Our Politics is Broken; But We Aren’t

The following is a staff member’s op/ed piece and does not reflect the views of the The Quadrangle’s Editorial Board, the College or the student body.

I went into Manhattan last night. It wasn’t to stir stuff up. And I wasn’t even initially planning to end up at Trump Tower.

But I did.

For the past eighteen months, Donald J. Trump has been occupying the deepest caverns of my mind. When the schoolwork ends, when the Quad article is finished and when the episode is over, my mind inevitably travels to Trump Tower in an attempt to unravel the perplexing phenomenon who occupies it.

And now my body was starting to do the same.

There were two young men there, neither more of thirty years of age, with a large gay pride flag, emblazoned with the words, “Not My President.” I heard them talk of how they fear their rights may be curbed under a President Trump, and how they refuse to stand by a man they feel has not stood by them.

I don’t blame them. Trump didn’t campaign to be their President.

Trump, since the start of his campaign, has systematically, and occasionally deliberately, alienated groups of people within this country.

He has called people rapists and drug dealers. He has carelessly bragged of his consequence-free groping habit. His running-mate has supported conversion therapy for homosexuals. He has proposed the exclusion of an entire religious group numbering 1.6 billion. He threatened the very legitimacy of American democracy by branding our process “rigged.”

For everyone who woke up Wednesday morning feeling queasy, wondering if the country has left you behind, I feel for you. But Trump will still be our President.

A complete novice whose chief promise was burning-it-down in Washington, D.C. has ascended to the highest office in the land, tweeting, insulting, name-calling and grabbing his way to the top.

It’s clear that something isn’t right with us.

While covering “Manhattan Caucus,” I have spoken to many people who feel alienated by the President-Elect. But I’ve also met countless Trump supporters, and their concerns echo those of other Trump voters across the country.

They hear a coastal elite that talks down to them. That labels them as simple. That has been content to brunch while Middle-America’s jobs have been shipped overseas, its incomes held stagnant and its beliefs mocked.

The political system is failing – and there is no better evidence than the election of the serial offender Trump. His demagoguery is not healthy for our democracy. It just isn’t.

But millions voted for him – men, women, whites and non-whites – no matter what he was willing to say.

These voters were not motivated by hate. Or sexism. Or racism. Or any -isms. And throwing that out there will only fan the flames of alienation that led to the Trump blaze.

Vitriol only begets scorn. And scorn only begets further vitriol.

I know of dozens (and I’m sure there are dozens more I haven’t talked to) of Trump voters on this campus who feel uncomfortable talking about their support of the President-Elect for fear of being branded “a deplorable,” to borrow a term from Hillary Clinton.

The toxicity has cut both ways.

I’ve seen the talking heads on Fox News mock the anguish of those alienated by their President-Elect. Even Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor and Manhattan College graduate, has joined in on the fun, calling them “spoiled crybabies.” Mr. Giuliani’s rhetoric is completely inappropriate for a man who could become our Attorney General.

People are crying because they care. This country is worth something to them.

I applaud President O’Donnell’s commitment to promoting open political discussion at this college. Civil conversation is a cornerstone of democracy, and it is reflective of our Lasallian values.

I’ve always gotten myself into trouble by over-romanticizing Election Day. There’s a beauty to it that I can’t avoid seeing, even underneath all the ugliness of 2016.

Going to the polls and watching the returns is a quadrennial reminder that we are all part of something bigger than ourselves. The duality of Election Day hits all of us, all at once – whether it takes the form of victory’s euphoria or defeat’s painful sting.

But even when we disagree – even when it’s as fiery as it has been in 2016 – it’s all in recognition of our collective worth as a people; of the values we cherish; of our shared affection for this, our country.

That’s really the source of our division, and when America is at its best, it’s the source of our unity.

Let’s strive for the latter.