The election certainly didn’t end the way I expected it to. But after reflection, I must say I find myself more resolute and energized than sorrowful.
The majority of those who supported Trump are not racists, or bigots, or sexists. They’re simply the left-behinds of the middle class — people who grew up in a world where graduating high school was still a ticket to a decent job and a decent life. And right or wrong, they’ve been feeling squeezed, walked over, and rejected for a long time.
To them, the gains of other groups have come at the expense of narrower prospects for others. To them, pride in different heritages has come at the expense of being told that pride in their own ancestry is wrong.
To them, the governing liberal elite have turned pride in the ol’ U.S.A. into shamefaced apologizing for everything this country is and does.
I don’t agree, but I can empathize with their frustration and hopelessness. Their main motivation isn’t subjugating other races; it’s securing some kind of hopeful future for themselves and their families.
Trump capitalized on that desperation. He sold himself as the strong man who can bring back the world they remember. The problem, of course, is that he can’t. No one can. The steel industry isn’t coming back. The manufacturing jobs aren’t coming back. There aren’t simple, easy solutions to the problems we face. And it won’t take long before, I believe, the majority of his supporters are massively disillusioned.
When they are, they’re going to need all the rest of us there. Not to say “I told you so,” or start up the old narrative that white, middle-class Americans are stupid and short-sighted, but to work with them. To recognize that they have valid concerns that need to be addressed.
And for the minority of Trump’s supporters who really are racists and bigots, the vulnerable populations in this country are going to need our support.
Trump’s election is like the lancing of a boil: It’s going to be ugly, dirty work getting all the infected material out, but it’s the only way to clean the wound and start fresh.
We can’t check out now. We can’t give up. We can’t abandon the majority who are about to have their hopes dashed, or the immigrants and minorities who could be targets of misplaced anger and frustration. We have to be here to do the work.
And I, for one, am fired up. I’m ready to go.
Catherine McDonough is a graduate student at the University of Minnesota.