Condemning half of the electorate hurts our democracy

Condemning half of the electorate hurts our democracy

The brutal 2016 presidential campaign ended with many voters disillusioned with the voting process and with their fellow Americans. While a portion of the American electorate partook in the political process for the first time and celebrated the victory of Donald Trump, supporters of Hillary Clinton wept. Then, they blamed their peers.

Members of the anti-Trump movement, and Clinton’s most enthusiastic supporters have condemned those who voted the Republican candidate into office. Facebook posts describe disappointment in their neighbors and point fingers at the demographic groups — minorities and women — that did not turn out for Clinton or chose Trump over the Democratic candidate. Some people have gone as far as to write posts asking for Trump supporters to unfriend them on social media.

This rhetoric is unproductive and counterintuitive. It is segregationist and at odds with our country’s ideals of unity and collaboration. We cannot turn away from nearly half of the country. We cannot disregard our neighbors in these dire times.

For supporters of the Democratic Party, protesting serves as a show of unity and as a show of strength after the Democratic Party suffered unexpected defeats across federal, state and local elections. Focus has shifted from the Republican Party’s stability to the lack of Democratic leadership. Protesting allows people to feel they have a voice when their representatives failed to win their contests.

However, protesting will not change the outcome of the election. Democrats and all of those unhappy with the election’s results should be concentrating on how they can convince undecided voters that the policies they believe in would better serve them. Divisive rhetoric will not convince people to change their minds. Instead, it will drive people away.

Although some of Trump’s supporters have been in the spotlight for treating protesters violently and calling minorities by slurs, Clinton’s supporters have also bullied U.S. citizens. By labeling Trump supporters as racists and bigots for supporting their candidate, they do not change minds. By casting these labels, they engender hatred and overgeneralize the issues voters care about.

Trump’s words and actions throughout his life and campaign have been offensive and heinous. His “locker room talk” was too much for some voters to bear, and the polls suggested exposure to his sexist remarks would turn the electorate away from supporting him. The polls did not accurately reflect the vote, though, and we must recognize that voters decide on their candidate for a number of different reasons.

Some voters chose Trump because they believed it was more important that a Republican appoint the next Supreme Court judge. Others distrusted Clinton. The Democratic candidate was not particularly strong in an electoral season characterized by anger with career politicians and “the establishment.” Clinton supporters may strongly disagree with other voters’ decisions, but continued disagreement will not help going forward. No matter Clinton supporters’ view of the other side’s decision, they cannot demonize voters and accuse them of bigotry for voting for Trump. This one decision should not be enough for us to give up on humanity.

We need to understand why almost half of the country voted for Trump. Those who associate with the liberal side of politics must reach out to the other side and attempt to engage in dialogue. The lack of dialogue, exacerbated by social media and the information bubbles we form around ourselves, creates the divide we see between Republicans and Democrats. These bubbles allow only the information that aligns with our views to sink in; information that disagrees with our worldview is not accepted as legitimate. By refusing to believe that others may be correct, we  cut ourselves off from important conversations and learning experiences.

Trump supporters and Clinton supporters have different worldviews. Some people have not experienced the economic recovery that jobs reports suggest. Talks about when the Fed will raise interest rates and mentions of stock market growth does not matter much if you can’t find a job. We all worry about different things, so we can only learn about those worries through discussion.

We must not call large swaths of Americans racists before understanding their plights. We must come together and recognize our different views in order to find the path toward unity.

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