The problem of the social-liberal Left — a young student’s opinion

On election night I decided to stay up to watch the outcome of the first democratic election I had actively followed. At the time I was an intern at the German Bundestag, one of two chambers of the German Legislative, and thus extremely interested in politics, policy, public affairs and the whole package. Contrary to most people I had talked to that day, I believed Trump was going to emerge victorious from what had been the extremely interesting and chaotic United States presidential election of 2016. Polls and experts indicated otherwise. I didn’t have any data — I was neither a pollster nor a researcher. You might say it was more of a hunch due to the conversations I had had with Americans I knew both in the U.S. and in Europe and the fact that I had partially grown up in the United States.

So, like I said, I decided to watch the results coming in for as long as I could. But since I was living in Berlin and was hours ahead of continental USA, my tiredness got the better of me and I ended up falling asleep. The next morning, at approximately 6:45 AM, I got out of bed and took a look at my cellphone, which was full of notifications from sources like the Guardian, Al Jazeera, BBC and Sueddeutsche, and just stared at it for a couple of minutes. Then, realization sank in. Donald J. Trump, real-estate mogul, reality TV star and general “business man” had been elected the 45th President of the United States of America. This was the man who had promised to build a wall along the US-Mexican border, to bring back jobs to America and, of course, to make America great again.

Berlin felt unusually quiet the next day. The election outcome was the topic of the day and people were talking about it everywhere. Newspapers and news channels were dominated by attention grabbing and shocking headlines. Average citizens and government officials were wondering alike: what was the new administration going to be like? What are they exactly planning on doing? How seriously should we take his comments on NATO, Russia, China and the economy?

At the time it was too early to try to truly understand why trump won. A lot of people had a lot of opinions and explanations but I noticed one thing that had happened during the elections and are still happening to this day. Many of those who considered themselves leftists, social-liberals, democrats and the like were still committing the same mistake. They were ignoring the fears, hopes and desires of those who they broadly classified as racists, bigots and xenophobes. By expressing their belief that they are superior and more modern than their right-wing counterparts and by classifying all who would vote for Trump, Le Pen, and co. as ignorant they infuriated moderate conservatives and conservative leaning independents who found themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place. And now, thanks to this, the world finds itself on the brink of entering a new age of reality, diplomacy and international relations.

I’ve seen lots of people who are beginning to blame conservatives for what is yet to come with the Trump administration but I ask myself: aren’t they allowed to desire and fear? Why are their wishes worth less than that of social-liberals and progressives? It is neither fair nor right to classify others as “racist” or “bigots” because they, in general, do not support your views on society, politics and economics.

I don’t blame conservatives for voting for these extreme candidates. I don’t blame those who feel like they’ve been left behind in a world that is more interconnected with each passing day. I don’t blame those who fear for the safety of their loved ones. I don’t blame those who feel ignored by the very political system that is supposed to be there to represent them.

I blame the people who refuse to acknowledge the desires, wishes and fears of those who voted for Trump. I blame the people who classify those who voted for Trump and Brexit as ignorant, deplorable, racist and xenophobic.

To fight rising populism and nationalism we must engage in conversation with each other and attempt to find solutions that benefit both sides of the aisle. If social-liberals do not adapt and continue with this view they will suffer more defeats in the West. And they would have no one to blame for except themselves.