Donald Trump will officially become president of the United States on Friday, and for one reason or another, there will be many people for whom his inauguration will be a thing of joy.
Having watched their candidate rise to victory, those who took issue with what they viewed as the liberal agenda of identity politics likely now feel validated. These voters will, however, need to share blame if Trump’s policies disenfranchise groups of people.
They chose a man who they felt could speak plainly and truthfully about American culture, and Trump’s supporters now feel they’ve taken a stand against elitists on the other side of the political spectrum who dared to insult them with negative social labels.
Among the many profiles of Trump voters various news organizations have published in an effort to illustrate these voters’ reasoning, a common thread of indignation at all of the so-called -ist labels emerges. People who voted for Trump don’t like being called sexists or racists primarily because they don’t believe they deserve to be described as such.
Maybe they’re right. Many of them are decent people who argued that because no candidate is perfect, they could permit themselves to overlook whatever they found unappealing about the president-elect and choose him instead of a supposedly even less appealing alternative.
It is precisely that act of overlooking, though, that so many who felt repulsed or marginalized by Trump struggled to understand. Many people couldn’t believe that this man’s indecency and insensitivity hadn’t barred their fellow citizens from supporting him.
While it might be possible that the over-lookers would never individually treat women or people of color unjustly, many Americans who rejected Trump still viewed votes for him as a decision to tolerate a man whose administration would perpetuate such unjust treatment.
Asking a person who opposed Trump to cease his or her usage of -ist words feels like asking a victim to accommodate an aggressor, yet, branding a person who voted for him with such words can in some ways be reductive.
When we decide what to do next, there has been talk of breaking out of social media echo chambers to foster conversations with people who hold different beliefs. Others have suggested that bickering factions should focus on what unites them in order to do work for the country rather than continuing to dig in their heels about what divides them.
We should do those things. But what happens if they don’t work? You can’t very well expect that a survivor of sexual assault will smile on the decision of her neighbor to vote for a man who bragged about the power of his privilege to place him above concern for consent.
Ultimately, Trump voters will have to accept that they bear some complicit responsibility in the undesirable consequences they assumed they could overlook. The opposition, for its part, will have to reach out to those who would deny negative labels and invite them to support causes that protect what a Trump presidency might harm.
Although it is not the responsibility of the disenfranchised to convince the privileged to care, we all have the ability to shape our nation’s future. As Martin Luther King Jr. reminds us, “The time is always right to do what is right.”