By Sarah Nicell || Contributing Writer
Because the United States is a representative democracy, the people we elect to serve as officials embody American ideals. Who we choose to run our government impacts every fabric of our lives,—including what we read through the press, watch on television, see in the streets, and feel in our bones—and it ultimately is our collective decision.
Naturally, 2016 made everyone regardless of their political stance feel something extreme. Whether it was disgust, shock, amusement, devastation, or delightful triumph, Trump’s securing of the presidential seat was a landmark event. It indicated something stirring in the belly of America that has been brewing for a long time. On November 8th, it bubbled to the top.
Donald Trump’s campaign was unlike any other and particularly stark in the wake of President Obama’s legacy. As a Democrat turned Republican, his political stance was hardly aged but came with all of the divisiveness of a twenty-foot wall (and by that I mean an actual wall). By utilizing blunt, offensive language to express his ideas, Trump succeeded in mastering a concept that, for some reason, appealed to many Americans. Lacking eloquence, modesty, and a filter or any political or military background, he won a race typically defined by experience and grace. Why did America elect a man, never chosen for anything but a cameo in Home Alone 2 and Little Rascals, to lead a country of 330 million?
The answer is exhaustion. Some people, I suppose, were tired of politics, tired of concealing their archaic views in an ethically evolving society, tired of continuing to struggle with the systems of this country. As glass ceilings broke, many of those who voted for Trump seemed to believe that meant their ceilings were being rebuilt; new opportunities for the underprivileged meant fewer opportunities for them. And the best way to fix the problem would be to recreate a time in America when white people were on top.
Of course, not all of Trump’s supporters share this mindset. Some votes are based on a commitment to the Republican party, to “conservative” values, to patriotism, to red, to white, to blue. To not support the leader of our country is treason to those who hold our flag and our nation’s reputation above all else. It is the kind of energy that fuels white pickup trucks on the Fourth of July, American flag swim trunks at pool parties, and, for many, protest of the recommended use of masks during a global pandemic.
The “silent majority” is not so silent it seems, particularly to international powers, who, according to Pew Research Center in 2018, had less than favorable views of the U.S. following Trump’s election: “Of the 25 countries surveyed, a median of 70% lack confidence in Trump to do the right thing regarding world affairs” (Bialik).
Apparently, despite our superiority complex, no one else seems to find our nation superior.
The United States has always had an issue with presenting itself as better than it is. The gap between the quality of life for its wealthiest citizens and its poorest is so deep that Jeff Bezos could pay off everyone attending F&M’s student debt (I wish) and have billions and billions left to spare. Racial profiling leaves “freedom and justice for all” a questionable concept, and the blatant discrimination toward our transgender citizens leaves considerable work for those who preach our first amendment rights.
So what does Trump mean for America? What does the fact that the people chose him to lead indicate about us, as a society?
I think it indicates selfishness. It indicates an absence of empathy, a lack of understanding of others, and too firm a grip on our own reality. Diversity, something that is supposedly cherished on this campus, cannot be celebrated when we refuse to look beyond America for our conscience.
While others move forward, Trump is a symbol that the United States is stuck in its ways. We glamourize the birth of our country to the point that moral concepts that transcend this long-held celebration are considered anti-American. Somehow, Trump’s supporters plan to revitalize our past in search of what made our country great, bringing back an old way of thought. However, we must acknowledge that to desire growth for America is to love it for what is; first is not always what is best. After all, the Constitution wasn’t our first attempt, and it is only natural that more tries to create a suitable world for all.
Trump is simply a representation of an overt American ideology that is deeply rooted in narcissism disguised as patriotism. Though we all bleed red, the president’s message for us is to prioritize white… and now—in the wake of a national outcry over racial injustice—blue.
Despite what Trump’s win in 2016 meant for America, 2020 means so much more. This election has the potential to continue this selfish version of our nation or to transform it into something entirely new. We can redefine society in a matter of days or condemn it to four more years of the same old game.
It is our decision come November.
Sarah Nicell is a Contributing Writer. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org