Two weeks ago, 61,900,000 people for voted for Donald Trump. I was not among them. Like 64,000,000 others, I cast my vote for Hillary Clinton. Mrs. Clinton received the majority of votes, but to the consternation of her voters, she lost anyway, due to the USA’s Electoral College system, which is less concerned with absolute majorities or pluralities, but with the distribution of those votes.
The Electoral College may be a remnant of less democratic times, but it is the way we elect Presidents, and while 2.1 million more people voted for Clinton over Trump, they lived in places where their votes counted for less than those of the Trump voters. So, Donald J. Trump will be the 45th President of the USA in just 8 short weeks. Given that the Constitution governs the Republic, and the Constitution establishes the Electoral College, it does little good at this point to grouse about or protest the results of November 8. President Trump is our reality and we—whichever side we are on—must get on with life under Trump. How do we do that?
Foremost, we need to understand each other, and that’s going to take a real commitment to knowing other people, to understand their motivations, their hopes, their dreams and their fears. This is why, a few days after the election, I asked my friends and family, many of whom voted for Trump, to tell me why they did. I didn’t want an argument, and I promised that I wouldn’t respond with one. I also promised that I would protect their responses, and if writing about them publically, their identities. I know I won’t avoid the vitriol of either the angry Clinton voters or the disdain of the Trump voters (the comments section of this blog remain open to anyone), but at least now I have some idea why people that I love and respect feel very differently than I do about what kind of nation we are and should be. I intend to use their thoughts as a guide to my own personal peacemaking initiative.
So what did they tell me?
Mostly, they don’t expect Trump to govern as he campaigned. They don’t believe that he will pursue the most extreme policies of his stump speeches, whether it is pursuing criminal charges against Clinton, mass deportation of immigrants or unleashing Kristallnacht against Muslim Americans.
Second, they just didn’t like or trust Hillary Clinton. Whether it was her shifting responses on her email server, or her “basket of deplorables” dismissal of half of Trump’s supporters, they felt she was out of touch with them. She was, noted one, “an elitist who thinks we are all stupid, small-minded bigots.” One said that he found her comments about Catholics and other Christians “offensive.” (My assumption about this is that this person was referring to hacked emails from Clinton staffers John Halpin and Jennifer Palmieri that conservative Catholics “must be attracted to the systematic thought and severely backwards gender relations and must be totally unaware of Christian democracy.”)
Virtually everyone expressed their belief that Trump would appoint Supreme Court justices more in tune with their beliefs that abortion is morally wrong, that the Affordable Care Act is not working (at least for them), and that Obama-era regulations (though no one specified which) would be rolled back. Some mentioned immigration, but that didn’t seem to be a great motivator for most, except for the feeling that enforcement of immigration law is nonexistent, and a desire for an orderly method of entry and legal status for immigrants.
Trump’s bull-in-a-china-shop approach to trade deals, international relations or Congressional negotiations, instead of frightening them, filled them with hope. They believe that free trade has not delivered on its promise of new jobs and stronger markets, and instead has resulted in the rapid decline of many communities who saw their economic base go to Asia or Latin America, even as immigrants from those places arrived on our shores.
I can think of a thousand reasons why my friends are wrong, and I know that they wouldn’t accept a single one of them. The truth is that, right now, in these Disunited States of America, it matters less who is right or wrong. What matters is that we begin to try to figure out how to work together, or this experiment called “America” will, in Lincoln’s words, “perish from the earth.”
That does not mean papering over our differences, waving the flag or wrapping it around a cross. It does not mean ignoring excusing corruption, injustice, racism, bigotry or Constitutional usurpation. It means that we are family together, neighbors together, a nation together. We cannot afford to lose that, not now, not in this very dangerous and divided place we find ourselves.