We’ve gotten a ton of reader response to the long detailed note from the Southern white guy with a master’s degree who voted for Trump because he wanted to bring a “wrecking ball” to Washington. This first reader, Pamela, scratches her head:
I read the Southern reader’s note with great curiosity and found his sentiments very familiar and heartening—until I realized that I still couldn’t comprehend where a vote for Trump, or a wrecking ball, or a middle finger, fit in. I reread it and had the same reaction. Towards the end, where he references “crazy is,” I was unable to follow him to Trump versus Clinton—it just didn’t jive with their policies. So, I am left wondering what his vision of the future is and how Trump fits that. It sounds like he leads a pretty decent life in a pretty decent place. Room for improvement, sure, but a wrecking ball? I still don’t get it.
This next reader is more forceful in his criticism of the Southern Trump voter:
Ok, this has been an interesting reader series, but time to push back. I don’t think all Trump voters, or even most Trump voters, are “racist” in some white supremacist sense. But I do think they are missing a pretty fundamental point. Southern Guy’s description of life paints a picture of a pretty nice world in which people of all colors and creeds have opportunities. I agree. I am a Clinton voter. I stand for the pledge, I decorate the graves of my veteran grandfathers on Memorial Day, and I fly the flag on the Fourth of July. We have a great country that has problems to fix (many of which are really hard issues arising from globalization), but it has also made enormous progress.
So then the question is, why take the “wrecking ball” to it? If these folks could look at their own positions from another perspective, they might realize why people suspect that racism motivated their decisions in whole or in part. It is because the results of wrecking things are a lot worse for nonwhites, women, and LGBT folks than they are straight white guys like Southern Guy and me.
I work with a Muslim guy with whom I travel out of the U.S. regularly. He’s an American citizen. The president-elect’s website said—in a press release (not a random question) which was not changed even when it was called out—that he would ban my colleague’s re-entry into the U.S. [CB: Though this morning, Trump surrogate Giuliani backed away from the Muslim ban, telling CNN it’s no longer operative.] If you don’t think that would be possible or legal, read Korematsu [the Supreme Court decision allowing for Japanese-American internment camps during WWII].
Did Trump mean all that? I don’t know. Would he get away with it? Probably not. But guess what? I don’t really have to worry about it; I get to come home either way. My Muslim colleague does have to worry. That is my privilege.
Another reader, Alex, expands on that idea of privilege—but not in the clichéd way that is bandied about too often, to diminish one’s accomplishments or end a discussion:
I am a Clinton voter. I imagine that your Trump voter and I have many different viewpoints, beliefs, and life experiences, but I also believe we would find many areas of agreement. I appreciate and do very much relate with his fairly nuanced views.
When faced with the choice of bigotry and authoritarianism, a major factor in making that decision is privilege. (Let’s remember that a large portion of Trump voters are actually college educated with higher incomes, not just poor rural whites who were left behind. [According to exit polling, 49 percent of college grads voted for Clinton, 45 percent for Trump—and he won the white college-educated vote, 49 percent to Clinton’s 45 percent.) Based on your reader’s note, he seems to be aware of these advantages and does touch on them—but then moves on.
And I don’t just mean the typical liberal attack of “white privilege.” Your reader is correct that it is used too freely and is not always a fair critique. I am speaking of generic privilege. He is a well-educated, middle-class white male. Part of the majority. Raised by two good parents. He is privileged. I do not say this in a derogatory sense. I myself am privileged in much the same way (educated Cuban male in a Hispanic-majority city, born and raised in Miami).
Being privileged, we both have the luxury of making a protest vote with limited consequences—in all honesty, a protest vote I might have entertained with different candidates on the ballot. But not everyone has that luxury. They are rightly worried of increased discrimination, hate, and distrust directed towards them by their fellow citizens and their government.
This next reader, Lauren, describes some of the people who are worried about increased hatred and discrimination in the wake of Trump’s election. She addresses the Southern Guy directly:
Thanks for flipping me the bird. Because while you may have thought you were flipping off some corrupt politicians, what you were really doing is flipping off people like me who were voting for the progress you deemed unworthy.