While I Understand Their Frustrations, I’ll Never Understand Their Vote

It goes without saying that I’m surprised by the outcome of this election. My surprise quickly turned into sadness, anger, and hopelessness. Which was hard to swallow, because the night before I was hopeful. I even wrote about it.

I took the day after the election to feel sad. It was my right to feel sad. So I cried and was dramatic and then I was silent. But later that night I began to analyze. I began thinking more about the question I asked earlier that day, “How did we get here?”

Well, there’s one obvious and devastating answer, which is racism and sexism still prevail in this country.

But the alt right wasn’t enough to get the outcome we did. So what I and others are baffled by are those undecided voters who made the choice we didn’t expect. The ones whose vote wasn’t rooted in hate or intolerance. So what happened there?

While I don’t agree with the choice they made, part of me understands why they felt the need to make that choice.

I understand the hopelessness many Americans were feeling. I understand their desire for change. I understand that they were voting for what they needed, not necessarily what social justice in this country needed–not in a selfish way, but in a survival way. Because that’s what a lot of middle-class families are just trying to do–survive.

I hear this from my family who falls in the middle of the spectrum.

On paper, they make too much money to receive government aid for things like education, child care, and insurance, but in real life, they don’t make enough to ever get ahead or even just get by. Their “take home pay” never actually makes it home. It’s frustrating, depressing and each day can feel like a defeat.

Each month they have to decide to buy the medication they need or food to eat. They have no credit because the past is never truly forgotten. Bankruptcy can be a smart business move for the rich, but a life-long punishment for everyone else. Without a credit card, your “last dollar” is truly your last dollar.

My childhood fluctuated in and out of that desperation. We lived on “last dollars” and unsecured government assistance.

My mom had to be strategic about reporting income and cash flow because with any increase we risked losing that assistance. We began to fear the label “middle-class” because we were actually better off poor.

When those papers said “middle-class” they didn’t reflect the money spent on therapists, medication, and all the things needed to help a depressed family survive. Most of which were not covered by public aid at the time.

But my family was fortunate and still is. We had options and people helped us. Other don’t have those options and that’s how families can go from middle-class to homeless overnight. Their livelihoods feel like a spinning top that at any moment can fall over.

If you watched CNN at all this election cycle, you heard this was a “change election.” One campaign was identified as change, the other was “more of the same.”

Here’s the problem with that, “more of the same” was misunderstood. Both campaigns were change campaigns.

These past 8 years were about progress and laying a sustainable groundwork that allowed us to continue working toward a better America where the middle class thrive and the poor have a clear path to the middle class.

I don’t think you’ll find a Democrat who would say Obamacare is perfect as is; President Obama himself probably wouldn’t. Obamacare today is not everything it was planned to be, but it’s progress.

Having more people than ever with medical insurance is progress. Having students able to stay on their parents’ insurance longer is progress. Pre-existing conditions no longer disqualifying you for coverage is progress. But yes, premiums are too high and choices can be limited.

The plan was never to leave Obamacare as is. There was, and is, more to be done. But progress was stalled because of differences in Congress and the White House. This was a time where the checks and balances were abused and political agendas took precedence to the needs of everyday Americans.

When you work in communications, you quickly cherish the phrase “there’s more work to be done.” That’s because progress doesn’t mean perfect. We weren’t selling Obamacare, or other actions, as perfect—it was progress. A step in the right direction.

To me, both campaigns were change campaigns, but one was moving forward with policies that were sustainable in a progressive country and preserving the liberties of ALL people. The other was moving backward. It was a “start over” campaign.

I think, for the most part, these once undecided voters and I wanted the same thing. We were frustrated with stalled progress, we wanted continued change.

Some of us chose the campaign with policies that fulfilled that need—that were inclusive and were formed based on the concerns of real people. But sadly, too many chose the other campaign. The intolerant, start-over campaign that fed off of those frustrations, but offered no real solutions.

Today I woke up over the grief and ready to fight. My hope is restored and I know our country will repair itself and will get back to making progress. But I can’t help but feel sad for the voters who signed on to empty promises, who could have instead signed on to real solutions.

So while I understand their frustrations, because I have many of the same, I’ll never understand their vote.

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