As the polls were closing on November 8th, I was in a bar in Sacramento sipping away at a rye whiskey and tobacco cocktail named after Ken Bone. I sat in the midst of the liberal crowd while the vibe was slowly starting to feel more and more panicked the more time passed. I knew Donald Trump was going to win, so I was already working through having to calm the potential riot that could occur. Maybe it’ll be this, maybe it’ll be that, but as a friend and I worked through what will happen over the next four years, I knew something immediately.
I will be fine.
Really. I’m a young, white man with 2 college degrees halfway done with a third. I work in an extremely high demand career in InfoSec, a field that has negative unemployment. I get emails every single day of new job opportunities all over the country. I make a good salary and I’m in the best shape of my life. So yes, in a Donald Trump presidency, I will be perfectly fine. In fact, I might even get some of my taxes cut. So why should I complain?
But that therein lies the issue. While I fully understand that I will be fine, many of my friends and peers who I care about deeply might not be, and that troubles me. My best friend’s son is only able to get health insurance coverage because of the Affordable Care Act. He has a pre-existing condition and as of right now, all potential paths in a Trump presidency seem to point at that clause changing if the ACA is repealed or replaced. I get health insurance through the marketplace and while my premiums are rising, I can’t ignore the 21 million Americans who now are getting access to care. I am not comfortable plugging my ears while only focusing on my bottom line.
It’s not just about healthcare either, many people brush everything Donald Trump has said under the rug because they’re “just words”. But the deeper problem here is symbolism. People say racist and sexist things all the time, but those have always in the deeper crevices of our society and are never taken seriously. However, after last night we now have a president-elect who has used them, gloated about sexual assault, and has said he’ll pay for the lawyers for supporters partaking in violence at his rallies. Trump has now normalized what used to be considered so ghastly abnormal, dangerously racist and sexist rhetoric. Many of us can see that rhetoric out in society and know it’s wrong, but what about all of the other eyes that watch him. Have we taken into account how this rhetoric influences children accept that the man talking is our elected leader?
The tyranny of the majority is a concept that the founding fathers tried to combat with the balance of power with differing branches of government. Protecting against that has always been a beautiful role for a government to take. To defend the small and weak, render justice to the afflicted and needy, but I think especially right now we can see that the safeguards are not entirely perfect for a number of reasons. Gerrymandering is one, it has skewed the House of Representatives to polarization and our shifting demographics is another. Now while Hillary won a majority of the popular vote in general, the demographics tell a different story.
As expected, Hillary won all minorities and Trump overwhelming won the white vote. This is even more exaggerated when non college educated whites are accounted for (67-28). Even white women barely voted for Hillary (53-42). The 2016 exit polls at the Washington post draw a distinct line between whites and all minorities, but that shouldn’t surprise you. It’s not surprising that after listening to Trump’s rhetoric about minorities for the last year, Hillary won the minority vote, but it’s distinctly surprising with how that rhetoric also didn’t make make any significant dent in the white vote. Incorporating college education into the mix only gives Hillary 16.5 more points, but it’s still behind at 45 points compared to Trump’s 49.5. It’s not tyranny of the majority in the democratic, mob rule sense that our founders were prepared for, but this is more in the demographic sense. This combined with gerrymandering has given Trump not just the Presidency, but a majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. A Trump Presidency is daunting enough, but giving him a full majority is like giving a child a shotgun.
It’s starting to become clear now that a large part of Donald Trump’s supporters have allowed him to slip on by while ignoring his blatant racism and sexism simply because those kinds of issues don’t affect them specifically. The excuse is always claimed it’s been more about Hillary’s corruption more than Trump’s rhetoric, but unless a candidate’s rhetoric is threatening to your very identity, then obviously it doesn’t seem like a big deal. I’ve seen a lot of liberals freak out on Donald Trump supporters and claim they are racist, phobic, etc. and to be honest, I find that unhelpful. I am not calling all Trump supporters racist monsters. I am however, suggesting that based on the exit polls, there is a widespread distinct lack of racial empathy present. Donald Trump is a mirror and as we all stare into him we can see the very empathy missing in us as a country that won him the election.
This election has reminded us that our political process is not a “1 day every 2 to 4 year” process. Because that only leads to the largest, loudest, and angriest of us to have control after years of fanning the flames and digesting apocalyptic, divisive rhetoric. The ironic thing is now, only after the final results came in, there are calls for unity. The same man who accused the last president of being an illegal Kenyan Muslim is now hoping we can look past all our differences and come together for America. There’s a grand canyon sized gap between Americans right down demographic lines that he specifically created and now the minorities are the ones supposed to cross it? For unity? That’s the steamiest pile of political bullshit I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. That statement is completely tone deaf because Trump’s platform is a direct assault on many people’s identity and livelihood. The government, the entity normally responsible for protecting the small and weak has just given the keys to a man pointing the finger right at those people.
One of the biggest things that caused me to reevaluate myself specifically in relation to my neighbors and my fellow citizens is hearing their personal stories. It wasn’t until I saw how things I supported made life specifically harder for some people that I started questioning my own position as authoritative and true. Instead of someone complaining about some bill being passed in general, they conveyed how that bill will specifically affect them. These were the few moments where I’ve seen someone actually alter their view after being presented with new information. For the next 4 years, I don’t know what to do. I feel compelled to try and fill in the gaps where there are victims all around us, speak up when no one else will. Perhaps the best defense is instead of looking at top down is to look at bottom up. Look at the relationships around us and how we can somehow increase that empathy between us that we’re all lacking so much. I know for one thing though, unadding and deleting friends over politics is only making it worse.