KTA South Images

In the months after the 2016 election that widened the divide between Red and Blue America, I followed up on my summer 2016 kNOw THEM America cross-country bicycle trip by cycling across the Southern United States. I set out to have meaningful face-to-face interactions with Trump supporters. While their politics are very different from my own, I wanted to better understand their motivations and perspectives. I found that they primarily describe their political priorities as related to their personal and economic living situations. They said that “Make America Great Again” spoke to a large portion of Americans not because of nostalgia, but because of a real desire to lift their communities from the hollowed out shells of what they once were. People who remember supporting their family with one steady job now can’t make ends meet holding down two or more low-wage jobs. And though it is clear that many Trump supporters have issues with tolerance of diversity, it is unfair and inaccurate to reduce their votes to a single issue or to lump them together as a monolithic group. Progressives often look on Trump supporters with disdain and THEMification as racists, sexists, and idiots, completely dismissing them rather than seeking a more nuanced understanding. Liberals cannot afford to disregard the concerns of Trump voters if we want to begin to address this country’s increasingly dysfunctional and dangerous political and cultural polarization.