In just over a week, Trump has started on the road to turn America into (even more of an) impenetrable fortress housing the fear and hate of straight, white, Christian men. We can march—and he will not care. We can protest—and he will not budge.
Our objective now must be to push him out of office the next time around, and to do that, we must recognize what made him president this year. We must accept that we made mistakes such that we remember not to in the future.
So—whose fault was it? Was it Trump’s non-educated, white, rural voters who flipped states from blue to red? They’re an easy target, but I don’t think so. The reason Trump was able to win so many of them with his racism, sexism and utter novelty is because their lives aren’t great. According to CNN, around 56% of them don’t feel the government represents their interests. We could say it’s because they don’t work hard, that it’s their fault their lives are so terrible—but that sounds like something a wealthy conservative might say, doesn’t it? I watched a 60 Minutes piece about coal miners working for Massey Energy, and how dangerous their work is; how their lives are not a concern of the company’s greedy executives who surely benefit from the lack of regulation on their corporations spearheaded by Republican politicians. The so-called white working class has good reasons to distrust the government, and conservatives exploit their conservative social views and misplaced racial anger to distract them from the fact that it is the gridlock and greed of the Republican Party that allow them to be treated so horribly. Ever since Nixon, conservatives have utilized this Southern Method to lead disenfranchised whites to vote against the liberals whose policies would help them. It’s a cunning and utterly evil tactic, and for that reason I see the white working class as victims of this election rather than victors—less so than minorities, of course, but I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I predict that they won’t benefit from Trump’s presidency.
What about rich white conservatives, the real beneficiaries of a Republican government? Yeah, for sure. Trump’s election was definitely their fault, in part, but that demographic is also a pretty strong constant. Many of them supported Trump for the same reason they tend to support any Republican candidate—his economic policies favor their financial interests. Their money can certainly boost the capabilities of any campaign, but then again, Democrats have big donors of their own—Buffet, Gates, and many others. Furthermore, the individual votes of wealthy folks aren’t nearly enough to influence the outcome of the election. They’re called the “One Percent” for a reason. Rich white conservatives did not vote much differently in this election than in years past, and as such, they were not one of the abnormal factors that made him win.
If we want to discover the true culprits, we must examine voter turnout data, particularly that of those key swing states that Trump won by a slim margin. Take Michigan. Trump won that state by just 10,000 votes. We could say that was due to increased voter turnout in rural areas, which is partly true, but consider this: In Wayne County, in which lies the historically-blue city of Detroit, 40,000 fewer people voted than in 2012. Had even just a third of those people come to the polls and voted for Clinton, she would have won the state. Voter turnout was also down in Philadelphia and other urban areas. In other words, Trump won because not enough people voted for Clinton. The numbers don’t lie. By staying home, disgruntled liberals allowed Trump’s tidal wave of hate and fear to shove his bloated, orange figure to the beaches of victory. It is the fault of those who did not vote just as much as those who voted for Trump.
You may say I’m being a grump or that my criticism is counterproductive, but I don’t say this just for the sake of placing blame. In the wake of defeat, it is essential to recognize the flaws in our approach to prevent further losses in the future. The saying goes that we learn from our mistakes. How is that possible if we don’t accept the fact that we made those mistakes? We must be willing to look inward, to examine the past, and dare to say “I was wrong.” That’s the only way to make progress, to move forward.
That’s the logical side of this issue, but let’s not forget to address the moral implications of not voting. In conversations leading up to the election, some of the most common sentiments I heard from disgruntled liberals were the idea that Clinton was the “lesser of two evils” or that the race was down to “suck versus suck.” This often boiled down to a decision not to vote because, while they often preferred Clinton over Trump, they didn’t like her enough to vote for her. I was and am an ardent supporter of hers, but I understand the reason for this bitterness. At face value, her arguably checkered record seems a moral enough reason to refrain from granting Clinton your vote. However, I would argue that one’s personal preference (or disdain) for a given candidate should have nothing to do with your vote. When you cast your ballot or fail to do so, you aren’t just choosing a president. You’re deciding which bills will be passed and which will be vetoed. You’re deciding whether the banks are on a leash or set free. You’re deciding whether the police will be held accountable for the cycle of murder and brutality against African Americans. You’re deciding whether women are treated as subservient or equal. You’re deciding whether assault rifles are treated as toys or machines designed for killing. You’re deciding whether America wields its immense power to help all the needy peoples of the world, or if its concern is for itself alone. You’re deciding the fate of millions—no, billions—of people whose lives will be affected by the woman or man who sits in the Oval Office.
It’s not about you. It’s not even about America. It’s about the world and all the people in it. When 2020 rolls around, think about them.
P.S. There’s always a better candidate.