Students respond to election results

A compilation of thoughts submitted to Trapeze by OPRF students

In general, I think that the election of Donald Trump was, in part, rooted in people who have real prejudice.  However, a lot of what Trump has done has been a dangerous extension of identity politics from political left to political right.  The rhetoric of identity politics (generally following a form similar to “You are a part of group X; elect me, because I will do a, b, and c which will benefit group X”) was integral to his campaign. He spoke to rural, white, southern voters in their vernacular.  With the political left making use of identity politics to garner minority votes, it is my opinion that Trump utilized White identity politics.  His policies make an emotional appeal to the white, working class, rural, male vote who largely felt neglected by left identity politics as a backwards, unintelligent, and hateful group. I’m not making a normative judgement here, but an observational one.

On the normative end of things, I think it is dangerous to continue on a path of identity politics. I think it’s important to know that the far-left and the progressive left have been nearly as divisive as the Trump constituency and the right in general.  It is a sign that America must begin to return to its status as a union of individuals with differing opinions, but also a reminder that “progress” has a relative meaning.

It is my hope that Congressional Republicans push Trump’s views on immigration, the Supreme Court, Tariffs/Trade, Policing, and Counterterrorism toward pragmatic answers. For instance, nobody can deny that it is unsustainable to have 6 million people stuck in legal limbo; I simply hope that the problematic rhetoric and nativist sentiments of our next president are tempered by the many legitimate humanitarian, economic, and political concerns around Immigration.

I’m afraid, locally, of backlash against conservative, right-leaning, and/or libertarian students at OPRF.  While I’m personally apprehensive to speak positively of Trump and object to his nomination by the GOP, there are people on my side of the aisle who are happy about this outcome.  Further, many (including myself) were optimistic at the Republican win of the Congress. I fear that the community of OPRF will be quick to judge myself and my political cohorts, and quicker too to condemn the ideas of the political Right as bigoted, regressive, problematic, or repugnant simply due to their association with Trump.  However, I recognize and understand the progressive concern over both Trump and Pence, and I think that conversation over their statements and policies should exist. It is unhelpful to seek protest over the results (re: the many rallies yesterday) and to deny their legitimacy (re: the various cries condemning the Electoral College system as un-democratic despite the clear intent of the Founders to create a republic rather than a democracy, as well as certain calls for Californian secession).  I think conversation should instead turn toward local and state level action.

In my view, this election is a symptom of a federal government whose powers have grown astronomically throughout the 1900s, the 1920s, the 1930s/40s, the 1960s, and especially since 9/11; likewise, it is a symptom of the executive branch growing stronger and larger, with the rise of the administrative state, legislative abdication to the regulatory state, and individual deference toward government power.  If I were able to speak with greater breadth, I’d identify this election as the case for bipartisan shrinking of both the federal government and the executive branch.  While the message of Bernie Sanders resonated with many young voters at the high school, I would caution this sentiment with the following hypothetical: what happens when a Republican, or a conservative, or a worse-than-Trump candidate is given the powers of government left by Sanders? Will this hypothetical candidate choose to publicly fund only the education of certain races, or cut funding for liberal public universities? Would he/she indoctrinate the common core and youth work programs with radical or detestable ideas? Would this candidate raise the minimum wage to $50, and use those workers left unemployed to carry out their orders for deportation or censorship as an act of “guaranteed employment”? Would this candidate experiment within a nationalized health system for the pursuit of eugenics, or worse, the pursuit of mental domination (as almost occurred in the 50’s during project MKUltra)?

When government is powerful enough to control a majority of one’s life, the election becomes a Hobbesian fight for dominance in which the majority rules over the minority.  When rights are the basis for government, and when individuals understand, cherish, and stand up for these rights, both government and the executive are checked by a fourth branch of government: the Citizen.

Benny Paris, Senior