May 28, 2017

Debate is healthy, shouting is not

The 2016 election was the nastiest election in my lifetime. It featured two very flawed, unpopular candidates. I thought we were doomed no matter if the winner was Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Many other Americans felt this way, and FiveThirtyEight reported 42 percent of eligible voters did not even bother to vote.

Regardless of the election results, this distrust and division isn’t going away anytime soon. Democrats and republicans will continue to point fingers at each other and accomplish little in favor of the American people.

Diehard Clinton supporters have been putting the blame on everyone but their candidate. Her campaign unfairly lumped in all of her critics as rednecks and bigots. It was the “deplorable” Trump voters who cost Hillary. It was the “basement dwelling” Bernie Sanders supporters who refused to tow the party line. It was third party voters, the Russians or the FBI.

Meanwhile, Trump’s campaign has engaged in disgraceful tactics. The candidate and his surrogates often said offensive remarks and proposed outlandish policies. There was troubling support from actual bigots such as David Duke and the KKK. There has been an uptick of reports of racially motivated incidents by fringe Trump supporters since the election ended.

What is most troubling are the divisions the election has caused with everyday Americans. Both sides have engaged in childish name calling. Friendships are ending, family relationships are being strained, and co-workers are not on speaking terms.

Most partisans do not want to hear a different point of view than their own. Even if you did not support either candidate, criticism of either candidate had the possibility of inciting insults from their supporters.

If you are willing to listen to others point of view, you can actually have an intelligent conversation. Many Clinton and Trump supporters are not as stereotypical as you think. I have talked to several Trump voters who said they were concerned about jobs and the economy, and were not fans of Trump’s temperament or social policies. I have talked to Clinton supporters who felt she would be able to address some of their issues, but had questions about her ethics and trustworthiness.

Many anti-Trumpers want to oppose everything he does, no matter what merit the policy has. It would be a better policy to pick your battles with Trump. Save the extra scrutiny for Supreme Court nominees and Cabinet appointments. Vigorously oppose Trump if he chooses to implement unconstitutional policies such as stop and frisk, torture, surveillance, limitations on First Amendment rights, and a registry of American Muslims. That would gain public support.

Trump was not my pick for president, but I also do not want the country to burn down. I am just hoping he will be more pragmatic and less nonsensical. Trump said after meeting with Obama he would keep parts of Obamacare, moderate his immigration stance to Obama’s (who has deported record numbers of people) and protect gay rights. He might not be what some of his firmest supporters or opponents think he will.

The United States has never had a president like Trump before, and we do not know how the next four years will go. Just remember political debate is healthy for the country, shouting down others is not.

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