I believe Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 will be our next president. My own politics aside, the demographics of the states that matter this election combined with the last few months of polling make a pretty compelling, objective case.
This means that Donald Trump and the at least 70 million Americans who will vote for him in November will lose.
I am not too concerned about Trump, but I am concerned about his supporters. Despite what the political intelligentsia likes to tell itself, they — specifically, Trump’s core group of working class white voters — will not go away. Their very real concerns about the economy and immigration and national security will not go away. Their belief that Washington, D.C. and the political elite have forgotten about them will not go away.
The majority of Trump supporters are good people. Most are not racists or bigots. Most are not deplorables. Most have the hopes and dreams and morals of the rest of us.
Trump supporters deserve our attention. After the election, the Republican Party has a fundamental choice to make. They can ignore Trump’s candidacy as a fluke or they can take it seriously and use it as a basis upon which to build a new and better politics.
While I don’t believe that Republican ideology in general best serves the interests of typical Trump supporters, the party still has the opportunity to realign itself with its current base.
Republican leadership should view this election as a referendum on conservatism, keeping in mind that Republicanism and conservatism are two different ideologies. In the past few years, Republicans have veered increasingly to the right, fueled by the growing Tea Party movement. But the Republican base never approved that shift in policy leadership. That’s why Trump got the party’s nomination in the first place. While 16 or so candidates bickered over who was the purest conservative, Trump, who has no ideology and is neither a true Republican nor a true Democrat, sang a different tune. For members of the Republican base who didn’t care about the lofty principles espoused by every other candidate, Trump was an attractive, different option.
Democrats, who have historically fought for working- and middle-class Americans, have a tremendous opportunity as well. The past 10 years have seen the Democratic Party become more interested in niche social causes — whose importance I won’t discredit — than bread-and-butter issues like the economy and public education. Just as Clinton has done throughout her campaign, Democrats up and down the ballot need to focus more directly on the most critical issues for everyday Americans, like college affordability and effective job creation.
But partisan policy issues should only be one part of the discussion. A larger, more important part should be the attitudes and mores of the political class as a whole.
The Trump supporters I have met are not primarily concerned with the economy or national security, although those are certainly valid concerns. Their chief concern is that today’s elite in Washington, D.C., simply could not care less about them.
I don’t think they are wrong.
Years of partisan bickering, years of insider deals, years of corruption — they leave the ordinary voter’s soul weary. While Trump is not the answer, there are other solutions.
First, the hyperpartisanship of Congress, which currently sports an approval rating around 12 percent, needs to end. This past summer, in the midst of an increasingly fierce debate on gun control, Sen. Susan Collins veered from her Republican colleagues in suggesting the possibility of a bipartisan — imagine that — bill for common-sense gun safety reform. This suggestion should not have been front-page news. It should have been just another day in Congress.
Second, and more importantly, members of Congress need to connect more with their constituents. They need to spend less time in Washington, D.C. and more time in their districts. They need to devote more resources to constituent casework services, which for most members of Congress are either vastly understaffed or nonexistent. They need to put aside the stale campaign rhetoric — a byproduct of our increasingly career politician-driven politics — in favor of authenticity and honesty, even when it does not fit an agenda or 10-year plan.
Above all else, we should take this election exactly for what it is: a referendum on our current politics. It is easy to roll oureyes at Americans who support Trump. But, instead of belittling nearly half the country, we should take the issues fueling his support seriously — and then do something about them.
Emil Friedman is a freshman in Silliman College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .