Yeah. So that happened.
Like it or not, Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States.
There are people who have been saying “well, he isn’t my president.” And I understand the sentiment. These people are disappointed and angry and scared and they have every right to be. The hateful things that Donald Trump has said that many of his supporters have taken to heart, the violence that is erupting in places all over the country, what a Trump presidency could mean for our future; all of these are legitimate concerns. I think it’s healthy and necessary to take a few days to process these emotions.
And yet, I’m still uncomfortable with saying, “he isn’t my president, I didn’t vote for him.” Don’t get me wrong, I am not happy that Trump won. At all. But a friend of mine pointed out that saying that he isn’t my president seems eerily reminiscent of the same rhetoric that the Republicans used when Obama was elected.
Sure, they’re different cases. One is because we elected someone who is racist, sexist, homophobic, and generally insulting to people of kinds. The other is because we elected someone who is black. So yeah, slightly different.
But still, I don’t want to use that kind of language. It may seem like mere semantics to some, but I think that the way we choose to say things matters. This kind of phrasing distances me from the decision we made as a country and shifts the blame away from myself. I didn’t vote for Trump, but I think that viewing this loss without some serious self-reflection will only lead us to make the same mistakes all over again. And another mistake like this might be even more damaging to the country.
So, yeah. Donald Trump is my president now. Unfortunately.
This brings up two questions: How did we get here? And what do we do now?
How did we get here?
It’s a difficult question with complicated answers. My thoughts will be in no way comprehensive in scope or depth, but rather more general observations that I can make while sitting in my room in middle-of-nowhere, PA. Which isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement, but whatever.
First of all, we underestimated how deeply rooted the racism, sexism, and homophobia is in the United States. Even I was caught off guard and I’ve studied this shit. I knew that while we’ve come a long way since the founding of the nation, we still had a lot of work to do. And yet, I thought we had made good progress in at least addressing the overt forms of bigotry. I didn’t believe that people would be so goddamn nonchalant about the things Donald Trump said. Clearly, I was wrong.
But that’s only part of the problem. As much as we’d like to label all Trump supporters as racists and bigots, it’s much more complex than that. You can say that anybody who voted for Trump gave validation to the bigots and I wouldn’t disagree with that. But to use “them all racists” as the sole explanation for Donald Trump’s win is vastly oversimplifying his appeal.
As you’ve probably heard by now from various writers, the rural voters showed up for Trump and that’s what gave him the push for the win. Many of the responses to that go along the lines of, “fuck those ignorant, racist hillbillies.” And I don’t think that’s fair, not to mention, kind of mean.
This is where I think my location lends me some perspective. I often exaggerate the rural-ness of where I live for humor, but I’m not lying when I say that I have to drive an hour to the nearest movie theater. My dad witnessed two deer fighting in our backyard yesterday morning. I wear flannel and nobody thinks it’s weird. And when I went to vote, I saw exactly 1 other Asian and maybe 4 black people in a sea of white.
All I could think of while standing in line was, ‘why would they care about me?’ They wouldn’t. Not in a malicious, “I don’t give a shit about you, you slant-eyed chink,” but more in a, “I have literally met two Asian people in my life and they deliver great Chinese food, but otherwise I got other shit to think about,” kind of way. Rather than social issues, they’re focused on the economic problems that plague rural America. In other words, they’re focused on their own interests, which I have some trouble faulting them for.
Okay, yes, you’re right of course. It doesn’t excuse the fact that they’re basically condoning bigotry as long as they get jobs in return. It’s not okay. But just because I can’t excuse their decision doesn’t mean that I don’t understand why they made it. Especially when both parties decided to ignore them for the last however-many years until Donald Trump came along.
To be clear, I highly doubt that Trump will be able to bring back economic prosperity to the Rust Belt. Those jobs are long gone. But he talked to them and promised them sweet things and that was enough.
It also didn’t help that we, the liberals, were not only dismissive of the rural population, but downright contemptuous. It was a phenomena that I had vaguely picked up on, but was never able to my finger on until I read this article. It details how American liberalism changed from believing that the opposition had a different stance on policies to believing that half the country is simply too stupid to know better. We’ve created an echo chamber that feeds our smugness and self-righteousness that when we look at anybody outside of it, they seem dumb.
I’m not excluding myself from this either. I’ve participated in and perpetuated this culture many times. I’ve cracked jokes about the ignorant, uneducated folks out in the country, supposedly voting against their own interests. I’ve made fun of Donald Trump’s inability to string together a coherent sentence many times, even though it’s clear he’s more than a bumbling buffoon. I’ve said that you just don’t understand, you’re wrong and I’m right, I just need to show you the way to reason.
That’s not to say that I didn’t believe in my policies and my stance on social issues. I did. But I didn’t understand the difference between righteousness and self-righteousness and got addicted to making the perfect mocking statement to feel the rush of people ‘liking’ my comment, instead of authentically attempting to reach an understanding. I’ve been condescending and arrogant and so goddamn smug.
And that’s what I believe turned the rural communities off of the liberals. People absolutely resent being looked down upon and that’s precisely what we have done.
This isn’t solely on the shoulders of the voters, however. Far from it. It’s clear that the DNC is the epicenter of the smug liberalism culture. They consistently refused to acknowledge the will of the people and pushed forward with their own agenda, taking their voters for granted. They were wrapped up in their own little world, haughtily dismissing every new scandal, ignoring the toll it was having on their image. If anything, the election has exposed the rotting core of the DNC and hopefully we can move forward in digging it out.
By now, some of you may think that I’m being too harsh on the very people who voted to keep Donald Trump from becoming president. Why am I blaming you guys when it’s the Republican party that enabled and endorsed him?
Well first of all, I don’t think that the Republicans are going to read this blog. So I don’t think anybody is going to listen to my rants about how there’s a deep undercurrent of white nationalism that runs underneath the entire Republican Party, or how they allowed the rampant growth of obstructionism and partisanship with the introduction of the Tea Party, or how the mindless opposition to anything Obama dipped a finger into, regardless of whether or not they agreed with it, led to further polarization of American politics, etc. I think most people who read my blog would understand that I think that the lion’s share of the blame lies with the Republican party.
I just happen to think that we aren’t completely blameless either. I understand that it’s difficult to take a step back after a loss and examine where we went wrong. It’s also necessary.
I get it. It’s easy to point fingers and yell that those other people are ruining the country. But if we do that, what makes us any different from them?