In the days after the election, I saw countless posts on social media about how Donald Trump’s victory was rooted in racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia and other forms of bigotry. Such posts effectively erased the (very legitimate) concerns of millions of people and attributed his rise to sheer discriminatory attitudes and beliefs.
Apparently the United States is chock-full of bigotry. Don’t get me wrong, bigotry is still prevalent and problematic in society, but to say that all of America is racist or sexist or that everyone who voted for Trump is racist or sexist or whatever is grossly ignorant. America still has a long way to go on civil rights, but it has come a long way as well.
People claim that while not all those who voted for Trump are bigoted, their voting for him indicates their complacency with bigotry, and thus the majority of the country condones bigotry. I say this is not true. Donald Trump was one of the most unpopular candidates in history. Many Republicans disapproved of him but found him to be a better alternative to the also unpopular candidate, Hillary Clinton. Most Trump voters did not wish to see a bigot occupy the Oval Office. When they went to the polls, they did not see “Hillary Clinton” and “Donald Trump” on the ballot; they saw “status quo” and “change.”
These voters, which included disillusioned Democrats and more Black people and Hispanics/Latinos than Mitt Romney garnered in 2012, are desperate for something new, a departure from the last eight years of failed policies and political stagnance.
President Obama ran on a campaign of leveling the playing field. He railed against the cards supposedly being stacked against the common American, and this propelled him into office. Eight years later, few people are better off than before. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the labor participation rate is close to its lowest point in 40 years, more people are living below the poverty line according to the Heritage Foundation and the US Census’ Survey of Income and Program Participation reveal that more people are dependent on federal welfare today than when he took office-amounting to over 100 million people.
In addition, the threat from terrorists has increased dramatically due to the rise of ISIS, which Obama is responsible for since he pulled out of Iraq and refused to take ISIS seriously until it was too late, even calling it a junior varsity team at one point, and Obamacare cost five million people their insurance plans, forced millions more to obtain coverage they did not want or need and, according to the New York Times and Kaiser Family Foundation caused still millions more to choose to pay the fines levied for not obtaining health insurance because they were less expensive than the insurance options available to them.
Barack Obama is a failed president. Hillary Clinton built a campaign around continuing Obama’s policies. Donald Trump ran as a non-establishment alternative to the seasoned politicians in Washington, just as Obama had done in 2008. Trump is seen as a beacon of hope for millions of disillusioned Americans who desperately want to “drain the swamp” of politicians in Washington, who want to see the trade deals that cost them their jobs reworked, who believe that as a successful businessman, Trump knows how to negotiate and pursue policies that will encourage job creation. They have put any bigotry on Trump’s part aside and placed their faith in him, believing wholeheartedly that he will deliver and, from their perspective, make America great again.
Simply put, Donald Trump did not win because of bigotry, he won because Hillary Clinton had virtually nothing to offer America. That is the bottom line. In an age where people mistrust the government in record numbers, as the Gallup poll shows, nominating an establishment figure beholden to the big banks and corporations of Wall Street was a terrible idea, especially against a candidate who promised to stir things up if elected.
The people who elected Trump cast personality aside this election and focused on policy.
They saw a choice between letting things continue as is–a sluggish economy and big business-owned big government and the potential for something entirely new; something that would clean up the mess in Washington and set America back on track.
This is evident in the fact that Trump swayed vast numbers of white working class Americans, many of whom voted for Obama, in his favor. It was obviously not racism that led them to switch sides. They were voting in favor of their own interests.
Self-interest voting, which almost everyone does, is what won Trump the White House.
Yes, there are people who want to see all illegal immigrants deported, and this viewpoint can be rooted in racism. Yes, there are people who want to ban all Muslims from entering this country and believe that Islam is evil. Yes, there are people who believe LGBTQ people should burn in hell and want to block our right to marry, and, yes, there are people who believe that a woman’s only place is in the home. Yes, there is bigotry in America.
Yes, it is a problem, a major problem, but it is not to blame for the impending Trump presidency.
Trump promised change, Clinton promised the status quo. The people voted for change.