After such a bitter election, it’s a welcome relief to see our political leaders—particularly President-Elect Trump, Secretary Hillary Clinton, and President Obama—be magnanimous and encourage the country to come together. It’s an important message: As Americans, we are all on the same team and want what is best for the country. The election’s winners, Donald Trump and Republicans generally, have a particular responsibility to show that they are focused on the country’s best interests and not just on partisan gain.
Yet supporters of Hillary Clinton—including the mainstream media which in this election abandoned their fig leaf of objectivity to work full bore on behalf of their preferred candidate—have a role to play too. They can vent for a few days as they come to accept an outcome to this election that they never saw coming, but then they need to put away the vitriol and do their part to encourage healing too.
In particular, continuing to paint all Trump supporters as “deplorables” motivated solely by racism is not a productive way to encourage unity. Pundits and angry Democrats are taking to the media and social media outlets like Facebook to decry the white racism that they claim explains this election. Yet this is a terrible misrepresentation of what motivated the vast majority of Trump voters. Many of those who came to vote for Trump had qualms about the candidate but were more alarmed by Clinton, who represented to them the lawlessness and Washington-knows-best elitism that they believed are destroying the foundation of our country.
Enthusiastic Trump voters were often motivated by matters of policy, such as their concerns about government-run health care, an administrative state that was strangling our jobs, our ludicrously expensive, wasteful and disconnected higher education system, and growing national debt. Yes, certainly many blue collar, white Americans were also concerned about issues that have a racial element to them: They are concerned about the downward pressure on wages that they see as an outgrowth of illegal immigration, increased crime problems, and a lost sense of community that they see as an unfortunate outgrowth of globalization. This doesn’t mean that they are racists who don’t want a diverse country and who seek to close the country’s doors to the rest of the word. Rather, they are concerned about their children’s futures, and want leaders who respect and understand their experience. Aren’t they allowed to have interests just as other groups do?
The sense that polite society wouldn’t even allow them to voice their concerns—that their President sees them as “bitter clingers” to their religion and guns, that they are simply “deplorables” in the eyes of the Democratic candidate, and are tarred as being supportive of the KKK or Nazis—was surely one reason why Trump was so appealing to them. They wanted someone who wasn’t cowed by the media or caught in the Left’s politically-correct straight jacket and would instead give them a voice and give their perspective a fair hearing.
Republicans now have much work to do to demonstrate that they reject the divisive rhetoric sometimes employed by Trump and want a country that creates better opportunities for African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, women, gays, and everyone else. It’s in their interest to do so: Republicans won despite losing Hispanics and African-Americans by wide margins; winning in the future will depend on winning the trust of a larger share of these groups.
Yet the Left also needs to work on being truly inclusive and not appearing bigoted against white working-class men, Christians, and rural Americans—groups that overwhelming and consistently vote against them. While Republicans’ weaknesses are well known and widely discussed, much less recognized and acknowledged is Democrats’ just-as-urgent need to do some soul searching and consider how their own prejudices are encouraging them to think the worst about their fellow countrymen. Their language also needs to become more respectful and inclusive if they want to earn back America’s trust.
This divisive election is mercifully over. We can hope that this is a low tide in terms of bipartisanship, but it’s important to remember that as we start repairing these relationships and building a more cohesive country, that process has to be a two-way street.