Editors: This election made our divisions undeniable, but politics alone won’t heal them

Students embrace each other in the early morning hours of Nov. 9 during a demonstration at San Francisco State University following the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. (CNS photo/Stephen Lam, Reuters)

This was an election about class. This was an election about trade, globalization and fears about immigration. This was an election about upheaval and rejection of a distant elite. This was an election about race and gender. All of these statements are true.

Above all, however, this was an election about division. While president-elect Donald J. Trump won convincingly in the Electoral College, and thus requires both our support and our prayers, the harder task still lies ahead. No one should feel complacent about the divisions this election emphasized and exploited, which run far deeper than political allegiances. Mr. Trump said in his victory speech that now was the “time for America to bind the wounds of division,” and he is right. Yet no policy proposal, whether it promises to restore the lost jobs of American manufacturing or to ensure free college for all, will be enough to bridge those rifts. No political figure can now command enough allegiance or respect.

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Nor are careful analysis and understanding of these issues sufficient to the task. There is no easy replacement for actual solidarity with others. The geographic, socioeconomic and communication bubbles that too often pass for civic life in modern America have not provided that solidarity and indeed have often worked against it.

As Pope Francis has consistently reminded the church and the world, it is the poor who disproportionately bear the costs of division and inequity. It is the poor, both on our doorstep and around the world, who are most invisible and easiest to ignore when concerns over economic stagnation tempt us to limit our compassion. And as those limits become walls that “close in some and exclude others,” as the pope said recently, we will discover that those who are excluded, whether because of race, nationality or class, are almost always far poorer than the ones raising the barriers.

The poor are on the other side when the barrier is a wall closing off the United States from Mexico. But poor people are also on the other side of the various barriers that divide the financial, governmental, educational and media elites from the rest of the country.

Neither economic stagnation nor the disconnect of the elites tells the whole story. This election was also starkly divided along racial and geographic lines, with suburban and rural areas and whites voting for Donald Trump while minorities and large urban centers voted for Hillary Clinton. Another way to read this election is to look at which constituencies the parties chose to write off. Mr. Trump ignored minority and urban voters and focused instead on Rust Belt states in the Midwest. Mrs. Clinton, following today’s conventional political wisdom, worked on increasing turnout among her base while ceding white, non-college-educated voters to Mr. Trump.

The fact that Mr. Trump’s strategy was successful while Mrs. Clinton’s failed does not give legitimacy to either. Neither strategy transcended a politics of division, while Mr. Trump’s added resentment to the mix as well. Both perpetuated the divisions from which the country suffers while doing nothing to reconcile them.

Recognizing these divisions should prompt a national examination of conscience. Republicans, while holding both houses of Congress and the presidency, must ask what they owe to the apparent slim plurality of the electorate that voted for Mrs. Clinton; they must also determine how to encourage Mr. Trump to ameliorate, rather than exploit those divisions. Democrats, recognizing that their party’s concentrated base has isolated them from the concerns of huge swaths of the country, must consider how to prioritize those voters’ concerns alongside other issues. Leaders across society must broaden the range of people to whom they listen and with whom they speak.

The church has an important role to play as the next four years of Mr. Trump’s presidency unfold. It must offer clear and vigorous moral guidance, not limiting itself to the anti-abortion promises to which Mr. Trump must be held but also speaking on issues of immigration, racial discrimination, international peace and social welfare. The church must stand firm in rejecting any return to the insults, misogyny and devaluation of human dignity that characterized much of Mr. Trump’s campaign rhetoric. The church must also offer the wisdom of Catholic social teaching to help shape proposals for addressing legitimate concerns about economic stagnation among those globalization has left behind without scapegoating the poor and retreating into isolationism and xenophobia.

Even more than its public moral witness, the church must encourage Catholics to find practical solidarity with their political opponents, sharing worship and conversation and the works of mercy. That is both more difficult and more costly than simply adopting better political positions, but it offers a hope of reconciliation, not merely the prospect of electoral victory.

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Lisa Weber
2 years 2 months ago
If the Church honestly worked to include women in its leadership, it would at least offer a good example of governance that includes women. When the Church fails to lead by example, it gives a message of "Do as I say, not as I do." That message is a ineffective with society as it is with children.
Nicholas Clifford
2 years 2 months ago
The church's continuing fear of women is one of the great mysteries of the modern world. It's not only unChristian, but irrational. Would the sex abuse crisis have spiraled as out of control and driven so many people away from the church if a few intelligent and charitable women had been in positions of authority in the institution's governance structures? But then consider the question of subsidiarity. A wonderful idea, an important part of Catholic Social Teaching, we are told. Wonderful, that is, everywhere bit in the Vatican and in the structures of ecclesiastical authority. Subsidiarity has no place in the church, and it is up to us to get that truth through our thick heads and not raise awkward questions.
Bruce Snowden
2 years 2 months ago
In 1960 when JFK ran for the Presidency his "I'll dos" were many and reporters like elephants have good memories. Some months later one of them asked President Kennedy about some of the things Candidate Kennedy said he would do if elected. His response was, "The Presidency is a sobering experience!" Now that he's got the job Trump, will also like JFK, recognize that reality and shed his bombast and get back to the "real world." I sure hope so, also hoping that he will stand firm in his expressed strong pro life attitude. That certainly was a saving grace and I think a main reason why Catholics like me could vote for him and not Hilary, although I would love to have voted into the Presidency a woman, long overdue!
J Cosgrove
2 years 2 months ago
This was an election about race and gender. All of these statements are true.
This part of your statement is not true!!! And why wasn't the corruption of the Clintons mentioned? http://bit.ly/2fFaq87 This is an example of divisive rhetoric and it is causing problems. Would you have written something similar if Clinton had won? I doubt it. One of the things that has happened in the last 24 hours is that the left has become unhinged. They are distorting what just happened. The reason Hillary Clinton lost was not due to white votes for Trump. Trump got less white votes than Romney did. Trump got more of the black vote than Romney and more of the Latino voter than Romney. Trump also got less votes than Romney. The reason Hillary Clinton lost was because she got 9 million less votes than Obama did in 2008 and 5 million votes less than Obama did in 2012. It was a low turnout election (even with 6 million votes for others this year vs 2 million for other in 2008 and 2012). 2008 Obama 69.5 million McCain 59.9 million 2008 Obama 65.9 million Romney 60.9 million 2016 Clinton 61.0 million Trump 60.4 million as of Nov 14, 2016 So lets try and cut back on the divisive rhetoric and distortion as to who is responsible for racial discrimination or who is the cause of immigration problems and who is responsible for the lack of peace in the world. It is causing problems out there. I have seen it personally today on social media and in personal interactions. I have seen it here in posts by authors and comments by readers. A friend of us told us how she has received several negative comments from people on social media because she is conservative. So change the rhetoric!!!!
Lisa Weber
2 years 2 months ago
It is a story about race and gender. I have never heard such hateful speech about women in a presidential campaign. What I find so disturbing about the far right wing of the Republican party is their lack of regard for either science or facts.
Gay Timothy O'Dreary
2 years 2 months ago
" I have never heard such hateful speech about women in a presidential campaign." Maureen Dowd remembers what Lisa Weber predictably and conveniently forgets: "What about Bill Clinton humiliating his wife and daughter and female cabinet members? What about a president taking advantage of a gargantuan power imbalance with a 22-year-old intern? What about imperiling his party with reckless behavior that put their feminist agenda at risk?" Maureen Dowd in the NYT, "When Hillary Killed Feminism" Feb 13, 2016 http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/14/opinion/sunday/when-hillary-clinton-killed-feminism.html Then there is drunk Ted Kennedy and his female companion, deceased Ms. Mary Jo Kopechne at Chappaquiddick https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Jo_Kopechne It is telling how the left forget the female victims when it is doesn't follow their narrative
Nicholas Clifford
2 years 2 months ago
Very true as J. Cosgrove points out, that Hillary Clinton had a great many fewer votes than did Obama. Still, it's worth pointing out that Donald Trump had substantially fewer votes than Hillary Clinton. Roughly half a million fewer, according to today's figures (Nov. 11).
J Cosgrove
2 years 2 months ago
I was mainly pointing out the myth of the white backlash as Trump got fewer white votes than Romney and more Black and Latino votes. This destroys the "white backlash elected Trump" myth, There is some very angry people out there over the results of the election whose anger is being fed by false narratives. So the authors here should be careful what they publish. The election is determined by the electoral college not by popular vote. Thus, there is no emphasis on winning the popular vote. All the money and time is spent in about a dozen states which Trump mostly won. If we had a system such as in Maine and Nebraska then every congressional district would be in play and a different number would result. But even there because some congressional districts are heavily one party vs the other it would still produce a disparity. There were actually some credible scenarios where the 2nd district of Maine which went for Trump, could have been the deciding vote. But the America authors have to watch their language and articles. There seems to be a skew in what they are publishing.
ed gleason
2 years 1 month ago
11/ 23 it's now 2,000,000+ but it's still a loss. Dem elites forgot about working class. Biden would have won by 150 electoral votes.
Vince Killoran
2 years 2 months ago
White working class voters in unions have been--until this election--pretty dependable Democratic voters. But Obama, HRC, and the rest of the neoliberals couldn't care less about the labor movement (except to cash their checks). In the primaries the national union officials mostly fell back on supporting the establishment candidate but local union leaders and the rank-&-file tended to back Bernie. Anger, disappointment, fear: please direct that to the DNC.
Mary Flynn
2 years 2 months ago
my anger disappointment and fear is directly especially the the RNC in control of the executive, legislative and judicial branches---The "let's mine coal and use up all the energy now, build a wall, strop Syrian refugees, reverse Dodd Frank etc etc and especially get out of the Paris agreement, use nuclear energy and free trade. and just be great again all alone in prosperity for the "winners".
J Cosgrove
2 years 2 months ago
The voters who elected Trump voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012. http://bit.ly/2fsdZf7 So lets cut any mention of racism in this election by commenters and authors.
Henry George
2 years 2 months ago
Hillary was not the best choice the Democrats could have made to run for President. Trump saw an opening and went for it. The Democrats can complain about the election results but it is they who failed to turn out to vote. The Elites need to care about the unfashionable poor in this country who are almost wholly ignored by the New York/Washington/LA Media. I think the editors of America would do well to spend 3 months traveling around America - get off the Interstate - and see how life really is for most Americans.
E.Patrick Mosman
2 years 2 months ago
"while ceding white, non-college-educated voters to Mr. Trump." The editors have joined the media liberal pundits in deciding that America needs another divisive marker,college education by highlighting the difference voting patterns between college educated men/women of the elite and non-college educated men/women of the masses. It could be that today's college educated need safe places, trigger warnings, afraid of shadows and lack common sense while the non-college educated have hard earned experiences and common sense of the real world. The heads of many colleges and universities instead of echoing the anti-Trump angst of students,canceling or exempting the distressed students from exams should be acting like grown-ups and counseling their students to grow-up, accept the results and get back to getting their education. Mr.Victor Davis Hansen provides a reasoned and thoughtful rebuttal to the editors and other anti-Trumpsters. http://www.hoover.org/research/why-trump-won Open your minds and give it a try.
J. Calpezzo
2 years 1 month ago
I agree partially with this comment. One does not have to be uneducated, white or otherwise, to harbor racist and misogynist views. Victor Davis Hansen must not have learned that at Fresno State. Trump belittling handicapped people, inciting violence at his rallies, hitting on married women while married, paying no taxes (suckers like the writer love this one), losing the popular vote by a mere 2 million votes. You can be educated and racist and stupid. Imagine, loving the GOP more than your own country...or your own daughter.
J. Calpezzo
2 years 1 month ago
It was an election about fear. Period.
Tom Fields
2 years 1 month ago
Wow! For two generations--working white middle class ( when not clinging to their Bibles and guns) have watched their incomes and jobs and self-worth decline while various minorities were given "programs", exceptions, and quotas. However those who received the benefits have not thrived. The left has succeeded in creating groups--race, gender, sexual orientation, national origin----and convincing those groups that the Right has caused their problems----while amazingly failing to help those groups! We just had 8 years of a liberal, Black President and all those minorities are no better off----especially African-Americans---who did not come out in enough strength to help Hillary. It is rather ignorant to refer to the "electoral college"--as does the left-wing press--to explain Hillary's loss. That is the system-discussed since our founding. --anyone seeking the presidency focuses time, money and energy on electoral votes----read history!
Vince Killoran
2 years 1 month ago
Centrist, big money neoliberalism lost. That's about it. It is up to those interested in economic justice to create a new political option.
L J
2 years 1 month ago
This was an election diametrically opposed to the Holy Father's Biblical message "culture of encounter" America is not a culture of encounter in the slightest. Latinos, immigrants and foreigners are our hope to bring America a soul.

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