On November 8, 2016, nearly 60 million Americans left their homes, travelled to their designated polling stations, and voted for Donald J. Trump to become the 45th president of the United States.
As the startling reality of our collective future set in, those who didn’t support Trump turned to each other and wondered how a man who bragged about sexually assaulting women, called Latinx people rapists, and snagged an endorsement from the Ku Klux Klan managed to win.
There are a number of different, equally valid answers to that question, but the simplest explanation is that more than a quarter of the eligible voting population gave Trump the electoral votes necessary to become president.
Who were these people? White people, mostly. Young white people, old white people, rich white people, poor white people, working-class white people, college-educated white people, and white people who didn’t make it out of high school all fell into lockstep and voted for Trump.
To look at the exit polls of this year’s election is to look into the face of a public that put its faith in a racist, sexist reality TV star with literally no political experience. But it’s also to look into the face of your friends, family, and acquaintances.
No matter how badly you want to believe that you’re entirely disconnected from the rise of President Trump, statistically speaking, you know at least one person who voted for him even if you yourself did not. And now, you have a moral responsibility to explain to that person what their decision means for the country, and for you.
Who were these people? White people, mostly. White people that you know and maybe love.
In the months leading up to the election, as Trump mocked the disabled and casually encouraged his supporters to riot during campaign rallies, many were shocked to discover that people close to them were actually planning to vote for the Republican. But it doesn’t seem like they took this very seriously.
Quickly, sites like FriendsWhoLikeTrump.com sprang up to help people purge their Facebook friend lists of the Trump faithful and, for a while, it seemed like that might be enough. Sure, Trump’s supporters were still out there buying into their candidate’s appeals to white nationalism, but back then it felt like only a matter of time before the country got its shit together and got in formation to elect Hillary Clinton.
But that’s not what happened. Hillary Clinton lost and the people who put Trump in office are still out there, newly re-energized by their win. And now we must talk to them about what they did.
The time has come to impress upon these people why voting for Trump was essentially the same thing as punching people of color, women, queer people, and immigrants in the face. Every vote for Trump was a tacit endorsement of a man whose vice presidential pick supported the use of pseudoscientific torture practices used to “cure” queer people of their sexual identities. Every vote for Trump fed into the toxic, feverish white pride that’s inspired the KKK to throw a celebratory parade in North Carolina.
Now we must talk to Trump voters about what they did.
Every vote for Trump was a vote for the idea that women deserved to be “punished” for seeking abortions. Every vote for Trump was a contributing factor to the fear and panic that’s caused massive spikes in calls to transgender suicide hotlines. Every vote for Trump was a stiff middle finger to President Obama’s legacy as the first black president. These are the things that Trump supporters were fighting for—no matter what they wanted to tell themselves—and now they’re the realities that we all have to deal with.
So, this holiday season, when you head home to be with your loved ones and meet up with old friends from school, take a moment to find That One Trump Supporter that you know will be there. Call out that bigoted family member or friend nobody really likes (but is too “polite” to challenge) and be honest with them.
Tell them exactly how their decision to vote for Trump is going to fuck millions of marginalized people over. Tell them how their shortsightedness is going to set our country’s social progress back for decades. Tell them how they never would have voted how they did if they really cared about you as a person. Best case scenario, you change some hearts and minds. Worst case, you learn that that person doesn’t see the value in fighting for you, something you’re much better of knowing than not.
It isn’t enough to unfollow someone who uses the #MAGA hashtag on Twitter, or complain to people who already agree with us. Today, we live in Trump’s America. The only way that will end is if enough of his supporters change their minds—and we all have our part to play in making that happen.