Letters from the Editor: Face of the enemy
One week ago today, Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton to become president-elect of the United States of America. You couldn’t tell that from my social media feeds though; from most of the reactions, one might think a nuke had been set off in an orphanage full of puppies. A supposed army of plainclothes Nazis hiding en masse in swing states was promptly blamed in response.
This is an extremely troubling line of thought. Democrats, particularly the party elite, are desperate to level the blame for Clinton’s loss anywhere but at themselves. They’ve lashed out at third-party voters, the FBI, Russia and anyone they can identify as being the source of their failure other than their own choice of message and candidate. Most troubling, they have developed and pushed the conclusion that nearly half of the country is secretly and virulently misogynistic, bigoted and hateful.
Don’t get me wrong, I despise Trump. He is, on his best day, a sexist, xenophobic buffoon who will do literally anything for approval. Trump is a dangerous man and the next four years will require vigilance on the part of opposition groups and parties. His win has absolutely emboldened people who identify with those values and if “The Donald” possessed an iota of leadership he could cut those people off at the knees with a few well-placed words—which he, pointedly, has not done.
However, assuming that every Trump voter identifies fully with this message, that their vote indicates agreement if not long-held belief, is disingenuous and dangerous thinking. Statistically speaking, just under half of the voting populous—our neighbors and coworkers—went for Trump. The narrative publicly pushed by the Democratic establishment (and bought into by so many people) is that every Trump voter is beyond hope, so idealistically opposed to the left that one cannot hope to communicate with them.
The democratic elite did not fail in their attempt to communicate with people who held very real economic and security concerns. Rather, they made no attempt, actively dismissed those concerns and mocked the folks who expressed them. Trump may be a blustery idiot, but he addressed the issues that mattered to an alienated voting block. They didn’t identify with the man’s entire message, but on the topics that mattered to them they weren’t offered an alternative. Assuming Trump voters universally approve all of the man’s words and stated policies is no different from assuming Clinton voters favor military intervention, drone assassinations or shady contributions from foreign dictatorships.
And yet, more and more people, republicans and democrats alike, are beginning to believe that there is no hope in bridging the divide that exists between the two major parties in America. Friendships between parties are rare in real life and on social media, and nobody seems too concerned about the echo chambers they occupy.
The United States has been antithetically divided in ideology throughout its history. But the last time those divisions were considered totally irreconcilable, a war was fought. And it was won by those who thought that, despite these differences, the country should stick together. (There were, of course, other issues, but the question of secession was one of a number of topics concluded by the Civil War.) If those divisions cannot be bridged, well, then perhaps the United States should not persist in its current form.
Speaking personally, I’m not married to the idea of the Union. But I can say with some certainty that if one is, they should probably be willing to reach across the aisle, to have those difficult, uncomfortable discussions with people who hold different views and values. Understanding is the only thing that can possibly fix the split, rally voters and out those groups and elements that are truly reprehensible.
And for those people who aren’t willing to have those conversations, it might be sensible to seek the formal dissolution of the political ties that bind such opposite views together.