Adapting to the New Political Normal
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While the election was a breath of relief and cause for celebration for supporters of President-elect Joe Biden, the anxiety and drawn-out nature of the election also shed light on the political dynamic that has developed since President Trump’s slim 2016 victory. While polls and projections were forecasting a victory for Biden in many swing states, and even a possible Blue wave, the reality was much, much closer, with the election hanging in the hands of four states. In light of Trump’s poor handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the past four tumultuous years as a whole, it was alarming for many to see not only that ten million more Americans voted for Trump this November than in 2016 but also that almost half of the country still believes in his ability to run our nation effectively.
As Stuyvesant students, it makes sense that we lack a full understanding of Trumpism. According to the mock election conducted by the social studies department, only 10 percent of 1,762 students said they would vote for Trump if they could, representative of our “liberal” bubble. With this statistic, however, we often make generalizations about the political makeup of our student body, not realizing that more conservatives exist at Stuyvesant than some students think. Moreover, many non-conservative, first- and second-generation students come from immigrant households, with parents who voted for Trump in 2016 or 2020.
The bubble is a valuable concept to further our understanding of our skewed views. However, it most commonly manifests itself in the vaguely-defined notion that only by popping the bubble can liberals understand Trump’s base. That only through this knowledge can they achieve triumphant unity and a much-sought-after end to polarization. But what we should take away from the idea of the bubble is not that the bubble prevents unity and reconciliation in our country, but instead that this bubble limits our qualitative, descriptive understanding of why people support Trump. Trump’s message of Making America Great Again has fired up people from across the country and sparked a new movement that seems almost separate from the pre-2016 mainstream Republican party. Without a more sophisticated grasp of Trump’s appeal, we remain complacent to the evolving dynamic of the Republican Party, as well as its impact on the Democratic Party. We do not address the concerns or arguments of Trump supporters, some of which may be legitimate, nor do we engage in reasoned debate with pro-Trump Americans.
Not only has our traditional understanding of politics changed, but the tools with which we understand them have also evolved. Nowhere is this shift more clear than with polling. Contrary to popular belief, polling has historically been a good predictor of election results. But politics have changed dramatically to the point where polling, once a reliable measure of gauging the public’s political views, can no longer effectively do so, as was made apparent in the polling discrepancies of this election. The tools we have now are no longer useful in navigating our current political climate, and similarly, our current mindsets need to be changed.
As we approach voting age and begin to engage politically, it is our responsibility to be attuned to the changing political environment and adapt our mindsets accordingly. By categorizing all Trump supporters under a radical, pro-life, QAnon-supporting umbrella, we impose yet another bubble that limits our ability to have nuanced conversation. Given that our current climate has seen record voter turnout from young adults, we must be cognizant of the assumptions we make and avoid confining ourselves to the dangerous implications of the bubble. It is important to note that we are not calling for reconciliation nor political unity in America. Rather, without this crucial understanding, we risk repeating the mistakes that led to Trump’s rise yet again.
As we approach voting age and begin to engage politically, we must be attuned to the changing political environment and adapt our mindsets accordingly. We should not be astonished by the 47 percent of Americans who stand by Trumpism. Still, we are not calling for reconciliation or political unity in America. Given that our current climate has seen record voter turnout from young adults, we must be cognizant of the nuances in the assumptions we make and avoid confining ourselves to the dangerous implications of the bubble. By categorizing all Trump supporters under a radical, pro-life, QAnon-supporting umbrella, we impose once again the bubble that limits the ability for nuanced conversation. We have a responsibility to internalize the interests, motivations, and goals of those Americans who stand on the other side of the aisle and use them as starting points to spark genuine dialogue?. Without developing this understanding, we risk repeating the mistakes that led to Trump’s rise yet again. It would be prudent as we move forward to keep George Santayana’s words in mind: “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.”