Reporter's Notebook

Will Trump Voters and Clinton Voters Ever Relate?
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Atlantic readers from across the political spectrum discuss the results of the U.S. presidential election and what it means for the country. (The Atlantic’s overall stance on Donald Trump remains firm.) To join in, especially if you’re a Trump voter, please send us a note:

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Take It From a ‘Liberal Redneck’

Be sure to check out this video—a post-election Thanksgiving message that’s right in line with what readers have been debating in this Notes thread (except now with delightful lines like “we can keep shoving our heads up our high-horses asses all we want”). The self-described liberal redneck has some hard truths for his wounded compatriots:

A long-time reader—back when the Dish was at The Atlantic—flagged the video:

Long time, no talk, amigo. I’ve been meaning to check in with you, but I had to detox from any form of online interaction for about a week after the election. (Sully was onto something about our online addiction; I’ve never seen the battery on my phone die so quickly, or my anxiety get so out of control, as the days around this election.) It’s an occupational hazard for you, so it’s not like you could really look away, but I hope you’ve carved out some time to not be plugged in.

The back and forth with Trump supporters and non-Trump supporters has been illuminating, which is something to salvage from this wreckage, I suppose. I have tried empathizing with the “wrecking ball” voter, but I find myself coming up short when he says he knows coal won’t come back to West Virginia but he votes for the guy who has promised to fire up the flux capacitor and take the DeLorean back a few decades. The same goes for wanting a synagogue, a church, and a mosque all on the same street, while voting for the guy who traffics in Muslim scare tactics, retweets anti-Semitic imagery, and now employs Steve Bannon. Similarly, there’s no room in his heart for bigotry, but he’s accepting of the most openly bigoted campaign in contemporary politics.

His entire note reads inchoate. He didn’t really vote for a wrecking ball; he voted to piss into a stiff wind. Because … principles?

Your colleague David Frum gave an interview in the lead-up to the election [seen below, transcript here] in which he mentioned there are only two ways to use your vote: as an expression, or as an instrument.

Using your vote to express “I’d rather just piss into the wind than worry about what might happen to healthcare in America” is not something I can really find a defense for. It’s an obviously intelligent person grasping for a way to express anger at “the system” but who voted in a way that instead may put everyday people at risk. “I vote for the wrecking ball” because handing commander-in-chief duties of the most powerful military in the world to a guy who is so thin-skinned he picks fights with a Broadway musical? Call this line of thinking frustration, charitably, but it’s also reckless and irresponsible. Being a frustrated voter is understandable; being a reckless one is not.

Last week, we put out a survey to readers asking about Thanksgiving plans, and over 400 of you responded, telling us how far you’d be traveling to see friends and family and how you’d be getting there. We compiled the results and Andrew made this cool graphic:

Andrew McGill / The Atlantic

As you can see, we also asked how you were feeling. In the aftermath of an ugly presidential season and a shocking upset of an election, Americans may find their family gatherings more fraught than ever this year—and in this era of a deep political divide between the city and the countryside, that may be especially true for the people who are traveling far to see loved ones.

When we asked, generally, what emotions you were feeling, most of you didn’t bring up politics. But about 14 percent of you did. For some, that’s the reason they look forward to having family close. As one reader puts it, “I want to hug the ones I love following this dreadful election.”

“Adele, please release a new album” was all one reader had to say when we asked what you were feeling in the lead-up to Thanksgiving, with so many people bracing themselves for political clashes following a particularly toxic presidential election. The Adele fan might have had in mind this SNL skit from last year:

After the holiday, we reached out to readers again to see how things turned out. Sally paints a vivid picture:

I am the lone Democrat among six siblings ranging in ages 60-75. We gathered at our sister’s weekend cottage, a New Orleans shotgun salvaged from N. Claiborne Avenue and moved to a tongue of land on Bayou Lacombe. Spouses, children, and grandchildren made the crowd large. I steered clear of the sprawling back-porch addition, where the conversations, using outside voices, were laced with declarations about Hillary and Blue Lives Matter.

Inside was more temperate. In past years, my siblings would take me on and I’d jump in with rebuttals, mine from print, theirs from TV and talk radio. This year, I think my sadness was visible to them—not a time for jousting, as it came naturally to me to lower my head and eyes whenever in the vicinity of their political conversations. We did not engage.

Ellen Pober Rittberg and her family also tacitly decided on non-engagement:

Several members of my immediate family had a somewhat heated discussion/debate/what-have-you several days prior to the day of the holiday, and so they/we agreed without agreeing we wouldn’t talk (presidential) politics at table. It helped that there were 12 different dishes and lots of guests (24) so the majority of time guests alternately chewed and head-nodded (while chewing). That the head-nods were not all that emphatic indicated that our informal non-agreement was not breached.

Is strategic avoidance of politics enough to get us all through the holidays—or through the next four years? And how long will it be before the tension gets to be too much?

In the wake of the shocking results of November’s election, readers in Notes had a robust discussion titled, “Will Trump Voters and Clinton Voters Ever Relate?” One of the most revealing and contentious entries came from a Trump supporter who “voted for the middle finger, the wrecking ball.” He began by countering some common stereotypes about Trump voters:

I have a Masters degree. My kids go to public school with kids of all races, colors, and creeds. Our neighborhood has immigrant families, mixed-race families, minorities, and same-sex couples. Our sports teams are multi-cultural, diverse, and play beautifully together, on and off the field. I have neither the time, energy, or room in my heart for hatred, bigotry, or racism.

His was a protest vote:

I am tired of the machine rolling over us—all of us. The Clinton machine, the Republican machine, the big media, investment banking, hedge fund carrying interest, corporatist, lobbying, influence peddling, getting elected and immediately begin fundraising for the next election machine—they can all kiss my ass.

Maybe Trump won’t do a thing to change or fix any of it. Hillary definitely would not have changed any of it.

Many readers disagreed here. Another one, Susan, emailed this week asking, “Could we have an update from the guy who ‘voted for the middle finger, the wrecking ball’? I’d be very interested to know what he thinks of the first two months of President Trump.”

I actually wondered the same thing in early February, when I emailed the wrecking ball reader to see if his views on Trump has shifted during the presidential transition and his first few weeks in office. Here’s the reader’s verdict on February 9 (followed by a reply to Susan’s request):

It’s too early to tell, really—kind of like calling the Falcons to win after their first touchdown, right? I think Trump is still too combative and his messaging is awful at times—a lot of the time—but so far he is the guy (ass?) he’s been through the entire run. Trump thinks of himself as an executive in the most stringent application of the word—the buck stops here, the buck begins here, the buck is always here—but he’ll that learn running a company and the country are not the same thing, not matter how much I sometimes like the idea of someone “running the government like a business.”

I wish Trump had what we call down here—the land of obesity, fireworks, and Flannery O’Connor-inspired realities—a “pull-back guy.”

See, we love our college football down in the buckle of the Bible Belt. We love to watch our Clemson Tiger defensive coordinator, Brent Venables, go crazy on the sidelines. To handle him, they have to get a designated staffer be the “pull-back guy”—grabbing Venables around his britches and pulling him back off of the field so he doesn’t draw a penalty.