As the election results so clearly highlighted, America is a sharply divided country.
Tuesday’s election of Donald Trump as the president of the United States has been called many things — “unprecedented,” “shocking” and “stunning” among them.
“I have never been so disappointed in any election ever,” one Hillary Clinton supporter, 62-year-old Gayle Matteson, told The Washington Post in downtown St. Petersburg, Fla. “I feel sorry for the Muslims, the Hispanics, the African Americans, and especially women.”
These people’s feelings and fears were perhaps best captured in an off-the-cuff, emotional soliloquy offered by Van Jones, a CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist.
As it became clear that Trump was closing in on a projected victory, Jones gave voice to the sentiment many were sharing on Twitter — that race played an important part in the election, and many feel disenfranchised by the results.
“People have talked about a miracle,” he began, discussing Trump’s upset victory over Clinton. “I’m hearing about a nightmare.”
Jones, who is African American, questioned how parents could explain to their children how Americans elected a man widely labeled as a bigot and a racist.
“It’s hard to be a parent tonight for a lot of us,” Jones said. “You tell your kids, ‘Don’t be a bully.’ You tell your kids, ‘Don’t be a bigot.’ You tell your kids, ‘Do your homework and be prepared.’ And then you have this outcome, and you have people putting children to bed tonight, and they’re afraid of breakfast. They’re afraid of ‘How do I explain this to my children?’”
This was a common refrain among liberals on Twitter.
Jones continued, “I have Muslim friends who are texting me tonight, saying, ‘Should I leave the country?’ I have families of immigrants that are terrified tonight.”
He opined that although the unprecedented election results were partly “a rebellion against the elites” and “a complete reinvention of politics and polls,” that “it was also something else” — what he called a “white-lash” against an increasingly diverse country led by its black president for the past eight years.
“This was a white-lash,” Jones said. “This was a white-lash against a changing country. It was a white-lash against a black president, in part.”
Added Jones, “And that’s the part where the pain comes.”
As he spoke, the usually stoic Jones appeared to be choked up, almost fighting back tears on live television.
“When you say you want to take your country back, you’ve got a lot of people who feel that we’re not represented well either,” Jones said. “But we don’t want to feel that someone has been elected by throwing away some of us to appeal more deeply to others. This is a deeply painful moment tonight.”
It’s certainly a feeling many agree with.
In an op-ed for the New York Times, Roxane Gay wrote, “I was confident [Trump would lose] because I thought there were more Americans who believe in progress and equality than there were Americans who were racist, xenophobic, misogynistic and homophobic.”
A bigger part of tonight’s story is that millions and millions of Americans are willing to vote for a candidate who has been endorsed by the Klan. They are willing to vote for a candidate who has displayed open contempt for women. They are willing to vote for a candidate whose base is openly hostile to people of color, immigrants and Muslims. We cannot ignore the hate that Mr. Trump both encourages and allows to flourish. I am terrified that the more virulent of Mr. Trump’s base will see his election as permission to act on hatred.
Meanwhile, Vox, a left-leaning outlet, published a piece titled “Donald Trump’s win tells people of color they aren’t welcome in America.”
Many thanked Jones on Twitter for speaking his mind, including NBA star Stephen Curry.
Many others, though, accused him of furthering the racial divide in America.
“I don’t agree with Van Jones ‘cos Trump reached out to race and tribe in America,” one user tweeted. “Talentless race-bait. Crying on television is not professional, child. Were ’08 and ’12 BLACKLASH, clueless racist?” asked another. “Van Jones continues the division. When will we be AMERICANS? When will you see us all the same?” tweeted a third.
At one point, Jones stated, “Donald Trump has a responsibility tonight to come out and reassure people that he is going to be the president of all the people he insulted and offended and brushed aside.”
To Trump’s credit, he did as much in his victory speech from the Hilton Hotel in New York City.
Calling his campaign, “a movement comprised of Americans from all races, religions, backgrounds and beliefs,” he said, “Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division; have to get together. To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people.”
Later in his speech, the president-elect said, “I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans, and this is so important to me.”
Still, a speech wasn’t enough to change the feelings of the many who agree with Jones.
As David Remnick wrote early Wednesday morning in a New Yorker piece titled “An American Tragedy,” Trump “will strike fear into the hearts of the vulnerable, the weak, and, above all, the many varieties of Other whom he has so deeply insulted. The African-American Other. The Hispanic Other. The female Other. The Jewish and Muslim Other.”
On Wednesday morning it appeared that, to some, Trump already has.
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