This country is probably more divided today than it has been since the Civil War. Ten minutes on Facebook is enough to make it clear that we just aren’t getting along. Donald Trump’s election to the presidency, although certainly not the beginning of the great divide, did a lot to widen it.
The COVID-19 virus, rather than uniting us in a fight against a common enemy, drove us further apart. The proponents of continued stay-at-home orders are accusing those who are pushing for the country to open up again of not valuing life, especially the lives of the elderly. Meanwhile those who argue that we should reopen accuse those who want to continue stay-at-home of not caring about a rise in suicide, depression, child abuse, spousal abuse and unemployment, and of not caring about the small business owners who cannot weather these troubled times.
Each accuses the other of selecting only the news that supports their narrative — we call anything that doesn’t support it “fake news” (I’m getting so tired of that expression). Both sides accuse the other of not listening to the experts when, in fact, the experts can’t seem to agree on a whole lot right now, so ultimately it means each side believing those that support their bias.
What might seem strange at first is the fact that the stay-at-home states are predominantly Democratic while the “get back to business” states are predominantly Republican. This compounds the problem, making it seem this issue is more political than anything else. Time will tell who was right, though I suspect neither side will admit that they were wrong no matter the outcome.
The November election looms on the horizon and, as in 2016, the Democrats are forecasting a sweeping victory.
I believe that they are, once again, in for a surprise.
First of all, let me say clearly that I do not like Trump as a person. His insulting tweets and broad generalizations are not fitting for anyone, much less for someone who holds the high office of President of the United States. He hasn’t made America great — he’s made America look petty and immature. Whether his policies have helped the economy and the American people is a question for another time.
In the 2016 election, few of us could imagine Trump winning the presidency. Even Republicans who desperately wanted to make sure that Hillary Clinton did not get into office were dubious. He was just too crass and uncouth to be a viable candidate for the White House.
When he did in fact win, I believe that even the majority of Republicans were shocked. The media, the polls, the Facebook posts had all pointed to a Clinton win.
What went wrong then is what’s going to go wrong again this time around, and that is because a large percentage of those who will vote for Trump are part of a silent majority. Trump won the 2016 election with the votes of those who do not live in the big cities, who do not spend their time on Facebook, and who do not tweet and who are, thus, largely unheard.
Republicans are by and large the party of rural areas. Democrats inversely are the party of the cities. What this means is that those who tend to favor the liberal agenda have a platform that the conservative party doesn’t. Rural America doesn’t have the time or the inclination to attend big rallies or meet to discuss their political views. They tend to live in less densely populated areas for a reason. They require more travel time to get anywhere. They tend to get up early and go to bed late in order to run their farms or businesses. Rural voters also tend to have more traditional views, perhaps attend church at a higher rate than voters in the city, and tend to favor the more conservative Republican agenda.
In this digital age where we all seem to think that we need to shout louder, tweet more often, post more posts on Facebook to set everyone else right, these rural voters are just quietly sitting unheard until it’s time for vote.
More than ever, we simply are not listening to each other. The great divide is getting wider and it just might cost the Democrats the presidency, again. Just because the rural conservatives aren’t making a lot of noise doesn’t mean their voices won’t be heard in November.
Whoever wants to win the 2020 election has to start winning — or earning — the votes of those who are silently sitting at home in the evening, away from the city lights, watching “Jeopardy.”
Rob Vajko lives near Wauna.