We thought we as a society had advanced beyond the beliefs and attitudes espoused by Trump and his followers — we thought that we were better. We were wrong because there is no universal we, and there probably is not even a good way to know what’s better. Elections are not about policies or facts. They have always been about values. Values and morals evolve unevenly across populations and time. With more rapid economic or moral upheaval comes a larger gap between those leading the charge — progressives — and those valuing stability and what once was — conservatives. Stretch the rubber band far enough, quickly enough, and it snaps.
Trump wouldn’t be my first choice for a president, but he’s been able to accomplish something that no one else seemed to be: making a large faction of our society — the rural, Evangelical, and blue collar — feel heard by acknowledging that their plight is real and it matters. Losing something is subjectively much more painful than an equivalent gain (this can be witnessed through loss aversion). Unfortunately, in addition to raising the status of, and granting rights to, those that were previously downtrodden by the white male majority, we have simultaneously rubbed it in the faces of rural white men, who enjoy Jesus and NASCAR, that their world is backward and they’re stupid. It’s no coincidence that everyone feels OK using them as the butt of jokes (which still pass for being politically correct).
We are lucky to live in a country that celebrates diversity and freedom. Not everyone will share each other’s values, and that’s fine as long as we can continue to find ways to compromise. The first step of compromise is acknowledging your adversary’s perspective and values. Cries of outrage, demands for secession and threats of individual exit (renunciation of citizenship) will not help bridge the rift that has formed between large factions of our society. Congratulations to those that participated in the democratic process. The system has done its job and selected a candidate which is probably a good reflection of the makeup of our current society. The way forward is only through compromise and communication, specifically with those people that you find alien and unrelatable. The next four years will be a good opportunity to practice our ability to appreciate those with different systems of values — perhaps we can learn something from them and similarly they can learn something from us. Together the country can come out stronger than before.
Also published on Medium.