My goal in interviewing women who voted for Trump is to better understand the “other side” and, in so doing, perhaps diminish that which makes “sides.”
As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t like the idea of an “us” vs. “them.” If there’s one thing I learned throughout my experience worshiping with thousands of people, it’s that every religion teaches of our essential connectedness, the whole of creation derived from a single source of origin that many call God. It may be human impulse to sow division but the divine, as I understand it, always points to unity.
This project is my attempt to apply the lessons of faith in the secular setting of politics.
The hardest part of this approach, I find, is that it forces me to take responsibility when I’d much rather not. If “us” vs. “them” becomes “we,” then no one is outside the circle. We are in it together, each accountable in our way for all outcomes.
In other words, in this faith-infused version of reality, I can’t foist the blame for anything, much less the Trump-is-president thing, on others. I had to find a way to own it.
I had a couple of girlfriends over for lunch the Friday after the election. We had planned it before the election when my friends and I were certain Hillary Clinton would be the next president, just as the pollsters and pundits were announcing in the news. Now it became a somber affair. I had called it “tea and sympathy” to be funny and then it really was.
One friend in particular was taking the election results hard. She was in disbelief that what she considered hate-filled ideology had triumphed. I had never seen her in such a gloomy frame of mind. She’s an illustrator who draws whimsical scenes, bursting with sweetness and joy. You’ve probably seen her work on greeting cards or tissue boxes. Here she was at my table projecting the opposite of what she creates on paper.
I wasn’t doing much better. Before the lunch, I had spoken by phone with Allison, the subject of my last blog post, who previously voted for Obama. During that conversation my own dark clouds had formed, and now over lunch they rolled in closer.
My friends and I ate with no ready laughs. Attempts to steer the conversation to other topics besides the election were fruitless. The words of comfort we offered seemed feeble. “It’ll be okay,” one of us would say. But no one was convinced, the speaker least of all.
After the lunch, I had a date to call Julie. She was friendly and forthcoming, upbeat compared to my friends. She was born in 1975 and lives in St. Louis. She has a bachelor’s degree in communications, and works as an account manager for a large firm. She’s a strong woman—literally, an athlete—who is all for equal rights.
The number one reason she voted for Trump: he’s not a politician.
Here was another relatively young, socially liberal, educated white woman who supported Donald Trump.
Maybe I was hoping Julie would say something to reassure me that what we had done—basically hiring a character from television, and not a particularly benevolent one at that, to run our country—would not result in disaster. Who better to defend Trump against my doubts than a woman, much like myself, who had voted for him? Who better to soothe my worries than a person who was optimistic about our president-elect?
But Julie didn’t try to justify her choice against my questioning. She acknowledged that voting for Trump was a risk. She said, “He could very well mess things up.”
I thanked her, my frustration tempered in the moment by an appreciation for her honesty.
But I hung up feeling grim. I wasn’t sure I wanted to talk to another female Trump supporter, or that I was interested in understanding the other side. My efforts felt like a betrayal to my own heartbroken friends. Maybe in this case, “us” vs. “them” was the only option. If the trade-off was hopelessness coursing through me like poison, I would have to live with that.