I say this knowing that I am not the demographic group most adversely affected by his win. I am a heterosexual white woman whose last name is Jewish, but without a religious affiliation. But my friends are not. My friends are Muslim. My friends are Hindu. My friends are Jewish. My friends are Mormon. My friends are gay. My friends are black. My friends are immigrants. After all, my friends are American.
My students, though enjoying the privilege of receiving their education at one of the finest universities in the nation and indeed the world, are also diverse, representing many ethnicities and national origins and interests. And they deserve to learn and grow and thrive in a nation that respects them, that allows for the academic and journalistic freedom to help them to expand their horizons and maximize their potential to contribute to an America that is inclusive, that celebrates them.
I believe that America’s greatness lies in its appreciation that one's value and worth are not contingent upon the color of our skin, our national origin, to what god we pray (or don’t), or who we love. I am reminded of this in taking the subway through New York City, surrounded by people of different ethnicities, backgrounds, and sexual orientations. That is not Trump’s America, it is ours. And it is a reminder that while I love my country, its greatness is not unconditional, but rather depends on us continuing to uphold these crucial constitutional principles upon which our great nation was founded. It depends on our continued recognition that we thrive because of, and not despite, diversity.
I am not a small government conservative, but am friends with some. I believe that history and data show us that investing in government programs helps to maximize progress for all, helps to lift up the poor and middle classes through economic stability and social program delivery. I also recognize that this is not the sentiment shared by all, and that there are important contestations of ideas as to the proper allocation of authority from federal government to states to private enterprise. This election was not one such debate, rather stooping to base -- and indeed debased --instincts and anxieties about an "other."
And I am deeply troubled by the fact that despite Mr. Trump's "policies" that in many ways defy small government, nearly half (yes, she won the popular vote but her votes were not distributed in a way as to produce a win in the Electoral College) of America's voters on Tuesday embraced (or at minimum, enabled) the heightening of racist, homophobic, sexist, and xenophobic sentiment that has garnered him comparisons to Hitler, Mussolini, and Bin Laden. I am saddened that at least some of the people around me do not believe that my Muslim friends are worth as much as I, or that the man in the White House should be entitled to use his now even greater power as leverage to assault women. And I am frightened as to, should Mr. Trump alienate sufficient people to lose his bid for re-election in 2020, whether he would accept that result as legitimate when holding the role of Commander in Chief. There is speculative evidence to suggest that he would not.
And while I recognize that there very important discussions about polling errors this year -- and those discussions will happen in the days, weeks, months, and probably years to come -- I am dismayed that it distracts from the reality that while these polling errors surprised us with regard to the outcome, it does not explain the bigotry and misogyny that characterized far too much of the election. The reality is that discussing statistical problems is easier than coming to terms with our nation's penchant for discrimination, for the fact that our nation has persistently had extensive white racial resentment, and tensions over minorities and certain religious groups that we can no longer pretend are fringe as opposed to mainstream and soon to be on Pennsylvania Avenue. Winning on a platform of hate for people and for democratic institutions -- not to mention an unabashed desire to suppress voter turnout, especially among minorities -- is not Democratic, it is not Republican, it is not Libertarian, it is wrong. And it won.
I believe that America’s greatness also depends on our commitment to helping people to rise up and to have access to the sometimes too-elusive American dream. Whether the partisan differences between the Democrats and Republicans are shaped by simply different worldviews of how to move America forward, empirics suggest that the Trump (and broader Republican) agendas consistently favor those at the top of the economic ladder while hurting those at the bottom, whether in terms of taxes or in terms of healthcare and specifically Medicaid. Systematic failures to care for the health and wellbeing of vulnerable populations is unconscionable, and should be deemed un-American.
I believe that if we are going to make claims to greatness, we must disavow the boasting of sexual assault, a criminal act to which one in five women is subjected. Women comprise 51% of the population. And even if we did not, the willingness to embrace this degree of illegality and chauvinism is deeply troubling, and should be for many if not all Americans.
I also believe that it is sobering to be mindful of the fact that the fear, anguish, anger, and pain that many of us feel now is the same set of emotions that drove so much of Trump’s core coalition. I do not believe that those fears that were stoked were based on sound considerations, and that the data did not support their concerns, but their sense of pain and fear was real, and it produced all-too-real results. We do not need to empathize with their concerns about immigration and race and other social progress, but it may help us to understand this larger-than-expected segment of society right now.
In the immediate aftermath of Martin Luther King’s assassination, Robert F. Kennedy spoke off-the-cuff in some beautiful remarks in which he quoted Aeschylus, who wrote, “Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”
I hope that as we cope with the consequences of this earth-shattering election, we can take some semblance of comfort in those words.