A meme keeps cropping up on my timeline that says, “Stopping (Donald) Trump is a short term solution. The long-term solution is fixing the educational system that has created so many people ignorant enough to vote for Trump”. This assumes that everyone who votes for the Republican side is ignorant, semi-educated or both. There’s also another point of view, closer home, which is about blaming the 31% who voted for Narendra Modi, every time the government seems to go wrong with their policies.
This is a very condescending approach. When you look at it, this is what polarization does to people all over the world. In a polarized electorate, everyone has real fears and real concerns. What voters seek, is the same on both sides. Whether it’s a Mexican angry at Donald Trump talking of building a wall to keep all Mexicans out or a white American frustrated at having to live on welfare after being replaced by an Indian call center employee, they’re looking for job security and a way to make a respectable living. They don’t want to scrimp and save to send their kids to college, while keeping the wolf away from the door. They don’t want to turn down small requests of their families. They want to feel safe. If you see any misery close enough and long enough, with an open mind, you’ll empathize with it. Live for a week, with a family of refugees from a war torn country and you’ll wish you could stop their country from being bombed to dust. Imagine losing every single possession and having to settle in a new country where so many are hostile to your presence. On the other hand, spend time with European women who have been the victims of Taharrush and you’ll want your country to kick out all the refugees. The pain is real on both sides and voters want similar things. They are sometimes stuck with a leader they don’t like but have to choose the lesser of the two evils.
In 2014, we had to choose between the Congress which faced several allegations of scams and had to endure a near stalemate in the last two years of power and the BJP, which promised economic development. What complicated this further was that the Congress was perceived to be secular (or a party appeasing Muslims, depending on who you were talking to) and the BJP has been known for its Hindutva agenda, because of the RSS connection. So, which way would you go, if you’re a secular Hindu? What if you were a Muslim entrepreneur bored with the economic stalemate? Choices become complicated for voters. Eventually, their heroes are wrong and idols have feet of clay. Many voters are reluctant too. A section of Democrats is unhappy with Hillary Clinton and wishes Bernie Sanders could be in the saddle. Many Republicans would rather abstain than vote for Donald Trump. There is little choice here though when you have to pick a side. The hate mongering is because many politicians are adept at whipping up a frenzy and stoking emotional fires, which is what swings elections. No one ever won an election promising a 50 basis points boost in GDP growth. Picking up the most scummy vote bank of a candidate and assuming every voter on that side has the same thought process is unrealistic. And every single person who votes for a politician isn’t buying into the most outrageous promise made, whether it is Narendra Modi’s ‘jumlas’ or Donald Trump’s Mexican wall. Let’s not blame the voters. It’s unfair and cruel.