Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
On November 9th, 2016, at just around 3:00 a.m. Donald J. Trump was announced as the winner of the 2016 presidential election. It’s shocking. Frightening. That dreary Wednesday morning decorated with cold rain reflected my mood like a mirror: defeated. How could anyone vote for someone so hateful—someone so obviously uncaring, bigoted, and narcissistic? Well, apparently, a lot more than most people thought.
The trend I’ve been seeing recently is blaming the people who voted for Trump for the result of this election. But, before you lash out against Trump supporters, I want to argue that maybe our anger and hate are misplaced. The reason Trump won, against all odds, is because of white rural voters. White rural voters that I went to high school with. White rural voters who may be struggling with a 9-5 job to make ends meet, who may not be able to afford tuition to a college, much less an elite liberal arts school. The same white rural voters who have been ignored for so long by so many people.
I’m not saying that racist, misogynist, and hateful Trump supporters don’t exist – there are a scary amount of them in this country and they are nightmarish to deal with. No, I’m talking about the other Trump supporters, the decent people who don’t spit insults but still voted for Trump. Some of the most hardworking, caring, and respectful people I know are Trump supporters. They voted for Trump because they’re tired of being ignored. They’re tired of being told that their problems don’t matter because they’re white, when to them their life is just as hard as anyone else’s. And they’re extremely tired of the media and the educated elite write them off as ignorant and undeserving of an opinion.
In the context of where many of these people grew up, they’ve never been exposed to diversity, social activism, or the “liberal” mindset that most of us have here on campus. It’s not that they’re knowingly hateful, they just don’t understand. To them, voting for Trump was just as much an act of self-interest and love for the ones around them as it was me voting for Hillary. They’re willing to overlook all the terrible things about Trump if it means that they still have a job at the end of the day.
Hell, a lot of them have liberal views, but still label themselves as conservatives. Because let’s be real, Hillary probably wasn’t going to do anything to help these people anyway. The disorganization and corruption displayed by the Democratic party during this election season only exasperated the pre-existing distrust against politicians. Trump was a weapon for the voice of white working class voters, and they used it better than we could have imagined. The white rural voters will never be ignored again.
I am in no way making an argument for Trump or for the hateful Trump supporters who actually believe in his demonic rhetoric. Because of his presidency, a lot of people will be hurt, and much of the social progress that we’ve made will be undone. I may lose my best friend because of Trump and his immigration laws. Many people have a lot more to lose than I do, and it’s perfectly natural to feel angry, scared, and betrayed.
I am asking my classmates of Swarthmore College to just try to understand why it happened. To know your enemy is to love them. And god knows we didn’t love them enough. We can hate the sin, but try to love the sinner, even if you think they don’t deserve it. Now, more than ever, we have to support each other and fight our hardest to protect the rights of others.
What I’m asking you to do isn’t easy, but the fight for equality and justice has never been easy. So hate the Donald and all that he represents, fight against oppression, but keep with you the respect for another human being, and try to understand why decent people still voted for Trump. As MLK once said:
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Featured image courtesy of The Atlantic.