Election Day has finally come and passed after 18 months of campaigning, and the nation seems just as conflicted today as it had been during the campaign. This presidential race has seen remarkable acts of hatred and intolerance. Trump’s speech has promoted prejudice and open hatred against many minorities, and has been met with vandalism and violence against those who support him. This race has formed a rift between political parties, and due to negative campaigning and hateful rhetoric, people are less likely to try to understand other points of view or empathize with people across the aisle.
The primary candidates in this year’s election had the highest disapproval ratings recorded, and they each experienced scandals more fit for a reality television show than a presidential race. This drama allowed voters to sensationalize the elections into an apocalypse for American Democracy. The argument went: if Clinton won, corruption proves to be stronger than the voice of the people, and the nation is at risk because she had already jeopardized national security with her private servers. Others argued that if Trump won, we would be represented by a racist bigot who marginalizes citizens and will wreak havoc on international affairs because of an inability to consider the impact of his words.
The candidates themselves did not aid in the rift formed from this election. Clinton stated that half of Trump supporters were “deplorables,” continuing to list them as “racist, sexist, xenophobic, Islamaphobic,” which shows her alienating those who do not support her. Trump also grouped Clinton supporters together, calling them “animals,” as he blamed them without proof for the firebombing of a North Carolina local Republican headquarters. This type of generalization and polarization fed into an “us-versus-them” mentality that spread hate and did not consider the fact that everyone must coexist after the election.
Now, the election is over and the country is suspended in a state of shock: Trump won. Yet, that does not mean it is time to attack one another with blame; it is time to heal this divide. We must learn from this hateful rhetoric and behavior that surrounded this presidential race. The loud actions and words of few do not represent the majority. It is time to try to understand different perspectives instead of villainizing those with differing perspectives. This is not an attempt to erase some of the despicable actions that happened during this election, but a plea to learn from these events and hold the community to higher standards.
Yesterday morning, my social media accounts exploded with people reacting to the election. In some ways, that was great. People should be open about their opinions on politics, embracing thoughtful discussions and contemplating future actions to interact with the government. Only, that is not what I saw. I saw blaming and hate and an overall lack of empathy.
The country voted, and the people chose Trump. Voters cast their ballots in accordance with what they believed would improve their country. This does not mean that voters for either party agreed completely with their candidate. Pointing blame for a broken nation and name calling will not aid the situation in our post-election country. That behavior puts people on the defensive for a decision that has already been made, when the goal now should be moving forward and healing this divide.
Our Democracy will live through this election, but it is up to the people in this country to come together with empathy and openness to bridge the rift that party polarization has caused. We have not experienced an apocalypse. As we move forward, it is necessary to remember that our country is not defined by who we have in office. Change does not exist only in politics, but in everyday decisions to discuss problems openly, to search out ways to make a difference and to try to understand and empathize with those around us. I have no idea what the future of America and its politics looks like, but I have hope that the everyday decisions of the people here will continue to improve our country. That must start with healing the division this election has created.
Alyssa Luis is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus opinion section. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.