Never have we seen two candidates demonized so much.
Many good people insulted Donald Trump. They called him liar, moron, pathological narcissist, con man, phony, carnival barker, clown, tax evader, fraud, demagogue, fascist, Nazi, sociopath, racist, bigot, xenophobe, friend of the KKK, Muslim hater. They called him Hitler. They also called him a tone-deaf, sexist, homophobic, misogynist, adulterer, and rapist who tried to normalize sexual aggression. He was despised as deranged, reckless, foul-mouthed, angry, rude, a friend of mobsters and a tool of Russia. They complained that he mocked people with disabilities and wants to kill innocent babies of terrorists.
Similarly, many people insulted Hillary Clinton. They called her a sickly, compulsive criminal liar, corrupt, and a dangerously secretive socialist. They also called her a rapist-enabler, slanderer of sexually assaulted women, an adulterer and killer of unborn babies. They said she was an imperialist war hawk, a weapons dealer for terrorists, that she also sold uranium to Russia and caused the deaths of countless Muslims in the Middle East. They called her “Hitlery.” They said she stole millions in donations meant for the poorest people of Haiti and that she was a friend of the Gambino Mafia family. They complained she was a Wal-Mart board member, a puppet of large corporations and Big Oil, a member of the evil oligarchy, and a shill of Wall Street and Goldman Sachs.
Many of these awful stories were agitated by the media. Accusations lacking evidence were sold under the principle of interpreting Clinton’s words, and especially Trump’s words, in the worst possible ways. Claims that had not been decided in courts of law were treated as gruesome facts.
Now that Trump has won, I feel sorry to see many people, my friends, literally suffering. One of my closest friends keeps posting his worries on Facebook: that trains and “boxcars” will deport Hispanics like us to concentration camps.
As a history professor, I wish I could do something to convince people that Trump is not Hitler, just as Clinton isn’t so bad either.
In truth, Republicans and Democrats are more similar than the press usually admits. Example: Just a few years ago Trump was pro-choice, lavished praise on Hillary Clinton, donated five times to her campaign for Senate, and he insisted that the economy does better under the Democrats.
In 2008, President George W. Bush approved a $700 billion bailout for banks involved in the financial crisis. Senators Clinton and Barack Obama supported it.
Campaigning for president, Obama shamed Bush for doubling the national debt: “irresponsible” and “unpatriotic.” But years later, Obama also doubled it.
Obama complained about the wars in the Middle East. Eight years later Obama still presides over wars in the Middle East.
Liberals are horrified that Trump wants to “build a wall along the southern border.” Yet I never saw a single newscaster say the simple truth: Donald Trump wants to improve the fence and walls that were constructed during Obama’s administration, a barrier that already spans almost 700 miles and for which both Clinton and Obama voted. Trump wants to extend it by 300 miles while leaving the remaining 1,000 miles along the Mexico border with no wall.
One of my students tells me that to graduate from high school in France, students are required to draw the wall that already exists between Mexico and the U.S. and even show that it goes into the ocean.
Like Bernie Sanders, Trump wanted to repeal the law that enables corporations to donate staggering sums to political campaigns. Both of them rejected super PACs during the primaries. Like Sanders, Trump wants to stop wasting so much money in wars in the Middle East.
Because people believed many horrible accusations against Trump, they suffer by thinking that millions of people voted in favor of racism, xenophobia, sexism, etc. Imagine if Hillary Clinton had won.
We need patience and empathy when we hear our political opponents. They’ve got valid concerns. They’re not as bad as they think we are.
Alberto A. Martínez is a professor of history at The University of Texas at Austin.
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