Regarding the Election (Election Processing Part 1)

While I have no doubt that these words will likely fade into the backdrop of the political discourse that is occurring as a result of the recent election, I need to write this for my own sake, to make sense of what America will become over the next four years and beyond.
I watched election coverage last night, switching between the analytical CBS coverage and the rather fiery CNN coverage, which had two panels of people vehemently debating the outcome. I also watched Stephen Colbert’s live election special, where he was able to show such an incredible amount of compassion and thought, as he has done since starting at the Late Show. I recommend you compare the opening (the Dawn of the Donald) against the closing. While the former was the embodiment of every joke and caricature of Trump, the latter was somber yet hopeful, reminding us that we all play a part in this democracy and need to support each other.
While I watched, and it became increasingly clear that Trump was likely going to win, I began to struggle emotionally. I could feel a certain despair wrapping around myself and others I talked with, exacerbated by the falling financial markets and doomsday predictions of political analysts. Coming from an extremely privileged identity, I was not concerned about myself, but the residents on my floor who have to work through this, my coworkers who come from so many oppressed backgrounds, as well as everyone nationwide who could be targets of Trump’s proposed policies. I know people who have been victims of sexual assault, as well as misogyny and harassment from men who do not understand the issue with their actions. These people are all hurting; scarred from their past, they are now being forced to relive it, as a candidate who seems to encourage and perform everything that has hurt them is being brought to the forefront of our nation’s leadership.
Once it was all but official, around 1:30 a.m. Central time, all that was left to do was figure out what got us here. I began reading the articles posted by Trump-supporting acquaintances on Facebook with a far more critical yet open thought process. I looked at the demographics of people who voted for him and tried to work through the appeal, what led them to look past the multiple transgressions of Trump and decide that his policies, however uniformly impossible they are, were the best bet for themselves. I also looked at those who voted third party, what demographics did that and how that played into the results of the election. This is what I found.
One of the first articles I came across about Trump supporters was concerning the small segment of the LGBTQ+ community that were behind him. The rationale was that Trump had (occasionally) been supportive, or at least not condemning, of gay marriage. They quoted his positive response to Elton John’s marriage four years ago, and that they were not concerned about Pence’s track record as he would not play a crucial role in policy. They were okay with leaving transgender policies to states, following the popular states-rights view of the Republican party.
The next article that I re-read, having scanned it earlier in the day, was posted by someone from my high school a few years younger than me. It talked about why women should support Trump. The article discusses how Clinton would be a terrible face for the country, especially as the first woman president. Her past, which included significant time as a defense attorney, led to multiple cases where potential sexual offenders were let off, and that Trump’s lewd talk was nothing compared to actively working to defend rapists, allowing them to go free in society, and also ruining the lives of those who accused her husband of sexual assault. It stated that, while a female president would be an amazing success, they were unwilling to vote for Clinton for only that reason. They thought the honesty and fresh ideas of Trump that went against the grain of the political norm were admirable, compared to the political manipulation and suspect background of Hillary.
The final article I read was simply taking quotes from Trump supporters in Florida. Most of these were just repetitions of the catchphrases used throughout Trump’s campaign: building the wall, deportation of illegal immigrants and repealing the Affordable Care Act. A few people acknowledged that the wall was likely not going to happen, but that borders needed to be closed and that the Affordable Care Act needed to be struck down immediately.
These articles provided insight into the minds of Trump supporters. Many viewed him as the lesser evil compared to Hillary, while some simply held him and his policies in high regard. Others still stated that it was only a matter of him being the candidate for the Republican party, so they voted for him. For myself, the most sobering statistic I saw was an exit poll on CNN, discussing the top reasons why voters chose the candidate they did. Over 90 percent of those polled who voted for Trump stated their highest priority was possibility for change, and they believed Trump offered the best option. What this change would be was not clear, but they knew they wanted something different. This contrasts with barely 15 percent who voted for Hillary who were looking for and expected significant change.
There are many arguments against the views that I read. Trump has been on record stating that he is for traditional marriage only, as recently as one month ago. He is planning on severely restricting rights related to reproduction. His immigration policies will be damning for anyone who is not a white citizen as fear-mongering will cause great harm to anyone who seems foreign in any respect. He has no record of honesty, only being loud and confident. His perpetuation of rape culture is far more impactful and dangerous than any due diligence by our justice system that assumes innocence first. He has no record as a successful business man, only a rich, privileged childhood that allowed him to do whatever he wanted. Finally, repealing the Affordable Care Act will only contribute to the terrible situation that our healthcare industry is in, destroying the ability of Americans to obtain aid as they grow older or are in employment ruts.
Despite all this, it seemed to come down to what people thought was important. Those who bought into the fear, believing we were in serious danger from those without and within looked to the simple rhetoric of Trump. In an election season where there was little policy nuance debated, it was clear where he stood: Deport anyone who is not supposed to be here and protect the borders. Everything else will fall into place. Those who were concerned about more broad foreign policy and the economy generally looked toward Clinton, who had far more experience in these areas despite certain scandals related to security. Also those who were progressive with respect to social issues wanted anybody except for Trump, and those looking for conservative justices on the Supreme Court eyed the Republican candidate to help protect the constitution and traditional America.
One aspect that will come to light soon, but was not thoroughly discussed during the election, was the presence of third party candidates in many states, the most prevalent being Gary Johnson. There are many parallels between the election this year and the 2000 election, with these third parties drawing votes from either candidates being a strong one. Florida would have been much more hotly contested without the third party candidates, as well as many other states swinging more clearly in one direction or the other. I am not saying that third party candidates are bad. I think that they are useful in showing candidates what is important, and especially this year they brought attention to how upset the populace was with the available candidates. However, this year also brought attention to the privilege present in the way many people voted. Voting third party this year meant that you would not be affected by the racist and misogynist views of Trump, that you needed nothing extra from Clinton and could simply “protest” in a race where protesting could destroy the lives of so many. I understand voting your conscience, and showing Clinton and Trump that you are dissatisfied with what they stood for and wanted for this country, but the reality is that people are hurting from this. Far from the made up issues people had with a Clinton presidency, what Trump’s victory is forcing people to face is salient and disastrous for many people. This election will cause unforeseen ripples in the world and in our culture, and I am personally scared for the future. As someone who is privileged, as I stated in the beginning of this essay, I am worried that funding for science and education will be reduced, that issues with teen pregnancy and drug use will be made more prevalent due to a lack of proper education and protection. Trump, and many conservatives in general, are afraid to face the realities present in this country, the many truths that exist for many citizens and how the oppressive nature of their policies will systematically remove the freedoms of our people.
I know at the end of that paragraph I went a bit more off the rails than the rest of this, but it is true that many people are in danger with Trump in office. The lack of trust and reasonable discourse throughout this cycle is troubling, and I hope that we will learn to move forward from this and make the best of the situation we have put ourselves in. For some people, this is exactly what they wanted, yet I hope we will still keep the rights of all of our citizens, not just those who are white and straight, in mind moving forward.

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