Now that we’re about nine weeks away from the general election, it’s time to start considering what comes next. More likely than not, Hillary Clinton will be elected president, along with many Democrats. The election will likely confirm the status quo, with little immediate shift in power between both parties. But I wonder how the media and the rest of us pivot post-Trump. I fear we’ve become too used to politics as a kind of grotesque theater of perpetual outrage, and not as an important outlet for debating and solving problems. Every Trump tweet or dumb comment takes attention away from serious issues. Clinton may have detailed policy plans, but if her opponent has no interest in debating her on the merits – only calling for her arrest and promoting conspiracy theories – then how can average Americans make informed choices based on anything other than disgust? She may be elected by 10 points and will still be viewed as illegitimate by tens of millions of people. Once elected, Clinton will struggle to address real issues, like poverty and wage stagnation, because whether her policy ideas are good or bad, the anger-industrial complex is too deeply invested in their failure.
Similarly, I’m worried we’ll be dealing with the consequences of reduced civility and sensitivity for a long time, particularly as it relates to women, people of color, people with disabilities, and toward middle and lower class whites that liberals scoff at and who Trump resonated with. He’s made liberals more likely to write off all Trump supporters as bigots, when as Arlie Russell Hochschild’s incredible reporting shows, their narrative of unfairness must be reckoned with. Further, Trump has empowered people who view all Muslims as terrorists, Mexicans as rapists, blacks as criminals, who despise women, especially the successful ones. A nation where former Imperial Wizard of the KKK, David Duke, feels comfortable running for senate again is a weaker, more dangerous one. While not in every instance but always for Trump and his ilk, condemning political correctness has been about preserving their power to dehumanize people who aren’t them. I envision a country that gradually removes the structural barriers for disadvantaged groups to participate economically and politically, only for them to be discouraged by barrages of personal attacks.
Beyond that, I worry that we will start to think and act in groups at a dangerous level. Trump has encouraged whites to view only themselves as “real Americans” and view prosperity as entirely zero-sum. We’re in trouble when Americans stop believing their success is mutually dependent.
What gives me hope is that my generation, for the most part, doesn’t buy this crap. While we have grown up profoundly segregated by race, class, and even politics, we are also incredibly diverse, educated, and liberal. We won’t put up with people like Trump and the alt-right; a recent Pew poll shows that 76% of millennials say “immigrants strengthen the country because of their hard work and talents. I won’t overstate our increased racial tolerance; the General Social Survey conducted by NORC found that white millennials are only slightly less racist than their parents. But millennials are only 55% white, those under 18 are 51.5% white, and those under five are minority white. I look forward to the day when there is no majority ethnicity or race in this country; perhaps, then, we’ll find something better that unites us.