The first debate is over. The general concensus is that while Hillary Clinton appeared calm and prepared, Donald Trump said things that made undecided voters “gasp”.
But regardless of how Trump’s performance polled after the debate, there is another darker narrative being put forward. We are being told that polls and focus groups are missing a hidden fact of campaign. We are being told that Trump supporters are unwilling to publicly admit their preference for a racist, abusive, arguably unprepared and potentially authoritarian leader. So, our polls, our debates are not going to be much help in predicting the real size of Trump’s support. They are hiding out.
Well, guess what? Hillary supporters are hiding, too.
I write publicly about politics. I tweet extensively and combatively in support of Hillary. I do a lot that would be considered declaring my support for her. But I still feel a deep and abiding sense of discomfort at the idea of walking down the street wearing a Hillary shirt. Accordingly, while I am openly supportive of Hillary online, I am much more low key, offline. Why? Because I’m not ready to discover who among my neighborhood acquaintances are against Hillary and how they might choose to express that.
Whenever someone takes issue with Hillary, be it online or offline, my experience is they don’t typically want a thoughtful debate. They come low and they come hard. You step back and you say to yourself, “This person is not politically rational.” The conflicts can be brutal, and unlike Trump supporters, we Hillary supporters? Millions and millions of us? We’ve been fighting a two front war since June of 2015.
Supporting Trump gets you attacked from the left and the middle. Metaphorically, you face one way and you stand your ground. You know who is behind you. You don’t need to look over your shoulder.
Hillary supporters? We get attacked from the Alt left and the Alt right. And the battle is brutal. Early in the primary, I donated money to Bernie Sanders. On my Facebook page, I began to ask questions about Bernie’s approach vs. Hillary’s approach. People I have known for twenty years suddenly jumped all over me for even seeking a comparison. Their comments can only be characterized as attacks, nasty vitriolic abusive condescending comments about Hillary and about my political naiveté.
And these comments came daily. Sometimes hourly. And they went on for months. I asked people I had known for years if we could slow down, maybe talk through some issues. People I didn’t know and had never met began dog piling on my threads, calling Hillary a criminal and a liar. Weird stuff like disproven GOP tropes about supposed gender pay gaps in her campaign spilled into the conversations. Meanwhile I had yet to make a donation to Hillary and was still donating to Bernie. They didn’t care. The fact that I would even pause to compare the candidates was a moral failing, a willingness to suck up to the Wall Street Banks and the Pentagon.
Ultimately, I had to unfriend people whom previously, I had never had a cross word with in my life. People I already agreed with on Global Warming and a wide range of other issues. Now, we couldn’t talk because every time they posted, the comments they made insulted my intelligence and my motives so deeply that I hade to sit back and take a breath just to calm down.
It was traumatizing. I’m sorry, I know that’s a loaded word, but this was unprecedented in my life. That is to say, I had experienced crazy political Facebook arguments with distant high school acquaintances who had turned out to be wildly conservative, but not with people I knew personally. Not with others on the progressive side of the fence. And certainly not with people my family and I had been houseguests of. It became a wildly emotional and sometimes openly abusive debate and it made me go underground with a lot of folks. I recall feeling a sense of anger when I finally pulled the lever for Hillary.
“Fuck you,” I thought. I’m sure many Trump supporters felt the same kind of emotions when they voted. But for a very different set of reasons.
And while people I knew personally, were jamming my Facebook feed full of anti-Hillary attacks that looked for all the world like they came directly from the Republican National Committee (because they did) the notorious Bernie Bros were swarming on Twitter posting agressive, abusive memes that sought to degrade and humiliate Hillary and her supporters.
“Bitch” was just the entry level degree of abuse. It was so insanely partisan I was convinced that half of it was coming from Republican operatives posing as Bernie supporters. Or what I would later come to understand was likely the Russians. But people I knew personally were posting the same stuff, so I knew, on some level, the sources posting the comments were real. But the level of rage and anger toward Hillary was shocking and disgusting. I felt like I was engaging with some backwater of Reddit gamer culture which took pleasure only in dishing out sexist abuse.
Ultimately, my decision not to vote for Bernie was a product of several factors. One big factor was the behavior and actions of his supporters toward my candidate and toward me, personally.
Then came Trump. My experience of the Trump campaign felt much like that of engaging the Bernie Bros. Again, the rehetoric was so extreme as to be cartoonish. The Alt-Right’s palpaple glee in deploying racist and sexist hate language has caused me months of roiling disgust and anger. Its made me mad. And since I’m lucky enough to have a platform, I have chosen to use my social media skills and my writing to fight back. But this running battle comes with a cost. It colors your view of the world. It tears down your sense of calm. Your feeling of hope gets eroded.
I’m a veteran of the binary internet shaming wars. I have written articles about masculinity and culture that have made me the target of some of the most abusive voices out there. I take these people on. I don’t give an inch. But I feel it. I feel the ongoing sense that there is a wave of crazy out there. A looming dark cloud. A thunderhead. And this election has only heightened that phobia. When I realize that people I have met may be considering a protest vote against Hillary, even as they deeply distrust Trump, I feel nauseated.
And here’s my point. If I, a person who has grown pretty think skin after fighting these running battles for years, feel the exhausting pressure of all this crazy, what do normal Hillary supporter’s feel?
I’ll tell you what they feel.
They feel like this ugly abusive online battle is scary and frustrating and horrible. And so, they are laying low, hiding out. Millions of men and women simply won’t leave themselves open to the kind of abuse being dished out online by Trump’s smiling frog faced goons.
Equally, they don’t need the condescening lectures from “real progressives” about why there is no difference between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. They don’t need the constant drumbeat of tone deaf press stories about issues that don’t matter to them and about public opionions they simply don’t hold. And finally, they don’t need the tedious recounting of every mistake Hillary has ever made because they understand her decades long history is a reflection of our own collective struggles to balance what is politically possible against what is morally pure.
But let me tell you this. If Trump supporters are supposedly being under polled, the number of Hillary supporters also remains partially hidden, out of sight, waiting for election day. While many Hillary supporters are loud and proud there is a second army. A quiet one. If Trump’s supporters do show up in unexpected numbers at the polls, rest assured, our army of quiet thoughtful Hillary supporters will meet them there.
Because this year, the unparalleled levels of bullying and hatred have made casting our votes all the more crucial. Quiet doesn’t mean unmotivated. Hidden doesn’t indicate a lack of passion. The more the abuse is dished out, the more we know our nation’s future is at stake.
Hillary’s quiet army of millions is coming to vote, all genders, cultures, religions and races, who, while intentionally avoiding being badgered, hectored and hated, are damn well going to cast their ballots for Hillary Clinton on election day.
You can count on it.
Photo by Brett Weinstein
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