Losing sucks, but this election felt markedly different than anything most of us had ever faced. As Americans, we were fighting to define the soul of our country, and the man supported by the Klu Klux Klan (KKK) won the fight. The man that’s been accused of physically assaulting our daughters, mothers and sisters swept the Southern “Bible Belt”. The man whose businesses failed so often that he could barely get a business loan stole states like Michigan and Pennsylvania, which both have deep histories of global entrepreneurship and industrialism.
How could this have happened? What did we not seeing coming?
Most people on campus, Republicans included, were dazed and confused yesterday. Tears ran down people’s faces, not just because their candidate lost, but because they have no idea if they’ll be safe in their own country. Through dog-whistle politics and straight up demagoguery, Donald Trump insulted his way through the American electorate: wounded veterans, the disabled, almost every race and ethnicity, the LGBT community, and working women. Now, he’ll get to be the most powerful man in the world.
Am I upset? Yes.
Am I shocked? Yes
Will America fall apart? No.
America will not and cannot be broken, certainly not by one man. As a people, we are too strong to let anyone destroy our great nation. He may not be able to destroy it, but you know he’ll change it. The GOP controlled Congress will gut many progressive policies that were ushered in during the Obama era. The normalization of Trump-like rhetoric may cause an increase in hate crimes, and unfriendly press will be censured if his actions from the campaign spill over into the White House. It’s doom and gloom if you’re a progressive, moderate, or even a compassionate conservative, but the million-dollar question is:
Where do we go from here?
Honestly, I don’t have all the answers, but here are three things I think all Americans can start doing today: debrief and define, listen and love, and organize, organize, organize.
Debrief and Define – Americans on both sides of the electorate need to ask themselves who they want to be.
For Americans that lean left, you have to ask yourself why Secretary Clinton was not able to hold together the Obama coalition. What does this mean for the progressive movement? What issues will need to be addressed to gain the trust of young voters and bring back the rust belt (Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania)?
For Americans that lean right, you have to decide if you want to be defined by Trump’s rhetoric. The country’s demographics will not allow this type of hate to continue on for much longer.
Listen and Love – We all need to break out of our own bubbles. On social media, our views are constantly being reinforced by algorithms that are designed to keep us happy and engaged with like-minded people. Good democracies feed off of people having a baseline understanding of each other.
My suggestion: reach out to someone with a completely different view than you. Ask one of your friends that supported Trump this year to grab a beer, and ask them why they supported him. Do the same with Johnson and Stein voters, and if you know someone who didn’t vote, ask them why they didn’t vote. If you’re a Trump supporter, ask one of your friends why they’re so scared of a Trump presidency. The key to successfully learning something from these conversations will be to listen. Don’t try to prove your point. Don’t quote facts, studies or statistics. Just sit back and listen for understanding.
In the end, we’re all just Americans who want what’s best for the country.
Organize, Organize, Organize – This is what makes our country so great. When we elect a president, we are not electing a dictator that is going to rule over us for decades to come. There will be multiple elections while Trump is in power, so if you disagree with Trump, you’ll have many opportunities to chip away at his majority. Democracy is a game of inches. You gain a few and lose a few, but the key is to never stop pushing forward on your causes. For example, the Tea Party movement rose out of the ashes of Ron Paul’s presidential campaign back in 2007, and President Obama’s rise to power fueled their movement. If you’re a progressive, don’t sit back and call Donald Trump supporters ugly names. Get up and organize. Rally your troops and start gathering momentum for the elections ahead. You’ll get another shot, but you’ll have to be ready to take it when it comes.
No matter how crazy the odds or unsavory the situation, I still refuse to bet against America.
Terrance Rogers (HBS ‘17) – Born and raised in Lawrenceville, GA, Terrance worked in New York City and London before coming to Harvard Business School. He’s a proud public school kid from a blue collar family, and he’s passionate about bringing people together to figure out how to use business and public policy to improve people’s lives. You can follow him on Twitter (@terrance_rogers) and Instagram (@bigtrogers).