Apathy Did It (Not Hate)

Much of America is anguished over the presidential election results. It's understandable. Our 45th president will be a spoiled, sexual predator with limited knowledge, meager attention span, and no government experience whatsoever; a man with a shady business record who ran on a platform nearly devoid of details but heavy on disdain for any one who wasn't a straight white conservative man not named Jeb Bush.

Those who are terrified by this situation seem to also believe that Trump rode a wave of hate to the White House. Their sense, it seems, is that hate trumped love. And many are wrestling with the awful realization that we are a country most defined by contempt for minorities and women and non-Christians and the LGBTQ community and other sections of society typically deprived of voice. But closer consideration of the election results and the electorate itself reveals that the deciding factor was not actually hate but something far less benign on paper but often more dangerous in reality. It was apathy that brought us President-elect Donald Trump.

It's unfair and reductive (not to mention depressing) to assume that all or even the majority or even a significant portion of those who voted for Donald Trump embrace his most heinous opinions and inexcusable actions. Some of them do, sure, but this faction of his support alone could not come close to getting the man elected (look how poorly David Duke did in his senate bid in deep red Louisiana). What we can assume is that Trump voters as a whole did not care enough that he spoke and behaved in such a manner. They didn't deem him morally unqualified to receive their vote because morality wasn't their priority. The priority was their own self interest. And this, in reality, is why most people vote. We like to talk about national honor and the greater good and informed citizens choosing the most qualified candidate, but -- at the end of election day -- people vote for the person they feel will do best by them. And enough people generally felt (not without reservations, I'm sure) that a new face in Washington might just be the remedy to our stagnant government. Maybe a different kind of politician, one not so rooted in same-old same-old, could shake things up and get shit done. Plenty of them just vote Republican no matter what (even if the "what" in this case was one Donald J. Trump). And most, if not all, of them were not sufficiently fearful of a Trump presidency because they weren't the ones he directly threatened. It's a sad reality about human nature -- to put ourselves before others -- but the type of moral indifference displayed by many Trump voters pales in comparison to the apathy that plagued large numbers of Democratic constituents.

The New York Times reported that the majority of protesters at post-election rallies in Manhattan were actually Bernie Sanders supporters who either voted 3rd party or didn't vote at all. They cared enough to take to the streets after the election but couldn't be bothered to vote for a candidate who could win or vote at all on election day. The hypocrisy is as staggering as the arrogance, but it wasn't just Bernie supporters who didn't vote. Numbers were down significantly among traditional Democratic constituencies, including young voters in general, African Americans, college-educated whites, Asian Americans and other minority groups. Most surprisingly, there was no Latino surge as expected. Democratic turnout was significantly down across the board.

Don't blame Hillary Clinton for not inspiring voters. She is who she is, and she made her qualifications for the job evident to anyone who cares about competency and equality and all those other things most people in a democracy hold dear. But democracy requires participation. Not voting is voting for the winner. And those who didn't vote -- along with those who voted for Trump -- decided this year's winner. Apathy was the secret weapon, not some vast, previously-hidden underbelly of hatred.

Do not anguish America. The Trump presidency will be difficult, but redemption awaits if those who oppose him only vote.