By Alexandra Brady || Contributing Writer
Watching the presidential election results pour in the night of November 8 and early into the morning of November 9, all I could think of was how? This morning, I came across an article that really made me wonder why? (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/11/09/hillary-clinton-failed-to-win-over-black-hispanic-and-female-vot/). Then, after seeing the intense reactions so many people on the Franklin & Marshall campus, from students and even professors and members of the faculty, it really made me think.
In my opinion, this presidential race was one of the closest races we have ever had for the candidacy and regardless of who would have won, there would have been a major upset for one half of the country. Regardless of the results of the election, both parties had flaws. Both had great goals and both had some not so great goals. Both believed in great things and both believed in some questionable things. It all depends on how you look at it and how you look into it. That being said, the results of this election bring about a great opportunity for Americans to exercise the rights we are entitled to by being democratic citizens. Regardless of who is currently president, who will be the president in the future, or even who has been the president in the past, it is up to us to make changes and bring progress. It is up to every citizen of the United States to fight for what they believe in.
I think Gregory Mankiw, a Professor of Economics at Harvard University, put it really well in the documentary, Before the Flood: “If we want to change the President’s view […], you have to change the public’s view […] Politicians, whether we call them our elected leaders, are really our elected followers. They do what the people want them to do. We need to preach to the American people. Once the people are convinced, the politicians will fall in line very quickly.”
It is the president’s job, the president’s duty, to take action and support the ideas that the majority of the population supports. Not only is it his or her job to listen, but it is ours as well. We need to listen to each other. We need to discuss, not just defend.
While watching Election Night on NBC last night, Glenn Beck pointed out how he is questioning himself and how others should do the same. He brought up how the media and the news outlets have not been successful in doing their job during the election, which is to stand neutral and convey the policies each candidate stands for. Instead, what was conveyed was more about the person and not the policy. It became an outlet of attack, disapproval, and hatred. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/glenn-beck-we-dont-listen_us_5822bf78e4b0d9ce6fbfedb8; http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/09/arts/television/after-this-election-can-the-media-recover.html; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnhDfWieEXk) I believe the reason why the majority of the nation has been left in a state of shock, disbelief, and confusion today is because we didn’t listen to each other. We only defended ourselves by finding fault in others.
Throughout this election, an environment of hostility and hatred was created, so much so that instead of discussing our beliefs and stances with others, many voters resorted to keeping to themselves. Let’s face it, it’s much easier to just “smile and nod” than to be attacked to the point of defeat. And let’s be honest, we haven’t truly created a “safe space” for peers and ourselves, for everyone, to express themselves. We have created many safe spaces for those who support Senator Clinton and the way in which she planned on accomplishing certain goals. However, I don’t think it is valid to say that we have created a safe space for Trump supporters or more generally, Republicans on campus. This election is special in that just because someone is affiliated with a particular party, doesn’t mean they actually support the candidate representing that party. From the beginning it has been said how people are going to vote. Last night, news sources continued with the theory that many of the votes for Trump, if not the majority of the votes for Trump, came from those who didn’t necessarily support him, but greatly disapproved of Senator Clinton. In addition, it appeared that many who voted for Trump, were not voting for him, but rather were voting for the Republican Party.
The same can be true for those who voted in favor of Senator Clinton. It’s not that they were voting for her, but were voting against him or voting for the Democratic Party in general. Therefore, millions of us have been stuck in between a rock and a hard place. That being said, if you or someone else is offering up a “safe space,” or a judgment free zone to discuss politics (which is much easier to say than to enforce), it’s essential that total inclusivity is actively implemented. It should be space where Clinton supporters, Trump supporters, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and those just dazed-and-confused are able to speak their minds and be heard, where conversations and discussions can really take place.
Regardless of who the 45th president of the United States of America is, life will continue on. As Barack Obama stated yesterday, “no matter what happens, the sun will rise in the morning and America will still be the greatest nation on earth” (https://twitter.com/BuzzFeedNews/status/796148721075376128 ). We must remember that regardless of who is president, Americans will always and have always held the right and responsibility to fight for what they believe in in a civilized, productive, and non-violent manner. If you believe strongly in something, now is the time (more than ever) to vocalize it to your communities and to the government. However, we must do so while treating each other with respect and kindness.
Right now, our country is a divided nation. Instead of focusing on personalities, we need to start focusing on policies. We need to push for the policies that will make our nation stronger and more united. Most importantly, we need to make sure these policies and ideologies are carried out and portrayed in the most effective, efficient, and civilized way possible. Everyone has a right to his or her own opinion and has a right to express it without feeling attacked. It is because they feel unsafe and cornered that people don’t share their opinions. However, the only way we can grow and learn is by hearing others and giving them a chance to say why they believe what they believe.
We need to listen to everyone’s stories. We often get caught up in the media because that is the easiest and most readily available way for the majority of us to stay tuned into what is happening in our country. As a liberal arts student, I have been told over and over again to always question, to never just accept something because everyone else does. We tend to just assume everything being said is true, but if we truly have our best interest in mind, we need to do our research. Politics also requires doing our homework. This research and self-discovery of facts is what allows us to form our own educated opinions and viewpoints. These types of opinions and the appropriate actions that follow are those that actually facilitate change that can ultimately better our country and ourselves. So, I challenge you to do this. I challenge you to listen to others, to educate yourselves based on facts, not fiction. An A+ essay would never rely on one source to support an argument and our beliefs shouldn’t be one-sourced and narrow either.
It is not right to assume someone is uneducated, racist, sexist, homophobic, or anti-Islamic just because they are a Republican or a Trump supporter. Nor is it right to assume that someone is an absent-minded, ignorant, untrustworthy, anti-American, socialist, liar just because they are Democrat or a Clinton supporter. In doing this, you are contributing equally to the perpetuation of stereotypes. We cannot stoop to that level any longer. Everyone has families and friends to care for and protect. Once we listen and understand one another, we can take action and facilitate change on a united front.For those who are upset, you are allowed to be and I understand why you are. But what you should not feel is defeat. We were not built on defeat. Our country does not accept defeat. We are a nation built on trust. We need to continue to hold this trust in ourselves and each other. It is our responsibility to not only hold ourselves to the highest standards, but also hold each other and the nation as a whole to the highest standards. It is our job to hold each other accountable, especially in times of such distress.
We must not forget that America is the land of the free and home of brave. We have always come out on top and we will continue to do so. We must continue to be the productive nation that we strive to be, one that others respect and turn to in times of need. This is not the time to stop fighting for what America needs. The fight has only just begun.
Senior Alexandra Brady is a contributing writer. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.