Simply put, when you cast your ballot for Donald Trump, you decided his attacks on your neighbors were not vicious or vulgar enough to disqualify him.
This decision was made in the light of other factors. You had other priorities. You opposed Hillary Clinton’s deception and corruption. Perhaps you wanted to shock and dismantle the establishment — the media, corporate, and political elites. Likely you were concerned with restoring Republican power, particularly over the Supreme Court, and advancing conservative policies like curtailing abortion rights and protecting the all-important Second Amendment. You perhaps thought Trump, as a businessman, could offer economic policies that would benefit you.
Whatever your reasons, you prioritized. You weighed factors such as these against the things Trump said about your neighbors and the things he promised to do to them. And such factors were more important to you.
Now, don’t get me wrong, many bigots voted for Trump. For example, polls show 38% of Trump supporters think minorities have “too much influence” in the U.S., 40% believe blacks are lazier than whites, and so on. But you do not think that way. This article is for you, not for them.
You simply did not care enough to put the people Trump threatened and degraded before the other factors important to you.
You didn’t care enough about women to reject Trump when he called women ugly and fat, when he bragged about being able to grab women’s vaginas because he was a celebrity. The rape cases against him were surely nothing but rumors.
You were too insensitive toward Muslims to not vote for Trump when he said mosques should be monitored, Muslims should be registered in a database or made to wear special identification, and no more Muslims should be allowed to enter the land of the free.
You didn’t care enough about African Americans to abandon Trump when he retweeted white supremacists lying about blacks being the main killers of whites, perpetuating stereotypes of the violent, criminal black man, called for the return of harsh, discriminatory police policies like stop-and-frisk, or refused to rent to blacks. You didn’t care enough that he delayed in denouncing KKK support or had an open white supremacist like Stephen Bannon running his campaign.
You didn’t care enough about the children of undocumented immigrants, whose mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, will be arrested, throw into trucks, and taken away forever if Trump’s deportation plan comes to pass. You didn’t care enough about Trump stereotyping the people escaping bloody wars and extreme poverty in Central and South America as rapists, drug dealers, and job thieves.
You didn’t care enough about the disabled when he heartlessly mocked a disabled reporter or had a protester in a wheelchair removed from his rally.
You didn’t care enough about veterans when Trump said a P.O.W. wasn’t a war hero.
You certainly didn’t care enough about homosexuals to not vote for Trump when he said a conservative Supreme Court could toss out the gay marriage decision.
Whether Trump intends to carry out his threats, whether he believes what he says or was using such rhetoric as a political strategy to appeal to the conservative base, is irrelevant. Regardless of motive, people who speak of authoritarianism and use demagoguery must be opposed.
This is not only directed at conservative straight white men, but rather every single person who cast a ballot for Trump. The 58% of white voters, 8% of black voters, 29% of Latino voters. The 10% of liberals, 41% of moderates, 81% of conservatives. The 14% of LGBT voters. The 58% of Christians. The 53% of women.
Perhaps you’re an African American who didn’t care enough about Muslim rights. Perhaps you’re liberal who didn’t care enough about respect for women. Regardless, you prioritized. You voted against many of your own interests. You’re a Muslim who has helped bring to power a man vowing to strip you of your civil liberties. Or an LGBT American who may have set in motion the undoing of much progress. You put other considerations, other interests, ahead of the respect and civil rights you deserve as a human being and citizen of the United States — and which your neighbors deserve, as well.
Sadly, people voting against their own interests is nothing new in American politics. Look to the conservative whose family could immensely benefit from higher taxes on the rich strengthening social programs like Social Security or covering the cost of college for anyone who wishes to attend, but takes a valiant stand against it. Voting against one’s own well-being is an act too many people on both Right and Left seem eager to partake in, and it is as disheartening as it is amazing.
That a cis straight white man is telling minority people what’s in their best interests will evoke no apology here. One cannot denounce whites and conservatives for accepting and enabling an assault on certain groups’ rights and basic human dignity — plus the emboldening of the most vile of people, who celebrated Trump’s triumph by grabbing women by the vagina, ripping hijabs off Muslim girls’ heads, screaming “nigger!” at blacks, mocking Hispanics, beating homosexuals, and a slew of other hate crimes — without likewise denouncing the liberals, women, and minorities who also participated in this American tragedy.
We have to hold all people, and ourselves, to the same standards, whether it’s criticizing folks on the Right and Left who were apologists for Trump’s policies and slander or condemning both citizen violence against the people Trump threatened and against Trump supporters.
That’s what empathy entails. You hold others to the same standards you hold for yourself. You want the same rights and treatment for others you want for yourself. Trump’s victory was fueled by many factors — hatred for the establishment (the ruling class) and corrupt politicians, economic uncertainty and strife, advancement of conservative ideals and policy, bigotry and xenophobia, and so on — but in the end a lack of empathy on the Right, and to an extent elsewhere, may be the most serious problem.
Too many are simply unable to empathize with others, extending to them the way of life and respect they desire for themselves and their children. Too many support or tolerate cruel policies because they will not personally be affected. So a politician suggests monitoring mosques and registering Muslims — why not vote for him, I am not a Muslim. A politician perpetuates stereotypes of brown immigrants and black men — why not vote for him, I am not a brown immigrant or black man. And on and on. People are looking out for themselves, caught up in a society that celebrates individualism instead of solidarity with others. We are selfish, callous to the plight of citizens of different races, religions, sexual orientations, and so on. Truly, this election renounced empathy.
You and tens of millions of others simply did not care enough about the people Trump threatened to not vote for him. Others, less guilty, were so apathetic they didn’t even vote, or voted third party in swing states.
Had we loved our neighbors, had we treated others the way we want to be treated — and rejected politicians who refused to do the same — Donald Trump would have failed. Miserably.
Perhaps your conscience is clear, your trust in your priorities unshaken, the outcome of all this satisfactory.
The rest of us mourn the death of American empathy.