I have a lot of thoughts about Donald Trump as President. I’ve spent all of last night facing this reality, and all of today trying to organize everything I want to say into something coherent. But it’s hard. There’s so much to unpack that doing it in one day is impossible. If you’ll excuse what is almost sure to be word vomit, please hear me out on all of this.
I want to first establish that Hillary Clinton was not my first choice candidate. Indeed I would not call myself an enthusiastic Clinton voter, but vote for her I did. I have been a registered voter since 2011, have registered in two states in my lifetime, and have never belonged to a political party. Ideological tests have placed me somewhere between Hillary Clinton and Jill Stein, but my issues with Donald Trump are not just ideological. If they were, I wouldn’t feel this post to be necessary, yet here we are.
What I hope to impress upon you is that now that this shit show of an election is over, we do need to come together. But there are some caveats, and I will not yield.
I will also not spend time reiterating everything that happened throughout these campaigns. If you weren’t paying attention, tough shit. If you want to catch up, the Internet is full of reading material. I’d like to address the aftermath we’ve experienced today, and will certainly experience going forward.
I have seen many Facebook posts, tweets, etc. looking for people to blame. In one form or another, most everyone is looking to blame someone for this disaster. “How did we get here?” many people asked. Funny you should ask.
See, the thing is, despite everything we saw, the simple fact is Donald Trump activated some incredibly deep feelings in a way Hillary Clinton simply couldn’t. People much smarter than I have described this as college-educated Americans being out of touch, or that this election was really about rural America vs urban America . Both of which seem pretty correct. Just look at the map by county. The simple fact is, half the country feels it has been failed by the government, and it’s sick of being told how to live by them and people who live dramatically different lives in the city. So how did we get here? We left half the country behind without really noticing. Donald Trump stirred the pot just enough to give those people movement, and here we are. Unfortunately, he did it in a poisonous way.
Donald Trump understood from the beginning that the only way he’d be noticed is to say something ridiculous. Once he had the spotlight, he just had to push the right buttons. And while this certainly worked and half the country chose him, he brought with him some exceptionally dangerous sentiments that will not fade any time soon. And this is where my problems with Donald Trump really begin.
Donald Trump has said many racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, idiotic, and demagogic things in his rise to power. The core messages of his campaign were built on this foundation. That is a fact. Donald Trump ran his campaign on division. Us vs them. Winners and losers. If you’re not like us, you’re not welcome. A sentiment rampant in rural America, but much less so in cities where people better learn to coexist with vastly different people.
That’s not to say Hillary Clinton wasn’t also a divisive candidate. She absolutely was. But she did not build her campaign on that division nearly to the same extent that Donald Trump did. She did not embrace and fuel hatred the way Donald Trump did. She did not lie as often as Donald Trump did. To pretend that their character flaws are equal is absurd, even if many of the flaws are the same. To pretend that sexism did not play a part in tipping the scale against Hillary Clinton is naive at best. Where Donald Trump leaned into the divisiveness he created, Hillary Clinton worked against it (albeit, not hard enough).
As a result, it’s easy to sit back and point fingers about who “caused” this. We can say Donald Trump supporters are racist, xenophobic, homophobic, and demand they look their loved ones in the eyes and tell them that they’re worthless but the truth it that doesn’t help. And I understand that I say this as a person who has extremely little to lose under a terrible Trump administration, but we cannot turn on each other just because of whose bubble will filled in on our ballots.
It seems more likely to me that, for one probably bad reason or another, a majority of Trump’s voters chose to look past his obvious and horrendous flaws because of something bigger that they believe he stands for: a huge change. I do not at all feel that Donald Trump stands for the change his supporters do, but I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that they themselves are not racist, xenophobic, homophobic, etc.
But this is where my caveats for coming together with these people begin. To those people, this is what I have to say:
Donald Trump built his popularity on purely divisive messages. You have skirted around them by calling them empty words and pointing to a system of checks and balances that would, supposedly, keep him in check. But the checks and balances you so readily point to have already failed you. Had they actually worked, the Republican party would have properly unendorsed him every time he crossed a line. But they didn’t. Over and over the checks and balances failed you. With the Republican party controlling every branch of the federal government, and the impending risk of their party fracturing beyond repair, what makes you believe they’ll stand up to Trump’s personal agenda? For the sake of “the party” they will follow Donald Trump to what ever end.
If you voted for Donald Trump, you cannot act surprised when he follows through on the worst of his campaign promises. All the terrible things you didn’t believe he could actually achieve are possible if the other branches fail to hold him in check. And when that inevitably happens, I will not stand by people who accept or welcome this. You do not get to vote for Donald Trump with the belief he will not actually do terrible things, and then not fight back when he does the things you claim to not agree with him on.
You do not get to tell every worried person of color, LGBTQ community member, Hispanic, or Muslim person to “relax” now, insist they will actually be fine, and then stand by when President Trump begins stripping their rights. When all the deplorable things begin manifesting under President Trump, you do not get to turn a blind eye as you have done to this point. If you do, I will be forced to conclude the terrible things are actually what you wanted. That you ignored all the warning signs because you are just as racist, homophobic and xenophobic as our next President.
I am willing to concede that by voting for Trump you are not inherently racist, misogynistic, xenophobic or homophobic, but the fact of the matter is you have legitimized and given a platform to all of these deplorable ideas. If you claim to not be any of these things, then fail to speak up when these things happen, you are racist. Misogynistic. Xenophobic. Homophobic.
And you will have to work for it to not be labeled this way. You will need to go beyond “thoughts and prayers” bullshit social media posts. You will need to take action. You will need to stand up for someone. Contact your representatives and demand they stand against the destruction of the progress we’re at risk of losing.
If you voted for Trump or against Hillary Clinton to stick it to “the establishment”, the same goes for you. In your oft self-entitled quest to “reclaim” what ever it is you feel you’ve lost, you have used millions of people as human shields for the collateral damage a dangerous person like Trump will unleash. Donald Trump is unlikely to deliver the change you’re hoping for, and by enabling such a reckless leader the burden is also on you to stand up for the rights of others that will soon be at risk. Voting for Donald Trump to “shake things up” is almost certainly cutting off your nose to spite your face, and believing otherwise is selfish.
The burden is also on Hillary Clinton voters to look beyond the fact that someone voted for Trump, and to wait for more concrete action or failure of action from those people before writing them off. We do not further our causes by immediately dismissing them.
I will refuse to stand in unity with fellow Americans who are rallying behind inherently divisive ideals, and at this point I do not believe Donald Trump is capable of unifying the country behind anything other than the division he’s built. Do not tell me just to “accept” this. Do not tell me to “relax”. The fact of the matter is I am legitimately afraid for many of my friends, some members of my family, and the millions of people I don’t know who stand to lose a lot more than I do.
I’ve seen many people say we should all relax, that America will be fine. And while that may largely be true, there are many, many people who will not be fine. They will be very very far from fine. By choosing the divisiveness of Donald Trump, you have signaled loud and clear that you are okay with someone who largely suggests that certain people deserve more rights than others.
If there’s one thing at all that’s true about the human race it is this: we are all in this together, whether we like it or not. Donald Trump does not behave as though he recognizes this. At the end of the day, we are all we have in the universe. When Donald Trump takes a wrecking ball to that foundation, you better be ready to stop him, especially if you voted for him.