My Reflections on the 2016 Presidential Election, Part II

Senator Elena Parent
The Parent Press

Further, while I regard Hillary as very intelligent, hard-working and supremely qualified, I do see that she lacks the charisma of Obama, Bill, Biden, and I guess even Trump. (Actually, I don't find him at all charismatic, but I do admit he has what I'll call flair.) Hillary leads with her head first and heart second. She loves policy and facts. I am like her. Most voters don't make their decisions on policies and facts, but on emotion. I lament that, but know it's true.


Now, about the racism, sexism, and xenophobia. There is no doubt that Trump utilized all of them in this campaign and encouraged people to embrace rather than turn away from their worst tendencies. Are a portion of Trump's supporters absolutely racist, sexist, and xenophobic? Sure. Of course. David Duke was excited about his candidacy, for goodness' sake. But that doesn't mean they all, or even anywhere near a majority, are.

To quote David Brooks' column again:

"Emotions like disgust don't do justice to the complexity of Donald Trump's supporters. The disgusted posture risks turning politics into a Manichaean civil war between the alleged children of light and the alleged children of darkness — between us enlightened, college-educated tolerant people and the supposed primitive horde driven by dark fears and prejudices. That crude and ignorant condescension is what feeds the Trump phenomenon in the first place."

Here, think of Obama's "cling[ing] to guns and religion" comment in 2008 and Hillary's "deplorables" comment this year. To these folks, I believe, such comments serve to prove their belief that they are disrespected and ignored and hardens their resentment of Democrats, urban dwellers, fat cats and "uppity" college types.

Some Trump supporters may harbor not outright racism, but racial resentment, which is more like a belief that other groups are getting more than their fair share or preferential treatment. If voters believe that there is a limited government pie, they may tend to descend to tribal politics where they attempt to vote for people who they think will ensure that their "group" gets its share.

This is what scares me the most, because I think it would be the worst thing for America for one party to become (or stay) largely white and the other to be mostly made up of non-white Americans in a perpetual duel over what ethnic group will get most of the government's spoils. I believe in a party that stands for economic opportunity for all Americans and I care about poverty in inner cities and Black Lives Matter and about the spiraling problems in rural America. I don't think there is a limited pie. I think instead of fighting each other or having an us vs. them mentality, we can rise by remaining true to America's founding ideals of freedom and equal opportunity no matter who you are or where you are from. We need some work to focus on what unites us, but I am hoping that it WILL be done. There is no other way.

However, unless he changes drastically, I cannot see Trump being that unifier. I just can't grasp how that could be, given all he has said and the campaign he ran. But I don't want to be unfair. I want to keep an open mind that he can change his stripes. I want to respect him as President of the United States. I frankly don't think he has (yet) earned that respect, but I have to practice what I preach. I was furious when Republicans sought to undermine Obama and wouldn't give him a chance. I was livid when Mitch McConnell declared that his foremost goal was Obama's failure so that he would be a one-term President. Such an attitude is terrible for our country and therefore unpatriotic. So, although Trump does not deserve it, I am so proud to see Hillary and Obama declare that we must keep an open mind to our President-elect and pledge to help him succeed. Because when the President of the US succeeds, America succeeds. (And I can't help but hope that Mitch McConnell feels a little bit ashamed.)

A moment of reckoning is at hand for both parties. What will our policy goals be? What will our winning electoral coalitions be? In a diversifying America, the Republicans face the problem of having to attract more minorities. But the Democrats cannot lose a diverse coalition — including working class white — or we too will lose.

Thank you, as always, for the honor of serving as your voice in Georgia's State Senate.