The Trump Effect on Swing Voters Like Me
I am the very definition of a swing voter and Trump is steering my future votes.
First, let’s give a brief example of what a swing voter looks like. I’m a white, rural, Southern woman from a solidly red state. I am college educated and self-employed. I have 2.5 children and a dog. I’m a lot of things the Republican Party could believe is their “base.” And, at some point in my life, I was. I’m also a divorcee, a Buddhist, a feminist, and strong believer in equal rights for all (absolutely ALL) people. I’m a lot of things the Democratic Party could believe is their “base.” The problem is that I am literally sitting entirely on the fence in a swing and could go either way. I am an economic conservative. I am a social liberal. But, I’m also a small bit of a social conservative as well and a touch of an economic liberal. My beliefs are speckled around the platforms of the two-party system like a Jackson Pollack. All in all, that means that both no one and everyone represents me. (That’s the problem with this terrible two-party system America has locked itself into, but that’s for another article.)
Republicans and I agree, in principle, on issues such as taxation, education, guns, size of government, economics and a bit on security. Democrats and I agree about things such as abortion, immigration, equality, marriage, personal and religious freedom. I don’t really agree with either on energy, healthcare, and somewhat on security. I have my own opinions. I make them based on my own thoughts. It seems like an odd concept to me that anyone would agree, in mass, entirely with every issue in a party’s platform. I believe that most voters are more like me. They have varied opinions and, if they’d allow themselves to admit it, could find things to agree and disagree with in both of the major parties. (If I’m being honest, I am best represented by Libertarians. Somehow our current system has kept third, fourth, fifth (read "outside") parties from having any real standing or exposure. But, again, I guess that’s for another article.)
Replay the visual of me sitting in my swing. I am perpetually deciding which way to face and on which side to land when I have to jump off and cast my vote. This is a precarious position that the two-party system has put me in. Either way, I have to vote against something I believe in. Either way, I’m voting for something I believe in. In the past, I have generally swung in the direction of Republicans because, although I profoundly disagree with them on many social issues, the other issues were more important to me in that current climate. Full disclosure: I have cast my vote for a Libertarian President in the last three presidential elections. If there was no third party candidate for lower seats, I defaulted Right. I’ve never cast my vote for a Democrat.
I sincerely believed that, in general, Christians were guided by the morality of their faith. And the morality of their faith is a good, charitable, loving, accepting, and tolerant morality. Christianity, in itself, isn’t a bad thing and isn’t terribly out of line with my own morality.
Enter Donald Trump
I knew that Republicans considered themselves to be a moral and Christian bunch. I knew that some seem to misinterpret “religious freedom” to mean “Christian freedom” instead of any religion. I did have a problem with this, but I also understood that the majority of Americans were Christian. I accepted this. I knew many Republicans abused this notion by asserting that the Bible should dictate law regarding marriage, sexual freedom, abortion, etc. I heartily disagreed with this, but I had to let it go. You have to give somewhere. I gave there because other things were more important to me personally. I sincerely believed that, in general, Christians were guided by the morality of their faith. And the morality of their faith is a good, charitable, loving, accepting, and tolerant morality. Christianity, in itself, isn’t a bad thing and isn’t terribly out of line with my own morality.
I knew that many people who touted so-called “guns and religion” were really just touting undercover sexism, racism, homophobia, and intolerance. I knew this but sincerely believed that this had become a very, very small minority. I believed that all of these things were slowly being phased out of America. I believed that there were just those few crackpots and that those crackpots were regarded as ignorant by everyone but the other crackpots. I also knew that these “crackpots” were avid Republicans. But I didn’t hold Republicans, themselves, responsible for this. I didn’t buy that many opposed Obama only because he was Black. I believed they opposed him because he held political beliefs that they did not. I didn’t buy that many wouldn’t vote for Clinton just because she was a female. I believed they opposed her because she held political beliefs that they did not. I opposed them both for those reasons. I thought that was reasonable and normal and the very greatness of American democracy.
But something changed with Trump. Something big. Something eye-opening. Something terrifying. Those “crackpots” that I believed were in a tiny minority were suddenly empowered. They felt that they could show themselves in the full light of day. Even ones who were hiding these feelings (rightly, as they understood these beliefs were shameful) came out and sang them proudly. These “crackpots” now included some of my oldest friends, classmates, and even family. These “crackpots” were now being REPRESENTED by a candidate for PRESIDENT.
I was shocked, appalled and f**king angry. I was also wrong and apologetic. I’d had many conversations with women, gay and lesbian men and women, and people of color defending my belief that these people were a tiny minority and that America was moving in the right direction. I’m a bit ashamed now at some of the things I said at the time. When met with protest, I’d sincerely called people fixated or even paranoid. I was wrong. If I haven’t already apologized to you personally, I am sorry. I was wrong. You were not paranoid. You were right.
I, like millions of others, sobbed when Trump won the election. A divisive, hate-filled, abusive, racist, sexist, intolerant, small-minded, feeble idiot was president. I cried for America. I cried for myself. But, mostly, I cried that there were so many men and women in MY America that were willing to actually cast a vote for this man because of or in spite of all of the things he was. More than I still care to fully conceptualize voted for this man BECAUSE of his racism, sexism, and intolerance. Otherwise moral and intelligent people were willing to put their own values aside and vote for this man DESPITE what was plainly in front of them. It was a demoralizing moment. I became a member of The Resistance that day.
Over the course of his first year in office, Trump had managed to sow as much division and perpetuate as much sexism, racism, and intolerance as was expected. They (now “we”) weren’t paranoid. He also managed to lie over 2000 times, show recklessness in just about everything he did, move eerily forward with dictatorial tendencies, do cartwheels through scandal after scandal and exhaust everyone who was paying any attention at all. He managed to alienate women, minorities, people of every color, the entirety of the Democratic Party, immigrants, and anyone in his own party who disagreed with him on even a tiny, inconsequential issue. He attacked, bullied, name-called, and childishly tantrumed his way through an entire year of presidency. He obstructed and continues to obstruct justice in plain view of the entire world. He managed to destroy, in one short year, relationships with almost every foreign government, ally and enemy alike, in the world. He showed himself incapable of diplomacy. Incapable of coordination. Incapable of “deal-making." Incapable of uniting. Incapable, really, of anything required of him as the President of the United States. Most importantly, he showed himself to be grandly immoral and to stand for almost nothing representative of America.
I'm Not Alone
So, of course, the Republican Party abandoned him. They stood up for the good, charitable, loving, accepting, and tolerant morality of their faith. They stood up as the party of decency. They stood up as the party of freedom and liberty. They stood up against the obvious attempt at tyranny they saw in front of them. They stood up and said, “This man does not represent our ideals, values and morals.” They stood up and said, “We do not agree with these attempts to silence critics by any means necessary.” They definitely stood up and clearly said, ”Extra-marital affairs, sexual assault, objectification of women, blatant racism, intolerance of entire populations, alienation of our allies, bullying, name-calling, tantrum-throwing, divisive language, inciting violence, refusing to denounce white supremacists, and attempting to or actually obstructing justice are not acceptable. Donald Trump does not represent us.” They did this. They did this because it was the right thing to do. They did this because they knew that, even if it meant that they’d have to wait to get their agenda forwarded and have to admit they’d put the wrong candidate in office, it was the right thing to do. They stood up on principle and decency over party.
Wait, they didn’t? They supported him and defended him? Many of them even went so far as to assist him with these things? They didn’t abandon him? Then I guess they will not be surprised to learn why so many are abandoning them.
I’m the very definition of a swing voter. I have always swung Right. But Trump is steering my future votes. Or, more accurately, the Republican Party itself is guiding my future votes, solidly Left.
“That same commitment must be present both here at home and abroad. We will lift the torch of freedom and democracy to inspire all those who would be free. As President Reagan issued the clarion call to "tear down this Wall," so must we always stand against tyranny and oppression.” - 2012 Republican Platform
What happened to you?