ARTICLE BY NOLAN WEIN
So, I think we can all agree now that Kellyanne Conway was not crazy when she said there was a silent Trump vote back in August. Pundits and pollsters alike rejected the idea that a silent majority could carve the path for a Trump victory; however, as we saw, the silent Trump vote was not simply fiction concocted by the Trump campaign to convince people that he still had a chance- it was real.
I imagine that most are in shock and wondering how people and pollsters were not able to detect this bloc of latent Trump support. Currently, there is no definite answer to this question, and there may never be one. However, I propose that one reason people did not pick up on Trump’s popularity is that his voters hid their preferences from others.
Why did this bloc of voters keep their support to themselves? As a self-defined “secret” Trump voter myself, I suggest that these voters kept to themselves because they were afraid of the backlash they would receive for supporting Trump.
Full disclosure: I volunteered for the Trump campaign in Philadelphia, and I voted for him on November 8th. Through this experience, I was able to connect with other Trump voters from the Philadelphia area and was in a unique position to gauge the mood of the electorate. Before I describe my experience, I want to reiterate that my perspectives are by no means universal; however, the views I express are supplemented by my volunteer experience.
The volunteers I signed on and worked with spanned all age groups, genders, and races, and their excitement about the campaign was palpable and contagious. Although the Democratic Party is widely considered to have a hold on the millennial vote, I worked with many volunteers who were college students (some even from Penn). Despite the fact that the media portrayed Trump as struggling with women voters, I can say from my own experience that the women I worked with were just as excited about a Trump presidency as the men were. Additionally, many of the people I worked with, and some of the most energetic, were Latino, which would seem to contradict the common notion that this group of voters was monolithically against Trump.
My job as a volunteer included Get Out the Vote (GOTV) efforts such as door knocking. Admittedly, I was initially nervous to door knock on behalf of the Republican Party in a city such as Philadelphia because of its reputation for being staunchly Democratic. However, I was surprised at the moderately positive reception we received. This is not to say that there were not many people who shooed us off their doorstep, because there certainly were. But there were also many people that were undecided and open to a Trump presidency. To my greater surprise, there were a good number of voters that congratulated us on our efforts and were set on voting for Trump; however, these homes, unlike those of some people who were obviously voting for Hillary Clinton, had no visible signs or indications of Trump support.
Some of you may be wondering why I am describing my experience at the campaign. My time on the Trump campaign forced me to recognize that there was indeed a silent Trump vote that was afraid of vocalizing support for Donald Trump.
Some of the volunteers said they were forthcoming about supporting Trump. But some of the volunteers, including me, expressed that they outwardly supported him around people who agreed with their views, but not around family and peers who disagreed for fear of backlash. Speaking with other volunteers made me realize there was a large group of people who supported Trump covertly, even in a Democratic city. A fair number of these went undetected because they were not as demonstrative with their support by putting signs on their homes or bumper stickers on their cars.
So why did these Trump supporters remain silent? Perhaps what ensued on social media the night before the election, the night of, and the day after could help answer this question.
The day before the election, I encountered many posts encouraging people to vote for Hillary Clinton because Trump is dangerous for the country. I came across almost no posts encouraging people to vote for Donald Trump.
The night of the election and the day after, posts flooded my newsfeed the likes of which I have never seen before. I read posts that likened this election to when Hitler took control of Germany, that predicted the decline of America, that articulated how ashamed people were to be American, that vocalized desires to move to Canada or Europe, that criticized Trump for many of the things he has said, and that expressed genuine fear of living in “Trump’s America.”
More surprising to me were the statuses that labeled Trump supporters as xenophobic, racist, sexist, and homophobic. One status that really caught my eye called for all Trump voters to apologize to every person they knew for supporting Trump and, hence, ruining their lives.
Notable was the lack of pro-Trump posts that surfaced after Donald Trump became the president. Some may say this is because there is not much to gloat about with Trump. While some may think this is true, I believe the plethora of negative posts shows why the secret Trump voters stayed silent: they were afraid of receiving the type of backlash that was expressed by so many on the night of the election.
At this point in time, it is not considered “politically correct” to hold conservative values and views, especially on college campuses. Conservatism is not popular and, as a result, it is difficult to express conservative opinions and not be marginalized as a result of doing so. Democrats seem to have a monopoly on political discourse at this moment, causing Republicans to hide their political stances. This phenomenon is precisely what happened with this election- Trump voters stayed silent because of the liberal monopoly on political discourse.
Unfortunately, lambasting people for their beliefs does not indoctrinate them— it alienates them and forces them to hide their beliefs. Further, those who express partisan sentiments on social media risk being blocked by those who hold different beliefs, causing filter bubbles and contributing to further polarization in society. Considering that America prides itself on being the world’s greatest democracy, it is a shame that silence should speak louder than words. I sincerely hope that political discourse will rise above the negativity that has been engendered by this election cycle so that there needn’t be a silent majority in future elections.