Yet another election in which we are holding our noses while we vote. Yet another election that further divides the country. Yet another election of vitriolic and slanderous speech. Yet another election of divisiveness, dispassion, and desperation.
It is hard to believe that only 8 years ago, I was going around the country campaigning for a man who talked about what unites all of us–conservatives and liberals; Democrats and Republicans–as Americans. Only 8 years ago, the sensation of hope was palpable; hope that we could come together as Americans to elect a transformative leader who would unite us in promoting social justice; in saving the worldwide economy; and in hunting down and killing all those responsible for 9/11.
We accomplished all those things as a united America. We promulgated a law, which required some Republican support, which provided health insurance to 20 million uninsured Americans; both Democrats and Republicans voted for Obama’s stimulus package and together we saved the worldwide economy; through Obama’s drone program , which enjoys bipartisan support (Although he received severe criticism in the left, even from former supporters, i.e., Cornell West), we decimated al Qaeda and gaining ground on ISIS. When President Obama gave the order to take out bin Laden and it succeeded, we united in celebration. Both conservatives and liberals joyfully took the streets in celebration of an American victory.
Throughout the course of this long (way too long) presidential circus… I mean contest, we have taken giant steps backwards. Not one candidate on either side of the primary process picked up Obama’s mantle of unity. There were no impassioned speeches about the values that we all share as Americans. There we’re no message of hope; no calls for bipartisanship; no passion in general.
Instead, politicians saw the potential opportunities to win an election by seizing and magnifying the issues that divide us: class, race, and religion. Both parties’ candidates are responsible for destroying the opportunity to build upon the transformation that this country underwent during the 2008 election. We overcame class divide, racial bigotry, and religious intolerance in that election cycle. After the election, intellectuals and pundits spoke of the post-racial era. We were united as Americans.
There was not one hero who served to unite us in the 2016 election. Even Senator Bernie Sanders, who shares some of the more progressive components of the President’s ideology, utilized class divide to garner support. He rightfully highlighted the maltreatment of the working and middle classes in this country, but some of the most important progressive figures in this country are members of the upper class–figures who call for the upper classes to pay their fair share.
Hillary is more concerned about winning the election by appealing to certain segments of society than she is about promoting a message of unity. She does not talk about what unites us as Americans. Instead she talks about how Trump insults the segments of society whom she is trying to appeal to. And that is why she is having difficulty with certain demographics such as working class white men. Although Sanders and Clintons diveseness are subtle, the ramifications are not.
Trump, however, is not so subtle in utilizing divisive speech and tactics. The vicissitude that American Politics underwent in four years is surreal. Obama spoke of unity, and that progressives can win elections when we refuse to campaign as black people or white people, or any other specialist interest group, but as progressives united by our shared empathic values. Demagogues like Trump often divide people with shared economic interests with subliminal racist rhetoric. This lifelong racist did not even both with the subliminal component of that strategy. He called Mexicans murders and rapists; categorized all Mus
,.i.Za; Trump dividedbrought about by the rise of the American Far Right in the . Racists I’m h.ave come out from under their scum laden rocks and into the mainstream. David Duke, the former grand wizard of the KKK, is running for Louisiana’s US Senate seat and has not been shy in spewing his hateful, racist speech. Senator Kirk of Illinois attacked his opponent–a Daughter of the American Revolution–at a debate for having an immigrant parent. Donald Trump retweets tweets from Alt Right–a white supremacist hate group. He has a cozy relationship and even hired Alt Right’s racist media consultant, Steve Bannon. Trump called Mexican immigrants murderers and rapists; made anti-semetic comments at the Jewish American Republican Conference; and has called for Muslims to be banned from immigrating to the United States, serving as a great soundbite for ISIS to recruit more terrorists. He has done more to divide us in this election than any other candidate in United States History.
The 2016 election is the antithesis of the 2008 election. We have reverted to a state of tribalism on both sides of the partisan divide. The candidates do not deserve all of the blame (just most of it). The media napped through the primary process and highlighted the divisevess of this election only after the damage had been done. We the people deserve some of the blame as well. We reverted to our more base nature of selfishness and tribalism. We wonder which of the candidates will serve our most immediate needs–which candidate represents my demographic.
A message of hope and unity brought us together in 2008, and through that unity we overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles. We saved the American economy, beat al Qaeda and killed bin Laden, ensured that 30 million formerly uninsured Americans received health coverage, etc. This election begs the question: what is it that makes us American? Are we just separate, competing demographics in constant confict? Or are we one people, united by our shared values: love of democracy and freedom, love of country, and our belief that as a united people of great ingenuity we can overcome anything?