To the Editor:
I just read Stephanie Chen’s editorial in The Daily and I’d like to let you know that I appreciate her sentiments and willingness to voice them. The intellectual establishment – educated, liberal voters like most of us at Stanford – displayed a failure of intellect when we dismissed Donald Trump’s appeal as being limited to unintelligent, bigoted, older white men. We failed to empathize with half of the country, showing that Stanford can be insular and closed-minded despite our pretensions for being a place where any opinion can be heard and rationally analyzed.
There is an urgent need for more people on campus to step outside their own shoes and consider why people who don’t think like them might think that way. We need more moderate voices like yours to encourage people not to be dismissive or reactionary – not to shut our ears when a statement makes us uncomfortable, but to consider where it came from. Not to blindly retaliate, but to rationally determine the origins of the opposing person’s opinion, determine whether it is has merit or not and, if we decide it is an untenable view, clearly and strongly articulate why. At Stanford, we are taught (in our PWR classes, for example) to appreciate our audience, and, using this appreciation, to craft effective arguments that show them the merits of our opinions, allowing the audience to come to the same conclusions we have. We learn that it is not possible to sway someone by labeling them as stupid or evil – that the process of convincing someone is infinitely more difficult and subtle, and requires empathy. It therefore surprises me that students as educated as us at Stanford could believe that being dismissive and mocking would convince people with opposing opinions to join our side. I believe the election shows that that was not the goal – that many people like us, including the Democratic Party and the larger educated liberal community, did not actually attempt this. We did not accept the responsibility of convincing people to change to our side. I include myself here – I have made my fair share of Trump jokes, which would alienate anyone who I should have been trying to convince not to vote for Trump. In addition, I also failed to articulate the problem of our dismissiveness on and off campus more strongly before the election.
I found it refreshing to hear a moderate, reasoned opinion that focused on identifying and solving the problem at hand – namely, the problem of why Donald Trump got elected – rather than continuing to condemn Donald Trump as we have done for the entire election season with no effects on those we needed to sway.
– Scott Lambert ’19