Guest Opinion: Leave divisive narratives behind us now
Occasionally, in the space of political discourse, convenient narratives replace actual facts, especially in sensitive times with emotionally charged subject matter. Sometimes the narrative overtakes the truth.
A popular narrative in American media today is that Donald Trump won the presidency because those who voted for him are racist, sexist, homophobic bigots. But the facts tell a different story.
Even hard left-leaning documentarian Michael Moore recognized this when on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” he said: “You have to accept that millions of people who voted for Barack Obama, some of them once, some of them twice, changed their minds this time.”
“They’re not racist. They twice voted for a man whose middle name is Hussein,” he added. “That’s the America you live in.”
The lesson: The somber history of racism in America shouldn’t be tossed around lightly as a shortcut to explain complex election results that don’t fit the popular narrative. Remember, these same media pundits who just days before the election predicted the glorious, landslide victory for Hillary Clinton, now believe half of the American electorate voted because of prejudice.
Simply put: It wasn’t racism that won Donald Trump the election. Clinton was not able to motivate the Obama coalition to come out and vote for her campaign.
There are many statistics that illustrate this fact, but let’s look at just one reliably Democratic voting bloc: labor union members. Only 56 percent of labor union members voted for the Clinton campaign, compared to 65 percent who voted for Obama in 2012. That alone tells the story. Even the AFL-CIO union president Richard Trumka released a statement after the election saying voters had issued “an indictment of politics as usual.”
Voters came out to vote for something other than the status quo. Life on America’s coasts is very different than for those in other parts of the country, particularly the Rust Belt. The economy isn’t working for a lot of people and many wanted something different than what is currently being offered in D.C.
That’s not meant in any way to diminish the feelings of concern or fear among many minority communities or to suggest that racism does not exist in America. America most certainly has a racial divide to address — one that has been on full display the last few years even before the presidential election — but generalizing and fueling the racial divide does not bring us closer together; it only perpetuates racial tension and fear.
President-elect Trump himself must take the lead to help bring the country together and quell tension. In fact, on “60 Minutes” Sunday night, CBS News correspondent Lesley Stahl asked Trump if he had anything to say to people who supported him who were harassing minorities, to which he answered: “I would say don’t do it, that’s terrible, ‘cause I’m going to bring this country together.” He looked into the camera and said, “Stop it.”
Campaign season is over as are the attack ads, the debates and the polling. It’s time we leave the convenient, divisive political narratives behind us too.