With the results of the election leaving millions of Americans unsatisfied, a smaller, yet significant and growing population is entirely unconvinced that Joe Biden is rightfully entitled to the status of president-elect, much less the 46th President of the United States. Scrolling through Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram only clarifies the chilling reality that Americans of both sides of the political spectrum are operating on two completely different sets of facts and information. To be an informed left-wing supporter or right-wing supporter is clearly of more importance than to be informed, to understand, and to empathize. The sway of ideological thinking and feudal politics has intoxicated Americans, creating a sharp, irreconcilable distinction between Democrat and Republican. Many politicians are aware of this growing divergence, yet instead of advocating for bi-partisanship they capitalize on this lack of sensibility by fueling ideological zeal and fear-mongering.
President Donald J. Trump’s entire campaign represents a capitalization of fear and distrust so as to develop ideological zeal. How many times have we heard the president exagerrate the socialist agenda? How many times have we been told to fear the radical left? That Muslim immigrants are a severe threat to our country? That big banks, big tech, and big media ravage this country and manipulate its citizens? Donald Trump speaks with certainty, gusto, and charisma, which is his appeal. For those weary from the past four years, his certainty is no longer intriguing (if it ever was), it simply reeks of ideology, authoritarianism, and manipulation. Born in 2016, nurtured and matured through a tumultuous presidential term, “Trumpism”, has fostered a significant political allegiance that has forever left its mark on American democracy.
I wish to clarify that “Trumpism” does not apply to all those who voted for Donald Trump, but refers specifically to the radicalized and uncritically allegiant portion of Donald Trump’s voter-base. In short, “Trumpism” could be defined as a hyper-nostalgic belief in restoring America to a position of supposed greatness it once held. Its values are largely conservative and intertwined with the triumph of unfettered capitalism over any mechanism that seems remotely close to socialism, often forgetting or refusing to acknowledge that the United States is a mixed economy. It often manifests into a distorted view of patriotism, resembling nativism all too closely. The severity of its ignorance and the corrosive superiority of its figurehead has bolstered the allegiance of a radical population that will not be deterred or convinced by the blatant opposition of their political adversaries. The zeal by which Trumpists deny the legitimacy of the coronavirus, climate change, systemic racism, and the results of the election echo the beliefs maintained by an ideology claiming to be sole means of upholding truth; an unfortunate paradox considering that the Trump administration has consistently misinformed the American public on each of these matters. In times as fragile and uncertain as 2020, it is no surprise that Donald Trump’s snake oil of certainty holds its grip on so many seeking some means of truth and comfort to navigate through the chaos.
In response to “Trumpism”, an equally corrosive rhetoric has emerged from the Left, who are, at times, too quick to dehumanize any Trump supporter as a bigot, racist, homophobe, xenophobe, or ignorant scum that represents all that is evil in this country. Certainly, the claims are not unwarranted, but what is being sacrificed in this hateful response to a hateful ideology? Is there any common ground to be found in this sort of discourse, if it can even be called such? Within the strict boundaries of ideology, there is none whatsoever. Ideological thinking enables one to create a world with easy answers and easy solutions. Thus, any perspective that threatens those answers represents a threat to the truth itself. Within the boundaries of ideology, empathy, understanding, and humanity are sacrificed in lieu of unflinching certainty.
Democracy that lacks understanding and empathy is not democratic. Democracy is an ongoing project that must be ready to innovate and reimagine itself to engage with this century of the unprecedented. Our democracy’s Constitution was established “in Order to form a more perfect Union”; the action “form” implying that democracy is an ongoing innovation and “more” emphasizing its endless capacity to improve and adapt according to the needs of its people. An ideological recession into the past that seeks to “Make America Great Again” denies us the capability of engaging our future in which the shackles of ideology are loosened, and collaboration and productive compromise are possible. Furthermore, a bitterly expressed hatred towards those misguided by Trumpism, only crystallizes their belief that they hold the esoteric knowledge that their political adversaries do not have the capacity to recognize. They will believe, as they already do, that it is their responsibility to further their beliefs towards a noble martyrdom for the sake of making America great again. Unfortunately, as Donald Trump still refuses to concede a lost election, and begins funding his “Save America” PAC, it is certain that “Trumpism” will remain as a political ideology for the foreseeable future.
So, what is our responsibility, as citizens of a democratic nation? We cannot fight the ideological zeal of “Trumpism” with a resistance of equal shape and form differing only in beliefs. Where there is hatred, those of us who believe in democracy must be willing to understand and empathize. Every American can admit, regardless of their political allegiance, that they are afraid and apprehensive at this moment. Thus, the fate of our democracy demands that we recognize our shared fragile and imperfect humanity to seek civil discourse and social innovation. Whether or not Joe Biden rises to the challenge of reconciling an increasingly polarized country, he is correct in asserting that we face a “battle for the soul of the nation”. This battle begins with individual reconciliation, remembering how to disagree without hating one another. We cannot depend on presidential candidates alone. Our moment demands that we rise above the ideological appeal which tempts all of us to press into our fear, hatred, and distrust. Reconciliation loves and hopes far more than it hates. Our democracy demands reconciliation.