For Those That Oppose Donald Trump: A Warning From The Future.
I watched in silence in the morning hours of November 9th as the candidate I voted for in the US elections slowly lost her grip on the race. I was across the world in an apartment in Istanbul, Turkey and yet I felt a sense panic rushing through me even from a distance. At one point, I took a break from watching the coverage to look out the window to see a new day dawning in Turkey, and the only thing going through my mind was “here we go again.”
You see, for many Turks, the 2016 US elections was an all too familiar scenario. In 2002, a newly formed right-wing religious political party surged through Turkey, rising in popularity led by a controversial former mayor of Istanbul. When elections came along, they won a majority in the parliament causing many of the nation’s liberals to blame their counterparts for voting into parliament a party that they felt lacked the experience, leadership and vision to run an entire nation. The only idea liberals took comfort in was the assumption/hope that the newly-elected party and its rookie leader would falter under pressure forcing its voters to switch sides in the following elections.
Fast forward to 2016 in Turkey: We as liberals couldn’t have been more wrong. The rookie former-mayor of 2002 is on the verge of changing the constitution to become the supreme leader of Turkey after 14 years of heading the country. The liberals in Turkey are frightened. They observe their beloved country straying from its secular foundation. The checks and balances of the government are in ruins and freedom of speech has become a dream of the past.
For these 14 years, the country’s liberals have placed all of their belief into their position on the ethics spectrum. So whenever anyone from the administration violates the liberal ethos, the liberals assume they can force the other side to see the “right” path and shift support to their side. This high horse approach that does absolutely nothing to help them understand what actually motivates most of the administration’s supporters to vote for them haunts these liberals to this day.
As liberals in Turkey, we have failed to understand that we can’t patronize people and expect to gain their understanding as a result. With our heads in the clouds, we dream of a Turkish utopia while failing to acknowledge that the present world is a dystopia for other fellow citizens. As a result, 14 years have passed with the left becoming more isolated from the mass and polarization resulting in civil unrest.
I can’t help but notice similar resentment brewing now for the “other side” by America’s liberals. I keep seeing questions similar to “how could anyone have voted for Trump” while the question should be “why did people end up voting for Trump.” I get the fear Donald Trump has invoked in people with his bigoted remarks throughout his campaign. I understand that some ignorant people feel empowered now to openly show their distaste for minorities, which has other people deeply wondering where the moral compass of the nation is headed.
But we can’t put the burden of Trump’s remarks and the actions from isolated incidents on the shoulders of the 60 million that voted for him. Not everyone that voted for Trump can be categorized into an “ism.” There were plenty that voted for him out of self-interest. It’s their right to do so, just as it is our right to vote for the candidate that best represents our self-interest.
Now that Trump is elected, Turkey’s recent history tells me to not sit back for the next 4 years and wait for Trump to fail. Experience tells me to not turn to Trump supporters every time he makes a mistake and ask “you see what you did?” THIS DOES NOT WORK. Believe me, I am seeing the consequences firsthand.
If we really want to “limit the damage” we think Trump might cause, then it’s time for us to step out of our comfort zone and really understand what is concerning the citizens behind the votes that changed the outcome of the race. What made these fellow citizens worried enough to put their trust in a complete outsider? Then, we need to follow up by supporting the Democratic legislators that voice solutions to these peoples’ issues.
Maybe as liberals we missed that opportunity with Bernie Sanders in this last election, but we can’t dwell in the past. We have to find another unconventional liberal leader that understands the needs of ALL US citizens when the next election cycle comes around.
The silver lining is that the DNC isn’t far off from regaining the leadership of the United States. Hillary in the end won the popular vote, and roughly a 100,000 vote shift in some of the swing states would have brought her an electoral victory as well.
So as someone that’s seeing one of his countries fall further and further away from its democratic ideals, with no clear signs of a turnaround in the near future, I absolutely beg you to not give in to your instincts to blame others for our party’s loss. Pass along an olive branch to those that voted for Trump and find out what needs of theirs must be met to prevent Trump from winning a second term or someone worse from taking over the Oval Office. Let’s do this before Trump further benefits from polarizing us.
I have seen the liberals from one country suffer far too long because they didn’t take these simple steps. Don’t make the same mistakes. Consider this a warning from the future.