Almost everyone, except Trump and his most loyal followers, have come to the conclusion that Biden is our next president. Regardless of where you stand politically, this is a good thing for the country — and for the rest of the planet.
I watched a video of a John McCain townhall, from what feels like a lifetime ago, where I think the Trump strategy might have been born. Ignorant people get the microphone, and make racist, bigoted statements about then-rival Obama, and Senator McCain with dignity and class, politely but firmly shuts them down, explaining that while they disagree on politics, he respects his opponent, and believes Obama to be a good family man, who is serving his country. I imagine it was moments like that where someone like Trump (or Bannon, or Conway) realized that they could appeal to a wide range of Americans by ejecting civility and playing to people’s ignorance — leaning into stupidity and legitimizing into a political platform of its own.
That’s exactly what Trump has done: he’s legitimized the worst of human behavior, and made himself a vocal champion of the ignorant thoughts that people might harbor, but previously wouldn’t dare to say out loud. The oppression of decency is over-thrown by a leader who, according to his base, might be “rough around the edges, but gets things done!”
This year’s election didn’t throw out conservative politics — nor did it halt the cancer that is over-taking that body. But it did excise a significant tumor, and gave the patient an opportunity to improve its quality of life. What remains to be dealt with, though, is the lingering odor of decay that surrounds the site: the devastating collateral damage that comes from close association with the sickness that is Trumpism; the possibly irredeemable damage to the testimony of people who claim Christ, but also claim Trump is His messenger.
I cannot, and will not, defend Trump, or the horrifying shift toward base and degrading behavior that was exhibited by his fan club. But I do have to say some things in defense of the almost-half of the country that felt compelled to vote for him…
For better or worse (and I am convinced it’s for worse), America has a two party political system. The result is an increasing series of false dichotomies that drive people inexorably into one of two camps. Are you for gun control, against babies, for gay marriage, and against religion? Then you’re a Democrat! Are you opposed to taxes, do you hate women, love God, but hate gay people? Then you’re a Republican! And if those simplifications sound stupid to you, then you must be a swing voter, and therefore a pawn in the machinations of a 24-hour news cycle that wants to sell you one of two insane world views.
And of course we all know that, but that doesn’t stop anyone from vilifying the other side. Given how reprehensible a human being Trump is, its all too easy to say “I can’t be friends with anyone who votes for Trump!” And given how extreme some left wing positions have become, its understandable that some people can be convinced that Kamala Harris (a former criminal prosecutor!) is actually a secret operative of Antifa. But labeling the other side with broad strokes obscures the fact that there are only two choices; two buckets into which all discourse, debate, thought and study, has to be sorted into.
I am for Obamacare. The country I come from has universal health care, and while its far from perfect, the fact that getting sick in Canada doesn’t carry a risk of bankruptcy is an important foundation for actual freedom! But while I think the idea has merit, the actual application here in the States has serious flaws. My car mechanic is a friend, and his health insurance went from $30 a month to $300 a month when the Obamacare mandate took effect. That’s not right — its supposed to help people, not cripple them. Unfortunately, our government can’t have a discussion about how to fix the implementation, because one side will fight to the death to keep it as is, and the other is doing everything in their power to reverse it entirely. That’s not a functioning government; that’s two toddlers in a sandbox fighting over a toy they want.
I am opposed to abortion on principle. I believe that at some point during gestation, the fetus is imbued with the image of God, a consciousness emerges, and that tiny baby is a human being that should have the same rights as the mother. But I don’t know when that point is — the Bible doesn’t clarify this, and science can’t explain why or when consciousness occurs. Up until that point, whenever it is, the mother’s rights should prevail over all other decisions. Our society was not set up to give women autonomy, and to use the law to take control over when and if a woman chooses to become a mother is to endorse a systematic rape. I don’t have a uterus, so my opinion on this matter isn’t worth much, but for whatever its worth, the morality of this issue for me hinges on a moment I don’t understand, during a process that, despite everything I learned about it while Nicole carried our three kids, still seems mysterious and miraculous. For legislators (usually old white dudes) to determine that they know exactly what is right in every situation, and can declare their opinion to be a law applicable to every woman all the time seems ludicrous, indefensible and cruel.
I believe my church should have a right to perform a religious ceremony based on the teachings of our religion. In my religion, we define marriage as being between a man and a woman. We’re allowed to do that, because I’m pretty sure that’s what “freedom of religion” means. I do not believe a government should be able to redefine a religion, and force my pastor to do something he doesn’t believe. But I also do not believe that my religion is public policy — it is freely chosen by its followers, or it is not really faith! This separation of church and state goes both ways, and is fundamental to this country. But my church’s religious ceremony has nothing to say about someone else’s sense of self, or feelings of love for another. We teach our kids that love is love, that God loves everyone, and that we should never judge someone for who they are, or act in a way that belittles their journey or their feelings.
I can’t vote, but given these brief opinions on today’s hot button issues, which way would I vote? Would I vote to keep a flawed Obamacare, to progress toward late-term abortions, and for an increase in gay rights? Or would I vote to eliminate any progress toward universal healthcare, jail women who seek the protections of Roe v. Wade, and strip the rights of two dudes (or two ladies) who love each other? And if the answer is not clear, then you must have empathy for Trump voters (and for Biden voters, if you consider them equally reprehensible) because these things are not simple issues.
There are some who voted for Trump because he embodies and emboldens their ignorance. They revel in the permission to act badly. But there aren’t 70 million of those people. Many millions of them exist in the gray space in which neither party represents them, and where they are forced to choose the one that seems like it might steer the nation in a direction that looks a little less confusing, and a little less uncertain. And while millions of voters may have chosen the other old white dude this year (the one whose main platform was not being Trump) they aren’t really aligned with Biden either. As a nation, 2020 has exposed some deep flaws in our structure, in our systems, and in our hearts, and we should forgive each other when we don’t agree on how to move forward — because none of us are really sure how we recover from this year…
There’s a lot of opinions out there — mine are worth less than a single vote. Its OK to disagree with each other. But if you label any opinion that is not your own as a crime against humanity, then you are a victim of this two party system. Worse, you are willingly complicit in a polarization that seeks to eliminate all discourse, all compromise, all cooperation, and drive people further apart. If you voted for Biden, make friends with a Trump voter in 2021, and walk a mile in their shoes — try to understand their fears and their vulnerabilities. If you voted for Trump, take down your stupid lawn sign, walk away from that sore loser, and buy your Biden-voting neighbor a coffee (or a beer) — find some common ground. Go forward together from there, cause if we don’t, then we all lost this election…