The independent news organization of Duke University

A nation divided

As last Tuesday night wore on into Wednesday morning, liberal Americans were surprised and then blindsided as an overwhelmingly expected lead for Hillary Clinton was eroded and then reversed as the numbers began rolling in for Donald J. Trump. Over the course of this past week, too much of America has gone to look in the mirror to try and find itself after the election, only to realize that it no longer recognizes what it sees.

From the right, what liberals and social progressives saw as forward movement in the areas of universal health care, same-sex marriage, affirmative action and other issues were unconscionable to the country’s conservative base. Key pieces of Democratic legislation and landmark court decisions conflicted with fundamental core values of the Republican Party and often seemed to sweep aside conservative movements in Congress and state legislatures with executive orders and court decisions that were viewed as overreaches.

From the left, self-deception dominated college campuses, most mainstream news organizations and discussions the country over, encouraging unparalleled levels of conceit as evidenced by how shocking the election’s results were to pollsters and Democratic voters. To our country’s liberal base, and particularly to college-age liberals, the issues that were most pressing seemed like foregone conclusions. It seemed as if the American right, particularly with the development of the alt-right, was ignorant at best and backwards at worst when it came to the things that "mattered."

Self-exile to respective political echo chambers was part of the failure of the left in this election. In its conceit in the last several years that because it had won the “culture war” by integrating social progressivism into its platform, it had a gained a right to righteousness in all other matters, many liberals grew out of touch with the same voters and large swathes of America that would prove essential to success in this election.

And so without denying the importance to each side of their respective platforms and agendas, this election revealed a yawning gap between parties. In many ways, that separation comes from a lack of experiential diversity. The average student at Duke for example has no idea what “flyover country” is or what it is like to live in the Rust Belt and have experienced the political, social and economic histories therein. Similarly, many conservatives who balk at the idea of same-sex marriage or the thought of affirmative action have never really felt for the personal stories of those whose lives have been changed dramatically and uplifted by decisions and policies in favor of both.

There are fault lines of disconnect like these all over our country’s political landscape, and if this election is not a wake-up call to seek them out and understand not only the issues at hand but the stories of those who are trying to come to the table, then our democracy will continue to be incomplete or, at best, dissatisfying. Whatever your position in life or political posture, consider where you stand after this election and how your approach to your country could improve, because if you think you are right or have found the elusive solution to government, you had best think again.

This is the third and final editorial in a three-part arc about the presidential election and its aftermath.


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