Remember (or not) #NotAllMen? It was a viral Twitter hashtag, mostly shared in 2013-14, in which men pushed back on what they perceived as feminists’ ungenerous characterizations of men generally. Perhaps meant by some as a good-faith way to point out that many men are feminists themselves and shouldn’t be lumped in with all the misogynists out there, what the hashtag ended up doing was shifting the conversation away from that very misogyny and towards overly-defensive men’s insecurities. In trying to distance themselves from criticism, these men proved the point. (The phrase was largely taken over by feminists who used it satirically to shift the conversation back to sexism and male arrogance.)
“There’s more to life than politics.”
I’ve heard a lot of that in the last few years.
“Don’t let politics consume you.”
Former Democratic Wisconsin governor Jim Doyle: “Half the country are not horrible, racist, mean-spirited people who are different from everybody else. It can’t be. And roughly half the country voted for Trump.”
He may as well have tweeted #NotAllTrumpVoters. “Surely,” the argument goes, “even though some Trump voters are bad people, most of them probably had good, virtuous reasons that I disagree with but respect.”
The problem is that any supposedly justifiable reason—lower taxes, slashing the administrative state, etc.—is inextricably tied up in the broader problem of Trump’s array of bigotry. I know people who voted for Trump at least once, and I don’t think they’re racist, bad people. But they are, at best, normalizing and propping up all the people who are.
“I would hope my vote won’t affect our relationship.”
Joe Biden has received the most votes ever cast for a US president and has likely won the election. (That these are two separate questions is an infuriating topic for another day.) I’m happy about that, even though Biden was among my last choices during the primary. There are a lot of stories to come out of this election, from the repeated and significant polling failures to Democrats’ relatively abysmal showing among Latinos (an imperfect, overly broad category, to be fair). But the story I cannot move past is that after four years of showing us what kind of person he is every single day, four years of blatant corruption and incompetence and cruelty, tens of millions of Americans went ahead and voted for Donald Trump to have a second term.
“He’s a bad person, but so are lots of Democrats.”
Please don’t insult me or yourself by claiming that Trump’s support comes from working-class “economic anxiety.” If that were the driving factor he would have lost in a landslide, given the plummeting economy caused by his indifference to an ever-worsening pandemic. Trump’s support—Republicans’ support—comes from white people and rich people, not the diverse working class. No, the single factor that most accounts for ~69 million people’s votes is racism. The Republican Party sustains itself on racism and xenophobia, and Donald Trump is their White Knight.
“Many people will be unhappy that Trump lost, and they’re not all bad people.”
I can’t just be happy about a (likely, not yet official) Biden win because America is a white supremacist state. I can’t let this go because at the end of the day, voting for Trump means you’re either on board with the perpetuation of white grievance politics, with stealing brown children from their parents, with egging on neo-Nazis, with casually making racist comments to staff—or you’re indifferent to it as long as you get a tax cut. We live in a country where nearly 70 million people made that choice, and we need to talk about it.
“Not all Trump voters.”
Yes, all Trump voters. This has not been “politics as normal” for the last four years. Tell the 13,000 unaccompanied children seeking safety at the border, summarily expelled back to gangs and trafficking at Trump’s order, that there were good reasons to vote for him. Donald Trump gave supporters all across the country license to display Confederate flags, to storm state capitols with assault rifles, to march with torches and Nazi chants, to commit murder—and loudly approved of it all. Those who voted for him regardless owe the rest of us an explanation. Backpedaling and deflecting, saying that politics isn’t everything, doesn’t cut it when that politics is premised on racism and cruelty. As I wrote three months ago, many people don’t have the privilege of viewing political debate as an intellectual abstraction. Politics is not a parlor game: it is life or death.
Cover image from the New York Times’ presidential election coverage.