One week ago, Donald J. Trump was elected president of the United States. It was a political sea change that virtually no one saw coming. Even so, it was a kind of inevitability. The conditions that elected Trump were not new, and in many ways have been simmering for at least eight years and probably longer.
But the people who voted for him did not, on the whole, cast their vote out of hatred or bigotry. It was not a white monolith that elected him, nor was it wholly the work of the “white working class.” It was a swath of millions of Americans who were able to look at Trump and see a change, see a shake-up for Washington or often just see a Republican.
Partisan bickering is more alive than it’s ever been, and to believe that a party that’s now won six of the last 10 elections couldn’t win again simply because its candidate was Donald Trump was a mark of blindness on our part and on the part of the broader mainstream media as a whole.
However, just because 60 million voters — about a quarter of the electorate — chose Trump to be president does not mean that Trump is allowed to sweep all of the things he’s said in the past year and a half under the rug, nor does it invalidate the views of the other 60 million voters who rejected Trump.
We must recognize both that this election was not normal and that there is as much worry and dread as there is elation.
For many people in Nevada, and especially on this campus, Mr. Trump’s election was not a welcome one. This much was made clear by President Marc Johnson’s letter last Wednesday, which praised the university’s diversity and reinforced it as a safe place for students of all stripes.
He had to say this because Mr. Trump — who did indeed appeal to a white working class, to an often-ignored rural vote, and to those sick and tired of Washington insiders — also appealed to the worst elements of American politics. He appealed to the racists and to the sexists, and he raised hate speech to the level of national dialogue. And all the while, he denied any of it ever happened.
This is not meant to be a tacit endorsement of the now-defeated Secretary Clinton. Rather, this is meant to be is a call of attention to the abnormality of the situation we find ourselves in today.
Mr. Trump was not a normal candidate. He is not a normal president-elect. And we have no reason to believe he will be a normal president. His speech has emboldened bigots, and not since the famously racist campaign of George Wallace in 1968 have we seen this level of denigration on a national political stage.
And while we stress again that a vast majority of Trump supporters are likely not racist, Trump’s words and actions normalize a set of behavior that should never be normal. When Trump flails his arms around to mock the disabled, when he plays off talk of sexual assault and harassment as “locker room talk,” and when he says a judge cannot be impartial because of his race, how can we pretend that none of it ever happened or lie to ourselves and say he never really meant it?
While we do hope for the best for president-elect Trump, as his success truly does translate to success for the country, it is also a time for us all to study closely what a Trump administration will mean for America writ large. Whether or not his racism is shared by his supporters does not negate the multiple times he was racist on the campaign trail, and a Trump win does not give the man a free pass.
Accountability is important, perhaps now more than ever.