Trump Nation and the Roots of Liberal Shock

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y.- February 24, 2017

By Blair Warren

American liberals have expressed initial disbelief that Donald Trump is the president, followed by the hindsight that they should have seen it coming. A few conversations with college-aged democrats investigate the roots of this widespread cognitive dissonance and what they feel can be done about it.

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Bella Bennett, a college senior and environmental science major, is primarily concerned about the impact that the next four years will have on the environment. On that cold day in November, Bennett sensed a heightened fear for the world. She felt that, “the world was unknown. It felt heavy. I am scared of the world we live in now.” She was shocked. However, after more thought, she figured that his triumph made sense considering how divided America is.

This idea of a divided America permeates the liberal mind as an explanation for today’s newly unchartered nation. Barbara Contin, an international student at Skidmore College, believed Trump would not win because “he is such a bigot and not presidential. And I thought that mattered in the States. Thinking about all previous American presidents, they all have this charisma, while Trump is really ignorant about everything having to do with the government.”

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A common joke among privileged liberals is the desire to flee the country and leave this ‘mess’ behind. College student Karabo Mosola stated that this desire is, “indicative of privilege.” Along with this mindset, Contin explained that, “If you have enough money to be able to move to Canada, you are the person who needs to stay and fight for the people who will actually be affected by Trump’s policies.”

Beyond the initial surprise that Trump is now the President, many students have expressed continued distress due to his fast-paced executive orders and newly appointed administration. Contin is particularly astounded by how he has followed through with what he promised his voters, especially within such a short period of time. She said, “He is trying to make a point to the people who voted for him that he is actually doing stuff, which caught me by surprise.”

In response to President Trump’s recent actions, it is important to also acknowledge the actions of the public. However, many liberal-minded young adults feel defeated when thinking about activism against Trump. After growing accustomed to the eight years with President Obama, his instatement of Obamacare and legalizing of gay marriage across the nation, young liberals are not familiar with feeling a complete disconnect with their President. Ellie Rochman, a college student from Wisconsin, notes that she is “more scared to fight than motivated or confident to.”

Contin’s sentiments are along these same lines. She feels powerless in reaction to President Trump and what he wants this country to be, and she questions the efficacy of activism. “I feel like most of the social activism that has been happening has been ineffective and one-sided and only fights for a small amount of people, which is really discouraging for me and makes me not want to be involved.” Contin paused and gave this more thought, before sighing and reiterating, “The fact that he won makes me not want to be a social activist.” But must each voice be heard by the entire country, and by the head of the nation, for activism to be worth it?

There is also the power of feeling attached to one’s country, a sense of patriotism, which can be a guiding force in fighting against social injustices. Mosola noted that, “There is a great deal that I feel no attachment to, disagree with strongly, and think is pure selfishness or ignorance, depending on how you want to blame people or the system, that really just makes it hard to love the United States all the time.”

Liberals such as Mosola have begun to disassociate with America, feeling as if it is no longer theirs. They are separating from American patriotism, and perhaps in turn, from effective social activism. It is easy to give in to this strong sense of democratic defeat.

This does not discount the initial flood of public action in reaction to President Trump, however. There have been movements such as the Women’s March the day after the Inauguration, which occurred in cities across the globe. There have also been marches for immigrants and other minority communities of America. Americans who want to do something to help, to push back against President Trump’s administration, often give money to non-governmental organizations or call their Senators and sign petitions. However, the more privileged a person is, the easier it is to ignore America’s new reality.

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Bennett explained, “We listen to polls that tell us it will be okay, that Hilary will win, and so we don’t vote because we think it will be fine and we have other things to do.” She nodded and continued, “We are all stuck in our day-to-day life and don’t feel like we have the time to take a stand everyday. But it is worth fighting for a better America.”

Bennett quickly blames the media as a central culprit in the making of Donald Trump as a viable candidate for the presidency and the lack of coverage on Bernie Sanders or other candidates besides President Trump and Hilary Clinton. She said that, “The media is all about sound bites and drama and not about actually serving the people. The news cares about profit over the general good of the country.”

If it was not known before, it is surely acknowledged now that the media is not always a reliable and fair source. It is up to the consumers, the general public, to hear the voices and opinions of others. Otherwise, it is easy to only know what the media and the nation’s powers want the public to hear. This emphasizes the importance of education at the institutional level and the act of personally seeking to educate oneself to develop one’s own informed opinions.

Contin believes that this divided nation could benefit from better listening to one another, specifically between coastal regions and the Midwest. She said, “You need to listen to other people’s opinions that make you upset. It doesn’t mean that listening makes you believe what they believe, it just allows you to be aware of other perspectives.”

Indicated by this widespread liberal shock post-election and strong emotional response, both from Trump voters and anti-Trump activists, there is clearly a listening problem in America. This nation is divided, but liberally minded college students have expressed the hope that instead of fostering this division and ignoring the thoughts and realities of others, the country should come together and hear the often unheard. Instead of feeling deflated, Americans should feel motivated, more than ever, to listen to one another.