Trump: A historical perspective

For a brief minute, let’s set our anxieties aside. Let’s imagine Trump does not become our next president. Regardless of whether current polls deem this a realistic or not fantasy, let’s simply allow ourselves to imagine this for a moment. Trump is defeated. Hillary is elected. The United States finally has their first female president.

How will this be viewed in a hundred years from now? What will the iPads or Chromebooks (or, you know, whatever) of 7th graders say about this historic moment? Here’s my bet. You know how your slightly edgier high school history teacher, the one who was young enough to still care and try to change minds and all that, threw out the perspective that actually no, Lincoln didn’t really care that much about ending slavery, and that if he did care it wasn’t for some grandiose, laudable moral reason but for political or economic ones? That actually this watershed moment in the history of the United States came about because of the same old seedy, political motivations? I imagine the textbooks of 2116 to read something similar.

“Contrary to some opinions,” 7th graders will read on their Google Glass, “America elected its first woman president not on the strength of her credentials or because there was an outcry for gender equality, but because her opposing candidate was so odious that the antiquated two party system — divided in the extreme up until this time — was able to come together in order to thwart such a man from taking over the country’s highest office. A vote for Hillary was not so much a vote for the first female president as it was a vote against her reviled opponent (Donald Trump (1946-2017)).”

Maybe this seems obvious or unimportant (or, outside of our fantasy view here, unrealistic) but I think it’s worth noting. I think this for two reasons. One: I think this is largely true (that a vote for Hillary is mostly a vote against Trump) but not completely true. I am excited about voting for a female candidate and there are a whole lot of other people out there who are too. And this kind of changes my perspective about Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation. Because while I don’t doubt that it is largely true that the reason the Emancipation Proclamation went through were largely political rather than moral, there was undoubtedly a significant number of people pushing it through and fighting for it for very moral reasons. How could it be anything but this? The moral issues were so huge, so important, how could this not be what they were fighting about? And while maybe some of the important players did not think of it in moral terms but in political ones (due, no doubt, to their afforded privilege), the political terms cannot be fully separated from the moral ones. I would even venture to say that the political terms were something of a signifier for the moral ones. (Which is, importantly, not to say that those fighting on political terms were secretly fighting on moral ones. Instead, it is to say that the political and moral are always tied together, whether or not the player pushing their action understand this).

And so then, two: our political and our moral reasons are not totally separate. The fight against Trump is not separate from the fight for a woman as president. And, as before, I don’t mean to imply that everyone who is reluctantly voting for Hillary — despite the fact that they loudly and repeatedly claim she is a liar or criminal or whatever — are actually secretly supporting a feminist cause at heart. I simply mean to imply that we can’t separate the two, not completely. We are all dealing with a moral issue too, whether we want to or not. Maybe part of the problem is that the issue is so large, so prevalent and important, that we aren’t able to see it, just as we can’t begin to imagine how others actually see us. But make no mistake, whether we choose to recognize it or not, future generations will. Let’s hope we make a decision that makes them proud of us rather than one at which they shake their heads.

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