When Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 took the stage for her concession speech, she did so with a smile. A smile not for the results of the election, but for the people who had stood by her throughout the campaign. She had chosen to wear purple, a mixture of red and blue. In the background, her husband stood, wearing a purple tie. And as she finished her remarks, she closed with these words: “Because, you know — you know, I believe we are stronger together, and we will go forward together. And you should never, ever regret fighting for that.”
Many have been understandably quick to renounce Trump as president. He has promised harm to immigrants, people of color, women and the LGBTQ+ community—the populations that need the protection of our government most. Like many of you, I am anxious and astonished at this outcome, truly fearful of the possible havoc he and the Republican majority in both the House and the Senate could wreak.
Yet far too many Clinton supporters are ignoring her blended palette and calls for unity. Instead, they’re vilifying Trump and his entire base with savage aplomb, drawing these divides more strongly. The liberal-left marches in cities across America, holding signs with messages declaring: “Not my President.” My Facebook friends are unfriending Trump supporters, or demanding that Trump supporters unfriend them in kind. I do not defend the decision to vote for Trump, but now that a Trump presidency is a reality, we have no option but to move forward together. Even as we renounce who he is and what he stands for, we should be careful to understand his appeal. Every request that those who voted for Trump “unfriend” you, every denouncement of the nebulous “Trump voter,” only serves to strengthen the divides that brought us to this point.
When the only blue states are clustered on the coasts, our divisions become starkly geographic. When the only blue counties in red states ring urban areas, the divisions become impossible to ignore. Here at Yale, we are so much closer to power. We intern for Congressmen and have a database full of fellowships that support us in doing so. We read about the “Trump voter” in the New York Times rather than living across the street from them, sharing a driveway with them, a community pool with them. The most common refrain I have heard over the past few days from my liberal, urban friends is that they do not know anyone who voted for Trump. If we don’t know them, they ask, then how are we supposed to fix them?
Coming from Ohio, I know Trump supporters. The white industrial majority who voted for him are my neighbors, fellow congregants and maybe even my grandfather, who has a signed Christmas card from Reagan hanging in his home office in Minnesota. Some because they believe in what he stands for. But many more as a protest against a country where they feel forgotten and powerless. Regardless of whether they’re the most forgotten members of this country, I’d argue they’re not, they have voiced their frustration in a powerful and tangible way. My writing professor can vouch for Hillary Clinton’s character through personal acquaintance. My neighbors from home cannot even dream of this access. Before Tuesday, we had ignored these divisions. Now, we need to square up with them rather than unfriend them. This is a rebellion against the economically, socially and culturally powerful, even if they managed to choose a laughably wealthy man as the champion of the “people.”
This call for mutual understanding is not a call for blind empathy. Rather, we need to look forward down these next four years with radical clarity. We do not have the luxury of despair, nor of willful ignorance. This presidency brings with it the threat of real danger to those that we hold dear and demands that we engage with those who felt alienated enough to resort to these measures. We are stronger together — stronger because we have to be.
Julia Hamer-Light is a junior in Silliman College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .