We’re about a week into the reality of a Trump presidency and while there has been coverage of the more obviously horrible things that means, two alarming but more subtle issues are going overlooked, even as they intersect and grow. The first is a gradual media acceptance of even the more terrifying aspects of the Trump presidency, seen in everything from People’s willingness to forget a staffer’s assault at the hands of Trump in order to cover Trump family fashions to the general unwillingness to label the racist, sexist, anti-Semitic remarks of Trump senior counselor Steve Bannon as such, with a few notable exceptions like Huffington Post’s headline description of Bannon as a “White Nationalist.” The second is a growing desire amongst white pundits to urge people to “empathize with” the Trump Voter, as well as to work better at understanding the “rural” and/or “poor” vote.
Though these trends exist separately and have unique problems, they both work towards normalizing the hate at the center of the Trump phenomenon, asking targeted groups to give Trump and his supporters a chance while letting the overwhelming number of safe white people who voted in Trump pretend like they aren’t responsible for what’s to come. Both of these trends grew out of a need by the groups who enabled and emboldened Trump to distance themselves from the situation and logic their way into feeling guilt-free. The real truth of the current situation is, to quote The Guardian, “White and wealthy voters gave victory to Trump” and only by acknowledging that can we get anywhere. Middle class white America and members of the media who retain a conscience must speak out against these trends and against their own kind if we are to get out of this.
Doing so requires acknowledging that you could have done more to stop the Trump campaign from winning. And that means acknowledging it in more ways than hurling vindictive at the DNC. It means acknowledging that in your life, you have probably not called out your friends and loved ones when they have said or done bigoted things. It means acknowledging that when others have pointed out your own bigotry, you’ve perhaps responded poorly. Maybe you’ve refused to see certain actions as bigotry because they don’t line up with blunt, boogeyman notion of bigotry you believe is the only strain of racism. Maybe you’ve been in a position at work where you could have pointed out the lack of representation in a meeting, at a conference, in a department, but did not. Maybe you’ve shouted out in anger at people who have tried to show you problems in things you’ve said, maybe you were silent when your relatives went on prolonged racist rants.
Progressive white America needs to move away from asking for empathy for the Trump voter in this time and recognize that for generations we have been more willing to grant empathy to white aggressors than the disenfranchised people they ostracize. We demand other groups not be so sensitive about labels and laws while expressing outrage at any criticism of white privilege, while getting flustered at Pumpkin Spice latte jokes. This is not the time for empathy for hatred but compassion for righteous fury. It is long past time we stop giving bigots the benefit of the doubt and start calling out their actions en masse, scrutinizing them while asking their enablers to do better.
Going forward, we must be vigilant and call out media who take a soft touch to the bigots who are dismantling our government. We must remember who stands strong and who is already buckling. We must empathize not with the Trump voter but with his victims, listening to the ways they really need help, finding methods of support that are more intensive and longer lasting than the acquisition of a safety pin. We must prepare for a long battle for the midterm elections in 2018 and we must win that battle and take a majority and stop Republicans from broadening their majority and we can only do that by mobilizing now, by paying attention to our local elections, by supporting community organizers and progressive candidates, by volunteering for their campaigns, by registering people. We must also pinpoint opportunities for smaller victories that exist now, like Louisiana’s runoff election next month. We must examine the methods and weaknesses of our enemies and fight dirtier and return to grassroots organizing that can help activate the nearly 47% of the eligible population who simply didn’t vote. All of these things require energy and patience and resolve, far beyond the simpler task of empathizing with a vague hateful other or giving in to the new status quo and normalizing the already extreme deviations from how our government normally functions.
But we must do this, because for too long we’ve expected the victims of oppression we created do the brunt of the work. We lash out and do things like blame the hispanic and black populations for not voting for Clinton in numbers similar to Obama while minimally discussing the impact stricter voter ID laws in many states had on the turnout for these populations, laws that went against the Voting Rights Act we abolished because we believed we were far enough past racism we no longer needed it. We make up the bulk of the population, we voted overwhelmingly for Trump, we are the only ones to blame. Now we must get to work fixing it.
Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Loser City as well as Ovrld, where he contributes music reviews and writes a column on undiscovered Austin bands. You can also flip through his archives at Comics Bulletin, which he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culture, where he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with friends and enemies on twitter: @Nick_Hanover
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