From the morass of a tumultuous election, Republican pundit Steve Schmidt cut through the incoherent babbling of pundits for a rare, golden moment of relevant analysis: “The people who are for Trump are not embarrassed to be for Trump. This is a fiction of the New York City, Acela-corridor imagination, who are embarrassed for these people. This is part of the condescension.”
Perhaps no word captures the attitude of you, me and every other Clinton supporter at Yale quite as appropriately as “condescending.” Here we are, the well-read, well-spoken voices of reason and logic who champion righteousness, light and truth. And we’re collectively embarrassed — embarrassed to share a dorm, a college, even a flag with the heathens who support Trump. We console ourselves by telling ourselves that we did the best we could: we campaigned, voted and stood up for what is right. But oh, by the way, what is Canada’s immigration policy?
And we forget — or perhaps, try not to face — the fact that it is this embarrassment, this rejection, this condescension, that drove the divide, drove the ludicrous events of Tuesday night and drove a nation to deliver a stunning slap to the face of the political elite.
Although Donald Trump is a racist, sexist liar, I would never ascribe those qualities to his supporters. Labeling Trump voters in such general terms is no less egregious than describing Bernie Sanders’ supporters as “communists” or “keyboard warriors.” Would you blame the coal miners in West Virginia who voted for Trump to keep their jobs? What about the Rust Belt populace, who thirsted for an establishment that would revive the gasping manufacturing industry?
Yet instead of empathizing with Trump voters and understanding their pain, we dismissed them as insufferable bigots. In the months leading up to the election, we labeled them as a racist monolith, rather than learning about them as individuals. Duly, we satirized their desires, lumping all their anger under the term “anti-establishment.” We mercilessly caricatured them, forgetting that many of them voted for Obama just four years back, and that a lot of them were well-intentioned folks who felt let down by the system. Where was the moral empathy this campus has been begging for over the past 12 months?
It’s taken a shocking result to drive home the fact that we never really knew Trump supporters. And most troublingly, in the forlorn aftermath of the election, we still have not learned our lesson. Rather, we are doubling down in our progressive trenches, labeling Trump voters as “racists” in our Facebook statuses, questioning their humanity, sickly reveling in their moral inferiority. There is no reasonable debate right now, no functioning civic commons. We’re just shouting, just as we accused them of doing.
In the wake of Trump’s victory, has there ever been less safe of a time to support him on campus?
Voicing any form of support for Trump poses considerable risk, so much so that my mother tried to talk me — an unambiguous Clinton supporter — out of even writing this piece. How upsetting for those who actually voted red on this campus. After a year of social upheaval, it is starkly ironic how unaccepting we are of beliefs that are not our own. Ours is a “liberal” education solely in the political sense of the word.
This is not to diminish the sadness and anxiety that many Clinton supporters feel. But our reaction to the election also illustrates the hypocrisy of this campus. Look at it from a different perspective. Say Hillary Clinton LAW ‘73 is the president elect, and it’s a Trump supporter protesting on cross campus, lashing out on Facebook or asking for their midterm to be moved. Would we embrace them and tell them they are “beautiful”?
It is essential that we support each other in the wake of this election. But it is hard to imagine such largesse being extended to Trump supporters had there been a different outcome. In the words of professor Brad Rosen ’04: “Half the country was always going to be disappointed. You’re angry because it’s your half.”
In our effort to promote togetherness, let us be sure to remember the Trump voters. Let’s dismount from our high horses and turn to our Trumpian brothers in arms to ask how we failed them. And once we’ve listened, we’ll tell them how they failed us. This was not a fight between good and evil; this was a fight between two manifestations of the same inequality.
You have friends who voted differently than you who are too scared to speak about it right now. Discuss with them. Debate them. But first, include them. They need your support right now as much as everyone else on campus.
Mrinal Kumar is a junior in Silliman College. His column runs on alternate Fridays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .