Hello there. I didn’t block you on Facebook.
I’ve been watching what you’ve been up to, watching as your feelings progressed in this election cycle.
I’ve watched you support your favored Republican and then, often begrudgingly, switch your choice around as the race narrowed and our country’s divide widened. Many of you voted for Donald Trump. Many of you cast that vote half-willingly and posted about it afterwards, as if you owed the world an explanation…or else, defiantly, since you knew your liberal friends would look at you with paranoid eyes.
“I voted for Donald Trump. He doesn’t align with my views perfectly, but he matches them in most ways.”
“I voted for Donald Trump, but I’m not a racist.”
“I voted for Donald Trump, but I’m not stupid and I’m not a bigot.”
I’ve seen more than a few posts like that today. And you know what?
I believe you.
And you know what else?
I owe you guys an apology. I think many liberals do.
I have to admit, I’ve known you were voting for Trump for awhile. I’ve watched you on my newsfeed, and from time to time, I’ve shot you some serious Internet side eye.
I never really went out of my way to engage with you, though. I figured –pretentious sniff—that it was your right, of course, to vote however you want. I mean, it’s not like I was stopping you.
I don’t like Donald Trump. I don’t trust him, I don’t condone him, I don’t approve of him one bit. I don’t like the racism, fearmongering, scapegoating, and xenophobia that I believe the Trump campaign represents.
However, when I look at my friends who voted Trump, I by and large don’t see any of those qualities. I do see people whose beliefs, admittedly, lean more conservatively than my own, but these people are not Trump’s strongest supporters. Most are just making the best of a lackluster Republican ticket, as many Bernie supporters did by later endorsing Hillary.
“So why didn’t they vote Democrat, just this once?”
My goodness—and I say this as a card-carrying Democrat—who can blame them?
I believe in liberal ideals—acceptance, enfranchisement, diversity—which I believe my conservative peers would also champion, though we might describe them in different ways. I also believe in the liberal issues—LGBTQ+ rights, gun restrictions, pro-choice, etc.—which is where we draw far more differences.
But I have grown increasingly disappointed with the liberal way of engaging with our conservative peers: by treating them with, at best, condescension, and at worst, as a joke.
Many of the liberal issues are, really, not “issues” at all: they’re natural and long-needed extensions upon our basic human rights. I think this bandwagon, which at its heart encompasses the best compassion and inclusion we have to offer, is well worth jumping onto.
But people jump on at various points and for various reasons. And if someone is wary of that bandwagon, be it because of differing moral world views or personal experiences or cultures or educations, then I think it is both wrong to condescendingly refer to that person as someone who “just doesn’t get it” or, especially, to push them under the tracks and label them as an incorrigible bigot.
“Why didn’t you vote Democrat, just this once?”
Maybe because how in the world could you feel welcomed by a party whose members, by and large, view you as uneducated, out of touch, or bigoted because of your stances or belief systems? Hey, we probably won’t come out and tell you we think that because we’re tolerant and inclusive, but you know. Of course you know.
I know I was thinking it.
My friends who voted for Trump, I never asked you why. I made some assumptions; I shook my fist at my screens and sighed dramatically for The State of Our Civilization. But I never treated your opinions or values with the respect you deserved by the pure virtue of being human, of being my friend. Few, if any, of us did.
If more of us had, then maybe this election would have gone differently.
If you’d felt like the Democratic party had, if not aligned exactly with your opinions, at least respected your right to have them and valued your input on our larger discussions, then perhaps you would have switched your vote.
After all, from what I’m hearing from you, most of you didn’t vote for Trump because he aligned perfectly with your values, either. But at least you felt accepted and heard on that side of the party line.
Because liberals did not give you the respect you deserved, we have failed you.
And I’m sorry, too, that people are protesting Trump’s victory. Because those people aren’t really protesting Trump; they’re protesting the people who elected him. Which is you. Which is us. Our differences have still brought us to this same point, and it’s a painful juncture. Not many people feel great about this outcome, regardless of if their candidate won.
This is not the time to protest. It’s the time to apologize, to understand that we have failed to understand each other, and that now, more than ever, is the time to finally start extending forgiveness and respect across that divide.
We have to work with what we’ve got. The good news is, that’s each other.