Colleen Barrett is a senior features editor for branded content at Refinery29. The views expressed here are her own.
I am the Democrat conservatives love to hate. You might even call me a socialist, and according to a BuzzFeed quiz, you would not be wrong. I believe guns should be illegal, wealth should be redistributed, and federal regulation is the closest thing we have to salvation. The fact that I’ve spent my entire adult life in the liberal safe havens of New York and San Francisco does not help my case, nor does my childhood in one of the few Pennsylvania counties to remain blue Tuesday night.
If ever I was going to tilt right, it was in my school’s 1996 mock presidential election. With a paper-thin understanding of politics, I cast my fake vote for Republican nominee Bob Dole. It was a youthful indiscretion, an empty barrel of rebellion aimed at my Democrat parents, two people who found love over a shared appreciation of the Kennedys; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; and weed. They were not full-on hippies, entry-level at best, but they did what they could to instill in me a healthy distrust of big business and corporate greed despite earning livings off both.
It is about the voters themselves — be they forlorn Democrats, rank-and-file Republicans, or clear-eyed independents — and what they hope and fear is around the corner of tomorrow.
Combine my upbringing with a 13-year career in media, and I would understand if you said I live in a liberal bubble, that I don’t get it. I would not argue with that. Because out of the almost 59.8 million people who voted for Donald Trump, I cannot name one. And that is a problem.
It is a problem because I am struggling to understand 47.5% of America, and it is struggling to understand me. It is a problem because a group this large is so dissatisfied with the status quo that they chose a candidate who ran on fear, hate, and unrepentant ignorance. And it is a problem because much of this group has been so marginalized that its voice was drowned in the polls, and we were all surprised to find them hiding in plain sight Wednesday morning.
This problem, this divide, is bigger than President-elect Trump and his Cabinet hopefuls so eager for a rose. The entire 2016 election has felt like an endgame for divisive politics, but I now fear it was only a preamble. There are a lot of things I could do to make my voice heard — go to an anti-Trump really, use hashtags like #NotMyPresident — but the only thing I want to do is listen, to hear what this 47.5% is really saying and begin to understand it.
Because as much as I know sexism, racism, and nativism contributed to the election’s results, I do not believe they account for all of it, or even most of it. It is about the voters themselves — be they forlorn Democrats, rank-and-file Republicans, or clear-eyed independents — and what they hope and fear is around the corner of tomorrow.
Donald Trump may not look like a president, talk like a president, or think like a president, but under his hateful rhetoric is a message both for these people and from these people: They are telling people like me the truth about themselves, and we no longer have the luxury not to listen.