The presidential election season was one of the most divisive in this country’s history, but if there is one thing most can agree on, it is that the past year and a half brought out a great deal of vitriol and divisive rhetoric from Democrats and Republicans.
The fear of the existential threat posed by Donald Trump’s presidency has made many of my fellow liberals forget and discard our core principles. We often see politicians on both sides of the aisle claiming to act on moral principles, but as this election season has shown, many end up advocating for policies that benefit their political endeavors over doctrinal consistency or morality.
After Trump’s victory, liberal protesters have been engaging in the same practices for which they previously berated Trump and his supporters. When both parties are unwilling to compromise with the other to advance the country as a whole, they put the well-being of democracy below their own success.
Throughout the campaign season, both Trump and former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton made remarks that undermined the tenets of the democratic process. During the third presidential debate, Trump said he would not accept the results of the election, a comment that Harvard professor Steven Levitsky compared to “stuff that we see in Russia and Venezuela … that we don’t see in stable democracies anywhere.”
On the other side, Clinton responded by calling Trump’s claim “horrifying,” but only used that word to describe Trump’s accusations of election rigging. For Clinton and concerned political scientists across the nation, there is a separation between what is and is not debatable in a democracy. Therefore, liberal supporters should follow her model and not engage in hypocritical responses to Trump’s victory, for that would be antithetical to this country’s democracy.
Many have called Trump’s plan to build a wall absurd and racist. However, it does not operate outside the rules of the Constitution. Trump’s history of sexual assault, while in my opinion disqualifying and disgusting, may not actually threaten the stability of our nation. We can openly criticize Trump for his racism and misogyny because we possess free speech and free press rights, and setting precedents that threaten these rights will compromise our ability to have policy debates.
That Trump wants to restrict the unalienable rights of the Declaration of Independence should concern al citiz. However, now that the Democratic Party’s candidate has lost, its members have succumbed to the same tempting tendencies that question foundational Constitutional principles. In light of the election results, some Clinton supporters have turned to chants of “not my president.” When Californians post about #Calexit, they compromise the constitutional values of unity reinforced during the battle for the Union.
Many politicians seem to believe that the ends justify the means. Democrats argue that voter fraud exists because voter ID laws disenfranchise liberals, and thus they see such policies as an affront to their political representation. Even in the fight for a Supreme Court nominee, Vice President Joe Biden used the same talking points in 1992 that Republicans today use to delay appointing a new justice. Parties engage in similar modes of political maneuvering to establish themselves further into government roles while consolidating power.
Rules are established because they produce the best, or at least the most democratic, outcomes. Despite the initial success of attempts to undermine these rules,
such endeavors will likely eventually produce more bad than good results. An ends-over-means mindset produces hypocrisy and self-serving policies. When parties compromise values to achieve self-serving ends, they subordinate the well-being of the American people to their own success.
Corrupt politicking contributed to Trump’s success. This election season has forced us all, Democrats and Republicans, to confront hard truths and perform important introspection, particularly over our own hypocrisy.
AARON BAUM is a sophomore in the College.
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