It’s been one week since Election Day. In that time, I’ve read more articles, Facebook statuses, and news updates about Donald Trump and the aftermath of the election than I care to count. I feel like I’m shouting into a void with this post, just adding more noise to the din of Internet opinions. And yet, that’s not a bad thing – it means that every single person still has a voice and the means to express it. That, to me, is the greatest thing about the United States, and in this time of uncertainty it’s comforting to know that we still have that.
So, what to say that hasn’t already been said? Obviously I’m frustrated and sad at the outcome. I can’t imagine how afraid my immigrant/Muslim/LGBTQ/minority peers are. Naturally I’m outraged that a man who has no respect for women has been elected president of the country I live in. And, deep down, of course I’m not surprised that Hillary lost. Mainstream media made it seem like she was a sure thing, but they greatly underestimated just how little the average person trusted her. They didn’t take people’s weariness with the establishment seriously. And now we’re stuck with a guy whose inner circle can’t even make him get a proper spray tan.
When I studied abroad in Copenhagen two years ago I took a class on cross-cultural communication, which led to my senior thesis on cross-cultural communication in digital writing. I can’t stop thinking about my research and how it applies to this election. What’s clear is that there is a significant divide in this country that can no longer be ignored. Both sides think they’re right and neither side will communicate with the other. Democrats categorize Republicans as hateful and backwards; Republicans stereotype Democrats as weak and immoral. People on both sides do their best to insulate themselves from differing opinions, choosing their news sources, neighborhoods, and friends based on shared values. It’s easier to live in a world that doesn’t challenge your views, which is why many Democrats are astounded by the election results, despite the number of Trump signs that dot the front yards of non-urban America.
I voted for Hillary, but I was not one of her die-hard supporters. I couldn’t relate to her as a person in any way other than the fact that we’re both women. But we agreed on many of the same issues, so I voted for her (plus the thought of a President Trump made me nauseated). I have a feeling that many Trump voters were the same way: disliked their candidate as a person, but agreed with certain policies. For some people it could be that they were still recovering from the 2008 recession and felt that Trump could bring jobs to them. Some people are so pro-life that they couldn’t vote for someone who wasn’t. Some people are so genuinely afraid of immigration and the perceived threat of terrorism that they can’t look past their fear and see the human beings on the other side. And some people are just plain bigots.
What I’m saying is, there’s no one Clinton Voter, nor is there no one Trump voter. There is no one way to be a Democrat, nor is there no one way to be a Republican. Believing that there is will only drive us all further apart. We have a lot of work to do, and we need everyone on board. Because the truth is that even if Hillary had won, there would still be racism, sexism, xenophobia, and all other types of discrimination, just like there was after Obama won. Trump supporters would still believe the same things and fight for them just as Democrats are doing now. Hillary’s progressive policies would still have had to pass a Republican-controlled House.
Truly, stopping Trump and his broader campaign promises would not have changed a single thing on the micro level. It’s up to all of us regular people to do that – to practice compassion, empathy, and respect to everyone in order to try and reverse hateful, fear-based thinking. I understand that this may be easy for me to say as a privileged white woman, but from my perspective and experience it’s what I believe to be the best way to combat all the hate and fear that is infecting the world. It’s only on middle ground that we can look one another in the eye and shake hands and have a conversation and move forward, together.