It’s going to take a lot of soul-searching to understand Trump’s ascendency to the highest office in the land. Some of it boils down to factors beyond our control: rising disillusionment with the so-called establishment, the fracturing of news into partisan info-spheres, and decades of failure from our educational system to produce intelligent voters capable of choosing a candidate who doesn’t write like a fifth-grader.
Yet if we liberals are honest with ourselves, we, too, must accept blame. Our snobbery, our elitism, and our unwillingness to communicate with uneducated white male voters have played a role in the horrific outcome of the presidential election. Winning back popular support in the future will require humility and empathy — empathy for those simpletons who were excited by a man who believes an exclamation mark is a classy way to end a sentence.
I understand that not everyone found Hillary Clinton as charismatic as I did, but there’s one thing I don’t understand. How could 60 million adults have voted for a man who doesn’t even know how to use possessive apostrophes? I’ve been using them in my own prose since I was six or seven. Okay, full disclosure: nine. (I was late.) But still, how could anyone make it to adulthood, pass through the upper echelons of business and entertainment, and not learn the difference between “voter’s” and “voters”? Seriously.
I don’t want to dwell on Trump’s lack of formal knowledge, because that sort of arrogance is exactly why we lost the election. Who cares about apostrophes? Trump makes other, more glaring mistakes that for the life me, I cannot excuse, even if he is just tweeting at 4 a.m. and not penning essays for the New Yorker. Consider his confusion between “there,” “they’re” and “their,” for instance. My iPad is there on the table. These are my friends, and they’re both political bloggers. Their cats are named Ernest and Hemingway. Is that really so hard? Yes, for some people, apparently.
If we want continue existing as a political force, we need sit down and actually listen to the other side of the aisle. We must invite them to open up with their thoughts, fears and dreams, and we’ll do our best to make sense of their monosyllabic country gibberish. Maybe they can describe how they feel about a president-elect who uses superlatives like New York Times writers at a dinner party throwing around references to Paul Krugman. It’s very annoying. Personally, in my own writing, I restrict superlative use to one or two per week. No more than that. Overuse is the worst. Moderation is most important. (Did you see what I did there?)
Yes, my fellow liberals, it’s time we step back from our contempt for Trump and the barely literate pipefitters and truck drivers who voted for him. If we manage that, we may learn to appreciate how a casual disregard for prescriptive rules occasionally infuses one’s writing with an unexpected chutzpah. But still, how will world leaders respond when they get an invitation from President Trump to “go too the white house for my inogurashun”? Will Congress be swayed by Trump’s appeals to “do it’s best to solve global crisises”? I think not.
Let’s really try to regard Trump and his supporters as cerebral entities, even if they don’t know what either word means.
Ezra Klein is the editor-in-chief of Vox