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Duke Campaign Stop 2016

Campaign Stop 2016: A Duke University Election Forum

A Site for Scholarly Commentary, Debate and Media Resources for the 2016 Election

National Issues

What happens if Trump loses?

A lot of talk has been focused on what horror would befall our nation should Donald Trump win, but I’d like to ask: what happens if Trump loses?

What happens to all the anger, hate and fear? Where does that all go? Does it just get stuffed into a box, barely contained, only to explode in the next election cycle, spurred on by people desperate to have their voices heard?

As I ponder these questions, I think back to a conversation I had with a perfectly amicable young man at a Bernie Sanders rally in Raleigh back in March. He was deciding between supporting Sanders and Trump. I put on my “anthropologist hat” and asked him about his political views. His number one point about what unified both Trump and Sanders: campaign finance. He liked that neither was beholden to big money.

I pushed him a little further. “But what about Trump’s stance on immigration,” I asked. “Do you really support that type of bigotry?”

“Well, no,” he admitted, but went on to add, “But they’re breaking the law simply by being here and don’t pay taxes.”

So I said, “Did you know that millions of undocumented immigrants are paying taxes, income taxes?”

He shook his head. He didn’t have a rebuttal to that. However, he was open to receiving new information and I hope it helped to change his view on the issue, if only slightly.

I share this story to help us remember that supporters, regardless of political affiliation, are only people. During an election season, we love to deal in categories or sweeping absolutes, often times neglecting to acknowledge that people’s identities straddle categories and that life’s issues are rarely black and white.

People in this country are in pain, and I wonder what’s going to happen to these people once the election is over?

The ones who lost their job and blame their undocumented neighbor. The ones who can barely afford to pay their bills, or unexpected medical expenses, or health insurance. The ones drowning in debt, being preyed upon by loan companies and banks who could not care any less.

What’s going to happen to American citizens who don’t have clean water to drink, poisoned by the greed of their own government and corporations?

What will happen to the students and teachers relegated to dilapidated school buildings?

What will happen to the citizens who live in fear of the very ones who swore to protect and serve?

What will happen to America?

Dissatisfaction with the establishment runs very deep. One needn’t look any further than Congress’s abysmal approval rating or the enormous disparity between everyday Americans’ opinions in surveys versus our nation’s politicians who implement our policies.

America is suffering.

Trump isn’t the cause of that; he is merely a symptom. Trump was bred from people’s distrust of the current political situation in place. Trump is a rebuke, a giant F-you sent straight from the voters all the way to Capitol Hill. Trump is dangerous, but the rise of Trump was not due to the fact that he is a demagogue spewing lies and hate.

Like a fever, Trump makes us feel worse, draws attention, raises alarm bells, can kill you, but a fever isn’t the source of the problem, it isn’t the virus within.

You can point to statistics, but Americans know the lives that they’re living. They can feel the middle class disappearing, their wallets shrinking, their lives being thrown into disarray.

There is an enormous wealth disparity not only in the United States, but globally. If we look to history, it never ends well when a small portion of people lavish in immense wealth while others suffer immense poverty.

So in November, look at your fellow Americans with compassion — yes, even those bigots and outright racists.

We need to fix our democracy.

We cannot afford to ignore the greater lesson behind the populist insurgencies of both the right and the left.

So I’ll ask my question again: What happens if Trump loses?

Where does all the hate go? Where does all the blame go? Where does all the anger go?

If Trump supporters feel that their voices aren’t heard when they cast their vote in November, where does all that energy go?

Listening is the first step.

We need to treat everyone with dignity and respect.

We need to acknowledge that for better or for worse, we’re all in this together.

Perhaps then America can begin to heal.


Valerie J. Parker is a first-year Master of Science student at the Duke Global Health Institute.


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Campaign Stop 2016