I am an American Independent. I voted for Obama. I voted for Hillary Clinton. And I’ll admit, I didn’t try as hard as I should have to understand the other side, resorting instead to jabs at Trump or Romney, full of political misinformation, touting the Republicans as some sort of political boogeymen.
In 2012, I read headlines without ever opening the articles. I read Facebook and forum posts I took as gospel, choosing not to research further. That changed in this most recent election, and I even began to appreciate Kasich or Jeb, the forgotten Bush. I appreciated them more for fiscal policy than I did for social views.
My social views are decidedly liberal. But that in itself is an interesting phenomenon, isn’t it? Democrats are “the party of equality” while Republicans are “the party of hate.” It’s funny since I have an ex-coworker that was hardline Republican, classical Republican-a “vote with your dollars” kind of Republican. He didn’t focus too much on social or religious issues, favoring gay marriage and the right to choose, choosing to abide by the true meaning of the Republican party: small government.
So, I considered that concept, trying to reconcile the idea that I was considering the philosophy of a party that “hates gays” and “hates immigrants,” or so I had been conditioned to believe. Know what I found? I found that small government sounds perfectly reasonable in some aspects. I found that there is so much regulation when trying to start a small business that it suffocates the little guys, paving the way for the previously established monopolies to continue dominance of the market.
I thought about small towns and those Middle Americans that all voted for Trump. There is a fantastic article I read recently that puts into perspective how most of the Trump supporters aren’t voting for bigoted reasons but rather because they felt passed over, kicked down by a government more preoccupied with glad-handing and status quo.
Status quo sucks. I have $140,000 worth of student loans. I delivered pizza for 2 years after college, hoping I could find a full-time job to support my now three-year-old son and his mother while balancing $900 a month interest payments. I get why people voted for Donald Trump. I was pissed off as well. But there were too many things, too many faults that I couldn’t see beyond.
Hillary Clinton didn’t really do it for me, though. She is from a different political era, lacking the fire of Elizabeth Warren or Cory Booker, choosing her words wisely and relishing in the kind of closed-door deals that defined 20th century politics.
I stood in the voting booth for a while, staring at the little light next to Hillary’s name, wondering if maybe Gary Johnson would soothe my need to not abide by party lines, especially when I no longer belonged to a specific party. But in the end, I realized I just didn’t care all that much about anyone running; I just knew I didn’t want Trump. And while his rhetoric was off-putting to me, his views too extreme, I, as a white guy, had the distinct privilege to dislike him for a vastly different reason, a much less substantial reason-I didn’t want to see this country put a reality TV star in office. I considered that to be the most American thing that could possibly happen, with all the negative connotations of the typical American stereotype-a country more interested in hedonism and entertainment, in the illusion and fantasy of also becoming rich and powerful. Of course, that isn’t how half the country saw it, and I suppose I get that.
You know what I felt? I felt the Bern. And because I felt the Bern, I understood why (some) people, umm, Bumped...the Trump? I realized Trump and Bernie were two sides of the same political coin. Both were for radical change, but one wanted cooperation, the other wanted a fight.
I couldn’t bring myself to vote for a man that had alienated most of my friends simply through his non-politically-correct rhetoric. I know a lot of people appreciated that he “told it like it is,” but to me this wasn’t an issue of candor and tact. This was an issue that “everyone deserves to be regarded as equal humans.”
However, political correctness has become a caricature of itself. Obviously, no one should be speaking in slurs or making light of traumatic experiences. PTSD and racism are decidedly real things, whether we want to discuss them or not. But what we see right now is an over-sensitivity to anything that may be misinterpreted as offensive. It borders on guilty white people trying to speak for minorities that can and want to speak for themselves. It appears, to me at least, to be a bit condescending and marginalizing in its own way and is beginning to feel like censorship in other cases. #BlackLivesMatter is a decidedly powerful movement, but in contrast, college-students-wanting-to-put-trigger-warnings-at-the-beginning-of-The-Great-Gatsby is not.
Ugh, I know this should be about me, but this is about me. This is why I’m an Independent. Both sides have grown so far apart and so hung up on the minute details of what makes them different that not only can no one see the forest for the trees anymore; the forest doesn’t even exist. It’s just trees floating in negative space, and we jump from tree to tree, hoping the next one might hold the defining issue of our time, the one that holds the key to everything.
I was caught up in petty squabbles pretty often. I spent time on Facebook back in 2012 and even during this current cycle, breaking down singular phrases and words and inflections to try and glean out some new talking point I could use to bash an amorphous “other side.” But you know when else that sort of thing happened? 1861. Sorry for the hyperbole, but I thought about it for a while and realized that this time around, this election, I wouldn’t be the guy tweeting “Hey Romney, you look like the kind of Mormon even Mormons think is too Mormon #Gobama.”
And I totally failed. Seriously. My Twitter is a mess of political jokes and bite-sized opinions.
Sometimes I wonder, though, if everyone has more or less the same wants and needs if you really boiled it down. I mean, I live outside of Philadelphia, and property values have increased way beyond the rate of inflation. College tuition continue to balloon, and it’s amazing no one thinks “maybe we should regulate those industries a bit.” Why can’t we have big government handling societal necessities (i.e. education, healthcare, and shelter), but have small government in other places? Even if that specific example doesn’t make sense, why exactly does it need to be all or nothing? I like the middle. It’s quieter.