Schadenfreude was a hot topic this election. Culture wars and polarization, all fueled by racial unrest and the pandemic, has cemented a political culture of sabotage, resentment, and drawing glee from the downfall of others.
In the wake of Donald Trump’s loss, it can feel natural to want to celebrate and rub it in the faces of his supporters that certainly did the very same thing for the past four years. Celebrating can be fun. Gloating can even feel good. But the nation’s most vulnerable and in-need populations would be best served if, instead of gloating, we all spend our time advocating for the policies that would materially improve people’s lives.
Schadenfreude in the 2020 Presidential Election
While the results of the 2020 presidential election have been clear to the majority of Americans for weeks, the Trump campaign has been fighting tooth and nail ever since November 3 to drum up as many claims as possible about the election’s faultiness, either in an attempt to sow discord in the American public or to actually try to alter the outcome.
White House Press Secretary and Trump 2020 Campaign Advisor Kayleigh McEnany’s asserted on Fox News this past Sunday that, “if we lose these two Senate seats, guess who’s casting the deciding vote in this country for our government? It will be Kamala Harris.” This statement is a significant one; it marks one of the first instances of an official Trump spokesperson admitting that Joe Biden won the presidential election.
For those genuinely worried about the prospect that the Trump administration, despite the constant reminders of its political incompetence, could pull off a genuine coup, this statement should put those fears at ease. The election is decided. Now is the time to figure out how to move forward and work toward building a government that works to take care of the concerns of all Americans. And, yes, when I say all Americans, I mean all Americans.
This may seem like an odd move to make after four years under a president that many believe to be the most divisive in the nation’s history. Trump’s strategy is seemingly designed to fracture the country along partisan lines. Speaking at a a campaign rally over the summer, he said,
“Make no mistake, this left-wing cultural revolution is designed to overthrow the American Revolution.” Trump’s policies have consistently and intentionally stoked partisan flames.
From the opening days of his Presidency, Trump signed ruthless and pointless executive orders such as the “Muslim Ban,” which served primarily as a signifier about the kind of president he would be with little regard for the harm it would cause.
A Culture of Resentment and Polarization
With his ouster, it may feel natural to want to not only celebrate the election of a president who certainly won’t be as blatantly racist or harmful as Donald Trump. Celebrating can be cathartic. And after a period of time when so many of the most vulnerable Americans have been under such constant threat by the federal government, a little catharsis is a good thing.
That being said, whether your natural reaction is to celebrate or scorn, it should not be targeted toward the rank-and-file of the 74,209,291 people that voted for Trump in the election. Instead, it should be targeted exclusively toward the governmental officials and members of the 1% that enabled President Trump in the first place.
How Politicians Capitalize off the Economic Disparity
Americans of every race, class, and creed have suffered the consequences of the general trend in politics that the concerns of the wealthy receive an outsized portion of the government’s attention. There are a million reasons why this is the case, including the ability to spend unlimited amounts of money on campaigns and the repeal of crucial aspects of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Household wealth has risen over the past decade. However, more than one-third of that gain, about $16.2 trillion, went to the wealthiest 1%, while the bottom 50% of the country gained less than 2%. It is part of the reason why nearly 40% of Americans cannot afford basic necessities such as housing, food, and healthcare.
Despite claims by President Trump that the current economy is “the greatest in the history of the country,” it is clear that Americans across the country are suffering the impacts of a government that has largely left them behind.
While Trump voters were certainly motivated in large part by racism, this racism was exacerbated by the effort from politicians to channel the economic anxiety that is so rampant in the country into racism. It is a classic political strategy exemplified by Ronald Reagan’s use of the term “welfare queen” and more recently by Donald Trump’s oft-repeated claim that immigrants are, “taking our jobs.”
It is because of this tendency to play off of the economic anxiety of millions of Americans that, instead of gloating and rubbing Biden’s victory in the faces of any and all Trump supporters, anybody who truly cares about the welfare of the American people should advocate for policies that will bring about the most amount of good for the greatest number of people possible. It is clear that policies such as a wealth tax and Medicare for all have widespread bipartisan support. Beyond just their popularity, these policies would constitute fundamental steps toward providing the fundamental needs that so many of the poorest Americans are currently without.