An Outraged Progressive’s Post Election Guide
Liberal or conservative, we weren’t expecting this. How could we have been expecting this? The polls assured us we’d have Hillary Clinton as our president elect the morning of November 9th.
I assumed reason and compassion would win out, but I was wrong. All of us outraged progressives committed the sin of assumption.
But why are we all so shocked? How did we not see these millions of people among us who cast their ballots for Donald J. Trump?
It would be easy for me to say something now that condemns Trump supporters, something that decries them as racists, sexists, xenophobes and generally intolerant bigots. Yes, in voting for Donald Trump they aligned themselves with these unsavory ideals, but does that mean they are these things themselves? I’m certain some of them are, but I cannot say with certainty who these people are, because I never bothered to ask them.
The world I lived in this election season was a world of like-minded millennials in a liberal city. I know some Trump supporters, sure, but in the lead up to the election they felt like irrational, easily ignored outliers in a sea of progressive thought.
This campaign season has made it clear that our country is becoming politically polarized, the space between the parties is widening at an alarming rate. Gone are the days of cross party collaboration and in its place, we have a government that feels at times like nothing but a macabre game made up of two teams in which neither team ever wins. The American people are a stadium of fiercely divided spectators who can’t always seem to remember why they hate the other team so much, only that they do.
We aren’t listening to each other.
We put ourselves in environments where we know everyone agrees with us, we read and watch media that supports and further inflames our views, and if someone holds an opposing view to our own, we condemn them in our minds and wait for our turn to talk instead of listening to what they have to say.
This Trump loving America doesn’t know me. They don’t know my friends. The places I have gone since the election have been filled with morose faces, tears, and people who fear for their very ways of life.
Why haven’t I seen the people who whole-heartedly believe that Donald Trump will make our country great again? Why haven’t I seen celebrations and people seized by excitement for the future of our country? If Trump supporters could see the outpouring of grief from the people who feel this man is threatening their basic human rights, would they start to see things differently?
I’ve been watching the Anti Trump protests on TV and have even marched in several. I have been moved by so many like-minded people coming together to let those who feel the most attacked by our new president elect know that we stand with them.
However, the protests have also made me a bit uneasy. Donald Trump won, legally and fair and square. Liberals should have been mobilizing in such great numbers before the election, not after. Our protests are comforting to the grief stricken, but they are too little, too late. We should have done more, we should have united against this demagogue and kept him out of office.
But we didn’t.
Instead, the Democratic Party isolated much of the country with it’s elitism and self righteous assurance that their opinions are fact. Whole groups of people felt Trump saw and heard them in a way no one else ever had. When we retreat into our elitist superiority, we reinforce everything they believe about us. We have to analyze the Trump phenomenon, we have to figure out how and why this happened.
I am as devastated by the election of Donald Trump as anyone, I’m hurt and I feel disenfranchised.
But I will not un-friend my republican friends on Facebook.
I will not refuse to talk about the election with conservatives.
Instead, I will question.
I will continue to raise awareness for issues I care about on my Facebook page, and if a conservative friend comments something in opposition, I’ll ask if they would like to set up a time to discuss the issue on the phone or over coffee.
I will ask my conservative uncle why he voted for Trump and I won’t interrupt his explanation. Then, I hope, he won’t interrupt me when I tell him why I voted for Hillary Clinton and how badly his president’s ideology has hurt people.
I urge you to go out and meet these people who felt they had no better option than Trump, talk to them and learn about their hurts. Some will be bigoted, I’m sure, but maybe some will want to hear you. Maybe some are only guilty of ignorance of the repercussions of their vote. Maybe they can tell you why they felt they had to prioritize certain values above others, and though you probably still won’t think a vote for Trump is anything but inexcusable, maybe it will be a healing discussion for you both.
Show the facts to those who would seek to delegitimize your struggle, but don’t attack them. Make them listen by being present, by being honest. Be more than your anger, they’ve seen your anger, show them your pain. Show them the pain of your black friends, of your LGBTQ+ friends, of your Muslim friends, of your transgender friends, of your female friends. Show them the pain of the people who their political views directly hurt.
I know that what I am asking of you is to respect those who in many cases don’t respect you. I know this is unfair.
But please remember: people are just people. The only way to drive out darkness is with light. Minds are not changed in an instant; they are changed slowly, like a sun rising on a dark world. How can we ask them to respect our views if we can’t at least try to understand theirs?
Those of us who believe in progressive ideas need to stop thinking of ourselves as soldiers fighting to destroy right wing ideology, and begin to think of ourselves as missionaries. We need to show our brothers and sisters that what they stood behind by voting for Trump is not American, that it is toxic and hurtful to so many.
We have work in front of us, my progressive friends. We are going to have to fight to be heard, but I want to insist to you that that does not mean isolating ourselves from the conservative faction of our population who disagree with us. If you feel you need to surround yourself with like minded, accepting people most of the time to feel safe and secure, so be it, take care of yourself first. I understand that I am coming to you with these ideas from a place of privilege; I am a white American citizen. I understand not everyone will feel safe discussing these things with someone who voted for Trump, and thats okay. Take time to grieve and to process.
But for those of you who can find it in yourself, I urge you to be brave.
More than anything, I ask you to take action because we can no longer afford to be complacent.
Make art that matters.
Don’t let a racist or sexist joke or comment go, no matter who said it.
Donate to and join groups that will fight to keep rights Trump would take way.
Educate yourself holistically; there are two sides to everything.
Go out of your way to be kind to people who feel like this country doesn’t want them.
Stand up to injustice, every time.
Vote in every election, no matter how small/local.
Love each other fiercely.
Be a safe place.
Talk to the people who let Trump happen. Listen to them, try to understand. Show them your pain.
“The point in history at which we stand is full of promise and danger. The world will either move forward toward unity and widely shared prosperity - or it will move apart.”