I am disappointed. While this is not the outcome I hoped for, Donald Trump’s election does not diminish my pride in being an American. One of America’s promises is that citizens have the freedom to choose. This is the experience of choosing our elected representatives. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you don’t win. My shock at this defeat did at least one good thing; it caused me to reflect on the people and problems that got us here – and it moved me to think of how we can go forward as one. Below are some of my thoughts about the election and a few of my hopes for the future.
1. I am sad to realize so many Americans have been so disenfranchised by our politics and economy, and I am distraught to realize the unimaginable difficulty many people experience in modern America. This election shows we have work to do.
2. While I am disappointed so many of my fellow Americans and I have such different views of America, I suspect our views differ more on what causes problems and how to address them than on whether we have problems that need to be fixed. Yet I believe most people in America still believe we are an essentially free, hopeful and prosperous country. I hope we can agree on that, and hopefully that’s a starting point on common ground.
3. At the heart of our problems, there seems to be widespread backlash against established institutions in government, business and society. That’s because these institutions seem to be failing people or taking advantage of them, at least in part by pushing unwanted change upon them at a crushing rate and leaving them behind. There seems to be a corresponding move toward preservation of tradition. Van Jones on CNN called this a “whitelash against a changing country.” But these changes encompass all spheres of life, not just race and gender issues, but almost every endeavor of our experience. We need to learn to manage change and manage within change.
4. While I believe there were some hate-filled, racist, sexist citizens who voted for Trump, I’d guess most Trump supporters are much closer to the mainstream than many believe. The loudest, most outrageous voices got a lot of attention but are not indicative of everyone who pulled Trump’s lever. I believe most Trump voters didn’t vote for Trump’s demagogy; they voted against Hillary Clinton’s apparent smugness.
5. It seems Clinton simply failed to energize voters. She wasn’t stirringly charismatic or a soaring populist. Even people who liked her weren’t electrified by her candidacy. Trump was riveting, and that won a much larger vote than anyone imagined possible. But even then, Trump does not appear to have won the popular vote.
6. I don’t want to avoid Trump voters. I need to understand what they want and what motivates them, so I’ll have some sense of where we have common ground. Just because I don’t agree with people doesn’t mean I don’t want to know who they are, what they want and why. Representative forms of government require that we listen to one another and find compromise. I cannot do my part if I am blissfully out of touch with people who have different experiences, priorities, interests and beliefs.
7. I worry many of us will indulge in grotesque displays of ridicule and belittlement or gloating and baiting as we process the outcomes of this election. For every hate-filled voice on the right, there is a rage-filled voice on the left. While this may seem like justifiable venting or well-deserved celebration, it only stirs up our own resentment and self-righteousness, neither of which serves any of us constructively. For my part, I will seek the presence of mind and self-control to be respectful and considerate toward others – especially toward people with whom I disagree.
Long live America and her people!
Ashe Lockhart is a Charlotte lawyer. This piece was adapted from one of his Facebook posts.