By Alaina Perdon
Elm Staff Writer
We have come to live in a highly polarized nation. The divide between political parties has percolated into every facet of our society, to the extent that wearing a protective mask during a global pandemic is seen as an admission of political allegiance.
Whether we are registered Democrats, Republicans, or Independents, we are all humans deserving of decency. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, after all, and we can benefit from hearing perspectives different from our own.
But casting a vote in the 2020 election was more than a simple matter of opinion. Given the extremity of our current political climate, your vote speaks to your morals and your humanity.
Associated Press refers to this election as “the most consequential U.S. presidential election in living memory.” The vastly different promises of each candidate could alter the course of many Americans’ lives.
“Politics today are especially focused on divisive, deeply personal issues. Issues ranging from racial equality to economic justice are personal for us all,” Daily Article podcast host Dr. Jim Denison said. “In the midst of such issues, right and wrong bring life and death consequences. Those with whom we disagree politically are advocating positions that we find deeply immoral and even dangerous.”
As the presidential election drew nearer, political debates were brought to previously casual social circles. According to Dr. Denison, the deeply personal nature of current politics lead many to make moral judgements of their friends and family, sometimes causing a rift in these relationships.
On Sept. 13, National Public Radio hosted a talk with writer Felicia Sullivan, who parted ways with her closest friend of 26 years because of their conflicting political beliefs. Upon learning of her friend’s disapproval of the Black Lives Matter movement, Sullivan said she could no longer “just be polite and complicit and just sort of endure the fact that [they] had differences.”
According to Pew Research Center polls conducted one month prior to the election, eight in ten Americans believe the Democrats and Republicans hold entirely different core American values. This begs the question: can President-elect Joe Biden and President Donald Trump voters ever be friends?
“I think that it is possible for a certain level of civility to exist between Trump supporters and people who voted for Biden, but, to me, there will always be a kind of distance between us because they voted for Trump,” junior Julia Clifton said. “To me, it’s a matter of morality more than anything else. He has done truly horrible things to the people of this country in his four years in office and to still vote for him tells me that they can ignore other peoples’ suffering if it doesn’t affect them.”
Human lives were on the line this election. Since his inauguration, the Trump administration has “worked aggressively to turn back the clock on our nation’s civil and human rights progress,” according to The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
One of Trump’s first actions as president was issuing the first of his “Muslim bans,” on Jan. 27, 2017, signing an executive order banning refugees from predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States. Since, he has actively worked to revoke the rights of ethnic minorities, women, members of the LGBT+ community, low-income families, immigrants, and non-Christians, all according to a list detailing the administration’s social changes published by The Leadership Conference.
The Leadership Conference’s list includes 80 actions by the Trump administration that constitute violations of human rights in 2020 alone. These actions include banning diversity training in the workplace, the creation of a Denaturalization Section of the Department of Justice’s immigration office, and filing a brief in a Supreme Court case that would allow adoption agencies to refuse to place children in LBGTQ+ families.
Moreover, Trump has shared his hateful opinions on countless occasions throughout his presidency, degrading women, mocking disabled individuals, insulting military heroes, and promoting white supremacist organizations.
“26,000 unreported sexual assaults in the military — only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?” Trump said in a 2013 tweet.
“I have black guys counting my money … I hate it,” Trump said in his book, “Trumped.” “The only guys I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes all day.”
“You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals,” Trump said of Mexican immigrants at a 2018 White House press briefing. A vote for Trump is a public approval of these actions.
“If you like vanilla ice cream and I like chocolate, no problem,” Will Hewitt ’20, said in a Facebook post on Nov. 4. “If I like having rights and you like people who don’t want me to have the rights you already possess with no loss to you, that’s where we have the issue.”
Democrats and Republicans can and should get along despite differences of political opinion. But supporting Trump transcends party affiliations.
Supporting Trump equates to supporting the racism, sexism, homophobia, and every other form of hate that he has come to stand for. Supporting Trump means aligning yourself with a movement that endangers the lives of your fellow Americans.
Conversely, Biden supporters do not necessarily favor the president-elect as an individual; rather, they seek to end the oppressive regime of the current president.
Settle for Biden describes itself as “a grassroots group of former Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders supporters who recognize Joe Biden’s flaws but know that our nation will not survive four more years of Donald Trump.” Its emergence speaks to the danger of a continued Trump presidency, as well as Democrats’ commitment to hold Biden accountable for the promises he has made while campaigning.
“We’re trying to make the point that you don’t have to feel a huge sense of anything about Joe Biden; you just have to get out there and vote because our democracy is at stake,” Sam Weinberg, 19-year-old founder of the Settle for Biden movement, said. “Now we’re preserving our democracy, combating a pandemic, and holding the Biden-Harris administration accountable.”
Biden and Trump voters clearly have different morals, including how they value and honor the rights of others. Such a stark fundamental difference does not lay the foundation for a healthy friendship.
“I don’t think that Trump supporters are always bad people, but they voted for one, and in doing so they lost all of my respect for them,” said Clifton. “So, I would have to say no, I don’t think a Trump supporter and Biden supporter can really be anything more than acquaintances.”
A Trump supporter is not a friend to any member of the communities the president has attacked while in office. You cannot claim to respect or love someone while actively supporting their oppression.
We can have different opinions on plenty of grounds and still get along. But when your opinions go as far as violating the fundamental human rights of myself, my loved ones, and my fellow citizens, we are no longer friends.
Featured Photo caption: The Kent County Democratic Headquarters is decorated with anti-Trump memorabilia and signage, making it clear where their loyalties lie. Photo by Izze Rios.