I recall the night that Donald Trump was elected president. I was covering election night with a colleague, continually updating with the startling results as they came in.
To my surprise, my normally benign colleague was pumping the air with his fists and his MAGA hat came out of nowhere.
That is when it hit me as an “aha” moment.
A lot of voters that supported Trump were people often denoted by the mainstream press as residents of “flyover” country. They were white working class men and women, people whose taxes were being used to bail out the banks during the recession while they lost their homes and land. They were farmers breaking under the strain of increasing competition from other countries. They were executives who resented their taxes being used for foreign aid and failed social programs. They were workers who perceived themselves as competing with undocumented workers for work. They were wealthy, educated people that held beliefs that were espoused by Trump, who could only talk amongst themselves for fear of retribution.
Shortly after the election, people I knew proudly revealed they had voted for Trump, acknowledging each other and forming bubbles of support. Most were just glad. But some became radical supporters.
A friend that used to silence me when I spoke of politics in groups has now become a member of some GOP groups. She espouses alt platforms on her social media to gain access to information from right-wing organizations that are banned in the usual social media. Once apolitical, she is chasing the info-dragon, searching online for more contact with the alt-right. Another acquaintance uses all his free time trolling the Internet to participate in chat groups and alt-right blogs and to gain more details of the alleged conspiracy to steal the election. Still another friend who is not politically right or left has expressed support for investigating the allegations of voter fraud and strong doubts about the judiciary throwing out all of Trump’s lawsuits.
None of these people are stupid. They have never demonstrated racism to me. I don’t know what their thoughts are on the subject because it has never been up for discussion.
What I do know is that since the siege at the United States Capitol last week, all of them have become more disenchanted with the media, the government, Congress and the attempts by Facebook, Twitter, Apple and Google to silence Trumpers.
When Trump was elected the results showed a rising tide of emotion that translated into votes. Polls misled America into believing that Hillary Clinton would win because, it was theorized, many were uncomfortable expressing who they really supported. Even in an anonymous poll.
Since he won, Trump supporters often bear their politics in public, pushing past doubters and waving their flags and their MAGA hats proudly in protest against the political correctness that dominated the pre-Trump era. Even in Honolulu, a bastion of Democratic politics, Trump supporters rally around the Capitol every weekend in caravan, waving flags and honking horns.
And now, with Trump fading disgraced out of the White House, that political correctness has escalated to suppression on social media platforms and censorship. The book Turner’s Rebellion has even been removed from Amazon’s platform, fearing it will cause insurrection.
It is clearly obvious that these outlets do not wish to be blamed if/when there is another siege, especially as control is being transferred from Republican to Democratic hands in the Executive and Legislative branches.
When there is repression, there arises expression. It is the irony of life, one of those things.
These mainstream attempts to suppress freedom of expression may have untold collateral damage as those who felt marginally disenfranchised before are feeling thoroughly disenfranchised now.
The largely show-impeachment of Donald Trump for a second time has also marginalized a huge group of now-very active people who feel from the bottom of their souls, that the election was stolen from them.
Freedom is the longing of the American soul. That is what we are all about. That includes freedom of expression – no matter how noxious it is – for all. When that freedom is denied, albeit by the marketplace in this case – Americans will find another way. Because the other hallmark of America is American ingenuity. We find solutions. And that is what is happening. New alt platforms are increasing daily.
With it, the disparity amidst the conversation is growing more heated. The sides are hardening; not softening. The discourse is becoming more angry. The self-righteousness of both sides is escalating with the media and the Democrats assuming that they have a mandate to power.
But power has always been intoxicating. Watch Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to see what it looks like when it’s at its peak. Arrogance is not pretty. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
By suppressing the voices of Americans who were already “flyovers” before Trump, the fallout could be unanticipated collateral damage that emerges as a new and more vitriolic group rises in its place; bitter, determined, self-righteous and armed with a new infusion of reactionary passion.