By Elizabeth Shum
Disclaimer: these are my opinions and are not intended to offend.
Let me start this post by saying, I don’t consider myself to be politically-minded. In fact, I often find myself confused by American politics and am frequently the person in a group talking politics who nods my head knowingly while secretly wondering what super delegates are. In a sense, this campaign season has been a relief for me. I have been able to reasonably follow the happenings, and have been able to interject my views (at times passionately) into political conversations. On the one hand, I’m grateful that this election has been so straightforward to me (to summarize my views, I hate Trump…for lots a’ reasons.) On the other, I feel as though this race has stripped me of my democratic liberty. I don’t feel like I have a choice: vote for a racist or don’t, that’s my choice.
Again, I want to reiterate that I am not political. I don’t mean for this post to be a declaration of my party values or an invitation for an online debate. I want to jot down some of my feelings about this election, if for no other reason than to have an outlet. Another aspect of my personality that I feel inclined to share is that I do not anger easily, about the political or personal. However, Trump makes me angry. This election makes me angry. And I can’t shake it. I know you don’t know me, but that alone tells me something is wrong.
Trump is a narcissist. You know it, I know it, what else is new? He’s diagnosable. I won’t bore you with the DSM-5 criteria, but he meets them all and then some. And if the DSM included a specifier “with antisocial features” I would throw that in too for good measure. Thinking about what Trump has said about women, Latina/os, and Islam gives me a visceral reaction of hatred, which, like I said, is a feeling that is relatively foreign to me. I grew up believing that America was a utopic melting pot, a place where tolerance and acceptance of differences was the norm (although I become more disillusioned with this conception as I get older, I think many Americans would still paint our country this way despite our various social and political missteps.) Unfortunately, Trump’s nomination as the Republican candidate paints a different picture. Yes, Trump as a candidate enrages me, but he didn’t get to where he is by being unlikeable or by causing the same rage in others that I feel in myself. For many, he is an icon of hope and change, which any presidential candidate should aspire to be. For the life of me I am struggling to understand why.
The conclusion that I have reached is this: Trump is a charismatic (albeit pompous) speaker who has a knack for exacerbating our natural fear of the unknown. By using buzz words and toting traditional American values (think exceptionalism, isolationism, and capitalism), Trump has become for many the potential life raft for a flood he has started. It’s human nature to fear the unknown and to search for answers where there are none. It’s apparent everyday in our attempts to classify each other into racial, sexual, and political categories, and our resistance to the idea that a person does not neatly adhere to our social constructions. As a student of psychology, I get that (or I like to think I do.) What I see occurring with many Trump supporters is a textbook example of cognitive dissonance. People think, “hey this guy Trump has some good ideas.” Cue Trump’s racist and/or sexist comments; person (subconsciously) thinks, “I like Trump, but I don’t feel racist…hmm…discomfort.” The resolution of this conflict results in a person justifying Trump’s behavior and grow in their support of him, unconsciously engaging in a self-sustaining feedback loop of dissonance reduction.
I sound very intellectual don’t I? Thanks, I try. I think another reason for me writing this post is the hope that some other quasi-intellectual comes along, reads what I wrote, and maybe thinks “huh, maybe I should reconsider voting for Trump. I mean, he’s a guy with great hair, sure, but what else does he have to offer besides fear-induced panic? Let me ponder that some more.” That’s the goal. I started this post by saying that I don’t feel like I have a choice in this election. However, there is always the choice to be more thoughtful rather than thoughtless, to be more deliberate rather than impulsive, and to choose one’s own path rather than blindly follow (inspired yet?) If you are a Trump supporter with a logical rationale and a clear vision of how he will serve your needs, more power to you. My only hope is that fear and indifference are not the driving forces behind our votes as young adults, and that we are able to employ careful consideration in how we choose to write our own history.