I’d like to share some thoughts on the 2016 Presidential election. I’ve delayed a little bit in doing this because I needed some time to process. My wonderful spouse, who is smarter than me, processed a little faster and already shared some brilliant ideas. So, I’m probably not going to say it as well and use more words to say it, but what are academics for, am I right?
First, let me say, to Donald Trump and all the people who voted for him, congratulations. The election was not rigged, and he won the most electoral votes fairly. The people have spoken, and I will respect the nation’s decision. I don’t have to like it, but I will respect it, and I will respect the office of the President.
Additionally, I will refuse to give in to the temptation to hope that he fails, simply so I can have the petty joy of being able to say, “I told you so.” I want him to succeed, because if he succeeds, the nation succeeds. That is the classy thing to do, and I like to stay classier than San Diego in Anchorman. Additionally, it drove me absolutely crazy when, 8 years ago, people actively hoped for our current President to fail from day 1. If I don’t want to turn right around and be a complete hypocrite, then I’m left with little choice but to wish Trump the best.
And, I was wrong when I thought Trump wasn’t serious about running and that it was a publicity stunt. I was wrong when I thought there was no way he’d win the Republican nomination. I was wrong when I thought there was no way he’d win the general election. So, based on my track record so far, perhaps he’ll turn out to be a good President.
So, if he proposes ideas that will actually help people, I will be happy to support those ideas. Of course, if he proposes ideas that harm people, that seek to further marginalize the already marginalized, suppress free speech or press, allow people to impose their personal religious beliefs on the general public, etc., I will be right there to stand up, speak out, and oppose such ideas. These are some of my most important values, and I will continue to live them.
In the last couple days, I have seen and read plenty of analysis about why Trump won and what type of person voted for him. I believe personally that a variety of people voted for him: people who are explicitly racist and sexist, people who are implicitly racist and sexist and found whatever excuse they could to vote for him and not Hillary, and people who had legitimate reasons that had little or nothing to do with race or sex. I would like to hope that the majority of his supporters fall into the last category, but I have no way of knowing that nationally. When it comes to the people I know and love, I really want to hope and believe most, if not all, fall into that latter category. And, if you say you aren’t racist or sexist, in absence of clear evidence, I’ll take you at your word.
However, I don’t really understand the surprise and outrage of people who voted for Trump when people suggest they may be racist, sexist, xenophobic, and generally bigoted. You personally may not be (I hope you’re not), but you have endorsed with your vote someone who is, or who at least acted like it during the campaign. You may not be comfortable with those things (I hope you’re not), but at the end of the day, you weighed them as less important than the reasons you voted for him. That doesn’t mean you are bigoted too, but it does make you complicit in his bigotry and the bigotry he inspires.
He may very well change his tune and tone in the coming days, weeks, and months. I certainly hope he does. But when this is what we have heard pouring out of his mouth for the past year and a half, I also don’t understand people who don’t seem to get the level of anger and fear coming from those who didn’t vote for him. This is not whining about the horse you backed not winning the race; that can and does happen, and that is just sour grapes. Being an immigrant or a relative of an immigrant and fearing deportation is not sour grapes. Being LGBT and fearing your marriage or family will not be recognized anymore, or people will be allowed to discriminate against you because of your sexual orientation or gender identity, is not sour grapes. Being a racial or ethnic minority and fearing that really racist people will feel emboldened by Trump’s victory and assault you is not sour grapes. Being a woman and seeing language describing sexual assault be dismissed as locker room talk and women who claim they were assaulted automatically not believed, and wondering what this means for how others will be allowed to talk about or treat you, is not sour grapes. Shoot, separate from any bigotry and just talking policy alone, fearing what will happen for your son’s future ability to get health insurance with a pre-existing condition (CHD) if the ACA is repealed is not sour grapes. And fearing these things for people you love and care about, even if they won’t happen to you, is not sour grapes; it is empathy and compassion.
These are real fears and concerns that could come about as a direct result of things Trump has proposed or inspired. Just because you may not feel this way does not mean others don’t, and it certainly does not entitle you to tell others how they should feel. Your way of life (particularly if you pass as white, cisgender, heterosexual, male, and Protestant) may not feel threatened, but don’t you dare dismiss others feelings so out-of-hand. If you think their feelings are based on misinformation, please, feel free to explain, but I think about the best you can do is argue checks-and-balances will stop one person from doing too much, or that he didn’t mean the things he said or the platform he took on from the RNC. There is whining because you didn’t get your way, and then there is being afraid for your way of life. It especially seems funny to me that, given that some semblance of that sentiment has been spoken by people as to why they voted for Trump (e.g., they feel like the middle class, the working class, and/or blue collar people had been passed over by the system and were seeing their finances, jobs, and way of living disappear), that people cannot see and recognize that in others now.
Simply telling people to get over it, grow up, suck it up, toughen up, etc. does no one any good, and probably makes things worse. Also, I’d be careful – telling people who until the 1960s couldn’t use the same public facilities as whites (and were considered 3/5 of a person in the original Constitution), or people who survived to escape some oppressive regime and come to the US, or people who were not allowed to marry the person they love and had to hide their love for years, or people who have found a way to survive and even thrive following a horrific sexual assault – I’d be careful telling them to toughen up. I think they’re already more than familiar with toughness and resiliency. Perhaps some of us could learn a thing or two from them, even.
I really do hope and believe we as a nation will move forward, that we will even find a way to unify and be stronger together. People may need some time to be angry, to figure it out, and that’s okay. Being honest about that anger is a healthy first step towards addressing it and finding common ground. In the meantime, to all my Trump friends, congratulations, and I hope you’ll be magnanimous and gracious in extending the olive branch to others in the spirit of unity. To my non-Trump friends, especially those angry or fearful, take some time if you need it, I’m here as an ear, advocate, and ally for you, and let’s remember that no matter who is in charge, we are still stronger together.