Unity?

Pundits and politicians insist we on the left need to reach out to Trump voters and try to understand them.

For example, Rick “gay marriage will destroy the American family” Santorum waited all of seven nanoseconds after the election was called for Biden to declare that it is incumbent upon Democrats to change in order to reach across the aisle and work with Republicans. (Why the hell this notorious homophobe is a CNN Senior Political Analyst is beyond me.)

Why is it that no one ever asks — or even expects — the right to talk unity, or reach across the aisle, or try to understand people who didn’t vote like them? Why does that only and ever seem to be the responsibility of us on the left, whether we win or lose? How does that work?

But Santorum wasn’t alone. Lots of posts on my social media feeds offered similar sentiments. “I just want the tribalism to end,” said one of my friends. That does actually sound pretty good. So with that in mind, several quotes from Trump voters in Chicago Tribune stories this weekend jumped out at me. Let’s try to understand them.

Saturday, the Tribune offered a front page a story about the one Chicago Ward that went for Trump. (Because, of course they did.) In the piece, Alderman Anthony Napolitano explained why his ward voted for Trump: “The last three-plus years have been pure chaos,”

[Ok, so far so good. It is undeniable that Trump’s speeches, rallies, actions, and tweets — dear God, the tweets — have sown chaos and cruelty. So much so that chaos and cruelty seem to be the very point. Notice, though, that comma. Napolitano isn’t done…]

“and a lot of people here lay that with the Democrats.”

Um, what? The chaos is the Democrats’ fault?!
How do we possibly reason with people that unmoored from reality?!

But wait, there’s more from Napolitano, “You hear the neighborhood scuttlebutt about all the looting and rioting somewhere in the country, and the Democrats didn’t have law and order on their side. Not once was that behavior called out by the Democrats.”

So why did his Ward go for Trump? Racism. Shocking! I’m shocked!
Will pundits and politicians call on Napolitano to understand the racism behind his statement? Of course not. Once again, it only and ever the left asked and expected to figure out the right.

Next, Sunday’s Tribune had a front page story on reaction to the election. Meet Xavier Montalvo, 24-year-old college student and IT worker who voted for Trump. Why? “I’m a huge Trump supporter because of his values. I’m pro-life. I love that he was deregulating business, letting business expand, and low taxes…We had a really great thing going with Trump.

Trump’s “values” and “a great thing going.”
Honestly, how does anyone look around at the last four years — or even just the last four months with 230,000+ COVID deaths — and think “We’ve got a great thing going”??

Finally, from that same article, we have Benjamin Malcolm. A retired public school teacher, Malcolm voted for Trump even though he said he is “a lifelong Democrat, more or less.” So why not vote for Biden? “He’s not the most stimulating candidate and too much of the same old, same old.”

Biden is too much of the same old, same old? Compared to Trump? How?

These are just three examples, I get it. And, to his credit, Montalvo also said “We gotta accept [Biden’s win] whether we like it or not. That’s the great thing about America.”

Maybe that’s enough to work with to find common ground. But I’m doubtful. I’m much more interested in listening to BIPOC, immigrants, women, and LGBTQ+ — you know, all the people threatened and harmed by Trump and his administration. All the people threatened and harmed by those who voted for Trump. I’m open to unity and moving forward. But those causing harm by their actions or their votes need to reach out first. While we wait for that, here’s the best meme of advice I’ve encountered (no attribution given):

Watch out, in the coming days, for the abusers playbook. Requests for unity and forgiveness without any apology or acknowledgement of harms caused. Followed by blaming anyone who doesn’t want to make nice with those who’ve caused pain.

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