The independent news organization of Duke University

A nation turning against itself

In President-elect Donald J. Trump’s acceptance speech, among his messages to the country was the statement that Americans should recognize that now is the “time for America to bind the wounds of division.” Echoed in calls by pundits, officials and President Obama for a peaceful transition and the country’s support of the incoming administration, Trump’s ask challenges us to think about tomorrow.

For those coming out of more negative responses, as the sting of loss wears off and future debates, campaigns and political happenings begin forcing issues into the national consciousness once more, political personas will again need to be assumed and positions revised and defended. But as tomorrow’s editorial will explore, this election’s “surprise” outcome had roots in national trends and ignored populist realities that ultimately blindsided the media, liberals across the country and our own endorsement of Hillary Clinton.

Consequently, this renewal of democratic processes will need to be different from previous recoveries of our nation’s different political camps—particularly for liberals. This is especially true of our campus where conservatives are in a small minority and generally poorly received by their liberal peers, a sentiment echoed at college campuses across the country.

First off, vengeful bitterness in the wake of the election will move nobody forward. Many who felt that their side lost last week have taken to social media and proclaimed that “Trump is not and never will be their president” are failing themselves in a number of ways. Disheartened and upset conservatives sounded off similarly after President Obama’s victory in 2008 and were reviled by liberals, digging some of the political trenches seen in this election. Clinton supporters and anti-Trump voters today must hold themselves to the standards of grace and humility in political outcomes, particularly defeat, that serve as the cornerstone of productive disagreement. Physical and intellectual protests against the conservative platform from the election are appropriate and drive change, but disownership of our country’s leadership sends a signal at the cost of abdicating political agency in the new administration.

In the same vein with this is the mandate that students and voters not isolate themselves from their political opposites. Dictating that such-and-such persons should unfriend you on Facebook or similar retreating actions after the election fail not only your exposure to other viewpoints, assuming the presence in question is not one that is truly incurably vitriolic, but also theirs. While political growth is in some sense possible through mere observation of the other side, real understanding and critical reevaluation of policies and platforms are a product of dialogue and vibrant political spaces that strive to inclusive of all well-articulated viewpoints.

The last two years of nonstop campaigns and media coverage have been tiring and taking a break is understandable, but with time, it is essential that students and people around the country return to discourse, starting by shedding the mindset of political trench warfare that this election and recent years have encouraged in us. One way or the other, after you are finished feeling for this election, it is an essential lesson in its aftermath to seek out the other side in critical, meaty engagement at the levels of policy and underlying theories and beliefs about society so that we can forge ahead.

This is the second editorial in a three-part arc about the presidential election and its aftermath. The final editorial tomorrow will focus on explanations for the election result.


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