While the media chatter has died since Election Day, Americans are still processing the implications of a Donald Trump presidency. Leading up to November 8, both Republicans and Democrats seemed confident in a Clinton victory. Pre-election polls backed up this confidence with news outlets giving Hillary Clinton a 70% chance of winning just a day prior to the election.
This election cycle upset many Americans who felt betrayed by Clinton’s email scandal, the establishment wings of both parties, and Donald Trump’s statements regarding groups like women and racial minorities. The media proved to be a driving force in provoking the political theater of the Trump campaign. As much as Trump’s offensive comments repulsed American liberals and moderate conservatives, his tactics ignited a voting block not typically seen at the polls. Prior to the primaries, most political analysts agreed that both parties’ brands needed work. Republicans, for example, needed to reach out to the country’s growing minority populations. However, the election only confirmed these sentiments and taught both parties the importance of tailoring their message to the entire country.
Despite Trump’s victory, millennials overwhelmingly voted for Hillary Clinton, and in true millennial fashion, they took to social media to express their feelings and concerns about the next four years. The hashtag #Notmypresident is still trending, with nearly 100,000 views to date, expressing not only the disdain for Donald Trump but also a refusal to accept his legitimacy. Facebook statuses called for Trump voters to explain their votes to women, minority, Muslim, and LBGTQ peers. Yet, while many are concerned about the implications of a Trump presidency, blame is not a constructive response.
Part of the reason why this election was so shocking for so many Americans, especially those here at Georgetown, was that it was so deeply divided. Congress is the most polarized it has ever been in American history, and the American people are just as deeply divided. Social media, news outlets, local communities and peer groups have all contributed to large echo chambers within our political sphere. As Clinton supporters denounced Trump’s offensive statements, the only ones listening were those already sympathetic to that cause. Facebook has even enabled its users by removing all Trump-supporting friends from newsfeeds. This is not a remedy to the political mess of 2016 but rather a magnification of its cause.
This election has taught us the importance of listening and the tragic consequences that arise when we do not. It may not be clear what the next steps look like for our country to move forward—whether it means healing moral wounds or celebrating political change—but those steps cannot occur without a commitment to listening to others.
There were two completely different sides to this election, marked most starkly by an urban-rural divide. If anything, this election has taught us the importance of beginning to mend the divides in today’s America.
Observing this problem with American politics, many took to Facebook and Twitter to urge continued political engagement, so that “we” can take back Congress in the midterms and the White House in 2020. Unfortunately, despite the good intention of this message, “us” taking back seats in government is intrinsically tied to taking it back from “them.” For liberals, such posts only reinforce an antagonistic view towards conservatives. At the same time, conservatives become less likely to read or listen to liberal ideas.
This election has taught us that we need to listen to everyone regardless of the size of their microphone, even if that means listening to something we do not want to. We need to listen to the oppressed, the women, minorities, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and every single member of the community in which the current political system has told are lesser and systematically denied a chance to access the American Dream. We need to listen to the frustration within both of the two major parties: resentment of corruption, establishment, and bigotry. We need to listen the concerns that those with opposing views have to find solutions that work for everyone. We need to listen and not assume, and most importantly we have to move on.
While the Electoral College does not vote until December, we need to start coming to terms with the fact that Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States. We need to begin to wrap our minds around the implications of that: the perpetuation of a system that time and again rewards white males, the abundance of closed off and isolated echo chambers, and the desperate cries for change. This is not the change our country needed, but it is the change our country has. This election has taught us the importance of listening and the tragic consequences that arise when we do not. It may not be clear what the next steps look like for our country to move forward—whether it means healing moral wounds or celebrating political change—but those steps cannot occur without a commitment to listening to others.
Hillary Clinton and her base have argued that we are stronger together, and that message ought to transcend political affiliation.