• Kristin Perissinotto

Celebration, sorrow, and critical thinking

This morning I listened to the latest episode of The New York Times’ podcast The Daily. The episode, called Celebration and Sorrow: Americans React to the Election, was one of the more poignant podcasts I’ve listened to in a long time, and was the most insightful coverage I’ve heard following the US election. The episode featured a number of interviews with people who voted for both Trump and Biden, and their thoughts on the outcome, the so-called fraud, and how the future of America is looking.

You can listen to the podcast on Spotify or Apple Podcasts, but you can read this article without listening.

The first section features a number of citizens of Georgia, mostly Black women, talking about the impact of Kamala Harris becoming the Vice President. This segment is tear-filled, emotional, and meaningful. One woman talks about her young niece, and the importance of having a Black woman in such a position. “I think that’s the most important thing for me, [telling my niece] she can because she did,” she says. The journalist spoke to one Trump voter in Georgia who said “there’s something fishy going on here.” He claims that ‘the other side’ has ‘resorted to shenanigans to sway the vote.’

The next interviewee was Lauren, a Trump supporter and protester at the Philadelphia polling booth, who had driven a few hours from her home in New Jersey, because she 'had to do something'. Lauren reports feeling ‘sad’ that so many Democrats were dancing and celebrating when Biden pulled ahead, when she ‘felt her rights had been pulled from her’. “I’m just seeing a real lack of critical thinking,” says Lauren.

Okay, let’s pause right there.

The woman who has acted on Trump’s ravings at a press conference that was taken off air and ALL CAPS TWEETS believes those who are celebrating the democratic election of a new president lack critical thinking skills. Lauren goes on to explain that her small business has gone under, and her kids are despondent, and she just wants a plan in the wake of COVID. Lauren believes the Democrats need to think critically but doesn’t believe any blame lies with Trump for the state of America due to COVID-19. Her state governor (a Democrat) ordered the lockdown that sunk her business, and that seems to be as far as she thought into the voting process.

Lauren talks about her daughter who no longer wants to go to college, and cites her own $100 000 student debt. Under Biden’s administration, that debt may be cut, and more affordable college fees may be offered to her daughter, should she wish to attend. At a later date, Lauren says that it was ‘irresponsible’ of public figures and the media to announce that there was a winner of the race. “What if this goes the other way?” she asks, “it’s very irresponsible.” Now if you cast your mind back, you might be able to remember the first person to call the results of the election. I’ll give you a clue. It was someone known for his orange complexion and his name rhymes with dump.

My initial reaction to Lauren, when she was introduced on the podcast, was pity. She’s been absolutely hoodwinked by the Trump machine. Then I felt alarm, then pity again, then a bit of anger and even intolerance. Lauren has told us exactly how her vote for Trump is a vote against her own interests. It’s easy to tell that she’s distressed, but when you’re on the outside looking in, helplessly watching a nation completely f itself over, it’s highly likely that anger will quickly overtake empathy. My opinion? She should have taken her own advice of thinking critically a few weeks ago. She later says that ‘America sucks,’ and I have to say I do agree with her there.

The next segment takes us to Mason county, Texas, which had the most significant increase in voter enrolments in the state. Mason county is ‘Trump country,’ with flags and paraphernalia plastered all over the tiny town, and upwards of 78% of the population voted for the Big Orange. The first interviewer is a lifetime conservative who decided to vote for Biden in the 2020 election. She is proud of her county, and was happy to see how many people voted. ”whichever side people are on, what a joy to see so many people getting out and voting,” she said. She did not speak ill of Trump, however had positive things to say about President-elect Biden, stating “I like that he’s a man of faith.”

Also in Mason county, we heard from an older couple who voted for Trump. “I’m not going to complain about Biden,” says one, “I don’t like some of the things he stands for.” This interviewee says he will respect Biden’s win if it is legitimate. He states that there is still a long time to go until we know who won the election, and that all the votes are still to be counted. If you will indulge me in casting your mind back once again, it was actually Joe Biden who stated that all the votes should be counted prior to announcing a clear winner of the election. But the Republicans must have short term memory loss because they seem to have forgotten this!

Later interviewees included the above interviewee’s wife, and Berta, a Nicaraguan woman who is undocumented and has been afraid of deportation for most of the last four years, and feels as though she can finally start to relax. She describes other Latinos telling her to ‘go back to her country.’ She expresses confusion at the immigrants around her who voted for Trump, believing his lies about ‘radical lefty’ Biden ‘turning the US into a socialist state.’ In case you haven’t looked at a political compass lately, I am happy to report that the inference that Biden is even close to the radical left is laughable. Trump is significantly closer to fascism than Biden is to socialism.

Listening to the podcast gave me a feeling of deep sadness alongside a feeling of fiery rage.

Sadness because Trump and his team have targeted groups who are less educated, less able to access other resources (ie. facts). He targeted with fearmongering and threats of an America without him at the helm. His supporters are simply regurgitating what they’ve been fed by him, and he has spent four years setting the scene (which looks awfully like a cult) for people to eat up his every word. Anger because of the hypocrisy spouting from the mouths of these Republicans. They contradict themselves at every turn, arguing in a circle (or maybe it’s more like a spiral - a downward spiral). The words coming out of their mouths are infuriating and usually factually inaccurate and nonsensical.

But who do we blame for this? Which came first, the president or the voters? Trump is massively taking advantage of every weakness in his voter base, but these people are voting for him - they have done so twice. Who do we hold accountable when the system is so cyclical?