Scott: The Two Americas
This election reveals that there are two Americas – I just didn’t realize it.
We had a hot summer this year — and not just because of the weather. Tensions rose and protests exploded across the country after police officers shot and killed Alton Sterling and Philando Castile in two separate altercations within the same week, adding to the growing number of black men killed by the cops. The shootings of several police officers in Dallas and Baton Rogue, Louisiana further added to the chaos. Only weeks earlier, the United States had been rocked by the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, which has become the largest mass shooting in American history and the deadliest terrorist attack since 9/11. Meanwhile, social media flooded with disturbing images of the war in Syria while nativist policies, intended to stem waves of immigration, gained popular support in Europe, manifesting most notably in the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union. Despite these controversial events, I fully expected America to make what I believed was the right choice by electing Hillary Clinton to be the 45th President of the United States.
I was wrong.
As I type this at 2 a.m. Eastern Standard Time on Nov. 9, there is little doubt that Donald Trump will be my next president. This is a reality I never imagined. His comments on Muslims, women, taxes, immigrants, minorities and war heroes did not sound like the rhetoric of a president of any developed country. I thought the public shared my conviction that Trump’s views are not American views — are not our views. But this election proves there really is no “our” in today’s America.
Perhaps that was my greatest mistake, to believe that America acted as one, that the country as a whole shares the same values. Yet the signs were all around me. Americans remain deeply divided on gun rights, policing, gay marriage, abortion, healthcare, international security commitments, immigration and even whether athletes have the right to kneel during the national anthem. With such myriad schisms on so many issues, it is impossible to pinpoint any collective ideology. I have come to realize there are two Americas, and the one that stood for racial homogeny, protectionism, nativism and what it calls “law and order” — to put it nicely — won the 2016 election. So where does this leave those who were on the other side?
Perhaps the biggest realization that the losing side — including myself — must face is that America doesn’t believe what we thought it did. We thought America was tolerant, open and accepting. Recent victories in healthcare and gay marriage, let alone two terms of a black president, convinced us that we were close to realizing the free, democratic and equal society we believe the Constitution stands for. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
Clearly, there are many Americans who not only disagree but also sharply reject everything we thought we had achieved. There are many Americans whose idea of what constitutes a free, democratic and equal society is drastically different from our own. This election was a referendum on the Obama administration, and everyone opposed to his administration voiced their opinion loud and clear through their ballots. Last night, half the country decided against every measure the other half was trying to further — an eye-opening division that we all must recognize and consider when we think about the future and the country we think we know.
So with the president decided, what does our country’s — no, America’s — future hold? No one really knows. Did Trump supporters ever reach a consensus on what “Make America Great Again” really means? Is it building a wall and making Mexico pay for it? Is it not building a wall if Mexico refuses to pay for it? Is it repealing the Affordable Care Act? Banning Muslim immigration? Deporting illegal immigrants and breaking up families? Turning our back on our allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and aligning with Russia as it becomes ever-more aggressive? Or will things remain the same? Will things, quite incredibly, get better for everyone — or just for white, male voters?
Anyone’s guess is as good as the next. All I can say is, I’m going to enjoy the last two months of Obama’s presidency, and hope for the best in the years ahead.