Last night the world heard America speak the name of the next President of the United Stated: Donald J. Trump.
In the echo chamber of my social media bubble I see tears, fears, recriminations, grief, and confusion. There was no doubt going into the election that Hillary Clinton would win. Now, this morning, the cognitive dissonance is so severe that many quite literally don’t know what to say, what to do, or how to act. To them, the unthinkable has happened.
To say we on the Left don’t understand how this swell for Donald Trump happened is an understatement. It’s easy to dismiss all Trump supporters as racists, bigots, misogynistic, hypocrites, and ignorant fools. But those labels don’t explain WHY Trump garnered enough support to not only win the Electoral College, but the popular vote as well.
That’s where we’ve broken down every step of the way in this election. We never sought to understand the motivations of the opposing party’s supporters and instead preferred to fall back on disingenuous labels. On the Left, we looked at Trump’s abhorrent behavior and slapped the labels we applied to him on to his supporters. The Right did similarly, looking at the actions and behaviors of Clinton and casting that net of judgement over us all.
But we never asked each other WHY. Why are you supporting Trump? What allows you to look past these behaviors that reprehensible and vote for the man? What do you think a Trump presidency will do for you?
Sure, some voted party lines without knowing the issues. Some who voted for Trump are indeed racist and misogynistic. The Church influenced many. And in our disbelief and shock at the result of the election there will be a strong urge to claim that most, if not all, Trump supporters fit these profiles. But that would, again, be labeling and not trying to understand.
There’s more to this narrative than the labels we’ve applied and we owe it to ourselves to try to understand it, not ignore or dismiss it. We may not like or agree with what we learn, but we can’t ignore the fact that there are complex emotional, financial, economic, and social issues driving the swell of support Trump, and Republicans in general, received. We do ourselves a terrible disservice when we dehumanize the opposing party and assume they have less intelligence or baser emotions than we.
I think the next four years will be historic; how can they not be if this election is a precursor of things to come? It’s time to set aside the labels and try to understand each other. We cannot hope to address, counter, and find common ground with our opponents as long as we issue blanket dismissals and apply dehumanizing labels.
We now have a Republican President and a Republican Congress. Let’s focus on holding them accountable. That’s the action to take moving forward. There’s a lot to be nervous about, a lot of progress in social and civil rights that are threatened now. We will undoubtedly take a step back and have to fight for every inch of ground held.
But know, everyone, that America is an ideal that we all fight for every day. And while we sometimes step backwards, trip, or stumble we’ve moved consistently forward year over year. We will keep doing so.
Progress and change is inevitable.