Trump’s election reflects silent majority’s desire to not be forgotten
I was in the lounge Tuesday night watching the election on CNN with my friends, anxious but full of hope. Like many who are reading this, we are your run-of-the-mill liberal millennials, the backbone of Hillary Clinton’s campaign and self-professed champions of multiculturalism in the United States. We huddled together, hearts as one, waiting for that singular moment of victory – not just for the first female president, but for marginalized communities everywhere. We wanted so badly for this election to show the world that America, for all that it’s been criticized to be divided, racist and bigoted, was better than all of that.
And then, just like that, none of that happened.
I was baffled. For all that America preached about love and diversity, how could anyone explain the demographics my friends and I were looking at? How were we to reconcile the fact that more than half this nation endorsed hatred and intolerance?
It took me a while, but I then realized how different we were from the rest of the electorate. We are living in a little Californian bubble of a college-educated generation branded as the liberal elite. We’ve always been proud of calling ourselves liberals – for wearing our shiny badges of secularism, feminism and environmentalism. But how often do we admit that we, too, are part of the managerial elite?
We have focused on our oppression for so long – the institutionalized oppression of women, LGBTQ people, Mexicans, Muslims, black people – that we have forgotten about the white middle-class narrative: that one can be white and suffer, that one can be white and forgotten, that one can be white and oppressed. Let’s all keep in mind that the Democratic Party today was not what it once was before the 1960s, before it turned its back on the working class and organized labor in pursuit of social progressivism. Somewhere along the way, the left wing had forgotten about classism and the invisible majority.
So, while educated elites proclaimed international trade and economic interdependence as the panacea that will relaunch our economy, working-class Americans have bore the painful brunt of globalization as trade and capital liberalization destroyed employment and incomes. For a long time, they were silenced. They had let their anger brew. And, finally, last night, they made their voices heard through a white populist revolt.
Donald Trump may be a lot of things – you know the names – but what many liberal elites like you and I forget to realize is that he is also empowering. He has given a voice to the forgotten majority that has been left behind in a stuttering postwar economic recovery. He is not your traditional conservative – the policies he proposes have roots in liberalism and populism. Insulated by his immense wealth such that he has no reason to be corrupt, he echoes a common, longstanding desire for the rising tide to once again float all boats. Maybe America was never great, but his campaign is reminiscent of an America that was not victimized by corporate classism and metropolitan liberalism. There is no denying that Trump spoke directly to the people who have been left out of the political and economic conversation for too long.
So maybe a vote for Trump was not a vote for hatred. Maybe a vote for Trump was a vote for the common people not to be forgotten any longer. We have spent so long painting Trump’s supporters as fascist, backward and dogmatic because those words were easy to throw around. But the truth is that many who voted for Trump were the same people who voted – twice – for Barack Obama. When will we admit that the Trump train is powered by more than just intolerance? Time and time again, we have forgotten the anger of the silent, white majority. These are the people who have been diligently attending Trump rallies, and found their only chance of political representation in a man who just happens to be racist and bigoted. It takes courage and empathy to admit that for some people, Trump is the only way they can continue to put food on the table and send their kids to school.
This doesn’t change the fact that I am disappointed with this election’s results. I am hurt. I am betrayed. I am afraid for people in marginalized communities everywhere because I know a Trump presidency is a justification for hatred and bigotry to some people. He emblematizes a cultural and social setback in modern America, and threatens to undo all the progressive changes that we have fought so hard for. He is a man who endorses hate, and he will never be the president of my choice.
But I will, for once, will step down from my high horse of radical superiority, and acknowledge the people that have suffered in silence. I will stop shaming Trump supporters like they are all bigots, because they aren’t. They’re people like you and I who are capable, too, of feeling pain. But this is not the time to compare losses. This is the time to reach out in empathy and contrition to a forgotten community, and to remember and honor the cherished ideals that unite us as Americans.
Jordi Ng is an undeclared first-year student. Nov. 13, 2016