Disclosure: I am an Obama supporter and supported Sanders and then Clinton – but if you did not, please read on; this is not another “rant against the right.”
Yesterday, as poll after poll predicted Clinton would win, I relished in the idea that I would be able to look at my daughter and tell her that she could hold the highest office in the land. I was excited to turn to her and say “look honey, here is proof, you can do and be anything.”
As the results came in, I felt the shock, disappoint, despair that many did, as my Facebook feed filled with rants against the uneducated, the racists, the sexists that voted for Trump.
I thought to myself, could this be true? Are half the citizens of this great nation hateful, awful people? So I started to really look into Trump supporters and why they voted for him.
What I found surprised me.
I found a large group of people that really aren’t doing well in life. People that have been told that America is the land of opportunity, and if they haven’t “made it” then it’s their fault.
These people are hurting. Really hurting.
And Trump’s message to them is this: I know you’re hurting, and it’s not your fault. It’s the fault of the politicians, the rigged political system – elites that don’t know you and don’t care about you. But I’m going to get you a good job, and things are going to get better.
Whether it’s an honest message or not, it resonates. Meanwhile, for this population, the message from liberals sounds a lot like this:
“Let me get you educated. Let me get you government help. Maybe it hasn’t happened yet, but you’ll see, it will happen.”
But people that don’t come from college-educated families don’t necessarily want or believe in higher education. Trump is talking about jobs, something that gives people a purpose and a sense of self-worth.
And so, they may not like the racism, the sexism etc., but that core message of real help, real change, is enough for them to overlook these things.
So I don’t believe that half the country are racists and sexists. Though there definitely are some in that camp, I believe this “silent majority” was silent because we didn’t allow a safe place to hear them out. We said “if you’re voting for Trump, you’re a racist and sexist period.” I know, I said it too.
So of course they stayed silent. Who wants to admit to being a racist or sexist, especially when they aren’t one?
I don’t write any of this because I agree with Trump, because I believe in him, because I trust him – I don’t. I am a person of color that believes in equal rights for women, people of different faiths and beliefs, and our brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ community.
But I write this because we need a way to start to understand each other. And we can’t get there if we immediately write off half the nation as hateful Neanderthals. If we do, then we are playing right into being the “liberal elitists” that we are so often accused of being.
So what will I tell my daughter about the election?
First of all, I’ll tell her that she can reach the highest office in the land. Clinton did win the popular vote after all. And I don’t believe progress on this front can be stopped.
Second, I’ll tell her to listen. Listen to the other side. Listen to their concerns. Even when she doesn’t agree with them, don’t dismiss them as illegitimate. Try to view things from their perspective. And never overlook the pain that people are feeling.
Finally, I’ll tell her to use this informed perspective to help people. Use it to create understanding, build bridges, show love to her neighbors, and make progress.
It’s the only way we can all begin to work together.
And make no mistake, we do need to work together.