Erik Nesler: Maybe Trump isn’t so bad

Wednesday, April 11, 2018 - 5:40pm

Journalists Mary Jordan and Scott Clement of The Washington Post recently wrote a piece on the surge of political activism experienced throughout the nation in response to the Donald Trump presidency. The two wrote, “One in five Americans have protested in the streets or participated in political rallies since the beginning of 2016. Of those, 19 percent said they had never before joined a march or a political gathering.” This involvement is both unprecedented and inspiring. It is also absolutely necessary if we want to change the status quo.  

Jordan and Clement attribute much of this activism to Trump. Whether they love or hate him, Americans are playing more active roles in our democracy. People are actually caring. Even if you’re unhappy with Trump, something good may come out of his presidency.

As I began writing this column, I couldn’t help but think of a piece written by Co-Editorial Page Editor Anu Roy-Chaudhury in September 2016 titled “Maybe we needed a Trump.” Though she wrote the piece before Trump was elected, I believe her arguments have become more and more relevant with time. Roy-Chaudhury discussed how the Trump candidacy had, to a certain extent, given a voice to previously uninvolved Americans. Trump garnered significant support during the election by shining a light on this group of individuals — specifically people who felt cheated by the political establishment after experiencing great hardship as a result of the advancing economy. These members of our society, who Roy-Chaudhury properly labeled “neighbors,” deserve to be heard.

Since the election, people have turned to books like “Hillbilly Elegy” by J.D. Vance in an attempt to understand what life is like for these displaced Americans. Vance gives us a slight glimpse into the lives of this highly marginalized group of individuals. Even if you disagree with their political ideologies and beliefs, it is important to be aware of what our neighbors are feeling.

However, Trump has given more than just this group a voice. He has prompted all sorts of people to speak their mind and become more involved in politics. The Women’s March, a protest that sprung up immediately following Trump’s inauguration and has become a global phenomenon, is a powerful force advocating not only for women’s rights and gender equality but also for racial equality and LGBTQ rights. The recent March for Our Lives demonstrations that called for tighter gun control also reveal the heightened political activism experienced throughout the nation.

Protesting is one way people are showing their discontent with the current status quo. Deciding to attend may seem trivial, but protests can have lasting effects: Suffragists marched for the passage of the 19th amendment, and protesters pushed along the Civil Rights movement. People are also taking more behind-the-scenes political action by contributing to or volunteering for certain campaigns. I volunteered for a local campaign my first year at the University of Michigan, and it was one of the most rewarding experiences I have had in my undergraduate career. You don’t need to be out protesting to make a difference.

The Trump presidency has also prompted an unprecedented number of women to run for seats in the House of Representatives in this upcoming midterm election; there are currently 548 female candidates that will be campaigning in the coming months. Despite making up just over half of the population, women make up only 20 percent of Congress. I hope this surge in the number of women candidates can bring about a more balanced Congress.  

Though I disapprove of Trump, I acknowledge his presidency may be advantageous to our democracy in the long run. We need more and more people getting involved politically, especially considering that 40 percent of eligible voters haven’t voted in the most recent presidential elections.

Instead of sitting idly by for another election, Trump has motivated scores of people to take action to change the status quo. Maybe Trump isn’t so bad after all. To echo Anu Roy-Chaudhury, maybe we needed a Trump.  

Erik Nesler can be reached at egnesler@umich.edu.