If you are an American, regardless of who you voted for, this presidential election was different. We either have a potential savior or the devil himself. Passions have been inflamed on both sides. People want to be heard, understood and respected. I’ve been trying to do some of that listening. I hope you will too. I will continue listening, but I also want to share some early observations that could be worth thinking about.
Two contradictions: who is evil and who won? Each side sees the other as evil, yet each person surely voted for the candidate they believed would make the country better. Mass evil versus individual goodness. Clinton’s side won the most popular votes. The electoral college was won by Trumps side, or by people wanting change. Both sides can choose between victimhood or validation.
Four ironies: accepting defeat, moral character, constitutionalism, and jobs. Before the election results, some people doubted whether Donald Trump would accept defeat. Now that he won, many of those who did not vote for him are protesting their loss. A fundamental obligation under democracy is being tested. Stereotypes are often unfair, so apologies for over-generalizing, but it seems like the average conservative, and certainly the evangelical conservative, historically has been more concerned with the moral content of our character than the liberal side. Yet, it is liberals who have been most vocal in their horror about the content of Donald Trump’s character. Normally, conservatives see themselves on the frontlines, defending freedom and protecting the constitution. Now, liberals are frightened. One more. Normally, liberals campaign on programs to create jobs and boost wages, but this time around, it was the rural and rust belt states who saw their best hope in Trump’s job promises.
Two difficult challenges, both require team-work: First and foremost, both sides need to keep their heads and be alert to the possibility that Trump and his team may be tempted into an authoritarian or destabilizing mode. If that happens, we will all need to unite to preserve our democracy. It won’t work if it’s every group for themselves. Second, the American nation faces some serious problems right now, jobs, immigration, race relations, and difficult challenges from China and Russia. We will fail if we are distracted by internal fighting and distrust. Each side, and each of us, has ideas and talent that could be part of the solution. We need to pull together. Here are a few ideas how to start:
Choose good over evil. Goodness can prevail if enough people choose to be respectful of everyone they deal with, including their ideologies and fears. Evil is what happens people are dehumanized and abused, when we choose to do that or when we passively let someone else do that.
Reject victimhood. You are, and will remain, empowered so long as this democracy is maintained and improved. Commit to protecting our democracy and work for what you believe in, try to persuade others to join with you, earn their votes.
Recognize this isn’t the only battle nor is it your only chance. The ideological battle ground in our democracy has room for other kinds of battles at the state and local level and community activism in general. In our democracy, there is always another chance because there are regular election cycles. The next national elections will be November 2018, covering the US senate and congress, state legislatures and governorships, and local governments. These are part of our democracy’s strengths. Use them.
Acknowledge there is fertile common ground: about moral character, regarding to liberty and constitutional rights, and about promoting more and better jobs (by any and all means).