What This Election Is Really About

The election coming up this October, and the storm of news surrounding it has been dominating just about every television channel for months. Debates have begun, attack ads are running rampant, and the social media commentary is flying thick and fast. Everyone has their own take on what a vote for either candidate would mean, and every argument has its merits. However, I think many of these arguments miss something of the underlying spirit of both campaigns. When we get right down to it, this election (and perhaps even all of politics) is about choosing who we don’t trust.

On the one hand, it’s clear who Clinton doesn’t trust: the top 1%. Just about every campaign plan she posits, especially her economic ones, involve the underlying belief that those at the top of society need to be made to play fair with the rest of us. Her rhetoric too, whether it involves making the wealthy “pay their fair share” or making the playing field more fair for the middle class, is predicated on the assumption that somehow those at the top of society can’t be trusted to create a fair environment for the rest of society. Even her recent attacks on Donald Trump can be seen as simply an extension of this trend, as she says that his unwillingness to release his tax returns shows he’s either lying about how good a business person he is or that he’s finagled his way out of paying taxes for years; in other words, that he can’t be trusted, one way or another.

Trump, on the other hand, seems to not trust just about everyone that isn't like him. He doesn’t trust the immigrants he labels as either out to steal our jobs or topple our country, whether they come from neighboring countries or refugee camps. He doesn’t trust minorities, who he labels crime-committing menaces to civilized society. He doesn’t trust women, who he seems to think are all out to unfairly slander his good name with accusations of sexism. Even the people who are voting for him, largely other white males, don't number among those he trusts. After all, who could forget his “how stupid are the people of Iowa?” comment? Trump's trust operates much like a crime family: the few people who unequivocally support him or are just like him are in, and the rest of the world is out.

There’s two reasons I think this gives Hillary Clinton the advantage in 2016. First, Donald Trump is one of the people her campaign is urging us not to trust. This means that she can point to her opposition as a person not worth trusting on principle, something Trump cannot say for her. Second, the group of people she doesn’t trust is smaller than Trump’s. The risk Trump runs is that the group of people he doesn’t trust is large enough that a great many of us either are on the list or care about someone who is, which makes us far less likely to vote for him.

However, the election at the end of the day isn't about who Trump or Clinton trust: it's about who we will choose to trust. Will we live in fear of the rest of the world and great swaths of our own country? Or will we live in suspicion of a small group of incredibly wealthy people at the upper echelons of society? For myself, the answer is clear: I will never choose to live in fear of so many who, just like me, are trying to do their best in this world. I can only hope enough people feel the same.