If you don’t like Trump, please stop feeding him.
This election cycle, I didn’t see much of a difference between the two major party candidates. Both were dishonest, pandering, narcissists playing the crowd to get elected. More importantly, both promised to expand the federal government’s reach through questionable or poor policies. As such, I don’t understand how anyone could consider their candidate to be much better than the opposition. Sure, maybe marginally better–a thread of a difference–but not much.
But this is the crux of the matter. Because people find the other candidate to be a much greater monster, they resort to extreme rhetoric, which only leads to greater revulsion–drinking your own Kool-Aid, as it were. Even many third party enthusiasts have fallen into this trap, resorting to hyperbole and name-calling and focusing it mostly on one candidate. Those people are still taking the bait and playing the game, but also giving themselves an out by voting third party.
The problem is that this very beast is the main reason we have President-elect Trump. Sure, he appealed to the working poor, but so did Sanders (and Clinton to a lesser extent, with some Republican candidates doing the same while having sterling records to match). And sure, Trump ran on an outsider platform, promising to remove the burden that Washington places on citizens, but so did Sanders (in his own paradoxical way). And sure, the DNC primary was rigged against Sanders while the general election collapsed under Clinton due to email leaks, but Trump also took a beating for leaks (many coming from his own mouth during campaign events). And sure, the crumbling ACA played a role, but every candidate ran on a platform to fix or repeal it. And sure, there were other more nuanced regional, cultural, and economic differences that gave Trump a boost, but his campaign promises weren’t so different from those of Clinton or Sanders. And finally, I imagine there were also some racist undercurrents that played a part, where voters saw Trump’s plans to tighten immigration as a token of white supremacy.
Of course, I can only say that I imagine this much. I’ve heard from the media that Trump is racist. I’ve heard that some unabashed racists endorsed him (which Trump renounced). I’ve heard that racists (and “bigots” of all stripes) were the reason he was elected. But since I’ve never met anyone who supported him for racist reasons, I can do nothing but imagine. I know that’s anecdotal, but my point is that if I simply take the word of those shouting about him, then I’m likely to be misled.
However, I have met many people (and read lots of opinion pieces) expressing frustration with the DNC, the media, and the cacophony of voices in their social interactions who tell them that they’re sexist, racist, homophobic, etc. for disagreeing on policy. Truly. Just policy. And I am one of those people.
For example, if I think one way to fix crumbling schools is better than another, I am treated with disdain and sarcasm rather than conversation on the pros and cons. If I think one proposal to help people out of poverty is better than another, I am considered elitist and cold. If I read the same data as another and agree with one expert opinion over another, it’s labeled as a smoke screen to withhold rights or disenfranchise someone or hurt everyone. Or I’m just plain dumb.
The thing is, I grew up in some of the lowest American poverty of anyone I’ve ever met. I’ve been to schools that didn’t work and–through loopholes of sorts–schools that did. I’ve seen people climb out of poverty, and my wife and I have done the same. I’ve seen social forces reverse their opinions on the meaning of a data set almost overnight and villainize those still thinking the old answer is the correct one. So I’m determined to read for myself, decide for myself, and vote based on compassion channeled through experience and reason.
As such, and in spite of the serious concerns I have about Trump, I considered voting for him. I also considered each of the DNC and GOP nominees in turn. I considered them for their policies first and their characters second. Character is important, of course, but only because it tells us whether their policies are genuine. The candidate’s moral basis is equally important for the same reason. But I also considered Trump (when he became the GOP nominee) for his potential to break the dishonest and vicious cycle of vitriol in politics and society. I considered that a great deal. Ultimately, I opted for Castle because he met most of my requirements despite having no chance of winning. But the fact that I came as close as I did to voting for Trump should reveal quite a bit. The fact that so many seemingly genuine, decent people have reported voting Trump for the same reason should reveal even more.
But perhaps even more revealing still is the larger picture. A majority reported voting not for a candidate but against one. Plenty did the same in each of the previous elections, but the number is growing. This appears to be a direct result of negative campaigning and fear-mongering. The trend, however, seems to show that future presidential elections will result in worse candidates and numbed-down voters. Even Democrats this year were looking back on Romney (who they also called racist) with a bit of nostalgia.
But there is hope. We can take a stand to stop this trend. Much like internet trolls, we should starve the problem. We feed the problem when we overstate the potential fears associated with a candidate. We starve the problem when we discuss a candidate’s positions in a rational manner. We feed the problem when we play the victim. We starve the problem when we accurately identify a slow erosion of freedoms and take peaceful steps to head it off. We feed the problem when we call slippery slope identifiers “alarmists.” We starve the problem when we listen to those people with reasoned, critical thinking.