Two heartbreaking messages emerged from the results of Tuesday night: There is strength in ignorance. And there is unity in intolerance.
As a woman who had been ready for Hillary since Obama began his second term in 2013, the magnitude of the blow I was dealt can hardly be put in words. My confidence in the days and hours leading up to the returns was palpable. “Don’t jinx it,” warier friends warned as I expressed my excitement at the New Haven Hall of Records on Tuesday morning. “We have no idea what that Trump base is capable of.”
But no amount of cautionary advice could stifle my buoyancy. It wasn’t only that Hillary had every quality that I wanted in a president — she was even-tempered, experienced, thoughtful, passionate and progressive — but also that Donald J. Trump was the exact opposite. My immediate dismissal of Trump stemmed not only from the abominable words he was spewing, but also from what he wasn’t saying. While I recognized his lack of experience and abhorred his bigoted rhetoric, I thought it was equally telling that he had no clear vision. “Flip-flopping” is certainly not a concept restricted to him, but Trump never once chose a concrete policy issue and stuck with it. His rhetoric on immigration was ever-changing, albeit always negative. His foreign policy agenda, to the extent it existed, was a conglomeration of contradictory ideas. Issues and passion about the problems we face: these are what drive Americans to vote, or so I thought. Hate and disenchantment, founded on ignorance and fear instead of concern about specific policies and their impacts, could not push a candidate to victory.
I was wrong.
I underestimated the unifying potential of hate. Those who cast a ballot for Trump on Tuesday are not champions of a cause; they do not have a concrete vision for the agenda of a new administration. They have no overarching plan, but they found unity in intolerance and ignorance.
Still, I haven’t given up hope. If spite can breed unity, understanding and compassion can combat it in a even more poignant way.
Right now, we, as progressives, are champions of many causes. I am surrounded by people who are vital contributors to the fight for LGBTQ rights and gender equality. I know many students who dedicate huge amounts of their time and mental energy to criminal justice reform. I cannot even begin to enumerate those who have sacrificed for racial equality and inclusion at Yale. The list of causes that we have chosen to fight for goes on, from education reform and access to public schools to combatting sexual assault on college campuses. Each cause is invaluable to the future of our society.
But now, we need to unite. We cannot merely champion one creed and recognize the work of others in different areas. We need to be a collective. Together, we need to be champions of the progressive cause. Only with this common foundation of hope and resilience can we combat the union of chauvinism that has led to Trump’s win.
As forward-thinking individuals, we are strong. But Hillary Clinton’s slogan has never been more applicable than it is in this moment of defeat: we are stronger together.
Elizabeth Fosburgh is a senior in Saybrook College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .