Defense of Donald Trump supporters

Peggy Li, Opinion Editor

At Whitman, we often like to believe that everything we do is more aware, more conscious, more reflective and more “right” than the average citizen. We go to college and take classes on a diverse variety of subjects, attempting to “learn to think” in a way that doesn’t   any underprivileged members of society. Yet at the same time, our understanding of the world is no more far-reaching than someone who wasn’t able to attend college, and it is no more objectively correct.

It is not a coincidence that a good chunk of our students hail from private schools in Seattle, Portland and California. We have 40 flavors of students, all vanilla. Yes, I know that I am both generalizing and exaggerating, but the problem remains that, for all we claim to care about with regard to diversity, many of our backgrounds are more or less the same. And arguably because we are so similar in upbringing and ideology, it often times makes us incapable of understanding people with different experiences. After having heard casual conversations throughout this political cycle, and what has been said about Trump supporters, I don’t think this problem has ever been worse.

Casually scroll through Facebook and you’ll see it. “Trump supporters are deplorable, racist and sexist,” or, “If you plan on voting for Trump, please unfriend me right this second.” Many have said that Donald Trump represents a fundamental rift in American society, and that might be true, but what I’ve noticed at Whitman is the knee-jerk, dogmatic rejection of Trump, or anything related to Trump.

Of course it’s very understandable. I also believe that Trump is racist, homophobic and sexist. But the lack of willingness to engage with Trump supporters, to absolutely, unflinchingly and unhesitatingly equate them with the icon who they support seems to a drastic oversight on any of our attempts to be understanding of different backgrounds. We are unthinking in our hatred in much the same way that Trump supporters may be unthinking in theirs.

While waiting in line at Seattle airport, I overheard a Mexican woman explaining her rationale of why she was voting for Trump. I know even telling this story incites an instinctual reaction of, “Oh well she must not know what she’s talking about,” or, “Oh she’s crazy,” but to think that is to fundamentally miss the point because we don’t know why she’s voting for Trump. Just last weekend, I saw a man wearing a Trump for president T-shirt outside Maple Counter. If you were to drive for 20 minutes in any direction, you’ll see the large TRUMP PENCE signs. A lot of students might say, “Well it’s because Walla Wallans are uneducated and racist,” which may be true for some people, but we don’t know that it’s true for everyone. There are those who will say, “There is no good reason to vote for Trump,” but they have just revealed their inability to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. Because what’s actually worth considering is that every person has a different upbringing, and different circumstances that have led them to be the person they are today.

Perhaps the native Walla Wallan votes for Trump because he’s a veteran who just wants his benefits and knows Hillary doesn’t place as much emphasis on the military. Or maybe, there is a recently unemployed factory worker who just wants to feed his family, and thinks that Trump is the better option for what will be best for him. What we shouldn’t ignore is that the majority of Trump’s voting demographic is poor and uneducated, and they arguably are part of the “underprivileged” members of society. Yet, what can we as (largely) privileged college students do? We care for the plight of the underprivileged, but it seems we fundamentally do not understand them on a human-to-human level. There are reasons to vote for Trump, but it seems from our perspective, we simply cannot understand them. We are limited by our experience, and in much the same way that Bernie Sanders’ and Clinton’s campaigns rest on the support of the millennials like ourselves, the Trump campaign rests largely on poor, white, men. Yes, you may not agree with Donald Trump’s Politics, and yes, he may be awful, but I feel that it is our duty as people to at least try and understand where others might be coming from, regardless of race, class and gender.