By Jordan Hollinger
Playing the Devil’s Advocate for American Conservativism
I was sitting in my politics class the other day, when the topic of the election came up. This wasn’t surprising to me, as what politics professor could help themselves from discussing such an impactful event with youthful eagerness?
However, I was surprised by the responses of some of my fellow classmates. Just like most of us here, I was equally shocked by the news last week. However, I don’t see a point in acting sad or afraid. Anger, I can understand, but I don’t think it’s time yet for protests. What I felt, honestly, was excitement. This is perhaps the most impactful political event that has ever happened in our lives. I sure as hell don’t think Trump will be a good president, but we can all agree he’ll definitely be an interesting one.
Now, I’m sure than many of us here at the 5Cs are still feeling a little shell-shocked. In fact, I’d be surprised if more than 10% of Claremont students cast their ballot for the GOP.
But unfortunately for us, the rest of America isn’t quite the same demographically as are our lovely institutions. Throughout the week leading up to that fateful day, Nate Silver – the famed statistician who made a name for himself after predicting the 2008 election with surprising accuracy – gave Trump around a 30% chance of winning. Let that sink in for a minute. In 10,000 simulated elections run by the staff at Five Thirty Eight, about 3,000 of those were won by Trump. So what does that mean for us, now that we’re living in the Twilight Zone?
See, there’s the catch. Many self-identified progressives find the idea of Trump—and what he stands for—to be simply appalling. If you vote for Trump, you’re either racist, ignorant, or just plain dumb. But if that’s the case, then how come over 60 million Americans voted for the Donald? (Yes, I know he lost the popular vote by over a million. But he still won. Get over it.) You can’t honestly tell me that half of all American voters are that ignorant. And what does it say about progressives that we think this way?
It seems to me that a disappointingly large portion of 5C students (and staff, too) wrote off the Trump campaign as the swan song of a political faction in the process of cannibalizing its own chances at success at any level in American politics. But despite his campaign’s obvious flaws and bountiful gaffes, Trump struck a chord with many Americans.
I feel that many overlook the core reason for why The Donald has done so well thus far. For many Americans, Trump stands for key aspects of their lives which they feel are threatened by Democrats. While we here at Claremont might be all for progressive concepts such as gay rights or looser border regulations, many Americans are frightened to death by these prospects. Look at modern America from the perspective of a Trump voter. They were most definitely raised Christian, they identify strongly with quintessential Americana, and they think that race relations were fine the way they were in the 80s before that Rodney King fellow had to go messing things up for the rest of us. Hillary Clinton, they fear, wants to change all this. She stands for the ruination of the social institutions they hold dear.
Now, we all know these fears are mostly unfounded. But, they do allow us to isolate an issue which pervades much of progressive American society.
Why is it that we, as a community, find it acceptable to shit on the cultural identity of conservative America? I’m not questioning the morality of certain choice practices; Kim Davis probably is a bad person, and I sure wouldn’t trust Rudy Giuliani or Ted Cruz with a baby. But yet, we never seem to equate the morality of American popular culture with that of other peoples worldwide.
Have you heard about the ongoing murder streak the recent president elect of the Philippines has encouraged? He’s basically the bastard son of Trump’s bombastic rhetoric and Pence’s violently dogmatic moral conservatism. And yet, we as a society don’t think of the majority of Filipino voters as terrible people—despite our eagerness to do so with Americans who support Trump. I can’t be the only one who sees the hypocrisy in this.
Let me say this loud and clear – the problem isn’t the people who support Trump. It’s not even Trump himself that’s at fault—even though he surrendered his morality in exchange for political success. The problem is that our society gave credibility to Trump’s idiocy for so long that it became accepted as standard political practice.
What I’m trying to get at is that, at the heart of this election, it’s not like we can just say that half of all Americans are bad people just because they plan on voting for Trump. Yes, Trump is extremely braggadocios, highly egotistical, and all-around a real ass of a human being, but that doesn’t mean that his fans necessarily are. He provides a voice for a significant portion of Americans who are afraid that this really is their last chance to save their way of life.
So, despite your opinions regarding the election, promise you won’t look at your fellow Americans (or fellow Sagehens) with condescension because of their opinions. Please, please, don’t act like America is a terrible society because of what happened over the campaign trail (it’s not, we’re actually pretty great in a bunch of ways, but that’s a story for another day). Don’t go burning your bridges just yet. Once you leave the shelter of Claremont, you’ll be surprised to see just how diverse the outside world is.
God bless America. Fuck Donald Trump.