By Marshall Worth
Special to the Pittsburgh Current
2020 marked my first year of eligibility to cast a ballot in a presidential election. I was excited and grateful for the opportunity. More importantly, I took the responsibility seriously. Despite having lived in the United States for my whole life, I do not take the right to vote for granted. Not all people have such a right; it is one of those things that is easy to overlook but would be dearly missed if taken away. Leading up to the election, I made sure to be conscientious of this and give my decision the thought that it deserved. While I knew that my one vote would not tip the scales of our democracy, I wanted to feel confident in my decision.
I did. Around the beginning of October, after months of wavering, I decided that I would vote for Donald Trump. I had done my due diligence. Lists of pros and cons filled my notebooks. Over the year, there were times when I was sure I would vote for him, sure I would vote against him, and even times when I settled on the idea of abandoning my sense of duty and leaving my ballot blank. Ultimately, I stuck with my gut and went for Trump.
My political ideology is built on two broad pillars. The first is my unrelenting support for economic nationalism; I believe that the government should exist to protect its country’s workers, not let them fall victim to the supposedly glorious but often disadvantageous global free market. Secondly, I stand opposed to the interventionist warmongering that has plagued 21st-century American foreign policy and fueled unforced and irreversible carnage and instability across the world. As a general practice, I think that our government would be wise to hesitate before intervening abroad and I find past administrations’ unwillingness to do so brazenly irresponsible. I view the direction in which our country is pointed regarding these topics as of the utmost importance. Despite Trump’s long list of flaws, he is strong on both issues.
During my decision-making process, I grew to realize the luxury of my perspective. Whether the country reelected Trump or chose a new path in Biden, my life would remain mostly unchanged. I remember my mom, an avid anti-Trumper, remarking to me a couple of years into his term that as much as she detested his occupation of the presidency, Trump’s heading of the government had very little tangible impact on her life. Her small business was running just the same as before, as were the schools that her children attended, and the general day-to-day routine that she always moved through remained uninfringed upon. While Trump’s demeanor, personality, and general behavior outraged her, his rise to power hadn’t really changed her life.
This is obviously a position of extreme privilege, and it’s a position that I share. I live comfortably in a Philadelphia suburb and go to school as an undergraduate student at The University of Pittsburgh. Regardless of who holds government offices in Washington, Pitt isn’t going anywhere. Neither are the opportunities that come with being a student there. I am fortunate beyond description.
Even as a Trump voter, I knew that if Biden took office and my greatest fears about his agenda were realized, I would be unscathed. For example, what if the United States military were sent into a bloody and meaningless war like it was in 2003 with then-Senator Biden leading the charge? Or, what if Congress and the White House joined forces to create and implement an American job-killing, globalist trade deal as happened in 1993 when NAFTA was approved by 61 senators including Biden? I would fiercely disapprove of either of these hypotheticals, but all the while, I would be unaffected. I am not in the armed forces, and neither is anyone in my family or social circles, just as I do not work in manufacturing, and neither does anyone in I know. I am not forced to be nearly as invested in and beholden to the actions of the government as many are. Since I don’t have as much “skin in the game” as most others, it is easier for me to have a flexible stance on my candidates. This, I believe, is why months after casting my ballot for Trump, I found myself able to jump ship. While a laid-off worker at a manufacturing plant may have felt that his livelihood depended on Trump’s reelection, mine did not.
My aforementioned pillars have not changed; during election season, I saw supporting Trump as synonymous with those values. That’s why I voted for him. I continue to passionately stand by those principles.
What has changed, however, is what it means to be a Trump supporter. Since the election, supporting Trump has grown to also mean supporting scheming and lying when things don’t go your way, blaming mysterious, outside forces instead of accepting responsibility for your shortcomings, and ultimately, stunningly, resorting to violence when all else in a corrupt pursuit has failed. Trump behaved in all of these ways following his electoral defeat. It was impossible for me to get behind.
It started on election night. I followed the news on my laptop as I messaged with friends and spent time on the phone with one of my aunts. We were up until 3. I was hoping for a Trump victory, but not expecting one. As the returns began to flood in, Trump led in practically every battleground state. It seemed like 2016 all over again. The early results did not surprise us; anyone who had paid real attention and had any sense of objectivity knew that polls predicting Biden landslides across the board were fantasies. Nevertheless, we knew that Trump’s leads were misleading. Mail-in votes, which were correctly projected to lean heavily in favor of Democrats, were largely yet to be counted. It was easy to foresee what was going to happen. Trump’s leads would shrink, and the races would become airtight. The only question remaining was whether or not Biden’s gains would be enough. I thought that they would.
As the hours ticked away, a Biden victory seemed more and more likely. By 2, it seemed like a foregone conclusion. Despite this, when Trump addressed his supporters at around 2:30, he astonishingly claimed victory. Next, he declared that if Biden’s mail-in votes were enough to hand him the presidency, then the Democratic nominee’s victory would be a fraud. This was the beginning of the end of my time on the Trump train.
The next two-and-a half months were an embarrassment. I saw Trump’s behavior leading up to and climaxing on January 6 as a symbolic middle finger to the exact people whom he was supposed to represent: the voters. As a first-time candidate in 2016, Trump vowed to govern as a populist. That’s why I was drawn to him. Disregarding the will of the electorate as Trump did at the end of his term couldn’t be further from populism. It was the kind of behavior one would expect from the exact kinds of insider elites whom Trump has promised to rebuff.
Trump had demonstrated that he believes he is bigger than democracy. Bigger than our republic. He is wrong. Trump establishing himself as an enemy of fair and free elections has made partisan disputes over economics, foreign policy, and everything in between moot because, at the end of the day, the will of the people is most important. I would rather have a democratically elected president with whom I have disagreements than a leader who the country did not want. Candidates come and go, but democracy must endure. “And at this hour,” President Biden proclaimed in his inaugural address, “democracy has prevailed.”
Marshall Worth is an undergraduate student at The University of Pittsburgh studying economics, business, and writing. He writes for the university’s student-run newspaper, The Pitt News, and enjoys both journalistic and narrative-based nonfiction writing. After college, Marshall hopes to pursue a Juris Doctor degree.”