When I was young and naive, I loved a man so hard that his flaws disappeared when he smiled. Human nature assured me that he wasn’t perfect, but damn it, you couldn’t tell me he wasn’t one of the greatest men in the world. To my surprise, not everyone shared this opinion of him. When they voiced their opinions, and even their struggles with him, I found ways to mentally discredit them. I mean, sure, I knew he wasn’t perfect; he had a bit of history that neither of us was proud of. But he had tremendous potential.
Gradually, though, it became painfully clear that he wasn’t who I thought he was. The reality of who he really was hit me hard. It was uncomfortable, unsettling and even shocking. And once the truth shattered my rose-colored glasses, it forced me to make a decision.
For those superpatriotic and naive white Americans who are genuinely shocked at the rise of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, I imagine this is how they are feeling right now about their beloved America. The fact that an openly racist and sexist Trump is the front-runner for the Republican nomination is probably an eye-opener for those who were blind (willfully or otherwise) to the depth of bigotry in America.
Prior to Trump’s campaign, they were able to live in their safe illusion of America, that all was equal (if you’re willing to “work hard”) and just. Sure, they understood that there were some parts of American history that they weren’t very proud of. But their willful ignorance and blinding love for America was so strong that even when confronted with the problematic areas, they couldn’t really hear it. Instead, they made excuses: “Those protesters are so angry, they can’t hear or see how great America is. Don’t they understand we are living in a post-racial society? For God’s sake, we have a black president!’
Even in the early days of the Trump campaign, they could probably still pretend that all was OK, assuring themselves that his campaign wouldn’t be successful because “our great nation, one of the greatest in the world,” would never allow an openly racist and sexist man to come thisclose to being the leader of the free world.
Yet as this election season continues to progress, it’s becoming clear that Trump—with all his vulgarities—will likely become the Republican nominee, upending their “vision” for how an American presidential candidate is supposed to act, sound and behave. A “too little, too late” effort to appeal to their vision of America was amassed in the #NeverTrump movement. Their goal was clear: to ensure that Trump does not win the Republican nomination. Their methods, however, were predicated on the false notion that all their America needed was information about how “bad” Trump is. They sponsored ads, raised money and collected thousands of signatures, to no avail. As yet another Tuesday primary approaches, the #NeverTrump movement looks to be a failure. The candidate is as viable as ever.
What, exactly, does Trump’s lead say about this nation we live in? For many of us it affirms much of what we already knew: that this is not a post-racial, all-inclusive America. For the members of the failed #NeverTrump movement, this reality means that they have to acknowledge the truth about America. The truth is, they are not living in an idealistically equal society, and they can no longer turn a blind eye to the bigotry that exists within the “nice people” of their communities. Because these are the “nice people” who are voting to have an open racist as their president.
But what will awareness of this truth prompt? What action will follow? Will they begin to explore the pieces of themselves they tried to ignore? Will they finally hear the voices of a section of society that they pretended didn’t exist? Will they reconsider the perspective of those they previously dismissed as misguided and angry? What exactly will the failed #NeverTrump movement produce? Realistically, we see three outcomes when previously disillusioned white people wake up and face realities that most of us always knew:
They become allies: It is kind of fun and appealing to imagine that this group would grow a conscience and start to redirect their efforts to organize against racism and inequality. The resources they allocated to their movement could certainly be put to good use in support of causes and groups fighting against oppressive systems. The most hopeful option, however, is not the most realistic. The idea that members of the failed #NeverTrump movement will now become social-justice advocates is unlikely.
They turn into vocal cynics: I suspect that a significant portion of the failed #NeverTrump movement will become cynical toward the process and possibly even withdraw. They would be the people who sort of check out of it all and “wipe their hands” of it. They will still openly criticize every step of this election process but will no longer do anything about it.
They stay the course: In another possible scenario, members of the failed #NeverTrump movement will continue on with their illusions of America. Just because the truth is clear doesn’t mean they have to take action. With the shift in conversation around Trump, it is likely that they will place those rose-colored glasses back on their faces.
In fact, the perfect opportunity has already presented itself. According to reports, there is a recording indicating that Trump’s views on immigration and deportation are far more liberal than he has stated publicly. And some outlets are reporting a more “noticeably presidential Trump.” If the members of the failed #NeverTrump movement are searching for an excuse to remain in a relationship with their fictional America, the media has helped them with that. They can continue to enjoy the comforts of their white privilege and bask in their willful ignorance.
I can’t say for sure which choice they will make. However, I can say with a fair degree of certainty that as Trump continues to lead in the polls and delegate count, those who were once willfully blind about the America they live in will no longer be able to feign ignorance. Now, what they do with that information is up to them. They will have to make a choice, and in November, when it’s time for the final vote, their choice will be clear.
Shanita Hubbard is a mom, writer, social-justice advocate and Nas stan and is also the lover of a great twist-out and good books. Follow her on Twitter.