The U.S. presidential elections have been as emblematic of our country as our stars and stripes. This season, on “Keeping up with the States,” the world has watched as ludicrous, unfathomable and blatantly horrific history unfolded (if not more scandalously revealed by Access Hollywood). And just like the so similarly named television series, what we witness—in all its convoluted and hard-to-digest glory—is undeniably real. This is our reality show and believe it or not, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are just two names who happened to fit the casting-call this time around.
Trump—6 feet 3 inches tall, 236 pounds, Caucasian, brown eyes—is a perfect match for the role of deluded seventy-year old raging bigot. Beyond his self-proclaimed stature and “qualifications,” he is in many ways a figurehead for a growing demographic in this country that has alas found a prominent leader both willing and able to represent their interests on an expansive platform. Likewise, hawkish, ice-queen Clinton was bred, not so differently from any of your favorite childhood actors, to play the heroine of every (aged, upper-class, likely white) Democrat’s dreams. She is the institution’s prodigy bureaucrat, and her time to step into the spotlight has come—after a very long wait, at that.
Nonetheless, discounting the populist revival and bigotries uncovered by the mainstream media this campaign cycle, serves no justice to the many tabooed issues our country faces. Regardless of our president, the reasons behind the respective rises of Clinton, Trump and even Bernie Sanders, will not change in the next four years, let alone the first 100 days of this series’ pilot episode.
Politics of fear and alienation, driving the American people apart, have incontestably defined this election season. Polarization has proliferated as Democrats and Republicans foster hostility in their partisan politics that offer two voices in a nation of more than 300 million. Minorities are arguing with minorities, against other minorities up against the wall facing riled up majorities who feel like minorities, all while hopes of a denouement fleet.
Better yet, civil unrest appears imminent when we look across the Atlantic to where a successful referendum to leave the European Union led to a “horrible spike” in hate crimes, according to Britain’s Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. In other words, the last time an ally voted nationally on a decision informed by beliefs on their economy, sovereignty and political elitism, the outcome was furthered polarization. Even if Trump does not win, his exhortative language, which has proven effective in mobilizing supporters to act violently, coupled with a lack of intent to concede, could result in unparalleled encounters.
Research by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution has shown that compared to the broader Republican Party, Trump supporters—the group that paved the way towards a shockingly close presidential race—are invigorated by isolationist, anti-immigrant and somewhat nativist rhetoric. Their concerns are legitimate, at least in their lived experiences, and they are grounded in perceived truths on free-trade agreements, the nation’s policies for economic powerdom domestically and abroad, the role that immigrants are playing in this country, and more.
Trump supporters are more likely than your average Republican to believe that immigrants commit more crime in local communities, be bothered by people who speak little to no English, want to identify and deport all immigrants without papers, want a leader who can “break some rules,” in addition to the “usual” xenophobic ban of all Muslim immigrants, wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and ban of Syrian refugees in this country. This strata of the right, a cohort within a cohort, a slovenly curated studio-audience if you may, is importantly not a product of who you may initially assume alone. As much of a tool as a yankee driver, Trump is a vessel for the voices of many Americans, period.
This season’s episodes of “Keeping up with the States” have played out in drawn-out plot lines over emails and a distinctive lack of a character arc on the part of a peculiar Trump figure. Although our two main characters have garnered record-breaking unfavorability ratings, the network cannot afford to buckle under. The face of our presidency, a coveted role desperately sought by even the most ineligible, will be changed be it for the casting of our first female president or the ascension of our oldest president ever.
Furthermore, the power of our media’s unwavered control of narratives has set an unfounded precedent. Cacophonies of conspiracies and blurred notions of truth have stalled the production of objective information. In fact, the power of social media has been dangerously paired with factious and sectarian talk that has prevented unity in the face of heightened dissatisfaction.
Still, this is America. Resilient, however challenged. Forces of darkness and unity have collided, and our manuscript remains unfinished. And yet, that never has been, and that should never be—our turbulence and endurance beat at the core of our hearts. Just as the first President Clinton exclaimed at his first inauguration, “There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.” These words rang true when contextualized in a tumultuous period driven by angst over the Reagan-Bush $300 billion dollar deficit and poor economic prospects of the younger generation; but they also carry the same effect today in a time when partisan politics and social rift have proven disequilibrating.
At another presidential inauguration, in fact our third ever, Thomas Jefferson reminded Americans to “unite with one heart and one mind.” Decades later, Woodrow Wilson would announce at his second inauguration, “We are provincials no longer. The tragic events of the thirty months of vital turmoil through which we have just passed have made us citizens of the world. There can be no turning back.”
Remember those words come Election Day, and beyond.
Sabriyya Pate is a Trinity sophomore. Her column, “in formation,” runs on alternate Mondays.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.
Sabriyya Pate is a Trinity junior. Her column runs on alternate Mondays.