Hillary Clinton: Wall Street super-agent, or the most credentialed, bold presidential candidate of our times? Donald Trump: irreparably sexist pig, or a crusader, fearlessly shaking up the American political landscape when no one else would?
I suspect everyone’s familiar with these hypothetical questions — they form a set of competing dialogues that perfectly, painfully represent the polarization of America’s ideological landscape. Although numerous voices and handwringing thinkpieces despair the viability of alternative choices this election cycle, do most really despair? At the end of the day, most members of either camp suggest an “obvious” choice exists; an implication that inherently ostracizes opposing political groups as wrong, idiotic, foolish or inhuman.
In the full bloom of an exhausting election season, I am weary of how the language of revolution, ideological purity or complete intolerance rests on American political figures at the expense of other critical thought. That being said, if I argued for subjectivity as some intellectual bottom line, I would represent a view dishonest of my beliefs, a view that isn’t immediately practical. For example, in the case of Trump’s racist vitriol and his unapologetic degradation of women, where minority groups and women survivors of assault have endured Trump’s attacks in endless media talkbacks, it feels disingenuous, admitting that the ethos of something right and wrong isn’t occurring before our eyes.
And yet, regardless of my political inclinations, Trump supporters would argue for the very same ethos in the name of Benghazi, Clinton’s email scandal, or fears circumventing the Second Amendment. As a result, the context for understanding these differences must prevail over merely accepting difference as irredemably obnoxious.
In their Oct. 31 issue this year, The New Yorker will feature portraiture of first time voters and their political inclinations; the article’s already available online for those interested.
I applaud the feature’s portrayal of geographically diverse sentiments that go beyond the realm of sweeping pundit overviews, the consistence of Comedy Central rebuttals, and subReddit caricatures of the voting public. The article features a coal miner, a transportation analyst from Baghdad, an alt-right member of the ‘Beach Goys,’ a retired nurse, alongside other voices.
Although I vehemently disagree with points of misinformation or severe ideological difference (what’s an alt-right member without an antisemitic Jewish conspiracy?), the feature escapes the simplified binary of right/wrong — the article’s human signifiers emphasize how consequences and explanations for trends are manifold, even if our final votes are deceptively singular.
Regardless of your preexisting voting habit, the article’s an excellent base point for researching why and how Clinton and Trump reached their positions of influence in a variety of demographics. Believe it or not, demographics occupy more complicated territory than Clinton’s supposedly elitist, wealthy liberal support, and Trump’s supposedly poor, inarticulate, fearful support.
From this, more than researching political stances (at risk of changing as soon as a candidate reaches office, and confronts opposing branches of government), researching how political and corporate factions in the United States have influenced voting perspectives, even if it’s only 30 minutes of your time on a Sunday, benefits the lost emphasis of context.
Right/wrong becomes dangerous, even puritanic when politicians and writers wield it as a trump card — such rhetoric risks hypocrisy and extremity. Our country will somehow continue past election day, and the neighbors we disagree with aren’t leaving anytime soon. Real change begins with destruction and reconstruction — or understanding. Education prepares for both.
Lily Iserson, a Viewpoints Editor for the Voice, can be reached for comment at LIserson17@wooster.edu