The days following Trump’s election have seen KKK rallies in California and safe spaces with coloring books and Play-Doh at the University of Michigan. Scores of articles from both sides of the political spectrum have condemned demonstrations by Clinton’s outraged supporters and spikes in hate speech from triumphant Trumpkins.
If my students were having this much trouble getting along, I’d tell them to act their age and then assign both sides some homework.
I’ll start with Hillary’s supporters, but don’t you Trumpkins start thinking you’re off the hook. I’ll have some assignments for you in my next piece.
Don’t sulk. As I said in my last piece, some Clinton supporters—especially Muslims and Mexican immigrants—have good reasons to be distressed over Trump’s victory, but if you need to cry or color, do it in your dorm room and then come out swinging. The recent infantile display of public moping at the University of Michigan was nothing more than a cry for attention.
Take a day or two if you have to, but you can’t spend the next four years huddled in a corner fondling a ball of Play-Doh and murmuring over and over “I just don’t understand.” You need to reengage with our democratic process, figure out why your candidate lost, reshape your message, and then fight like hell in 2018.
Don’t call people names. How, you might ask, could Trump have won after Trevor Noah, John Oliver, and Samantha Bee DESTROYED him and his supporters in one punchy viral video after another? Your answer is right there on the election map. Trump won because he overperformed in rural and suburban counties and Hillary’s advantage in the cities just wasn’t enough to compensate. Maybe the people who live in those areas got tired of being belittled as a bunch of racist, sexist, homophobic, backward, Bible-banging deplorables.
If you’re one of the many insisting that Trump is #NotMyPresident, maybe that’s because you live in a fantasy version of America that bears little resemblance to the actual nation. Sure, you probably thought, there are some walking parodies supporting Trump. You pointed and laughed at them during Jordan Klepper’s segments on “The Daily Show.” You started to sweat as you realized there were enough of them to win the primaries, but you were still sure there weren’t enough of them to elect a president.
The reason you didn’t recognize your country on Nov. 9 is because the swath of the population that you’d relegated to the ash heap of history was larger than you thought, and they decided they weren’t comfortable down there anymore. So they got up, dusted themselves off, and headed to the polls to get your attention the only way they knew how.
Focus on the issues. When President Jed Bartlet (of TV’s “The West Wing”) was preparing to debate Republican challenger Governor Robert Ritchie, an advisor urged him to “make it about qualified, and not.” Later, Bartlet took the stage and taunted Ritchie, pushing him to elaborate on his simple, sound-bite answers. Ritchie fumbled through his response and, after the debate, whispered in Bartlet’s ear that he knew he was beaten.
Your candidate could have benefitted from making the election about qualified and not qualified.
On the campaign trail, Trump spoke so vaguely and flip-flopped so much on every conceivable issue that I can’t bring myself to understand why a policy wonk like Hillary didn’t push him harder on it. Instead, she seemed to spend most of her energy trying to prove he was a sexist pig or an Islamophobe or a greedy robber baron. If she’d gone after him the way Marco Rubio did in one of the later primary debates, demanding that he articulate his health care plan in detail and refusing to let up as he sputtered helplessly, perhaps things would have gone differently.
Character certainly matters in a presidential race, but Secretary Clinton wasn’t exactly a lamb without blemish herself. I’ve heard plenty of people say that the two were equally corrupt, but nobody ever said that they were equally knowledgeable.
Maybe if you’d allow conservative speakers on campus and stop entombing yourselves in safe spaces, you wouldn’t be so shocked to realize that some people reject your ideas. Yes, some of Trump’s supporters are hateful, stupid, misogynistic white supremacists who aren’t worth arguing with, but you can’t spend the next four years viewing 60 million people as utterly irredeemable. Shaming them and shouting them down didn’t work. You’ll have to convince them.