Last week, Donald Trump fairly and squarely defeated Hillary Clinton to become the president-elect. Sadly, knee-jerk academics, those elites Republicans love to hate, are playing right into their stereotype, jumping onto their professorial high horses and showing how pitiful they are.
I’m an academic and like many of my colleagues I was a Bernie Sanders supporter. When Sanders too-quickly fell in line with Clinton’s democrats, I was disappointed. And so I became one of those undecided voters I’d once mocked.
The morning of the election I took a run through Harlem to clarify my thoughts, passing polling places along the way where lines were already long, though not as long as when Obama ran for election and then reelection (an indication of the roughly four million fewer votes Clinton would receive).
I wanted to write in Bernie, but in New York a candidate has to be registered as a write-in and Bernie had decided, very consciously, not to fill out that paperwork.
I thought about voting for the Green Party — as a rejection of the two-party system; as an affirmation that a woman is as capable of running our country as a man. But I had deep reservations about Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka.
I thought about voting for Trump because self-destructive anarchy seemed preferable to voting for a candidate who was overly-calculated in everything she did, who had no genuine core, who was always getting caught at something because she’d pandered away her identity.
But by the end of my run I’d decided to vote for Hillary Clinton. She would be a competent president. She would be the first woman president. She would make sure the Supreme Court remained progressive instead of regressing to anachronistic status.
And she would insure that Obama’s legacy would remain intact. Perhaps that was the clincher —Obama, I believe, will go down as a great president, even though the Republicans hamstrung his every move.
So I stood on line. I voted for Hillary Clinton. And while I felt dirty, less than myself, hypocritical even (because I’ve been criticizing Hillary since she ran for the Senate and tried feeding New Yorkers her transparent line that she’d always been a Yankees fan), I felt I had done the right thing.
But last Tuesday, while I watched the returns coming in, I was rooting against my vote and rooting for Donald Trump. Defiant, self-destructive anarchy was in my blood. And it was in the blood of many Americans. And so I watched, fascinated, as the ultimate American gamesman played the electoral-college game to perfection and won.
A presidential victory should end the story. After all, a smooth and peaceful transition of power is the mark of our democracy. But a week later the transition has not been smooth.
I recognize how divisive, how racist, how sexist, how exclusionary, how mean-spirited Donald Trump’s campaign was.
I also recognize the Democrats were no angels; the equivalency may be false, but Deborah Wasserman Schultz and Donna Brazile, the standard bearers of their party, proved themselves liars, cheaters, and excluders.
So on Wednesday morning at 3 am, when Hillary made that phone call to Donald Trump (without having the courtesy to personally speak to her loyal supporters who had waited in the Javits Center for seven hours), I figured (hoped) the petty ugliness of the last two years was finally over.
Foolish figuring. Hopeless hoping. Today, the pettiness is more glaring than ever.
There have been numerous protests. Fine — democracies allow people to stand up, march, and speak.
But there has also been an outpouring of easy sentiment from non-Trump supporters that borders the nauseating. The most flagrant are the comparisons to 9/11. Does the election of Donald Trump really equate to a foreign attack on American soil that killed thousands?
Talk about false equivalency. It’s hyperbolic. It’s insulting. It’s thoughtlessly knee-jerk and easy. Like amateur writers using similes that don’t fit, people pushing statements like these are intellectual amateurs.
I’m an academic, a professor at a college of criminal justice where we have a number of Trump-supporting students. But the Trump-bashing academics are pushing their agendas (ignoring much of our student body and half our country) and they’re doing it in the easiest ways: They’re sending soap-box emails. They’re setting up healing workshops to salve the country’s supposed pain. They’re diminishing, in effect, a legitimate election on company time. Colleagues at other state-funded colleges have expressed similar concerns about school time being used for anti-Trump booster-ism where easy catch words filter professorial diatribes: “cope,” “fear,” “sadness,” “confusion,” “incredulity.”
Unless these professors are teaching political science courses, unless they have the chops to discuss politics beyond overused platitudes, these academics, most of whom have never truly struggled, most of whom will not be affected by a Trump presidency, should keep their ideas out of the classroom and out of their colleagues’ inboxes.
The content of their discontent is simplistic. And the style of their discontent sounds as pandering (for the supposed good graces of their liberal students, for the back-slaps of their liberal colleagues) as the easy, empty words spoken by the queen of panderers, Hillary Clinton.
For the most part (and this will be borne out in the days that come), the fear, trumped up by too many academics, is hyperbolic. And the rage is hyperbolic. And the invented need to connect to our “sad, damaged, scared, confused students” (who, for the most part, aren’t really sad, damaged, scared or confused — and who, for the most part, didn’t even vote) is sickly sweet.
No American president is bigger than his office. No American president is bigger than our country. That’s what President Obama, always noble and gracious and measured, has been telling us. He recognizes American life will go on. He recognizes our government’s checks and balances will flatten dangerous extremes.
As soon as the in-vogue rantings subside, rantings fueled by a media bartering false outrage for ratings, these knee-jerk professors will have to go back to teaching what they were paid to teach.
I only hope the students who have to sit there and politely listen to these diatribes in class (diatribes they probably don’t want to hear but are funding with their tuition dollars) recognize the truth. These professors aren’t really scared — they’re not going to be deported and they’re not going to lose their tenured jobs. These professors aren’t really outraged.
What they’re doing is flexing their egos as academics too often do. And what they’re really doing, most pitiful of all, is quelling their greatest fear—not that Trump will be president, but that their students might think them uncool, unsympathetic, and out of touch.
Adam Berlin is the author of "Both Members of the Club" (winner of the Clay Reynolds Novella Prize), "The Number of Missing,” "Belmondo Style" (winner of The Publishing Triangle’s Ferro-Grumley Award), and “Headlock." He teaches writing at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and co-edits "J Journal: New Writing on Justice" (AdamBerlin.com). For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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