The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Matador Network.
A WEEK OR SO AGO, an acquaintance of mine reached out to me after 12 years of perfectly appropriate radio silence (we were never that close) and assured me that, while he voted for Trump, he certainly wasn’t a bigot — and that a vote for Trump didn’t necessarily mean issuing a sweeping pass to bigotry.
He continued on to say, “A building is crumbling down around a large group of people of all races. Am I a racist because I grab my family first and get them to safety?”
Well, no — in that example, you’re definitely not. On a crashing airplane, you always put on your air mask before you put on anyone else’s. The failure in metaphor here is that straight white men aren’t on the same airplane as the rest of us. His self-described safely-middle-class white family isn’t in the same crumbling building. I’d go so far as to argue that we’re on entirely different planes of reality.
A better metaphor would be millions of people are on the rim of a boiling volcano and there’s a fire in your kitchen. In order to put out said fire, you voted for the volcano to erupt.
But I didn’t say that. I roadblocked my emotions enough (good job, past Jacqueline) to say something that I hope was logical, reasonable, and eye-opening. It went something like this:
1. We’re pulling our hair out trying to understand you. Please try to understand us.
You just voted for a candidate who ran on the platform of building a wall, who doesn’t seem to respect women, and who gets mean on Twitter. While we wrap our heads around how these things aren’t automatic disqualifiers, listening to hopeful arguments about more jobs and lowers taxes, please, please, please listen to our side, too. Try to understand where we’re coming from.
Women are scared. Mike Pence, Trump’s VP and supposedly the one who will run the “day to day” happenings in the Oval, is incredibly anti-women. He defunded Planned Parenthood in the state of Indiana. He desperately wants to overturn Roe v. Wade. He voted to redefine what rape is. He wanted abortion so outlawed that it wouldn’t even be legal when the baby is disabled (two women were imprisoned in Indiana for “feticide,” receiving a harsher sentence than most rapists). He wanted funerals for miscarried or aborted fetuses. He is incredibly pro-life and yet voted to defund the (Indiana) State Children’s Health Insurance Program (because apparently valuing a child’s life ends at birth). And he voted against equal pay for women. Twice.
The LGBTQ community is scared. Still addressing Pence and Pence alone, we have the fact that he signed a bill (again, in Indiana) to allow businesses, based on their religious beliefs, to refuse service to anyone. He shut down Indiana’s only HIV testing center (an outbreak ensued). He’s on record saying that marriage equality will lead to “societal collapse.” The icing on the cake? He advocated for tax dollars to be used for “conversion therapy.” (If you’re not horrified by the idea of ice pick lobotomies, castration, electrocution, or even just prayer group pressure to “get the gay out of someone,” you should at least be horrified by the idea that you’d have to pay for it.)
The non-white community is scared. Again, just addressing Pence here: He voted in favor of a bill that made it legal to detain immigrants seeking hospital treatment. He co-sponsored a bill that would refuse citizenship to the children of immigrants who are born in the US. He tried to ban all Syrian refugees (even small children) from entering the state of Indiana. He’s also kept Indiana’s tough voter suppression laws intact and funneled education away from public schools and into (white) charter schools.
And that’s just Pence! Just one person on Trump’s mostly white, mostly male, mostly rich-as-all-hell team. But when it comes to the man in charge — Trump’s employee forms got marked “C” for “colored,” he settled in a case where he was accused of racial housing discrimination, he admits to not paying taxes like you or me, he’s had dozens of sexual assault claims against him, and, well, you know the rest. This is why we’re outraged, and what we’re feeling is a perfectly viable reaction to the current circumstances set out above. Hear us out — if your emotions are viable, so are ours.
2. Be vocal about what you don’t agree with.
Your kind are the quiet ones. Know that all of what your liberal friends are seeing is white men saying their privilege doesn’t exist (happened to me the other day), notes going around calling our gay/black/Muslim/insert-minority-here friends every slur in the book (in Trump’s name), and, as of last week, 700+ instances of verbal and physical harassment have occurred post-election, most claiming in some form or another, “This is Trump country now!” This is why we feel like Trump voters are generally racist/sexist/homophobic/bigoted. The louder, angrier conservatives have given us every reason to do so.
To worsen the issue, it doesn’t seem like sane Republicans are speaking up — or at the very least they’re not speaking up loud enough for us to hear them over the cries of “YOU’RE NOT WELCOME HERE ANYMORE.” We need you in all your non-bigoted glory to say something. Anything. Non-bigoted Trump supporters have a very important job to do, and it starts now. Here’s a few ideas on what to speak up about:
- Stephen Bannon has been appointed Trump’s chief strategist. He’s largely viewed as a racist and an anti-Semite. He was head of Breitbart News, a leading alt-right platform that’s known for being racist, homophobic, and misogynist. He once called liberal women “a bunch of dykes.” He’s a media man, not a politician. The “alt-right” is also collectively referred to as “white nationalists” or “neo-nazis.”
- Jeff Sessions, Alabama senator and Trump’s pick for Attorney General, is also known for his “character.” He lost a nomination to be a federal judge in the 80s because he was too racist. In the 80s. He’s strictly anti-immigration and has commented on the government’s “shameful refusal to defend a federal ban on gay marriage.” He also once remarked that the KKK was okay until he learned they smoked pot. This could be a poor joke, but he’s vocally against marijuana use, too.
- It’s clear Trump has no intention of “draining the swamp” and therefore no intention of keeping his political promises. Betsy DeVos is his pick to head the Department of Education — she’s also a billionaire donor and a conservative activist whose focus is affluent charter schools over public schools. He’s also eyeing Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani for Secretary of State — certainly names you’ve never heard of before.
This is just the beginning. But let’s move on.
3. Stay educated, informed, and blindly accept nothing.
It’s in every Trump voter’s best interest to make sure what’s happening is what they wanted and what they voted for. The more you know, the more you can make informed decisions and inform others — and the more you can comfort your grieving liberal friends, too.
Talking points on what’s looking good for your friends across the aisle? Well, Trump’s backed down on a lot of things. Building the wall was a “great campaign device.” Hillary’s not going to be prosecuted. Obamacare probably won’t be fully repealed, just modified. Climate change isn’t a hoax made in China. The gay marriage thing is “already settled.”
What’s looking, err, so-so? Well, his tax plan, depending on who you are. Make under $10,000? Higher taxes. Above $10k but under $37k? Lower taxes. $37k to $91k? The same. Make above that number? Lower taxes. Much lower if you’re the kind that flies around in your own fleet of 747s. This is obviously a vast simplification and doesn’t include things like the elimination of some personal exemptions and the head-of-household deduction (middle-class parents may likely see a tax increase because of the fine print). And what’s all this mean for the economy? The Tax Foundation (a right-leaning organization, for the record), says it’s likely to cost the country nearly $6 trillion in 10 years, so take that for what it’s worth. Then there’s his infrastructure plan, which could be exciting, but more and more is looking like tax cuts for investors, not plans to build bridges. Utility-industry and construction-sector investors are reaping the benefits, not projects — and definitely not workers. The end result? We’ll have to wait and see.
What’s not looking so great? Well, apart from the rampant racism and sexism and homophobia running amok above, one of the biggest losers seems to be the environment. Shale, oil, natural gas, and clean coal restrictions will likely be lifted. The Keystone Pipeline will move forward. The billions America puts into the U.N. to fight climate change will not be paid. America will likely back out of the Paris Agreement. Myron Ebell is overseeing the EPA transition, and he doesn’t believe in climate change and doesn’t hold any degrees or qualifications in climate science.
But don’t blindly listen to this article or anything else you read on the Internet. Do your own research (start by clicking on all these embedded links to make sure I’m not spewing you more liberal BS). Formulate your own opinions. Think critically about ideas — don’t write them off saying, “Oh, that sounds good!” not really knowing the details. Don’t think of yourself in two years; think of your grandchildren in fifty. Don’t be one of those every-four-year voters, turning a blind eye to the process once you blissfully cast your vote. Speaking of which…
4. Do NOT become apathetic. Hold your party accountable.
45% of Americans didn’t vote in 2016, essentially saying they “don’t really care” which direction this country goes in. If you voted and if you voted for Trump, you’re saying that you DO care about where this country goes. GREAT. Now is not the time to fall back asleep. Casting a ballot once every four years is only the first baby step.
Now that you’ve said where you want the country to go, it’s time to make sure it goes there. It’s time to make sure the party is dragging you, me, and everyone else to the Shangri-La you imagined when you cast that ballot. Hold them to it. If racism and misogyny and homophobia aren’t political enough, keep an eye on corruption and self-directed policies. Don’t give a passing glance to bigotry and to Ivanka sitting in on meetings, foreign ambassadors staying at Trump hotels, Trump Christmas ornaments, and the likelihood of the government catering to Trump’s personal business interests, otherwise known as systemic corruption. These are not Democratic or Republican issues; these are things we all know are wrong.
5. Fight with us.
If you’re open-minded and compassionate to all walks of life, there’s likely tons of stuff the Trump administration is pro that you’re not — that means you have plenty of fuel to get fired up with and plenty of issues to take action on (like everything mentioned above).
The big stuff you can do? Get involved in local politics. Call your senators and state representatives regularly to express your unhappiness at the divisiveness in the party. Run for tiny, less-than-glamorous offices in your hometown. Start grassroots movements to take the Republican party back to center.
The small stuff? Just set an example. Sign the petitions floating around on Facebook, and share them. Open your home/business/life to the LGBTQ community, Muslims, people of color, women, the poor — don’t be the stereotype you’re virulently opposed to. Donate to the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, or some other organization you believe in that fights for human rights, no matter the kind of human. Step up.
And if you don’t want to, ask yourself why.
6. Finally, help us come together.
Trust me — all your liberal friends want to find common ground. Everyone wants to find common ground. Sit down with them and have a heart to heart. Engage in intellectual discourse. Hug each other. Walk in the other person’s shoes. Buy each other coffee.
If you don’t want the Republican party to look like this, for America to look like this, let us know. We can help you change it. You can help us not feel so afraid. Let’s help each other make the country purple — not a deep, blood red or crystal, navy blue. Be the compassion you seek. Sure, it takes energy. It takes persistence. It takes skepticism. It takes intellect. …But right now, there is nothing more pivotal, more crucial, more important, or more worth it.