‘They’ Voted Trump for a Reason, Now Let’s Understand Why

Courtesy of Matthew Trudeau Photography

Donald Trump will be the 45th president of the United States.

Whether you dreamed of reading that sentence or dreaded it, it’s still true. Trump is here to stay, and there’s nothing that can be done to change that. Nor should there be.

We voted — well, about 57 percent of us did — and those of us who voted collectively chose Trump. There’s a reason he won. Americans didn’t accidentally fill in his bubble or mistakenly touch his name on the voting screen.

People felt left behind; Trump supporters felt deserted by a changing country. They saw those of us in big cities calling them “they,” and they didn’t like it. They saw a divide in the country, so they sided with the candidate who they felt would give them a better future.

You can’t doubt the drive of these more than 60 million Americans. They saw an opportunity to “take the country back,” and, well, they successfully took it. Were some of those voters racist, misogynistic, xenophobic and homophobic? Yes, certainly. That’s hard to argue against when the KKK plans victory rallies following Trump’s election.

Were some of those voters secretly or implicitly those things? Definitely. People don’t like to see their power taken away from them. It’s uncomfortable to lose control in a “changing country,” and many might not realize or can’t admit the actual impulses that drove their decisions.

Courtesy of Marc Nozell

But not all those who voted for Trump are racist and sexist. Not all of them are uneducated. Not all of them are hillbillies. Not all of them want to see an all-white United States.

Some of them are hardworking, middle-class Americans who were tired of seeing the same faces in Washington. Some of them are blue-collar voters who aren’t being helped by the liberal elites leading today’s Democratic Party. Some of them were simply exhausted from seeing large, liberal cities get all the attention while they were ignored.

This isn’t to say you should feel bad for those who voted for Trump. Most of those people were simply facing an issue that millions of Americans have faced for decades: They were being ignored. They were in the rest of the country’s shoes.

At every point in U.S. history, there has been at least one group of people left behind. Black people were forced to attend different schools until just a few decades ago, some much more recently than that. Women couldn’t vote until a few decades before that.

Most minority groups still face obstacles today. So, while you shouldn’t feel bad for Americans who voted for Trump, you should understand what led our country to where it is now.

Trump supporters, without a doubt, took back the country. But who did they take it from? What kind of candidate did they support as they took the country back?

The night of the election, CNN commentator Van Jones said, “You tell your kids, ‘Don’t be a bully.’ You tell your kids, ‘Don’t be a bigot.’ And then you have this outcome. This was a whitelash against a changing country. It was whitelash against a black president in part. And that’s the part where the pain comes.”

Jones is right. Although many people, including close friends of mine, had various reasons — none of them explicitly racist, misogynistic, xenophobic or homophobic — to vote for Trump, the impact on the rest of the United States could be bigger than they realized.

Thousands of protestors marched through Chicago in response to the election of Donald Trump as the country's next President.
Thousands of protestors marched through Chicago in response to the election of Donald Trump as the country’s next President. Grace Runkel | The PHOENIX

Although I won’t, and will never, share my voting preference, I have my own reasons to be anxious about the country’s future.

Even as a person of color who’s nervous for what comes next, I won’t pretend to have the same fear as other people of color, the LGBTQIA community, Muslim-Americans, women, undocumented immigrants or refugees. I might have faced discrimination at times, but I don’t face it on a daily basis like many other Americans.

So, it becomes my duty to help those who are facing that discrimination. Simply put, Americans who voted for Trump either didn’t know how Trump could affect these minority groups, or they didn’t care enough to vote differently.

Many are privileged to not have to worry about these issues, and instead are able to focus on other topics.

Of course, this reasoning doesn’t apply to all those who voted for Trump. Not all were white, and not all were men. Still, the white demographic, which constituted about 70 percent of eligible voters this year, is the one that won the election for Trump.

White voters preferred Trump over Hillary Clinton by 21 percentage points, according to the Pew Research Center, as Trump won among white men by 32 points and, more importantly, won among white women by 10 points.

Now, there are the more than 60 million people who didn’t vote for Trump. They are upset, and they’re letting everyone know it. But for just one minute, I ask those people to listen carefully.

You can say Americans chose Clinton — who won the popular vote — while the Electoral College chose Trump. But that won’t make a difference now. The Electoral College is the system our democracy uses to elect a president, and that’s who it chose, plain and simple.

You can protest. And while that’s certainly an option — and an understandable one, at that — you can’t march in the streets for four straight years. Protests aren’t supposed to be popular. If they were, then there wouldn’t be a need for them. But protests also aren’t supposed to try to change something that isn’t going to change.

Anti-Trump protestors have marched since the election, chanting, "He's not my president."
Grace Runkel | The PHOENIXAnti-Trump protestors have marched since the election, chanting, “He’s not my president.” Grace Runkel | The PHOENIX

You can say, “He’s not my president,” but no matter how many times you say it, he’s still going to be your president. Although President Obama never said or did what Trump has said or done, there were people who were unhappy with President Obama’s election in 2008 and 2012.

Many of those unhappy people refused to call him their president, and look where we are today. In a time when unity is needed as much as ever in the United States, can the country afford for you to refuse to call Trump your president?

You can petition to have the Electoral College change its vote and elect Clinton on Dec. 17, a pipe-dream that many internet users seem to think is a potential reality. Sorry to break your hearts, but such an idea undermines the democracy upon which our country is built and is as unrealistic of a scenario as President Obama serving a third term.

With that said, do those things. All of them. Protest. Let out your frustration. Get it all out. You deserve to be heard. Your opinion, regardless of which side you stand on, matters. Your concerns, especially if you are part of one of the minority groups being targeted, are valid and a priority.

But after the initial surprise — and, for many, disappointment — of seeing Trump reach 270 electoral votes before Clinton, it’s time to move on and change the things we can change.

Take the energy you’re using to protest and channel it into something greater. Do what you can to still make a difference in your own life and your neighbors’ lives.

I’m not saying give Trump a chance, because that’s your choice to make; I’m saying give yourself a chance.

Many Americans have heard Trump’s rhetoric for the past 16 months and seen his cabinet selections this week and are done trusting him. That’s fine, but it’s still your job to hold him accountable.

Another Clinton presidency wouldn’t have guaranteed a single American anything more than a Trump presidency does. She could have governed differently than the way she campaigned, much like Trump could, however unlikely it may seem at the moment.

At the end of the day, it’s our job to hold any president accountable. It’s our job to let our representatives in Congress know what we expect of them. It’s our job to run this country, because that’s what we’ve done since the day the United States was born.

You could feel like you’re dreaming knowing that Trump is our next president, but whether that dream is a nightmare or not is up to you.

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