There’s a lot to say about Donald Trump as a person: for instance his tendency to direct aggression toward racial and religious minorities, his record of sexual harassment and assault, his chronic lying, and his refusal to take responsibility for any of his actions. But ultimately, Trump as an individual is (unfortunately) hardly unique in being a racist and misogynistic bully with an inflated ego.
There’s to say about Donald Trump as a potential president: how–despite his big talk about national greatness–he seems incapable of developing concrete policies, or working diplomatically with other politicians to address actual problems facing the country. But ultimately, according to current polls, it’s more likely than not that he won’t get the chance. No, this isn’t a sure bet, and of course you need to vote to make sure this is the case, but at least there is a good chance that the threat of Trump as president will be over next week.
But what I really want to talk about is Donald Trump as a marker of a wider public opinion. Yes, I’m concerned by Trump as a person and candidate, but I’m even more concerned by the significant and persistent support for his campaign, what that says about our country, and what it means for elections at all levels of government.
Around 42% of Americans want this guy to be president. It’s not fair to assume that all of them support him because of his racism, Islamophobia, or misogyny, but it does at least mean that many people find obvious racism, Islamophobia, and misogyny acceptable enough to vote into the white house.
Even if Trump’s support base does not get their way in the presidential election, it still undeniably represents sizable chunk of the voting population, that will be employing the same judgement and values in voting for congress and governors and school boards and town councils.
American government is much more than a president. Consider the extent to which Obama’s initial policy plans have been adjusted according to Congressional resistance or support. Consider how much discriminatory legislation occurs at the state level, such as the recent wave of state laws legalizing anti-LGBT discrimination, or the 27 states trying reject Syrian refugees. Consider the fact that support for Trump seems to rely on a lack of education–and that public education policy is largely determined at the state and local level.
So yes, we should vote to keep Trump out of the white house. But it’s equally important to vote for senators and mayors and ballot legislative measures to keep Trump-y policies out of all levels of government.
These are decisions that can impact people’s lives as much as the president will. These are decisions in which principles of civil rights and responsible government are at stake. If you are not in a presidential swing state, these may be decisions in which your individual vote has a larger impact. Additionally, if you are interested in supporting the growth of third parties in our pollitical system, a local or state race might provide an effective way to do so.
I’m not so naive as to suggest that voting alone is enough to make everything in America “great”–or that it ever was–but it is one way in which we have the ability and responsibility to make it better. And it looks like America could use a whole lot of better right now.