President Donald Trump’s temporary ban on immigration from several Muslim majority countries has sparked outrage across the country, galvanizing students and conservative lawmakers alike to voice their opposition to this reprehensible policy.
The order should deeply concern all Americans and the world at large for its audacity: It crosses moral and ideological boundaries that generations have considered the hallmarks of American idealism.
But I believe that this policy and other easily condemnable actions are not the true reasons to fear Trump or his administration. I write to alert my friends and fellow students and activists to the more insidious threats that I fear make Trump all the more dangerous.
These threats are not the ones that liberal college kids and citizens of coastal cities have courageously protested for the past weeks. Rather, they are the political successes Trump has simultaneously achieved, which have been largely unremarked upon by the conventional media.
On Jan. 23, Trump met with the presidents of the North America’s Building Trades Unions and the Laborers’ International Union of North America to discuss infrastructure and middle-class job creation. Both groups endorsed Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 during the campaign but, following the meeting, were effusive in their praise for Trump and his vision.
Similarly, on Jan. 30, Trump met with middle-class business owners to discuss mechanisms for reducing regulations and spurring blue collar entrepreneurship.
These initiatives, particularly the outreach to labor leaders, suggest that Trump is willing to defy political precedent to build a broad coalition that includes traditionally liberal elements.
Many others have made this point, but I think we need to hear it again now that the new administration appears to be taking increasingly extreme and prejudiced measures.
If we take our eye off the moves the president makes to reach out to oppositional elements, especially the reasonable and successful ones, we risk losing sight of who his supporters are. As Trump has realized, these people are just like us, and they have needs and desires he aims to fulfill.
Even in the light of chaos and horror, it is important that we remember the people who have legitimate reasons to support the president. We must do our best to reach out and address their concerns. Outrage must go hand in hand with empathy, or else in four years we have little chance of taking back the White House. Trump supporters need to know that we hear them — even while we march in the streets to oppose him.
Even as Trump’s actions appear increasingly hostile, dangerous, unconstitutional and un-American, Trump’s first week in office has been a vindication of many of his followers’ long-held anxieties. To them, their man in the White House is speaking truth to the liberal bastions of elite society that have controlled the country and their fortunes for years. To them, Trump speaks truth to power.
And it is these people — whether “closeted” Trump supporters at Yale or outspoken allies in the heartland — whom we must be careful not to alienate. These supporters were strong enough in number to bring Trump to power once, and, if scorned and abused by the liberal opposition, they will only be emboldened to keep him in office.
So here at Yale, let’s do our best to respect and love our classmates who voted for Trump. Even if we believe they made a profound mistake that has harmed members of our own community, turning our backs on them will only cement the damage that has already been done.
Now is the time for getting off the sidelines, but let’s not alienate our classmates and future allies in the process.
Nicholas Stewart is a senior in Silliman College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .