Donald Trump Election: Part I

I am a conservative. I am a Republican. I am mixed race. I am educated. I am not a Trump voter, nor a Trump supporter. If you talked to me or saw my social media in the wake of President Trump’s nomination, you would know that this is in fact a rather significant understatement. If you saw me engage in political battle with Trump voters in my own local caucus (proudly in the only state to nominate Rubio), you would probably wonder what I could possibly have to say in support of them or their candidate.

Quite a lot, it turns out. One year later, after The Unthinkable actually happened, the fact that I have to start every political conversation with some sort of semi-apologetic preamble such as the above to even be listened to (or perhaps not), has rubbed me the wrong way enough times to start thinking of ways to explain to people not just who I am as a non-Trump-supporting Republican, but to explain also those who support him, or supported him, or may support him in the future.

Because one thing I do have in relation to Trump supporters that many of his critics on both the right and left do not, is empathy. Empathy for them as fellow Americans who carefully weighed the decision of who to vote for in a presidential election and came to a different conclusion than I. Empathy for them as people with good intentions who simply have a different vision of the world than me, or a different vision of who the lesser of two evils was in one particular case. Or just plain old empathy for them as human beings.

Perhaps this has something to do with the people close to me who voted for Trump. The first person I know who supported President Trump, even before the Republican convention, was an Indian immigrant relative who is the embodiment of the American Dream: educated, successful, and self-made. Over dinner, he explained not only why Hillary Clinton was awful beyond words, but why Donald Trump had qualities he admired that made him think he would be well-suited for the position of president.

At the time I assumed he was just an anomaly, like every other step Donald Trump took towards first the nomination, then the presidency. But a few months later, I met another self-made immigrant who was also a Trump supporter. And not the “holding your nose while you push a button” Trump voter, but a genuine Trump supporter. Through him, I became aware of a whole network of successful, educated immigrants from all over the world who both supported and admired candidate Trump for his business success, his frame control, and yes, his sheer “winning,” and who understood or even heartily supported his stances and comments on immigration.

I think the stone that finally shattered my glass house of incomprehension and incredulity was thrown by my friend from Harvard Law School, originally from Mexico City, who told me the night of the election that he had texted all of his relatives in Florida and told them to vote for Trump. Like I had with every step of this process, I laughed it off like the hilarious joke it was, and the even better joke it was going to be in the morning.

And then the morning came.

And the joke was over.

And suddenly I had to actually figure out what had happened.

In the year since, there has been a lot of discussion of disenchanted white working class voters, about subsets of such voters who voted for both Obama and Trump, about opioids, systemic cultural depression and economic despair, about what the Republican and Democrat establishment got wrong and didn’t understand about rural or red (and sometimes blue) America. There has also been a substantial phenomenon of far too easily attributing it all to the common bromides of racism, ignorance, backlash against a black president, etc.

But I think we need to take a hard look as well at the number of educated, minority, and even immigrant voters who not only didn’t shy away from Trump, but supported him exuberantly, at least compared to the alternative. There may be something going on here besides a lingering sadness stemming from the death knell of Norman Rockwell America, because that alone does not explain Trump voters or the actuality of this presidency. And if we don’t figure out what it is, and don’t think and act with empathy to understand why, we could very well be having this same conversation three years from now, wondering how it happened twice.

2 thoughts on “Donald Trump Election: Part I

  1. Interesting. These immigrants you mention in the article are lawfully here, correct?

    If they lawfully obtained status to be in the U.S., I could understand why they would support a presidential candidate who would want to crack down on people being here illegally and so forth. It would be unfair to them to have to go through the entire immigration process when others can avoid it and remain in the U.S.-that makes complete sense.

    What is interesting about this article is that they the type of people who supported Trump are some of the very people he seems to offend culturally, which suggests there is more than meets the eye and this may be worth exploring, regardless.

    I cannot help but feel people need to make sense of what happened that led to the Trump Presidency. It’s like the aftershock has taken place and people need to understand why…why did people vote for him. They are not all idiots but everyday people. What was appealing about him?

    I think Pr. Trump has made one thing apparent-people were to lackadaisical about this country, issues, and current events. Ignorance is bliss until it is not. Finally, people are waking up and paying attention to issues who never even read the news before. Suddenly, people have an opinion. And surely next election will be different-we muse hope.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, they are immigrants who came here legally. It’s very counter-intuitive to the way we’re “supposed” to think these days, but if you think about it, it’s very logical and common sense: some of the people most angry about illegal immigration are legal immigrants. I heard a Mexican entrepreneur on NPR recently express concern about Syrian refugees coming here who get all of the benefits of being an American immediately, after he waited over ten years just to get started as a citizen. Just think of how that sits with him, all the financial benefits they receive instantly that he had to wait in line for.

      But there are also just diverse political opinions on this topic like any other among immigrants or any other group. Some immigrants are offended by Trump’s rhetoric because, well, he’s inarticulate and crass, but also because their political views lean towards identity politics in general. But it seems like that’s the only view we hear represented in the media, even though there are other immigrants whose political inclinations lean more towards the right, or capitalism, or towards admiring business success, whose social and political and economic views look towards individual success as their main goals rather than group solidarity or identity politics.

      And we don’t seem to hear much of these stories or of their perspective, to the point of almost being nonexistent. This was true before Trump, and if anything is even more true now. This is just one area among many that our media and intelligentsia ignores, gets wrong, or flat-out lies about that led to so much shock over his election. It seems to me they are doubling down on the same narratives that led to this shock, which makes me wonder what else they’re getting wrong, how much worse it might be now, and what’s next for our country regarding the next presidential election and other issues.

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