Donald J. Trump, 45th president of the United StatesGage Skidmore

I’ve been writing a column about America for almost a term now and I have somehow managed to avoid writing about Trump. This is quite the feat, given the amount of time I spend reading about him and his catastrophic government. I have avoided writing about him simply because it seems like half of all column inches nowadays are taken by the best political minds dissecting his every action and tweet. But I can’t resist any longer. Let’s talk about Trump’s impact on Generation Y.

I have been following American politics since the age of 12, so I grew up watching its schisms develop before my own eyes. There’s no doubt in my mind that cracks in the civility of our discourse have become chasms since Trump took up the presidency – and that American democracy is at risk because of it.

“We are all watching America form into two camps with little in common”

University is the time in our lives where we develop our worldviews and move away from thinking like our parents do. It is where we become individuals. To be going through the process of reaching intellectual adulthood whilst a capricious and race-baiting xenophobe is running your home country is a very difficult experience.

My entire outlook has shifted. Before 2016, I had total faith in democracy. I was tempted to buy in to Obama’s Whiggish pronouncement, taken from Martin Luther King, that “the arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice”. It seemed just. Gay marriage had become legal in a fundamentally conservative country, we had our first black president, and America had finally entered into a meaningful climate change agreement. It seemed like America was moving in a more progressive direction.

First came Brexit. Then came Trump. Both sides of the Atlantic – both of my homes – seemed to be bending away from the liberal world that Obama represented. Instead, we descended into an age where a man can ‘grab’ a woman ‘by the pussy’ or have suspicious connections to our most powerful enemy and still be deemed fit for office. The year 2016 made me really begin to hate ‘the right’, an entity that seemed to be intent on damaging any liberal aspirations for society. I am not alone in this feeling.

“We don’t even share facts anymore”

Campuses have always been deeply political places; there is, of course, truth in conservative claims that they are bastions of the liberal elite. One of the major effects of Trump’s election has been the growing alienation of highly-educated liberals. It was an event that has helped to widen the psychological gap between college-educated, liberal people and rural, high-school educated people. I have heard more than one friend comment, only semi-joking, about the pressing need for Plato’s ‘philosopher kings’.

Yet the snarls of disdain and the bitter mocking of Trump’s base by this ‘elite’ only helps feed the growing gap in the American population. A whole swathe of the US has become distinctly ‘other’ to many liberals – Republicans are not totally unjustified when they accuse liberals of having a superiority complex. The compassion and empathy that helps bipartisan cooperation has collapsed under the weight of each political side’s mutual hatred.

I can’t pretend I’m immune from this impulse. When someone mentions that they are a Republican, my lip tends to curl in disgust. I have come to see Republicans not as people I have intellectual disagreements with, but as the enemy.

However, I recognise just how toxic this feeling can be. America’s political system only functions when both sides collaborate and when we see our opposition as human beings. I’m not advocating tolerance of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. I do not think there is any justification for the normalisation for Trump: almost all of what he says is unjustifiable. The same goes for some of his supporters. But the left’s tendency to treat Trump voters with supercilious scorn is not doing us any favours in winning back the votes that swung from Barack to Donald.

Trump’s presidency has made me cynical about our capacity to tackle the serious problems American society faces today. America has faced seven years of legislative stagnation caused by the total break-down in bipartisan cooperation. Trump has only fed this divide, radicalising factions on both sides of the political spectrum. We are all watching America form into two camps with little in common.


Mountain View

Brexit has revealed a widening generational chasm

We don’t even share facts anymore: your political persuasion will determine what your Facebook feed looks like, what news you watch, and who you believe. If we want to make progress, Generation Y – millennials – needs to resist the all-too-tempting impulse towards treating their opponents with dismissive disdain. When we are scornful, we play into Fox News’ narrative of the Left. There won’t be a revolution, so the only way we will solve America’s problems is by working together

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