Columbia residents question national unity after presidential election

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COLUMBIA - President-elect Donald Trump vowed to unite the nation after a divisive election season between him and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but some Americans might be wondering how that's possible.

The MU Peace Studies program is sponsoring a nonpartisan lecture Thursday night that might help unify people on the local level. In the lecture "Selling Hope and Hate in the 2016 Election," political analyst and author Thomas Frank will explain why this election is important and analyze social and cultural trends that he thinks led to its result. 

"Everybody is a little surprised, some people a lot surprised," said Clarence Lo, director of the Peace Studies program. "But Thomas Frank's books give us a way in which we can begin to think about what happened, why it happened and the implications."

Lo said everyone must agree on the facts before coming together.

"We have to agree on what the facts are about public opinion, about cultural trends, about demographic trends, all of these things that are building blocks of political discussion and we've gotta start settling this stuff first so we can have a reliable base of information," Lo said. Only then can people who disagree have analytical, reasoned discussions, he said.

Lo said the presidential election was an adversarial process where each side pointed to a different set of facts, which led to propaganda.

"If there's no consensus of what the facts are, it merely boils down to the restatement of political opinion, over and over again in more shrill forms," he said. 

Mid-Missouri Peaceworks Director Mark Haim said he hopes Trump does not unite the nation given his agenda.

"We don't want to see the nation united around dirty energy, around racist ideology, around the kind of people he wants to put on the Supreme Court who deny the rights of women, who deny the rights of LGBT people," Haim said.

MU student Keego Gross said he can't imagine Democrats and Republicans coming together to support Trump because he said the 2008 and 2012 elections weren't nearly as scandalous or divisive, and they resulted in eight years of legislative gridlock.

"I don't really have anything to draw a parallel to with this," he said. "I don't think there's a way that the nation can all come together and be like, feel safe to be led under one person who's ran an entire campaign on fear and hate." 

Another MU student said it's too early to tell if reconciliation between party members is possible.

An MU student who identified himself as a Delta Upsilon fraternity member said some members who major in political science worked on the Trump Campaign. Other members did not want to talk about the election and how Trump can unify the nation.

The peace studies lecture is in Tate Hall on the MU campus in room 22 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday.