We need to stop demonising Trump supporters

Trump didn’t win the election, anti-globalisation did

Following Trump’s victory, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram were brimming with Trump-hatred. Of course, it is the beauty of the internet that you can say basically anything you want, but it was nonetheless saddening to see some of the more arbitrary comments against Trump – and, indeed, against Trump voters and America as a whole. I was heartbroken by the result, but not to the point of making apparently hysterical comments with little basis in reality.

People seem to have the idea that all 59,370,534 of Trump’s voters are xenophobic, homophobic, sexist, racist, jingoistic, and stupid. It seems most people have this image of a stock Trump voter rooted in their minds: a zealously evangelical, gun-toting, uneducated ‘white trash’ caricature. This simply is not the case. Yes, there are many unflattering videos floating around, showing Trump supporters making ridiculous, unfounded claims, suggesting that Bill Clinton has AIDS and Barack Obama somehow is to blame for 9/11. These make up a small – admittedly, worrying – percentage of Trump’s voters.

But what about your average Trump voter? Someone who goes into a polling station, says good morning to the lady who hands them the ballot paper, votes for Trump and quietly goes home, without screeching a single racist or sexist sentiment in your face. Someone who feels that the US is in decline and wants to do something about it, a.k.a. the majority of Trump’s voters.

Trump himself is dreadful enough as is: he doesn’t need any further caricaturing. To demonise him is to hide the horror of his actual comments. It is also to disregard a much wider picture. Trump’s comments about women are enough to make me feel physically sick. But what about his role in the minds of these 59,370,534 as the man who could save the nation?

Trump has cleverly tapped into nationalistic fears that America is losing its place as a global superpower. Indeed, this anti-internationalist sentiment amongst Western powers appears to be on the rise: in many ways, the EU referendum this summer and the US election were two very different situations with different cultural contexts, but three things they both have in common is that they display a growing disillusionment surrounding moderate political leaders who intend to maintain the status quo; a hunger for a better sense of national identity; and a rejection of globalisation. We see this brewing in France, too, with Marie Le Pen.

To denounce anyone who votes for right-wing parties – who happen to be the most inward-looking and therefore the most appealing to those clamouring for less internationalism – as a racist, homophobic, sexist, xenophobe is narrow-minded and silly at the best of times, but in this new political climate, it is just pure folly. It is blindness. We can no longer sit tight and assume there will be a lurch back to the status quo any minute now, because that just isn’t going to happen. People don’t want that. It’s why Clinton lost. We must stop demonising those who are now voting for right-wing parties and squarely examine their concerns with the same vivacity as we would our own. That is democracy.

Yes, democracy is dreadfully flawed. In the UK, we saw UKIP gain one measly seat with the third largest vote share in 2015, and now in the US we are seeing a man who lost the popular vote as President-elect. Both systems need changing – but at least they retain fundamental democratic principles. Churchill himself called democracy “the worst form of government”. That is, before going on to say “…except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”. There is much truth in this.

Trump has been democratically elected by millions of people who feel disillusioned and disaffected with global politics. Instead of bandying about abuse, we should ask ourselves why they felt compelled to vote for this man and what they prioritised when it came to it.

That said, we should not ignore the plight of minorities by any means, and indeed, this election has demonstrated that they urgently need greater precedence. But giving minorities greater precedence does not have to come at the cost of abandoning the concerns of the majority.