I didn’t sleep very much on Tuesday and when I woke up on Wednesday morning I felt sick. The world that I had convinced myself I was living in revealed itself to be something different. It was uncanny, in the most Freudian way. A thing I thought I knew was at once familiar and all wrong. The community I thought existed was an illusion of the privilege and social bubble that I enjoy. The real America is split almost exactly down the middle – a middle that fell legislatively in the lap of a demagogue, racist, misogynist who preached from the pulpit of his gut and telling it “the way it is.”
That was is not the way I thought it was.
I got really angry. Mostly because I felt that I had been duped. Somehow, the twice election of Barack Obama was a watershed that would be insurmountable. The world really had changed forever, right? We were inching forward on race, women’s rights, on understanding our neighbors and working together.
Nope. It just felt that way.
My dad called me, he sounded like someone had just told him that dogs had rigged the World Series. He said, “It’s like you woke up to find your neighbor doing a controlled burn in their yard next to a dumpster of fireworks. It might be fine, but he might burn the whole neighborhood down.” I launched into a tirade about how uneducated (I meant stupid) white people (I meant rural people who sleep with their cousins) had ruined the country. Maybe the world. Then I hid under a blanket for the rest of day intermittently watching Obama’s inauguration speeches cursing these people who I imagined.
Here’s my problem – these people are not villains and they are not who I imagine. They are not Ted Nugent riding a prize-hog, shooting a Bushmaster into the sky. They are people who feel, right or wrongly, disenfranchised. People who are trying to achieve the same things that I am. They are white, they are men, and they did not finish high school. In the world of politics they are called LIVs (or Low Information Voters), or in more cruel circles, useful idiots.
These voters are not likely to respond to information or statistics. They respond to broad emotional pleas that reaffirm their perceived notions about the state of their nation. Things like the economy being a disaster, despite unemployment being at its lowest rate in ten years. Things like illegal immigrants committing an unprecedented number of violent crimes, with no information to support that claim. A LIV does not need that information – they need to feel affirmed in their suspicions.
These are the people who account for the statistics that dictated the course of history on Tuesday. Sobering information, like that 40% of all voters feel that the other party’s policies cannot be trusted. Or the mere 18% of voters who feel that they can agree with the other side on “basic facts”. These are the people who make up the truly staggering 3 in 4 Americans who believe that the government is corrupt.
Maybe you can tell by the way I’m describing them that I hold these people in low esteem. I certainly won’t deny it. But I also can’t deny that my attitudes towards them are a reason for Trump’s victory. The ‘silent majority’ has rejected the condescension of the educated and the elite.
Yes, absolutely, there are huge issues of racism, misogyny and xenophobia that play into this as well. It isn’t just another disenfranchised community lashing out, and when I measure their struggle against plenty of other Americans it is hard to find sympathy.
But the basket of deplorables, the LIV man, is going to factor (to borrow a word) bigly in how the nation governs itself in the coming years. So, I can stand on my soapbox and throw mud, or I can try to figure out how to reach out to this community, introduce them to an immigrant, take them to a gay bar, and listen to what they have to say. Because if I don't, then I have no right to judge them.