By Ryan Hiles —
This morning after Election Day, I was hungover in more ways than one. The empty bottle of Four Roses on the coffee table reminds me of the night that was, just as the untouched bottle of cheap champagne in the fridge reminds me of the night that could’ve been.
For months, I’ve gorged myself on political punditry, analytics, investigative journalism, all in an attempt to reassure myself that America would never actually take that final swan dive from the precipice of fascism and into the deep, dark pool that coldly waits below. All the numbers said this is when Trump would finally go down.
My gut told me I’d be cleaning champagne off the ceiling right now. Now my gut is telling me that a lack of communication between red and blue America has led to a fundamental misunderstanding of each other’s ideologies and motivations. Want to know what my gut is telling me? That I need to puke.
It’s important to realize where this misunderstanding originated from. While it is at least partially the responsibility of voters to attempt to actively engage in civil discussions of morality and ethics, the true facilitators of this discussion should be those with the loudest platforms – the press. There will be many pieces written in the coming days detailing the myriad failures of the American press, and most of those will focus on the amount of neutral attention and deference given to Trump early in the campaign. But the issue isn’t about which candidate got more screen time or who was paid more attention to. The issue is the press wasn’t paying attention to the Trump voter.
The unflattering image of the quintessential Trump voter has been shaped almost entirely by the news media for large swaths of liberal America. A common theme in these types of reports was finding the 10 or 20 loudest, most jingoistic characters in the room and giving them the mic. While it’s important to highlight the very real sinister element in any political movement, it often obscures the more thoughtful, nuanced voices in a crowd, leaving us to think that those objectively racist, sexist or fascistic sentiments represent the whole.
Is this just a product of a biased media? Not exactly. As a firm skeptic of the so-called liberal media bias, I don’t believe this is being done for a partisan purpose. It’s done, instead, to satisfy the media’s actual bias toward sensationalism and laziness. But by no means is this tendency for broad demonization simply an exclusively liberal phenomenon. Right-leaning media tends to create a similar echo chamber for conservatives, spewing reductive, red-herring arguments that only serve to calcify the political divides between us.
I’m still stunned, hurt, confused and profoundly hungover. But I’m reminded of a thought from British political scientist Rob Ford. Following the UK’s stunning vote to leave the European Union, Ford asked if people felt like strangers in their own country, and then explained that that’s how people who voted for Brexit had felt for years. This lack of recognition for the nuanced perspective of our political opponents seems particularly relevant, doesn’t it?