Well, it is the day after the elections and I am still feeling pretty numb over the outcome. But, this numbness has been qualified by a disappointment I honestly didn’t expect.
I am disappointed in many of those who voted for Clinton with me.
Over the last 24 hours, I’ve read so many posts and overheard so many conversations that have reduced Trump supporters to racist, sexist, anti-LGBTQA, white xenophobes. Is there an element of the Trump political movement that represents each and every one of these characteristics? Absolutely. But, were these qualities alone the fuel that propelled so many to vote Trump and hand him the presidency? I’m not convinced.
The reality is many Trump supporters are angry, feel disenfranchised, and have been ignored by our political system. I think too many of Clinton’s shocked supporters (and I include myself in this) never reached across the aisle to dig beneath the Trump-supporter stereotype and find some empathy and understanding for the more moderate Trump supporter’s perspective.
To be fair, I don’t think many Trump supporters reached across the aisle to us, but (as we all learned in Kindergarten) two wrongs don’t make a right.
Both halves of this country have been living in echo chambers. All the shouting and outrage we’re individually exposed to exactly aligns with our own views. We never engage in true civic discourse. We never ask why someone else might disagree. We never try to get to know each other.
Today I decided to break this cycle for myself. I invited those in my MMM program and beyond who voted for Trump to explain to me why (and I promised to be respectful and listen). I heard some interesting and often very personal stories.
Who would you vote for if your family lost their home and your father their job in the Great Recession, yet no Wall Street bankers were punished and then these very institutions supported the opposing candidate?
Who would you vote for if the jump in your insurance premiums over the last year due to Obamacare made an important, life-changing surgery prohibitively expensive for you?
Who would you vote for if your friends back home all recently lost their factory jobs because new technologies could automate their work?
Now, I’m not saying I agree with the choices these few ultimately made, but I think I understand a little bit more why Clinton might not have been their obvious pick. When I pushed these few on the very disturbing things Trump has said about Muslims and women and Hispanic Americans and on and on, those I spoke with said the rhetoric troubled them too, but ultimately they thought it was just that, rhetoric.
While my biases as a Jew tell me that rhetoric is always where tragedies start, I found it difficult to argue with the real pain that these individuals and their families were feeling.
So, here are my hopes:
+ We all try a little harder to empathize with one another
+ We actively engage in constructive conversation with those who do not agree with us
+ We be informed enough to explain our perspective effectively and clearly
+ We respect that Trump won
And finally, though I have plenty of doubts, we now judge Trump by his actions as President, good or bad, giving him the credit should he prove so many of us wrong, but also holding him accountable should he prove so many of us right.
Though today was admittedly a difficult day, I still love America, my country. I still care about the Trump supporters in my life that I cared about 24 hours ago. I still have hope for our country over these next four years.