Donald Trump is about to become our 45th President, and Mike Pence his Vice President. Let that sink in for a minute…
Okay, now that we’re here, what can we do about it? For one thing, we need to understand why this happened. IMO, the biggest reason for this isn’t that our country is fundamentally more bigoted and hateful than we thought; it’s that all the things we love about America are not realized by all of the people. Many of my friends live in South Florida, New York, LA, Bay Area, Chicago, etc and have a wonderful quality of life with sufficient income to enjoy their favorite restaurants, drinks, events, shows, etc. This is not reality for a significant portion of the population. And this disparity in quality of life is one of the driving factors behind Trump’s election. One of the reasons I lean liberal these days is that I realize what a divisive affect income inequality has on society. Only one of our two major parties is trying to solve this problem, and it’s not the one that just gained full control of the federal government. But I digress…
The message that I think needs to sink in so that this doesn’t happen again is one of understanding and empathy. A well-off banker in New York may not have much in common with a coal miner in West Virginia, but he needs to understand that they are both people, citizens, and deserving of having their concerns addressed. A few points to drive this home:
- I fully believe that the #NeverTrump side is the correct side (HRC is very flawed but the lesser evil), but many on the left fail to acknowledge that it wasn’t unreasonable at all to be #NeverHillary. Sure, it’s easier to just look at Trump’s many glaring obvious flaws and say “anyone is better than that guy!” But Trump had a significant amount of popular support for a reason, and that reason is that many people feel like politicians have repeatedly promised them things and failed to deliver. So to them, ANYONE was better than Hillary, who represented a continuation of the establishment that has caused them so much pain. We need to understand and respect that.
- Throughout the election cycle, I saw people on both sides repeatedly point out every single flaw of the candidate they hated while failing to acknowledge the flaws of the candidate they supported. I was somewhat guilty of this on social media, although in private conversations and even comment chains I was willing to acknowledge Hillary’s faults. Anyway, this behavior is not okay. The left was so busy denouncing Trump that they failed to denounce the DNC for rigging the primary in Hillary’s favor (at the expense of Bernie, who regardless of political leanings and radical policy proposals was a much better candidate than either HRC or DT). They frequently argued by saying “sure x thing that Hillary did wasn’t good, but y thing that Trump did was SO MUCH WORSE!” And the other half of the country tuned them out for this one-sided arguing style. Similarly, the right said something like “sure Trump is a racist bigot sexist conman with no political experience or ability to surround himself with non-yesmen, but at least he’s not doing x, y, and z corrupt/incompetent things that Hillary has done!” And given how historically awful both candidates were, these arguments weren’t very difficult to make.
- The left routinely looks down on the right for views that the left sees as inferior, whether logically, morally, or economically. While I side with the left on most issues these days, this arguing style just creates greater division within our country. I may not agree with someone who thinks gays are bad people or climate change isn’t happening or wealthy people should pay the same tax rate as poor people, but talking down to someone who believes any of these things benefits nobody and just divides us further. Right now, our country is as politically divided as ever, as far as I know. These are the kinds of conditions that can undermine a great society. America is a great country; we are only capable of being beaten if we do it to ourselves. Right now, that is what is happening, and all of us are guilty to some extent.
In closing, I just want to leave with a friendly reminder that we are all in this together and treating fellow citizens with disrespect, contempt, condescension or hatred makes one part of the problem rather than part of the solution.