It wasn’t just a bad dream. The monster didn’t disappear when our eyes opened Wednesday morning.
Donald Trump really has been selected the leader of the free world.
Everyone from pollsters and pundits to co-workers and friends said this couldn’t happen. His rhetoric and character would be too much for average Americans to overlook. His lack of experience and policy proposals would eventually catch up to him.
Yet, in spite of his obliteration of everything we thought we knew about elections, he became the standard bearer for an enormous portion of our country.
So the question rattling around in the heads of everyone angered or saddened with the outcome is simple: how did this happen?
The initial explanation was that turnout was the culprit. Democrats just didn’t come out for Hillary like they did for Obama. And although the numbers show this in many swing states, there has been a backlash to this opinion for being overly simplistic.
Another sentiment is gaining steam and has been championed by journalists and strategists from both parties. The Democrats had their worst Electoral College showing since 1988 because they have lost touch with everyday America.
They only cater to the ‘elites’ and didn’t spend the time to understand the frustrations of what has been referred to as “Real Americans”. That, somehow, they had lost their way and now are in need of serious self-reflection.
To that particular interpretation of Tuesday’s results I have only one thought.
In the real America…
Who gets to determine what’s considered everyday America or who real Americans are?
This nation is made up of a wide spectrum of people with unique daily lives. Someone living on the south side of Chicago surely doesn’t hold the same frustrations as someone living in rural Kentucky. But who’s to say which one represents real Americans? Isn’t the foundation to the U.S. that both are real Americans? That their lives combine to represent everyday America?
So when someone claims the Democratic Party no longer appeals to everyday America what they are really saying is Trump won over more middle and working class white people. That’s it. That’s what the numbers actually reveal.
The characterization of non-wealthy whites as the true representation of real Americans is ill conceived and dangerous. But that was the opinion of Trump and his campaign as they stoked fears of minorities and immigrants. Every group outside of white men was targeted and ridiculed for nearly 2 years. One party chose to condemn this rhetoric as divisive and damaging. The other turned a blind eye and held out to November.
What this election revealed wasn’t that Democrats are elitist and don’t understand the frustration of middle America. What it revealed was that a larger portion of this nation than we wanted to believe hold deeply embedded racist and sexist opinions. Those thoughts have always been there, but now the face of a major political party gave these people permission to be more explicit.
“Make America Great Again”. The campaign slogan that ignited what the Donald refers to as a movement. I would argue America is as great now as it’s ever been, especially for marginalized populations who have dealt with decades of oppression.
That’s not to say we still don’t have a long way to go, made evident by spending 5 minutes at a Trump rally. But when Trump supporters hear their MAGA war cry, what they yearn for, the ‘again’ part, is a return to an easier time.
The world has changed. Many have struggled to change with it. But the inability of those “left behind” to adapt and thrive absolutely does not fall on the shoulders of minorities, women, or members of the LGBT community. But when opportunities were plentiful for white middle America to succeed, they weren’t for others.
In the minds of many in this forgotten class of people there must be some correlation between the betterment of marginalized group’s lives and their own struggles. And so it was precisely this fallacy that Trump’s campaign latched onto and used to rally their masses.
The true cause of white, working class struggles in today’s world are many, but intelligent Republicans know one of them isn’t the advancement of minority groups. They know this in their hearts and they didn’t do anything to prevent their nominee from propping this fear up and using it to win an election.
The saddest part is that this horrible, misguided belief is held by far too many disillusioned white Americans. And that a morally bankrupt reality TV star with a personality disorder could use this mistrust and anger to win enough votes and change the course of our nation’s history for the worse.
So I don’t believe Democrats need to hang their head in thinking their motives and message has failed. The Democrats enormous mistake this election was believing Americans had far too much empathy for their fellow countryman to vote for an unabashed racist and misogynist. They were wrong. I was wrong.
So feel sad about that fact. If you believe in the core values of this nation this outcome should really hurt. But if there is a party in need of some soul searching or a reevaluation of voters they cater to, this time, I don’t think it’s the side that lost.