I didn’t vote for Clinton. I didn’t vote for Trump. Waking up this morning, I feel neither guilt nor excitement for the way the election played out last night. Here in Oregon, my vote ultimately did not impact what was effectively guaranteed to be a double-digit Clinton victory in this state. My vote for the Green Party also fell short in a losing effort in trying to reach 5% of the popular vote. My political battles have always been rather Sisyphean, but I think that might also put me in a position as someone who has dealt with plenty of election grief to extend a hand out to friends, family, acquaintances, comrades, and even those of you who hate my guts today.
The sentiment that elected Trump into office last night is far more nuanced and complex than merely asserting that hate and prejudice are embedded in the American condition. Obviously they are present in abundance, but this explanation — while convenient — is far too simplistic in and of itself to articulate why Trump is the president-elect today. Asserting hate and prejudice to be exclusive to the GOP is foolhardy, and chalking his victory up to hate alone is chauvinistic at best.
Yes, Trump has said some abysmal things over the course of the past 18 months. I have no intention whatsoever to ever excuse his rhetoric, or his track record either. But I’m also not going to immediately cast blanket aspersions over his voters, for this demographic is certainly an indelible component of my family and groups of friends. To denigrate rather than trying to understand would only prove more divisive in an already divisive time.
The same wave of populist anger that swept Bernie Sanders through the primaries was evident in the rise of Trump. The GOP was forced to give into that groundswell by the sheer force of Trump’s run through the primaries. Able to pick off a 16-strong field of hopefuls, it was textbook divide-and-conquer on his part to take over the party apparatus. Once Martin O’Malley dropped out early, Sanders didn’t have the traction to quite get over the top in a more classic party primary situation.
No, Trump supporters weren’t motivated by hate alone. What motivated many that I know was not even necessarily hate at all but rather fear. Their motivator was the fear of a status quo that has resulted in historic economic growth that has resulted merely in historic income inequalities. It is a fear of watching one’s voice subsumed completely into a corporatist culture that is present on all sides of the political spectrum.
Clinton promised a continuation of extant policies that resulted in incremental gains falling unequally across the classes. Trump promised something different, for better or for worse, and that was enough to put him over the top. I heard plenty of friends and family talking about how we would have to maintain pressure on Clinton to adopt and implement progressive positions and hold those positions once in office. The same simply holds true for the other side, and it requires going beyond the pettiness of trying to assess blame. We should seek to understand, not denigrate.
It cannot also be discounted that, in a political landscape where we still operate by Electoral College rather than popular vote, the regional divide was all too evident in this year’s election. I saw several memes last night that joked about giving back the Louisiana Purchase, and while offering a bit of levity to many who were genuinely depressed by the election results, it only perpetuates an us-versus-them mentality.
So if you’re one of my Clinton-supporting friends enmeshed in malaise today, please remember that an election is only the recommencement of a battle that spans through a lifetime. If you are one of my Trump-supporting friends basking in the glow of victory, please remember that the president-elect effectively received a mandate from one-seventh of the American populace last night and that you too still have work to do as well. And to those like myself who voted for one of the alternatives on the ballot, we too must remember that our own battles for 5% of the vote are both valid and yet only one part of a broader political strategy.
No matter who you voted for this year, I invite you into a broader discussion of what we really want the United States of America to look like in the 21st century and beyond. How can we make our system work more effectively for everyone involved in the national project? How can we begin to quell these fears that have driven so much of this election cycle? Let’s go beyond blame and guilt and find what it means to TRULY be “stronger together” for a change…
Zach can be found here on all things sports
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