Members of the Democratic Party in the United States seem to have learned little in the past few months.
As Donald Trump’s ridiculous and dangerous words and deeds mount up, they conclude, “See, we told you. Americans should have voted for Hillary Clinton.” Hillary Clinton herself is on a book tour whose purpose seems to be to proclaim, “I should have won.” Democrats are still fighting the 2016 election. It is pointless. That election is over. They lost.
Let me be clear. In my opinion, Donald Trump is an impulsive, reckless, self-centred, narrow-minded fool (that is, “a person who acts unwisely or imprudently”). But that was clear before the election. What Democrats have failed to admit face-on is the fact that millions of Americans chose to vote for a fool rather than Hillary Clinton. Instead of proclaiming, “See, we were right all along,” Democrats need to do some serious soul-searching. They need to ask themselves, “Why would so many Americans vote for Donald Trump?”
To begin with, Democrats might consider why they chose Hillary Clinton to be their presidential candidate when she had her own share of moral failings and narrow-minded policies (although in different directions). But what I am getting at is something that goes far beyond Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
The division in American society was not created by Donald Trump, and Democrats need to recognize their own role in deepening the division. The two solitudes have existed for a long time. The liberal, urban, secular coasts are very different from the conservative, rural, religious center of the country. (That is a vast oversimplification but useful nonetheless.)
Instead of demanding that people in the center of the country get with it and unite around values they don’t share, Democrats should start figuring out ways to bridge the gulf between the two solitudes. This is not going to happen as long as Democrats dismiss Trump’s supporters—half of the US population—as racist, homophobic, women-hating bigots.
Again, let me be clear. There are plenty of bigots in the US. But not all of the people who voted for Donald Trump are bigots. Hillary Clinton’s supporters should try to understand the position of at least some of those people.
Imagine a wife and mother in the Midwest. She loves her children. But what she hears from Democrats like Hillary Clinton is that she is not a real woman unless she takes a pair of scissors, drives the scissors into the skulls of her children, and sucks out their brains. Democrats call it “an exercise of women’s rights,” but it is a brutal practice called partial-birth late-term abortion, a practice that Hillary Clinton voted not to outlaw. A mother who loves her children is understandably unwilling to vote for anyone who condones the practice. Democrats need to at least try to understand how their policies are perceived in the hinterland.
Or consider the position of a working class American husband and father. He goes to church, he loves his wife, and he tries hard to raise his sons to be moral, responsible adults. He doesn’t particularly hate homosexuals or lesbians. However, the Democrats insist that he is a prude and a bigot unless he approves not only of homosexuality but also of sexual promiscuity and public nudity. How does he square that attitude with his responsibilities as a father?
Or consider the position of an American Roman Catholic. The Democrats introduced Obamacare, a universal medical system—something which Roman Catholics, with their tradition of supporting social justice, might be expected to support. But the Democrats didn’t just introduce a medical insurance plan. They used it as a lever to force Roman Catholics and Roman Catholic institutions to violate their consciences by funding abortions. How could a devout Roman Catholic support a party that did that, a party that treated his sincerely held beliefs with contempt?
These people voted for Donald Trump because the Democrats didn’t offer them a palatable alternative. In many cases, they were interested in policies and issues more than in the warped personalities of the candidates.
If the Democrats want to replace Donald Trump and his cohorts with less foolish political leaders, they need to stop forcing average Americans to choose between fools on the right and fools on the left. If they want to attract middle America, they are going to have to at least make the attempt to understand, or even empathize with, middle America.