouble making rent each month, come out and shame these poor working class people for being “privileged enough not to have to worry about the social issues”. Seriously. Listen to yourself. I’ve seen stories describing this as a “white lash” of White people lashing out against…what? a Black president? A woman…? Diversity? Why is it that when poor white working class people voice their political opinions, and vote with what they believe is their best interest in mind, they are different than anyone else in their same socioeconomic class? Are they not struggling to put food on the table as much as anyone else? Are they not worrying what to tell their kids at night? Are they not having trouble making rent?
It is ultimately difficult to re-humanize a group of people who you have made into racist animals, but this is 100% vital to our progress as a nation.
We must be gracious in victory and dignified in defeat.
That being said, dehumanize Trump as much as you like. He’s a shitty person. But don’t assume that anyone who didn’t share your doomsday prophecy about a Trump presidency is some awful monster. They are people, and you are a person.