A Time to Listen
The election that most of America couldn’t wait to see end is over. Only it’s not.
The voting is over, and so are the tabulation of votes, the victory speech, and the concession speech. The analysis and finger pointing … well, that will go on for months, probably years.
Also not over, far from over, in fact, is the historic state of divisiveness in this country that led us to last week’s outcome.
This divisiveness, distrust, and outright hostility are difficult to quantify, and even harder to qualify — although a comment made by a voter in West Virginia to a Boston Globe reporter might at least help.
This individual believes, and has no reason whatsoever to doubt, a report (or several reports, as the case may be) on the Internet about how the Hillary Clinton team had put in an order for several hundred guillotines, presumably to be used to take out supporters of the Second Amendment and other conservative planks after she was elected into office.
That’s where we’re at right now, and it’s a very scary, us-against-them scenario that yielded all manner of wild doomsday scenarios if the other side were to triumph in this election.
The nation’s elected leaders stopped listening to people a long time ago, or they listened and didn’t respond, which is the same thing as not really listening. And that’s what seemingly propelled Trump forward.”
And this scenario didn’t vanish or even diminish even as CNN was gauging the probability that Clinton could gain enough votes in Michigan’s Wayne County to stave off a loss in the state and somehow rebuild the ‘blue wall’ — eventually concluding that she couldn’t.
No, it’s still there, and this creates ample anxiety about the months ahead, while fueling real doubt about whether Donald Trump can, indeed, unite Americans, or if Americans have any interest in actually becoming united. Most of them probably don’t.
But they are united in one respect, and this is what has to change going forward. No one — no one — listens anymore, and that’s why we’re here, with one side saying, ‘how could this have happened?’ and the other side saying, ‘how could this not have happened?’
The nation’s elected leaders stopped listening to people a long time ago, or they listened and didn’t respond, which is the same thing as not really listening. And that’s what seemingly propelled Trump forward, enabling him to confound pundits and pollsters alike and offer a firm middle finger to those who said, at myriad stops along the way, ‘he can’t do this.’
Speaking of middle fingers, that’s what a majority of the voters gave to not only the politicians who didn’t listen, but also to the press, which didn’t listen, either, and instead became fixated on telling people who they should vote for and whom they couldn’t possibly vote for.
But this non-listening extended to those supporting both candidates, who began to act, well, like the candidates themselves. They sidestepped issues, talked over one another, called each other names, and fueled enormous distrust in the system as a whole. ‘Your candidate should be in jail.’ ‘Yeah, but your candidate calls women pigs’ — that kind of stuff.
There will be a lot of soul-searching among a host of constituencies in the near future. The Democrats will be doing some (and not just about why they didn’t visit Wisconsin this fall); the Republicans, even in victory, will do their share (that’s what happens when you ride to victory on the coattails of someone you turned your back on), and perhaps even the press will do some and re-examine what it did and didn’t do over the past 18 months.
The voters? Maybe they need to do a little soul-searching as well, and maybe some of that listening that has been missing from the equation for so long.
By doing so, we won’t become actually united — that’s not going to happen — but maybe, just maybe, we can become less divided.