On Nov. 8 Americans elected arguably one of the most unconventional individuals to ever hold the office of United States President. This unexpected result marked the conclusion of an election season in which Americans across party lines rebelled against boxes, both political and social, which they have grown tired of living within.
As early as the primaries, the candidates with the most public support reflected a widespread dissatisfaction with the traditional party platforms.
Donald Trump is far from a traditional Republican. His plans to create jobs through government-funded infrastructure improvements, revitalize Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and renegotiate or possibly even exit NATO are in direct opposition to the GOP platform. However, Trump’s plans and focus on the middle class strongly resonated with republican constituents.
Arlene, a Trump supporter from New Jersey, told The Guardian, “Donald Trump might not have political experience but I truly believe he has the American people’s interest at heart. We need to bring jobs back to our country, make the economy stronger and hopefully unite all people.”
Bernie Sanders also gained widespread support despite his own derivations from the Democratic platform. The Independent senator from Vermont registered as a Democrat only for the campaign and grew a large following of supporters with his commitment to raising the minimum wage, providing tuition-free higher education, protecting the environment, and repealing Citizens United, especially among young adults. Voters ages 29 and younger voted for Sanders more than two-to-one over Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in the primaries.
After conceding the Democratic nomination, Sanders used his 12 million votes and 1894 delegates to influence the 2016 Democratic Platform.
In past years, the 15 voting members of the Platform Drafting Committee were selected by the Democratic National Convention chair. This year, however, each candidate appointed a number of committee members proportional to the percentage of votes they earned in the primaries.
With this influence, Sanders helped draft a number of the progressive ideals he campaigned for into the new Democratic platform, including calls for a $15 minimum wage, for using clean energy sources to provide 50 percent of our electricity within the next decade, and for tuition-free public colleges and universities for working families.
These candidates each reshaped their party’s platforms by demonstrating a widespread desire for change through their public support. In rallying behind these mold-breaking candidates, the people displayed their frustration with the current state of both the Republican and Democratic Parties. This support was a message to party leadership that their platforms no longer reflected the desires of their constituents. By supporting these unconventional candidates, the people pushed both parties out of boxes which had grown unrepresentative.
Voter response in November also reflected frustration with the two party system.
Many voters cast a vote against a candidate rather than for one. According to the Pew Research Center, only 44 percent of Trump supporters saw their vote as for Trump and only 53 percent of Clinton supporters saw their vote as for Clinton.
Despite his victory, CNN exit polls showed that less than 40 percent of voters held a favorable opinion of Trump, felt that he is honest and trustworthy, or believed that he is qualified to serve as or has the temperament to be president.
The two-party system devalued a large percentage of votes this election. Many voters felt required to use their vote in an effort to stop the greater of two evils rather than to support a candidate whom they truly believed in. The box of traditional voter responsibility which presents voting as the privilege to voice your opinion in support of the direction you believe your country should take has been dismantled by the two-party system, leaving individuals to cast a vote which often means far less to them.
In the fallout after the election, anti-Trump protests erupted across the country. Throughout his campaign, Trump openly attacked those who live in between genders, homes, and cultures. He promised to enact policies which would drastically change the lives of these groups. After he won the election, demonstrators gathered to voice their opposition to such rhetoric and policy.
James Mattox, a protester from Portland, told the Washington Post that, though he does not expect the protests to prevent Trump from taking office, “I think it’s important for people to voice their opinions about him being president because he’s said some really terrible things and people are afraid.”
Many individuals have participated in these protests to show solidarity with these groups and demonstrate their willingness to take action to protect them.
However, since the election, many Trump supporters have felt similarly attacked. For many of these individuals, admitting that they voted for Trump has resulted in a backlash of personal attacks and negative labels such as racist, misogynist, and homophobe.
Yet, exit polls show just how difficult decisions in the voters’ box were for all voters this year. According to CNN exit polls, Trump’s treatment of women bothered 70 percent of voters and Clinton’s use of private email bothered 63 percent of voters. Those who voted for Trump weighed prospective dangers and many feel they successfully rebelled against an establishment that no longer represented them.
Across party lines, Americans expressed deep dissatisfaction with political and social establishments. Their support of unconventional candidates and response on election day demonstrated widespread frustration with both party’s platforms and the debasing nature of the two-party system. Now, in the aftermath of the election, Americans have demonstrated their commitment to defending those who live in between the limitations of unrepresentative social boxes.
Donald Trump’s presidency is an opportunity to reevaluate the political and social boxes we have created for ourselves, and, rather than creating new ones, to learn to be comfortable living in between. The American people have an opportunity to embrace the in between ideologically and politically as we embrace and defend those who live in between socially. Let’s spend the next four years finding the shared humanity that exists between the boxes we have lived in for too long.