One year ago, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. In the days leading up to the election, we were all confident that America would have its first female president. We wore blue, laughed at Trump’s tweets, and never even considered the idea of his victory.
So on the night of Nov. 8, as we watched the map turn redder and redder, we flew to Facebook to post lengthy commentaries expressing our horrid shock. Who could possibly vote for Trump, we thought, as we certainly could not find the answer in our local community. And in the year following, every time Trump quoted alternative facts, tried to cut healthcare, and sympathized with Neo-Nazis, that question came up again: “Who let this man be president?”
This article is not about Trump. It is about “those people”; the ones who ruined our fantasy of a diverse, accepting, and loving America by voting for him (or at least, not voting for Hillary). And if you think that group of people consists solely of members of the KKK, this article is also about you.
There are many right-leaning Americans, as well as moderately liberal Americans, who were part of how Trump got elected. The fact of the matter is, there are people who support LGBTQ rights, think Planned Parenthood should receive more funding, or even voted for Obama and still cast their vote in Trump’s favor. The Democracy Fund Voter Study Group found that 9.2 percent of Obama voters switched to supporting Trump. Even more startling, only 74 percent of white and uneducated Obama voters still voted blue in the 2016 election. Obama-Trump voters exist, and were decisive in last year’s election.
So what happened in four years? How did the Democratic Party lose their supporters? There are a wide variety of reasons why Hillary lost the election, but part of it stems from the very ideology of liberalism itself. One drastic difference between liberals and conservatives, beyond simply political beliefs, is the way they view their own members. Conservatives eagerly welcome any right-leaning newcomers, even if they happen to have some progressive beliefs. Liberals, meanwhile, are instantly skeptical, critical, and defensive of their own. Conservatives understand that people can believe in climate change and still vote red, while liberals instantly shun any supporters who also own guns. The Democratic Party has distanced themselves from the supporters they need, and is now feeling the effects of their choices.
Many progressives, South students included, promised themselves on that fateful November night that they would never let Trump, or another similar and horrific Republican, into power again. We spent the following year protesting and boycotting and marching and making our voices heard in every possible way. And while those demonstrations are important, maybe we should try a new tactic, as well. Maybe we need to reach out to all the Americans we rejected last year. Maybe an alliance between the proudly-progressive and the in-betweeners is what we need.
In order to forge that alliance, we need to start by recognizing a few facts about these Americans. First of all, not all liberals live on a coast. Sure, there are a lot of lefties in San Francisco and Brooklyn, but they also exist in Defiance, Ohio, or in Norman, Okla. Next, progressive people can be religious. They can even go to church! We accept Muslim and Jewish liberals with open arms, but automatically associate Christians with conservatives. Finally, someone can have some conservative beliefs and still call themselves a Democrat. Liberals can own guns, oppose affirmative action, and befriend or even marry Trump supporters.
One year ago, our world shifted immeasurably. Since then, we have looked and looked for someone to blame, but maybe we should have been examining ourselves. Now I am not saying that reaching out to middle America will change everything. At the end of the day, Trump will still be president (for now), but we will at least have more people to complain with.