My 2016 America is about love and equality. It's about finding the beauty in our differences, listening to other's stories, learning from one another, and making an effort to be more inclusive. It's about demanding a change in the injustice that racial minorities face on a daily basis. It's about empowering a woman's right to choose. It's about loving love, whether it's between a man and a woman, two men, two women, or two people of different races. It's about being fed a constant stream of news about gun violence, racism, women's health, environmental destruction, and economic inequality, and still believing that one day it'll get better. My 2016 America is about fighting to make the whole world -- and not just this country -- a more accepting and safe place for everyone who lives in it.
Donald Trump is not my 2016 America.
When Donald Trump creates a new headline, I get afraid of the divisive and hostile atmosphere that it continues to nurture. I understand that everyone's goals for our country are not the same as mine, but I don't understand how anyone could support something that is so wholly opposed to love and equality. I don't understand how so many people admire someone who is so violently vocal about radical regression. I'm completely against everything that Trump stands for, but what scares me the most is that there are so many people in our country who seem to agree with his policy proposals. Do they not know that Trump has a 7% success rate for telling the truth? Do they not know what happens when people force the registration of religious affiliation? Do they really believe that a billionaire understands the problems of the middle and lower classes?
But maybe the support for Trump isn't based on rationality. Maybe there's something that's so ingrained in human nature that predisposes some of us to support him. After all, people were fiercely loyal to Hitler, Stalin, and bin Laden.
So, to combat my own fear, I tried to understand Trump's base by breaking the rules of the internet and reading the comments section of articles. This is what I gathered:
- Trump is not a career politician. To prove that, he says and does things that a career politician would never say. His rhetoric is the opposite of politically correct and he promises to bring real change to the tired political game. The vast majority of Americans are frustrated with the gridlock and lack of productivity in Congress. Trump is a businessman who promises to walk into Washington, make deals, and keep people in line.
- On that note, Trump has created a successful empire and promises to run our country like a business, which could help with reducing the national debt.
- Identity and community. There's a sense of radicalism and shared values among Trump supporters.
- The economic theory of signaling: the louder Trump is and the more media coverage he gets, the more appealing he becomes to voters.
I'm not going to pretend like any of this makes sense to me, but I do truly believe that people who subscribe to these points are otherwise sane and rational people who hold deep-seeded fears about things (and people) that they don't understand. In the wise words of Yoda, "Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering." And what I see right now is a lot of anger and hate coming from both ends of the political spectrum.
I don't claim to have the solution, but I do think that any effective strategy begins with dialogue, empathy, and understanding among voters. I realize that this request is ambitious, but calling each other losers and arguing on Facebook will get us nowhere. There has to be a better way toward progress and away from fear.
And, in the unlikely event that Trump does win, let's throw up a big THANK YOU to the founders of this country who designed a system that prevents megalomaniacs from turning America into a dictatorship.
What a time to be alive.