Dear Millennials, Re: A Trump Presidency

@Shay_na / www.twenty20.com
@Shay_na / www.twenty20.com

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”          – Martin Luther King Jr.

Alright America, we’ve had a few days to weep and to feel sorry for ourselves. Which is valid. You’re allowed to go into panic mode for a little bit. Don’t let anyone trick you into thinking you’re not allowed to feel upset. In many cases, this was the first election we could vote in. I know many of you worked so hard for this campaign. And we lost. My eyes are sore and red from the consistent crying. My mind is numb from the sheer severity of this outcome. And my body feels like a zombie. But now it’s time to turn that utter despair into insipid flames. It’s time to get angry. It’s time to take every resource we have and devote it to good causes. It’s time to turn the vigil into a protest. This was a tough election and it shouldn’t have been. But I’m going to tell you why it was:

1. There was an entire voice that no one else heard but Donald Trump

There was an entire voice that had consistently been written off as not important and invalid. But that voice is legitimate, whether you like it or not, whether you agree with it or not. That’s what lost this election. Misunderstanding lost this election. Do Trump supporters have higher tendencies of racist, sexist, homophobic, and bigoted behavior? Yes, absolutely. But we never took the extra step to understand them.

There are a lot of blue collar rust belt people (aka white males) that feel disadvantaged (and as crazy as that sounds to us, it is a very real thing for them).  To them, with increased diversity, their capital I Identity is being stripped away. Their claim to America isn’t appreciated. So who do they blame? Who is taking away this power? Minority groups. Combine this with the smaller family trend we’re experiencing in America and these people no longer have a legacy to rely on. Is it right? No. Should we call it out? Yes. But until we actually understand it; until we actually sit down and recognize that not everyone holds the same truths as us, nothing will get done. They are not all evil people looking to destroy the world. They are uninformed and acting on emotional connections to symbolic appeals. Blaming them for the destruction of America (which I admit at 7am this morning I was at fault for) will not accomplish anything—because that is not how they view themselves.

Everyone played a part in this misconception. The media is so detached with these average voters (that usually don’t vote and are usually not a cohort to worry about). The media has unintentionally been misreporting on the status of the American electorate, simply because we don’t know the American electorate. This group of voters became characterized as something they are not. The media reported stories on the abnormal Trump voter, which to us became the normal Trump voter and skewed our perception. The question now becomes how do you engage them in the process? How do you include and incorporate them into your campaign vision? One thing this campaign has made clear is that you don’t write them off as ignorant racists.

My friend and journalist, Dale Shoemaker of the Pitt News said it best, “I, as a member of the media, failed this year. We failed to take a dangerous man seriously until it was too late. And once we did take him seriously, we did so in ways that were ineffective and missed the point. When you look at the final voter turnout figures, just over a quarter of our country elected Trump. And we as journalists didn’t tell their stories.

We made fun of them. We mocked them. We didn’t think they would ever vote for a racist or a sexist. We were wrong. 

But those people were hurting, are hurting. Why should they care about gay marriage or trans rights or #blacklivesmatter when they’ve got a health care bill that has skyrocketed in the past eight years that comes due every month and they can’t pay it? They look at their lives and see that they aren’t living how they thought they would be. Their job isn’t as good as they had expected. Their taxes are higher than they expected. The schools in their neighborhood aren’t as good as they had hoped. And we as journalists didn’t tell their stories. I didn’t tell their stories. These are people I grew up with, people I’m related to. And I ignored them.”

America is growing in its diversity; its wealth is being distributed. We’re changing. We’re changing so much so for the better. But when one group gains power, one group loses it. There are a lot of people in rural parts of the country that are struggling immensely and we’re just ignoring them. You know what the Clinton campaign did to appeal to this group? Nothing. I don’t advocate for including racism and sexism and other immensely hateful things into campaigns; but we’re not putting any resources into this group; we’re not trying to understand them. We’re not trying to help them in a way that also helps us. Objectively, how would you feel if your power was taken away? Some of you will say “I believe in the greater good. Of course I would give up my power if it meant a level playing field for everyone.” You are not the norm. And we’ve got to stop pretending you are.

2. Trump made simple promises that are nearly impossible to keep

People, in this election, wanted simpler answers than they were given. So, what did Trump do? He gave them simple answers. “There are going to be so many jobs, so many. It’ll be great. So many jobs.” He uses simple rhetoric to appeal to simple minds. For example, “Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division; have to get together. To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people.” This was taken from his acceptance speech last night. The first sentence is rather eloquent and unlike usual Trump rhetoric. The second sentence is the basic format we’ve been seeing this entire campaign. What is he doing here? He has just become the president-elect, that requires significant language. But remember his base is a simple mind.

Do I think campaigns should now incorporate faulty promises? Absolutely not. Trump is being irresponsible and reckless and its sickening. But I think he thinks he’s telling the truth. I really do believe Trump believes he can accomplish everything floating inside his head. But as a president you are supposed to do your research and you are supposed to get the facts right and you are supposed to lead.

Do I think campaigns should ignore oppressive happenstances because of differing viewpoints? Absolutely not. You need to call out racist appeals when they happen. You need to call out oppressive appeals when they occur. But you also need to understand why they’re happening and why they’re occurring. And as I’ve been trying to get across in this entire piece is that the answer is not simply: because they’re racist.

3. There was extremely low voter turnout

No matter what Twitter is telling you, third party votes did no decide this election. Not voting did. A common misconception is that if third party voters didn’t vote third party, Clinton would have won. Wrong. Each side of the campaign used the mantra “A vote for a third party is a vote for the other guy.” It was pretty much basically spilt. Suggesting, third party votes did not make or break this election.

Not only was there low turnout, there was also a lot of suppression. A key example: In Michigan, first time voters are banned from voting via absentee ballot. Who are the usual first time voter absentee ballot holders? Young college kids.

4. Women overwhelming (yet surprisingly?) voted for Trump

Some 53% of white women voted for Trump. Despite his unprecedented sexual assault action/rhetoric, women generally vote Republican. They always have and probably will for some time to come. That’s why I never understand why campaigns spend so much of their resources marketing to them. Men are usually and consistently the switching vote.

5. Apparently, much to my disbelief, micro-targeting doesn’t matter anymore

Clinton had unprecedented volunteers working in field offices for GOTV. Trump, on the other hand, couldn’t even list the right addresses for his field office for volunteers (if there were any) to find. This brings me back to the point of ignoring a certain cohort; that group apparently doesn’t volunteer, but they do vote.

Instead of this micro-targeting (which is supposed to make voters feel subconsciously important yet only creeps them out- seriously if you’re in the system I could probably tell you what cereal you ate for breakfast for the last six months), Trump has been handing out “Trump cards” to donators and supporters. They feel like they’re in a special club that’s just for them.

6. And neither do newspaper endorsements, star power, or political officials

Compare the endorsements. I don’t have a single answer for this one; other than the fact that these blue collar rust belt workers just don’t care.

Please do not misinterpret my words. I am not saying I agree with this viewpoint, I am merely suggesting it is something we can’t just ignore and hope it goes away. It is something we need to systematically study. It is something we need to put resources into. It is a divide we need to heal. And it has to come from both sides. But when we do this—when we’re analyzing, please, be careful. For it is often those who fight monsters that become them and sometimes when you look into an abyss, it looks back into you.

When you think about it, the civil war was 150 years ago. In the grand scheme of things that is a very insignificant amount of time for reconstruction and healing. Generations have been ingrained with thought processes that will take time to weed out. But we can do it. We can do it only if we never stop fighting. This is, in fact, our America. And Donald Trump is our president.  Our democratic system voted him in. And that’s reality. But we can change it. Millennials, we can change it. We didn’t win this one but our time is coming. So don’t you dare lose the will to fight.

I will receive a B.A. in Political Communication and later a M.P.S. in Political Management. I attend one of the top five schools for journalism in the country, School of Media and Public Affairs. I essentially study how to make rational political systems work; I study the theory and application of effective political language. Trump has directly thrown every rule I have learned out the window these last few months. Does that terrify me? Yes. But we can only manage to stay ahead if we are constantly analyzing, learning, and updating our political system. We’re are always changing. Don’t get stuck in rules that don’t apply anymore.

For those who are suggesting we wait to see what a Trump presidency looks like: Trump is going to appoint some dangerous people. A politician who doesn’t believe in climate change will lead the EPA transition team. Rudy Giuliani as attorney general. New Gingrich as secretary of state. Extremely conservative supreme court justices. Repealing Obamacare and defunding Planned Parenthood are very real possibilities. So now is not the time to wait. We are at a pivotal point in American politics, do not waste this. 

He won. But he is still the most unpopular person elected to office.

The values Hillary Clinton fought so hard for are good values. They are my values. I will never stop fighting for them. And I hope you will never stop fighting for them either. This is a hard loss and I am simply terrified for the future. I am terrified of a Supreme Court that will take away my rights. I am terrified of a ruling government that will make it okay to determine people’s worth over something as trivial as skin color or sexual orientation. I am terrified of the danger that might come. Which is why we have to fight. And fighter harder than ever. So when the world asks, “America, what did you just do?” Very humbly and very fiercely with such determination reply, “We lost. We let a racist, sexist, homophobic, unqualified candidate full of divisive hated become the leader of the free world. But we’re going to fix it.”

And then we fix it. TC mark

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