In the wake of President-Elect Trump’s victory, students have vehemently vocalized their fear, asserting that he is “not our president.” In doing so, they disavow the same American political system that they had participated in, and applauded, up until Trump won Ohio. But this presidential election isn’t a step backward; it’s a look in the mirror. It puts on display the divisive nature of the identity politics that have come to dominate discourse on campus and in Washington. We have strayed far from the days of “ask not what your country can do for you,” wandering into a political climate in which special interest groups ask, “how can my country make me more comfortable?”
Our nation’s long history of inequality has left lasting scars upon the current face of the country. Despite those continued injustices, the rural working class reminded the nation of their own economic suffering and social discontent on Election Day. Often, the metropolitan liberal elite dismisses such woes as invalid because the sufferers are white, but some Americans’ choice of a bellicose and decidedly less-than-perfect leader reflects their exhaustion with the current economic, social, and political conditions. When liberals condemn those citizens as racist and misogynistic because of their skin color, level of education, or party affiliation, it doesn’t engender much love for the Democratic Party. Rather, such wholescale rejection of the concerns of more than 60 million people explains the election of Donald Trump.
This election has highlighted issues of justice, privilege, and morality that underpin our politics as a people. Vitriolic discourse has polarized the campus more than ever, and the longer one party remains unchallenged as the only “moral, educated, humane” choice, the more firmly students dig their Bean Boots into the ground.
It’s easy to condemn half the country outright, and much more difficult to accept that these people exist with valid concerns. We must consider them as holistic individuals with their own worries, families, and dogs. Many of them looked on with dismay and disgust as Donald Trump scoffed at John McCain’s war heroics and bragged about violating women for sport. That said, many Trump voters care more about the prospect of change than they do their candidate’s clear deficiencies. Those shortcomings do not define each of his supporters. After we are stripped of labels and condemnations, we still must wake up, hope the breakfast line at Goodrich is short, and go about our days. Living in this heterogeneous community means appreciating diversity–that includes diversity of thought.
Being concerned for the future of the country is completely valid, as is criticism of the President-Elect and his policies. However, marching down Spring Street, attacking half the nation as a cabal of white supremacists exemplifies the histrionic hysteria that alienated those 60 million Trump voters in the first place. There’s no denying that heinous ideology is alive in America–racist and misogynistic leaders and voters do exist–but almost all Americans who lean right do so because of beliefs in personal strength, liberty, and faith. These are not deplorable values; they’re ideals I believe most of us share.
Many at Williams are compelled by a sense of moral obligation to combat injustice where it exists, to separate the good from the bad. That tendency can cause members of the community to adopt a sense of airtight moral superiority—claiming anyone who does not conform to a loudly popularized set of values is either evil or an enabler of evil. Over the last few weeks, campus discourse has become one-sided enough to make me question my humanity. Am I evil for believing in small government? Am I heartless to support national borders? It can be difficult to exist in this supposedly open-minded community in which minds seem to be truly open only to the left and far-left. Liberal students have every right to express their opinions, but others should not leave those voices alone in the Williams echo chamber as the sole truth. I write to remind students, often those silent, keep-your-head-down moderates, that it’s not wrong to question the “facts” on protesters’ picket signs and posters. We must challenge the new normal at Williams–the ridiculous conception that whoever yells the loudest is the most educated, the most just, and the most valid in their concerns.
We can fight injustice and oppression from all sides, not just the left. Those Republicans, moderates, and independents who proved their existence across the nation on Election Day exist here at the College, albeit in smaller and quieter numbers. I recognize that this school will continue to be a liberal place, but the campus is long overdue for a reminder that the student body is not intellectually monolithic.