Hyomi Carty | SIPA Class of 2017
I know all of my colleagues and contacts are experiencing a range of emotions following the election results, from horror, to sadness, to disillusionment, to relief, maybe even joy, depending on whether you lean left or right. Despite the fact that I was not personally happy with the outcome of this election, I feel that I have learned much from it. Some may argue that one’s eyes are only opened to one’s flaws upon losing. And perhaps they are right. If the party I supported had won, maybe I wouldn’t be writing this right now. And I accept that accusation. It’s also understandable if Republicans are feeling smug or are glad to have knocked Liberals off their proverbial high horses. Maybe it is not undeserved. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to share some thoughts and lessons learned, if you have a moment to read. They are opinions I humbly put forth upon observation of many bitter and increasingly nasty debates between people (sometimes between people and their own families) with different opinions on social media. This is a plea of sorts, as I do not want to see our beloved country fall apart.
Give each other the benefit of the doubt
After some reflection, I just wanted to make one simple appeal: regardless of where you stand politically, I’m asking that we try to give one another the benefit of the doubt and not judge each other for voting the way they did. Liberals and conservatives alike were unwilling to listen to each other’s rationale for supporting the party that they did during election season, and continue to villainize one another in the aftermath of the election.
Yes, there is a radical contingent of Americans who voted for Trump for more intolerant reasons, and this is not acceptable, simply on human rights grounds. However, it shouldn’t be forgotten that many Republicans voted to preserve their party’s influence after eight years living under policies they found to be economically taxing on their families. I know small business owners who voted for Trump not because they liked him or his personality, but because they felt burdened by the penalties they had to pay under Obamacare, and wanted a Republican to remove this burden. Regardless of whether or not you agree that the way they voted will ultimately further their own cause is beside the point for the sake of this argument—I am simply stating this to demonstrate that people vote certain ways when they feel threatened, or marginalized, or dissatisfied with the status quo, not always because they love the front-runner and what he or she stands for. People also had their own reasons for voting for Hillary, to support policies that they felt would better the lives of themselves and their families.
People are not always the candidates they vote for
I have also been guilty of focusing on the personalities of the candidates, and at times conflating their values with those of the people who supported them, for better or for worse. And I have been humbled by the results of this election to realize that I have to do better. We all do. People are not always the candidates they vote for, just as candidates are not always their parties.
Dig below the surface
There will be people who we fundamentally disagree with, and people we perceive to have harmful and dangerous views. I, for one, believe that fear, perception of threat, vulnerability, mistrust, resentment, and lack of understanding and education are often at the root of the resultant anger and intolerance (xenophobia, racism, sexism, homophobia) we see so much of these days, though this is obviously a simplified conclusion. These issues are clearly something that we need to address with more fervor as a country, because this election has revealed just how fractured this society is.
We need to do a better job of listening
We need to do a better job of listening to diverging views, not being dismissive and writing off people’s views as sexist, ignorant, hateful, etc. Maybe you believe wholeheartedly that these views are objectively sexist, racist, etc., but the truth of the matter is, this stops any chance at having a real conversation with the other person. When you attack, accuse, and belittle, people get defensive, and the conversation quickly devolves into vitriolic spats. Take off your blinders, and consider all angles, because when we only operate within a liberal or conservative bubble (often exacerbated by the media) we are taken totally unaware of just how strong the other voice is. We need to search for common ground and identify areas of compromise. We need to make our best effort, liberals and conservatives alike, to understand where the other might be coming from and what their concerns are, even if you don’t agree.
I believe that if we try, we will be better positioned to constructively address the tough issues of racism, sexism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, etc. in this country. This will be truly challenging, as these issues have deeply and viscerally affected me and many people I love and care about, but we have no choice but to move forward as a nation and seek solutions. I will try my best, and I hope you will, too. Thank you for listening.