In wake of Trump win, white liberals cannot remain silent

The 2016 presidential election is undoubt­edly the most chaotic political moment that many Vassar students have been forced to contend with as mostly new voters. For the majority of white, liberal students, the loss of an overqualified Democratic candidate to a GOP pseudo-populist whose campaign represents explicit white nationalism and gender oppres­sion comes as a total shock. Many, including us at The Miscellany News, were left incredulous at the unforeseen turnout for Donald Trump, wondering how polls and pundits got the out­come so wrong, and how so much of America has fallen prey to McCarthy-era fearmongering.

However, many of us who were shocked live and move in a bubble. Vassar is an anomaly, a concentrated drop of liberalism in historically conservative Dutchess County. For too many Americans, including almost half of Vassar stu­dents, the scope of our country’s bigotry is not a distant threat, nor is it something that ebbs and flows at the whims of popular media coverage. It is a daily experience. For marginalized groups— our Black, Latinx, Asian, queer, and trans* friends—the prejudices at the foundation of the Trump campaign affect their lives constantly. Even at Vassar, marginalized students face big­otry to which privileged students are too often blind. While there are many unaffected by sys­temic discrimination who recognize it, it is near­ly impossible to comprehend the magnitude of the problem from the position of a bystander.

Therefore, it is imperative to understand how so many were blindsided by the outcome of the election given the current sociopolitical climate. To do so, we must first reconceptualize our idea of conservative voters. For example, Trump gar­nered votes from not only perennial GOP vot­ers, but also lower middle class and blue collar workers who usually vote blue but feel neglect­ed by the establishment. He also managed to tap into minority votes, perhaps due to the same an­ti-establishment sentiments. This was most evi­dent in the Rust Belt, where poverty and failing industry secured him votes from white, unedu­cated males and portions of the Black and Latinx populations that voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012. In the crucial Rust Belt states of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, Trump won 47 of the counties that Obama won in 2012, and all but one that voted Republican four years ago remained red (Cleveland.com, “Donald Trump flipped Rust Belt states by boosting rural vote; Hillary Clinton couldn’t make up the differ­ence,” 11.11.2016). In spite of Trump’s misogyny, women—especially white women, who Trump won—still to voted for him in decent numbers. Research has shown that party loyalty typically overrides gender bias in elections, but it is no less illustrative of the Democratic Party’s failure to provide a more convincing option for its tra­ditional constituents than the GOP. The fact that Clinton was unable to convince many voters of color that she could do more for them than Trump speaks as much to her alienatingly elitist image as it does to Trump’s appeal.

The Democratic Party’s worst mistake was selecting a controversial candidate who didn’t inspire voters. Low voter turnout, the lowest in 20 years, must be partially attributed to the un­appealing candidate Democrats were presented with. Only 55 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots (CNN, “Voter turnout at 20-year low in 2016,” 11.12.2016). Further, the dismantling of the Voting Rights Act before this election disenfran­chised marginalized voters nationwide, while felony voting laws allowed the prison industrial complex to strip millions of returned communi­ty members of their voices. The Democratic Na­tional Committee ignored the concerns of the working class and chose an establishment can­didate, leaving some alienated voters no realis­tic alternative but Clinton’s outsider opponent.

This election also reflects the disturbing ten­dency of the DNC towards elitism, in part dis­played in the shock that many felt in seeing that women and people of color voted for Trump. We must change our perception of what the av­erage voter of each major party looks like, and to understand the reasons that voters who do not fit our imaginary mold chose the way they did. The DNC is not just a party for educated white people, the impression with which many are left based on Clinton’s platform. To regain the con­fidence of marginalized groups, the party needs to champion leaders who listen to their voices and provide workable solutions to the very real problems that so much of the population faces.

We must reconsider the idea that Trump’s America is something radically new. Undoubt­edly, his hateful rhetoric and chosen cabinet will make the situation worse, but many Vassar students—as privileged, white liberals—ignore the fact that Trump’s hateful America has long existed for those whom it will affect most. Peo­ple of color, the LGBTQIA+ community, the dis­abled, the working class and many others have suffered from American bigotry and intolerance long before the election brought it to national attention. Trump’s presidency will worsen this, but things will likely not turn dire for whites and the upper class. It is also crucial that we defend and support marginalized groups facing im­mense fear at how the new administration will affect their wellbeing. White students need to show up and stand up for marginalized commu­nities, both at Vassar and in their hometowns.

However, we as a predominately white ed­itorial board can only speak for those in our demographic. A good deal of self-reflection by liberals—especially white liberals, who make up a large part of Vassar as a whole—is crucial going forward. Despite discussions of the “other side” or the “silent majority,” many of us come from communities that supported Trump, and not necessarily in silence. Avoiding polemical subjects for our own comfort is frankly unac­ceptable. White complacency is in many ways responsible for Trump’s win, so we must have these tough conversations. Though seemingly small, they are essential to understanding his supporters’ positions with the hope of engaging and challenging these viewpoints.

Thanksgiving break is a great time to start. When white liberals avoid challenging harmful beliefs in their communities, we implicitly say that our own comfort comes before the safety of marginalized Americans. White students in par­ticular bear the burden of proving we are better than our voting demographic by fighting for change in our own communities and working to support those who will suffer from our silence.

The Miscellany News would like to ex­press solidarity with the people of color, the LGBTQIA+ community and the disabled who are threatened by a Trump administration, and would like to re-commit ourselves to supporting them on campus. We remind students that ads— for meetings, marches, fundraising—are free to the Vassar community, and we remain commit­ted to providing a space for diverse voices on our pages. We also invite those who feel we can do better to tell us how we can be more sup­portive, and we will do better. Understanding and challenging these positions is all the more crucial at a time when the lives of so many hang in the balance. Silence is not an option. The election has empowered and normalized hatred and violence, and further stifled the voiceless. This is not the time to sit idly by. Those with the least to fear have the most responsibility to rec­ognize their complicity in this election, to voice their opposition and to challenge others in their communities to do the same.

— The Staff Editorial expresses the opinion of at least 2/3 of The Miscellany News Editorial Board

4 Comments

  1. This op-ed piece swerves all over the road before crashing into an ignorant white-guilt ditch. First example:

    HRC quickly goes from “overqualified Democratic candidate” to “a controversial candidate who didn’t inspire voters…” Excellent point but then you start pointing fingers away from HRC and not towards the guilty parties, mainly DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz (DWS) and the DNC itself. That DWS and the DNC rigged the primary against Sanders was bad enough but then HRC hires/rewards DWS after leaked emails prove her complicity.

    “When white liberals avoid challenging harmful beliefs in their communities, we implicitly say that our own comfort comes before the safety of marginalized Americans.”

    What you really mean is that white SJWs must double-down on bullying the 99% of Americans who don’t receive “up to the second” notices about the terms and beliefs that are now “approved” versus those that have now joined the SJW litany of “problematic” -ists, -isms, and -phobias. Honestly, this social justice tone-deaf arrogance fueled Trump supporters. People do not like being told what they can say or what they must think.

    Fact is, this election was not about bigotry. I voted for HRC but now I regret that vote. Trump was elected by blue-collar “deplorables” to destroy both the corrupt RNC and DNC. Our government hasn’t truly cared about the American people for 50 years. Every establishment candidate during that time, including HRC…hell, especially HRC…was obligated to advance the interests of corporate, Wall Street, special interest, and foreign donors at the expense of the American people. Those insanely lucrative Wall Street speeches HRC gave undermined her candidacy from the get-go. How did HRC fail to see how those speeches would be perceived by regular Americans?

    I’m starting to believe the Trump voters got it right. No matter your political allegiance, it should be apparent that our political system is in desperate need of a massive enema. There were only two candidates completely independent of the near constant re-election fundraising and related quid pro quo corruption that plagues our current political class. Those candidates were Sanders and Trump. Ironically, Sanders would have trounced Trump “but it was Hilary’s turn.”

    So here’s the deal, many voters tired of the same old empty pandering of the DNC and RNC believe Trump is a political Molotov Cocktail. If (and I agree it’s a big IF) Trump somehow manages to run roughshod over both political parties to enact policies/laws for the benefit middle and lower class America, and against the interests of the parties’ Wall Street supporters, he will not only spur a massive reboot of the GOP and Democratic parties, he will go down as the most important President of the modern era. Put another way, Trump’s penchant for personal anarchy is more needed right now than HRC’s robotic Wall Street cronyism. So buckle-up buckaroos!

  2. yes and one day when you little parasites and your left wing profs who make six figures while working 4 hours a day 6 months a year have to really EARN a living you will vote for a guy who may help the economy rather than a crooked panderer like Hillary too

  3. Get over it: It is a fact that Donald Trump is the President-elect of the United States of America. The First Amendment to the Constitution protects your right to protest the actions and policies of a President or a Congress. However, protesting the outcome of a fair election is not the mark of a civilized society. The last time Americans so vociferously protested the election of a President was in 1860 and that led to the slave-holding Democratic Party secession from the Union and the Civil War.

    In your editorial, you do not only reject President-Elect Trump. You treat him with disdain and worse, you also exhibit hatred and contempt for those who supported him. This illiberal attitude is the antithesis of classical liberalism.

    It is time for the editors to realize that the people who voted for Trump and the countless additional citizens who will support him going forward are not one-dimensional. They are the hard workers, small business owners and patriotic Americans who inhabit the clear majority of the area of the United States.

    You are engaging in McCarthy-era fear mongering when you demonize the new Administration, even before it has come into power, as being sexist, racist, homophobic, anti-disabled, misogynistic, warlike and, in general, against the common good.

    Have you ever ventured out of the University and out of our failed large cities? How many Trump supporters do you really know?

    Trump supporters are the people who are unemployed, believe in a work ethic and want to work, but do not have the skills or education to fill jobs.

    They are the people who do not feel a college education is necessary to have a job, own a home and raise a family.

    They are the people who believe that man-made global warming is neither accepted fact nor the major existential threat to the world today.

    They are the people who want the rule of law to be applied to all in a fair manner.

    They are the people who recognize that Black on Black crime is what is destroying lives within the inner cities, not the policemen who are bravely trying to prevent crime.

    They are the people who recognize that family and religious value systems have been crucial to the greatness of America and that a restoration of those values are critical to America being great again.

    They are the people who believe that America, despite its blemishes, has been the outstanding contributor to the good of the world and, if allowed, will be a major influence for good going forward.

    They are the people who protect you abroad and in this country. the 18 to 22-year-olds who landed at Normandy were not worried about the culture of avoidance and “trigger warnings” except regarding the quality of their weapon.

    They are the people who recognize and say that most of the world’s terrorists are members of radical Islamist groups.

    They are the people who place more importance in making an honest living than making sure that bathrooms are gender-neutral.

    They are the people who believe that access to quality health care should be available to all, but should be free from unwarranted intrusion by the federal government and that government should not come between the physician and the patient.

    They are the people who believe in a smaller government, less regulations, less mandates, more freedoms and personal responsibility for one’s actions.

    They are the people who think that tolerance means more than the requirement to think your way.

    They are the people who are the children of legal immigrants who believe that this country’s success is based on immigration but that entry to this country is a privilege, not a right.

    They are the people who believe they are the victims of the social welfare system, since they have paid for it and have received little benefit, if not abuse, from it.

    They are the people who understand that diversity of opinion is to be applauded but physical diversity should not be mandated. People should be judged by their character and their accomplishments, not by the color of their skin. Excellence should be defined by achievements, not diversity.

    They are the people who believe in equal opportunity for all, but not necessarily equal outcomes for all, which is the goal of “social justice.”

    They are the people who believe that morality is absolute morality, not political correctness, masquerading as cultural and ethical relativism, which dictates that criticism of other cultures and religions is unacceptable.

    Why do you hold these people in such utter contempt and call them ignorant? Why do you refer to them as “Trump’s hateful America?” Why do you call them deplorable and irredeemable? You certainly have a right to feel troubled, exasperated and annoyed, but when will you learn to be respectful to others?

    When you snowflakes graduate from your elite ivory tower, you will quickly melt if you choose to live in the 97% of counties that supported the Trump election. The citizens there are much more interested in national security, jobs, education and health care than they are in the safe spaces and anti-free speech attitudes that you will bring with you. You do not deserve to be free from being offended within a free society. You will not achieve anything if you attempt to force your views and ideas on all others through public shaming and denigration. Get over it.

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