Let’s not get it twisted: A Biden victory does not guarantee the disappearance of Trumpism.
I cried when I heard the news that Democratic candidate Joseph R. Biden was the projected winner of the 2020 presidential race. My mother jumped around the house, opened the window and shouted, “284! 284!” which at that point was Biden’s number of electoral college votes. Car honking and cheers filled the New York City street below my apartment window. With one sigh of relief, I released all the worries, disgust and anger that had built up during Trump’s time in office.
But I am not satisfied with Biden’s win. And I will never be satisfied.
On election night, I watched as news coverage revealed the voting results in each state and county. Rural and suburban counties—even in overwhelmingly blue states—were mostly red. Biden won 477 counties to Trump’s 2,497, according to Brookings.edu, though Biden won roughly six million more popular votes than Trump. Yes, Trump’s fanbase may be spread thinly throughout the United States, but they still worship a man who spits out racist, homophobic and xenophobic rhetoric and sews division in our nation.
It is a terrifying visual to see how red America is. I do not mean conservative Grand Old Party red, I mean the red of “Make America Great Again” a catchphrase which is at its worst, a thinly veiled yearning for a less equal, more bigoted America. This country is not a welcoming place for me, so long as 2,497 counties can find it within themselves to support this man.
This country was once great, Trump implies, in a previous time. His supporters want to go back to an era where white families were the golden child of American society, while people of color, LGBTQ communities, women and immigrants were marginalized.
The civil rights movement of the mid-20th century disrupted the status quo and challenged white Americans’ beliefs that they were superior. Trump is a demagogue: he relies on the support of resentful white families who see egalitarianism, whether it’s affirmative action or welfare benefits, as a vehicle to suppress their social, political and economic opportunities. According to a RAND Corporation survey from early 2016, 86.5% of people who favored Trump shared the sentiment that they were politically voiceless. As the world becomes more equal, they feel as if they are losing the privilege they’ve historically had and taken for granted.
Not all Republicans should be accused of bigotry and hate. Many vote red because of their stance on taxes or the national defense, for example. But a vote for Trump enables his divisive and hateful rhetoric.
According to AP News, hate crimes reached the highest levels in over a decade in 2019. Trump has nursed discrimination by calling white supremacists protestors in Virginia “good people” and telling the Proud Boys to “stand tall,” all while condemning BLM protestors and condoning military violence against them.
I take my liberal bubble in New York City for granted. It feels as if Trumpism is a far-off threat that I read about in the news or see on social media. It’s the new Cold War, where people hurl threats and consume propaganda from the Left and Right. There seems to be little room for intellectual discussion, compromise or confrontation.
How am I supposed to love and care for this country, if it holds onto outdated beliefs that fundamentally disrespect my existence?
I am scared to live in America and tired of living in a world that has been complicit in the traumatic history of oppression and racism. To be Black in this world means knowing that bigotry and discrimination will follow us like a shadow. It is like sleeping with one eye open in my own bed, afraid that someone would ambush me in the middle of the night. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” So long as I and millions of other people feel unsafe and unwelcome in this world, justice will not exist. But there are still ways I can fight for change: By confronting Trumpism head on.
A friend of mine from high school, Ande, befriended a girl in college whom she later discovered was a Trump supporter. During the months leading up to the election, Ande asked her friend about Trump’s policies she liked, what about his rhetoric she could excuse. She responded by saying she was worried about the economy, but she couldn’t find the words to describe how exactly Trump would get us out of our current recession. Through discussion and emphasizing Trump’s lies and despicable behavior, Ande convinced her friend to vote for Biden. Her Pennsylvania ballot was crucial to Biden’s election success in the battleground state that propelled him past 270 electoral college votes.
Like Biden said in his presidential victory speech, “We must stop treating our opponent as our enemy.” We have to end this Cold War and stop shutting out our opponents, always perplexed by them but never confronting them. I love my country, so I want to see it become a better home for all people. I want to engage with Trump supporters and try to show them egalitarianism is not at their expense. I encourage all who feel comfortable and safe engaging in such conversations with friends and family to do the same.
We cannot just expect Trumpism to die—bigotry is taught, not born. We must meet in the middle, call people in rather than out. Let’s show people the origins of their biases and recognize our own. Let’s unravel the tangled web of history to give a more accurate understanding of oppression and injustice and work towards a better future.
We should debate health care, gun control, the drinking age, minimum wage—but let’s agree that equity and civil rights are not up for debate. We must respect all human lives.