**Editor’s Note: This submission is from the M-A Chronicle readership and it is not necessarily a reflection of the staff opinion.
THIS PAST ELECTION has been a bitterly divided one. And with the rise of our president-elect, Donald Trump, there is a large percentage of the American population that is very fearful of Trump and his administration. These people have seen Trump speak about things in manners that have been perceived as distasteful and hateful, such as his treatment of women, his thoughts on immigrants, and his perceived discrimination against minorities.
We live in a very liberal area. I am aware of the fact that I am writing to a mostly liberal audience. And much of that audience falls under that group of people I mentioned – a group of people scared of what Trump might do. I have seen arguments happen, insults thrown, and relationships fail because of this fear. As a general statement, the liberal audience to which I write is scared, and the people in that audience are having a hard time working with their more conservative peers, due to their support of an ideology that M-A liberals perceive as a threat to their safety and those around them. Although liberal concerns are valid, often the ubiquitous nature of the fears of today’s liberals manifest themselves as attacks on the conservative minority. It is important to remember that everyone’s political beliefs are a result of their own unique combination of upbringing, background, and experiences, and that political beliefs are not necessarily a reflection on oneself or one’s personality. The conservative minority does not deserve the scorn of the liberal majority. Likewise, the liberal majority does not deserve to live in such fear and anxiety. These two issues combine and manifest themselves as toxic arguments and vile insults. Still, it is an easily overlooked fact that a multitude of the aforementioned arguments could be avoided if everyone took the time to at least attempt to understand the other side of things.
The conservative minority does not deserve the scorn of the liberal majority. Likewise, the liberal majority does not deserve to live in such fear and anxiety.
Our nation is called the United States of America. The solution to our problem is written in the very name of our nation. United States. Unity is our solution, and unity appears to be in short supply. Now, I and many others feel as if we are not living in the United States of America. I feel like our nation might more appropriately be titled the Reluctant Confederation of Conservative and Liberal States of America – and with the recent suggestion of #Calexit, a proposed secession of predominantly liberal California from the Union, our divisions have become even more prominent.
A seemingly ubiquitous comment I have heard from my liberal friends is as follows: “I don’t understand how anyone in their right mind could support Donald Trump.” And from a liberal perspective, such a statement has a valid backing. A modern liberal teenager may turn on the TV and see somebody they perceive as openly racist and misogynist, and may very well believe that such an outlook shouldn’t be supported. However, labeling Trump’s only notable qualities as being racist and sexist is to see only the tip of the iceberg. Perspective is needed in order to understand why he is our president-elect.
Perspective can be difficult, especially for us high school students – many of whom have never been exposed to primarily conservative areas. However, in order to really understand any world issue, having perspective is essential, and the first step in attaining a wider perspective is understanding. And understanding is also difficult. It is very easy, as a liberal, to look at a conservative and say, “I don’t know how they don’t see it my way.” And conversely, it is very easy, as a conservative, to look at a liberal and say, “I don’t know how they don’t see it my way.” And frankly, you don’t have to understand why they don’t see it your way. Nobody needs to understand the other side’s feelings – rather, people need to understand why people feel those feelings. An example would be comforting a friend who recently lost a family member. Now, you may not have known that family member too well, and you don’t know exactly what their relationship with your friend was like – so you will simply not understand exactly what your friend is going through. However, you don’t need to do that. All you have to do is to understand that your friend has just lost somebody very dear to them, and because of that, they feel anguish, sadness, and pain. You don’t have to understand everything they are feeling, you only have to understand the reasons for those feelings.
My goal is a population that makes an effort to understand the reasons for the other side’s beliefs. However, people are not always willing to make that step. I would like to make the mindset of a Trump supporter more accessible to my mostly liberal audience, and hence, further my goal of understanding.
During the presidential race, Donald Trump was supported by a 90% white population. Nearly 60% of Trump’s supporters did not have a college degree. By naming this statistic, I do not intend to paint Trump supporters as stupid or stereotype them as lacking a college education. Rather, I seek to establish that because of that conspicuous lack of college education among Trump’s supporters, we are looking at a white working class that supports Trump.
This makes their reasons for supporting Trump much easier to understand. During Barack Obama’s presidency, the economy was improved. Now, this might be a cause for celebration among businessmen, venture capitalists, and other wealthier groups. However, we are looking at a group of people who are much less affected by the ups and downs of the economy. These are people who work for very little and who work with their hands. And for them, under President Obama, their lot did not noticeably improve – and as a broad statement, the white working class has not experienced much change for most of their lives. This conspicuous lack of change has had the effect of teaching the white working class that politicians do not know how to improve their lives. However, Donald Trump is not a politician. Mr. Trump is a businessman. Despite Mr. Trump’s bankruptcies, he still lives in a penthouse apartment, owns business assets all over the world, and sits on a considerably large cushion of money. And for a member of the white working class, it is very easy to think to oneself: “If Donald Trump has the power to make himself rich, then he has the power to help improve my financial standing.”
The white working class has often been given the label of the “silent majority”. Why is this label appropriate? Think of media coverage. There is plenty of media coverage of minorities in today’s society. Turn on the television and you will see news stories about police aggression towards blacks, advances in LGBT rights, and the Middle Eastern refugee crisis. On that same television, you will likely not see any stories addressing the plight of the white working class: a largely stagnant group of people, robbed by politicians and by circumstance of the ability to change their own economic standing. And for members of the white working class, who turn on the TV and do not see their own hardships and struggles represented, it creates feelings of under-representation.
This is not a new problem. Since the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, coverage of the straight white male has decreased in favor of more interesting or trending topics such as the oppression of minorities and advances towards equality. Despite a strong white majority in Hollywood and mainstream television, tuning into national news does not show the plight of the silent majority. Tuning into national news shows just about everything but the white working class, and slowly this silent majority has faded into the background. And because of the underrepresentation of the plight of the white working class, members of said demographic have developed a mindset that this country is focusing on the wrong groups of people.
Despite a strong white majority in Hollywood and mainstream television, tuning into national news does not show the plight of the silent majority. Tuning into national news shows just about everything but the white working class, and slowly this silent majority has faded into the background.
A common argument opposing illegal immigration is that illegal immigrants have the potential to take jobs away from legal American citizens; therefore, the government needs to crack down on illegal immigrants in order to keep jobs in the hands of legal American citizens. Conversely, a common counterargument states that illegal immigrants are often forced to take extremely low-paying, menial jobs as a result of their illegal status – jobs that no American citizen would want anyway; therefore, illegal immigrants who need asylum should be allowed to immigrate on the basis that they may take a job that nobody else was going for anyway. However, the white working class needs those low-paying, menial jobs. The entire reason that those people are members of the working class is because they may not have the capability to land higher-paying jobs, and so members of the working class need to be able to take whatever jobs they can find. Everyone deserves to work and decide how their own life goes; however, from the viewpoint of the working class, only American citizens should get American jobs, and, irrespective of the immigrant situation, it is true that the more people immigrate to America, the fewer jobs there are to go around.
There is historical backing for this assertion. A massive influx of Irish immigrants in the mid-1800s provided the cheap labor force needed to get American industry moving. At the same time, the Chinese immigrant workforce built thousands of miles of railroads for American use. And in all of those instances, the supply of workers began to outweigh the demand. Workers became easily replaceable, and workers were hired and fired on a regular basis. The current immigrant crisis is only the newest iteration of a very old problem, and the conservative argument is just as old: only American citizens deserve American jobs.
In short, Mr. Trump won the presidential election because he managed to appeal to the white working class. He managed to seek out the white, working class voter and tell them, “I know your voice isn’t being heard, and I know that it hurts to see people on the news who aren’t like you, and I can make your voice heard again.” He was able to tell these voters that “I have done very well for myself, and with my business knowledge I can help you and your family become more financially stable.” And finally, he was able to say that “even if I cannot directly help you move up the socioeconomic hierarchy, at least I can build a wall to keep out the people who are competing with you for jobs.”
I have done my utmost to keep any bias from entering this work, regardless of my own political affiliation. I have even gone so far as to use a pseudonym, so you may read this without perceiving nearly as much political bias. And again, I understand that I am writing to a primarily liberal audience, many of whom may feel attacked by the points of view which I have stated in this article. I would like to stress that I do not openly side with any of the viewpoints in this article. Instead, I intended to make it easier for the average liberal to understand why Donald Trump won the election by presenting the viewpoint of Mr. Trump’s most popular voter: the white working class man. The liberal reader may not like what I have said, but frankly, that is life. As long as the liberal reader comes away from this article with an expanded understanding of the other side, I regard my work as complete.
The liberal reader may not like what I have said, but frankly, that is life.
Regardless of whether or not you may agree with Mr. Trump’s ideology and that of his cabinet, it is important to remember that he has yet to enter office. As of right now, he has not been able to change any sort of policy in our country. It is wrong to disavow Mr. Trump and his cabinet before they have been able to enact any change. The least the liberal reader can do is to give Mr. Trump a chance to change things for the better. There will be things he does that people will not like, and there will be bumps in the road; no presidency is complete without them. Regardless, there will also be things that he does that you may find yourself looking at and saying, “You know, I think Mr. Trump improved our country a little bit.” Mr. Trump is not a stupid man. Rather, Mr. Trump is a smart man who knew how to talk to the right people. Have faith in his ability to make change and whether his changes are left-leaning or not, have faith in our country’s ability to keep moving forward.
Asher Kingfisher is a Menlo-Atherton student, who writes under a pseudonym to help prevent readers from perceiving political bias in her work. Her goal is one of helping the two divided sides of this year’s election to understand each other and their motives, and ultimately, to help both liberals and conservatives work towards a better America, together, not apart.