I hope you had a Happy New Year, a Merry Christmas and a refreshing holiday season. It is good to be writing again.
Like many of my peers, I can’t help myself but analyze and over-analyze the recent election. Being from South Jersey, straddling urban, blue-collar Philadelphia and working-class communities in suburban and rural New Jersey, the past few months at home have given me the chance to live in a different demographic than the typical Stanford bubble. Unlike the Bay Area, where a Trump supporter was few and far between, “Make America Great Again” banners hung opposite “Stronger Together” signs in my hometown. Locally and nationwide, people were active in this election. The news made it so. Social media made it so. Many didn’t vote, but everyone had an opinion.
Unfortunately, this opinion was a negative one for most people. Many I spoke to were distrustful: They were tired and afraid of seeing their world stagnate and crumble. But, most of all, many were disappointed about being forced to pick between two candidates they perceived as unethical liars. An election where many failed to find a good choice bred disillusionment and disenchantment.
As someone who disavowed our president-elect’s rhetoric, it frustrated me to see the normalization and toleration of the times when Donald Trump performed his juvenile antics, often recklessly spreading dangerous untruths. However, amidst all this change, America has not turned more racist or sexist. We are a less discriminatory, less prejudiced and better-off nation and citizenry than we were 10 or 20 years ago, evidenced by, among others, polls showing greater acceptance of having neighbors of a different ethnicity, interracial marriage and homosexuality. Fundamentally, America is made up of good, honest people trying to leave the next generation better than the last, and progress is succeeding.
Thus, while Trump’s economic message was certainly powerful, if the country stuck to the facts rather than partisan fear-mongering, there is no doubt that criticism against the president-elect’s views on climate change, immigration and criminal justice, would have been universal and widespread. Following the facts (climate change is a threat to our children’s future, guns in urban areas increase shootings and suicides, technological breakthroughs and globalizations make it tougher for lower-middle class workers to find jobs) would lead us to drastically different outcomes in politics today. Therefore, in an environment where our country increasingly eschews the facts, our democracy depends on how we diagnose and confront a seemingly blurred line between truth and un-truth.
The problems are threefold. First, the nation has become too entrenched in party lines, and our parties have become too radical and ideological. The Republican Party no longer represents traditional conservatism, and many argue the Democratic party doesn’t represent true liberal thought. Taking action against climate change shouldn’t be a conservative or liberal issue, just as respecting freedom of religion and freedom of speech shouldn’t be either. We can only get to consensus by taking a step back from partisanship and politics. We need the humility to restructure policy around the facts, even if they are sometimes bitter to swallow.
Secondly, national policy has become too regionalized. An alien looking at the 2016 election map would easily assume the country was split in two: the coasts and the heartland. If we don’t know each other or empathize with our other half, we can never rationalize with each other and help each other out. Unless we build policy around a shared empathy and of fighting for each other, it won’t make sense to the average Silicon Valley resident to respect the gun rights of South Carolinians, just as it will seem asinine for a rural North Dakotan to take action against climate change if that involves knowingly restricting her local economy or perhaps sacrificing her job. This empathy-building work can be promoted through education, but perhaps more important is a positive nationalism where we are stronger united than separate.
Lastly, in this election, the majority of the country – with the exception of the zealous Trump or Clinton supporter – largely lost the sense that someone was fighting for them. To communicate an effective vision, it has to be simple, moral and just, despite an environment of mistrust and complexity. Donald Trump won because he kept it simple, and he promised to fight for millions of Americans. Thus, while the majority of Americans may have followed his Trump University fraud case and his history of deception, many could set their moral premonitions aside to vote for Trump’s concern for working class voters.. Educated policy is unquestionably important, but ultimately hopelessly ineffective without a voice, or a group of voices, that can fight for what is right.
In this new year, we should propose something different. A party, a movement, a politician, based on a revolutionary premise. That we keep it simple, we stick to the facts. The movement that can establish the unbiased, bipartisan facts, and through empathizing with all Americans, takes a position on issues that will fight for Americans. Politics have devolved from debating how to solve problems to bickering over the very validity of unquestionable truths, simply for political convenience. A party and a movement where perhaps one may disagree on the policy position, but where accuracy would never be in doubt, would appeal to Americans tired of hearing partisan politics and eager for the truth.
We live in a time in history when a president was elected by flouting logic and reason. Fear and ignorance seem to be the path to success in today’s politics. But deep down, most of America knows he does not represent the very best our country has to offer, and as the days go by, this may become more and more clear. Thus, it is precisely at this time, when logic and reason have escaped politics, that there is an opening to create a new movement. A movement based on an unmistakable commitment to the truth and acting accordingly, empathizing with all. I, for one, think this movement would be pretty popular, and I’d be happy to hear your thoughts as to how we can spearhead this together.
Contact Kyle D’Souza at kvdsouza ‘at’ stanford.edu.