NICK JEBSON, OPINION EDITOR | January 22, 2017
It has been said that the fundamental difference between liberals and conservatives are their diverging attitudes toward human nature: liberals tend to view people as inherently good, whereas conservatives believe that humans are motivated by selfish reasons.
These tendencies can work against liberals and conservatives in many ways. In conservatives, a tendency to see humanity in a negative light breeds fear and promotes demagoguery. Conservatives were afraid that the established social order was crumbling; driven mad with fear that their guns would be confiscated and more immigrants, documented or not, let into the country, they elected Donald Trump. On the other hand, liberals can place too much faith in their idea of the inherent goodness of people. Which is why on November 9th, our facebook feeds were clogged up with hundreds of sappy posts which all seemed to contain some variation of an “I thought more highly of America than this” theme.
Most liberals are familiar with conservative America’s fear of difference and the horrifying consequences it has for America’s marginalized communities. But not many people have talked about how liberal idealization blinded many to the possibility of a Trump presidency.
The other day, I was reading an article written prior to the election about Trump’sCampaign. Eric Levitz, the author, had the following to say about conservatives and Trump:
“Most college-educated republicans just want to vote for the candidate who will cut their taxes without feeling embarrassed about doing so.”
Reading this sentence with the knowledge that Trump will be the next president was painful. It places a tremendous amount of faith in the idea that the mainstream Republican’s supposed rejection of Trump was the product of their moral outrage, not their belief that he would lose. Furthermore, they imply that Clinton was destined for victory because, at the end of the day, plenty of conservatives were just too darn nice to vote for Trump. They suggest that mainstream conservatives were more put off by his rhetoric then inspired by it. This was a belief held by many liberals, including myself. But Levitz, and many other liberals like him, did not account for the fact that people lie, and that conservatives’ supposed embarrassment might be feigned. Liberals like to think the best of people, even people with whom they vehemently disagree. But liberals cannot afford to assume that these people will do the right thing at critical junctures.
There are many reasons that few predicted Trump’s astonishing victory. At the end of the day, we thought he was truly too disgusting for most people to vote for. And why did we think this? Because of our misplaced faith in the fundamental goodness of this country.
Wake up liberals.
America is rotten to its white supremacist, patriarchal, homophobic, imperialist core. Our founding fathers were not the men so many pretend they were. Their legacy of inhumanity has lived on through all of American history, from slavery to the Trail of Tears, through the subjugation of women and Jim Crow laws, through sodomy laws and bathroom bills and mindless wars. Given this country’s history, why should we have assumed that Donald Trump was beyond the pale for most conservatives? Why would anyone assume that conservative embarrassment would save this country from its monstrous past?
The bottom line for liberals: many of us need to get real. Be surprised with the polls, not your fellow Americans.
The election of Donald Trump is not a fluke. The sentiments that got Donald Trump elected didn’t materialize out of thin air. They are part of a pathology that is as old and American as the constitution itself. So to those liberals who thought too highly of America to foresee the possibility of this happening, stop being so naive. The moral arc of the universe only bends towards justice if we grab onto it with both hands and yank it in that direction.
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