No, Half the Country Didn’t Vote for Trump. But It Sure Feels Like It.
Regardless of the election outcome, I’m trying to remember that Trump supporters just have a different story to explain their suffering.
Ten thousand votes in Arizona. Barely 0.03% of the vote in Georgia. Joe Biden’s margin of victory is — as my West Virginia-born dad says — skinny as a mosquito’s peter.
It really does feel like half the country likes having a racist, misogynist reality TV show star as president. Or they’re willing to tolerate him to “own the libs.”
But are Trump supporters really all that different from me? More on that in a second.
What the facts say
First, here’s what I’m trying to remember when I feel hopeless.
Half the country did not vote for Donald Trump. Around 30 percent did.
More than a third of eligible voters didn’t vote. That’s 78 million people. Some were disenfranchised by restrictive voting policies. But most weren’t convinced the election result would affect their lives.
The Democratic Party wasn’t offering much beyond, “At least we’re not Trump.” Biden only paid lip service to social justice. His campaign followed the lead of its corporate donors and all but ignored the needs of everyday people.
Still, Biden is up in the popular vote by over 5 million and counting. The electoral college is the only reason Trump had an outside shot.
The electoral college was invented to preserve slavery. The Founding Fathers needed a way to make sure the slave-owning Southern states had an equal say. Our political system isn’t broken. It’s working just as it was designed.
Racism is and always has been this country’s defining feature. People who look like me — European settlers — stole this land from indigenous Native Americans. Then they stole workers from Africa to clear and work it. Racism is the “American Blindspot,” wrote historian and author of Black Reconstruction (one of my favorite books) W.E.B Du Bois.
Still, most Trump voters aren’t Confederate flag-waving, QAnon-believing, Ford F-450-driving white supremacists. Many are typical, well-off Republicans who put up with Trumpism for lower taxes and less regulation.
What really calms my nerves
But most of all, I’m trying to remember that Trump supporters aren’t all that different from me. They’re not dumber or meaner or less civilized. They just have a different story than I do for why they’re suffering and who’s to blame.
They’ve been conned by the powers that be into blaming poor people and people of color. That’s Trump’s whole game. Turn people’s pain and anger into hatred aimed down rather than up at him and his rich buddies or capitalism itself.
But I know that pain and anger in the Trump supporter’s eyes.
I felt it when my dad got home from working 12-hour shifts delivering packages during the holidays.
When my mom complained about her male colleagues not taking her ideas seriously.
When I worked 12-hour shifts at an air conditioning-less factory one long, hot summer.
When I worked at a restaurant and customers acted like they knew me because they saw my name tag.
When the tech corporation I worked for laid off half the company, many of them my friends.
When a developer bought the artist warehouse I was living in to build condos.
When I read about the Arctic melting at record rates. Or another Black man killed by police.
I know how much powerlessness hurts. How angry it makes me.
I’m just lucky to have learned to blame the system itself. For keeping so many of us powerless, especially those born in the “wrong” neighborhood or with the “wrong” color skin. For allowing Trump-like corporate suits to run the world into the ground.
When I think about this way, the pill is easier to swallow. The distance between me and nastiest Trump supporter doesn’t seem so wide.
That doesn’t mean I’m letting them off the hook
No way I’m going to start giving Trump supporters a pass. I won’t stop calling out their racism. And I’ll keep standing beside those who don’t look like me and are in the cross hairs.
But I’m exhausted from pretending I’m better than them — or anyone else for that matter. It’s not working.
I’m a writer, meditation teacher, and host of the Meditation for the 99% podcast. My weekly emails will help you bring mindfulness to work, relationships, and politics. Subscribe here.