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Is “America first” leaving many Americans last?

Becky Kimmel
Student Writer

Photo by justgrimes. http://bit.ly/2oKwMWN

Post-Trump victory in America has a lot of people questioning “How?” The citizens of our country are looking toward the future with confidence, with apprehension and some with not much certainty at all.

I was fortunate enough to spend the end of election season living in Rome, Italy during my semester of study abroad. Not only did this change of scenery enable me to avoid the suffocating media coverage of both candidates, but it allowed me to view this somewhat perplexing election outcome from a different point of view.

During my International Politics class in Rome, we spent the majority of our time talking about the concept of marginalization—how an entire group is collectively sent to the margins of society. In the case of Italy and a lot of other European countries, the people that make up these margins are immigrants or refugees. Not native to the city or its specific culture, people living in the margins have a next-to-impossible time obtaining a voice in their own community, or really any representation at all.

This gives us an interesting lens in which to view the U.S. election. It’s somewhat easy to understand immigrants and refugees existing in margins but are we, subconsciously or not, letting citizens of our own country become marginalized? Could it be that some of the 50 percent of Americans who voted for President Trump are the people that make up our margins? And does that mean the margins of American society (middle America, lower class, Rust Belt, etc.) are becoming the majority?

Associate Professor of Politics Paul Rego said, “No doubt, the economic situation, including job creation, improved immensely over the course of Obama’s presidency. But that message did not resonate with those who have long seen their communities decimated — and their own prospects limited — by outsourcing and automation.”

Maybe we have come to a time in American history where we are creating and even encouraging private spheres of society, whose voices are entitled to representation. But this begs the question, what happens to the voices of those not included in these elitist spaces? Many would say they attach their support to any lifeline they see on the horizon.

“When middle America heard Trump speak they were happy to not only hear that jobs would come home to them, but that they just might receive something they had lost – their dignity,” said Satchel Johnsen, junior politics major.

Maybe it took me going to Europe and experiencing the election from afar to realize what all of the CNN polls missed. We could say that CNN wasn’t polling the right people, but I would venture to say they weren’t polling all people. Maybe people on the margins came out to vote for Trump in an attempt to remind America that they do still matter.

“During the election, {Trump} saw an opportunity to exploit the very real and legitimate economic insecurities of many working-class white voters, and that ultimately gave him the edge in Rust Belt states like ours, which Obama (like other Democratic candidates) had won previously,” said Rego. “Without these states, he couldn’t have won the presidency. Without these states, the Democrats won’t win the presidency.”

This poses many questions about why people are voting for the candidates they are, and I’m not sure there’s one concrete answer. But I do think we need to start paying attention. We need to start making room for people in a country that already belongs to them.

In his book titled Eyewitness to Power, David Gergen states, “Progress will be neither sure nor inevitable.” As easy as it would be to take this democratic transformation and look at it through the clouded murkiness of a glass half empty, maybe this could be the next step in the progress of our great nation. Maybe this is the transformation it takes to make the glasses of all those feeling left behind by their own country half full again.

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One comment

  1. You marginalized us with multiculturalism, refugee crises, and worrying more about the rights of illegals than the rights of law-abiding citizenry. You pushed us too far. You created Trump. Nationalism is cool again, and it’s all thanks to you!

    Our time is now, and there is nothing you can do about it.

    t. A straight white male from the rust belt.

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