As of 11:38 pm, PST, Donald Trump has won the 2016 Presidential Election by 150k votes. This means that in a few hours, Democrats across the country will wake up, check the results, and full of shock and horror, ask how this happened. “Surely, no one in their right mind would vote for that monster.” In that sentence, we made two mistakes that will haunt us. One, we were condescending to Trump voters, and Two, we underestimated them. I’m going to try to step out of myself and be as nonpartisan as I can, and I ask anyone reading this to step out of yourself for a moment, and try to look at the arguments from the other side. I know. “Chris being mature?” Welcome to Trump’s America. I’ll still ridicule Republicans, but I’m also going to dismantle the Democrats.
First, a major contributing factor is that we have become isolated in our polarization. The Right gets it’s news primarily from Fox News. The Left from MSNBC. There’s a conventional wisdom that you shouldn’t discuss religion and politics with people. So for most Americans, the only time we discuss politics is when we are surrounded by people with whom we agree. That reinforces our belief that we are correct. This applies to both sides of the spectrum. If you’re on Team 1, and everyone around you is on Team 1, you will assume that everyone is on Team 1. The problem with this is that it hinders discussion. We have lost our ability to even consider alternative points of view. We instantly dismiss and even vilify our opponents. It doesn’t help that online, websites “tailor” the content to you. Facebook shows you news stories that support your preconceptions. Google shows you news based on things you like.
We rarely encounter opposing views in our daily lives, and when we do, we instantly dismiss them. “Oh you’re one of THOSE people.” “You voted for that person? You must be insane.” “I can’t be associated with someone who supported that candidate.” I’ve already seen Facebook posts asking anyone who voted for Trump to unfriendify them. This suppression of discussion has had a huge impact on not only our political discourse, but also our humanity. In order to solve our problems, we need to find common ground, but over the last few decades, we have drifted further and further apart. It’s gotten to the point where just mentioning which party you support, gets you labeled a certain way. If you’re a Republican, you must be an uneducated bigot. If you’re a Democrat, you must be a naive pansy. How do you open a dialogue if that’s your starting point?
Next, I’m going to discuss the protest vote argument. Third party candidates won around 5% of the popular vote. As of writing this, Clinton was 52 electoral votes behind. In many states, Clinton and Trump were within 100k votes of each other. And in many of those states, like Florida, third party candidates won more than the needed votes. That means, that since they didn’t go to Clinton, she didn’t have enough votes. Without enough votes, she didn’t have enough electoral votes. I understand that voting your conscience is the right thing to do. But until everyone does that, you’re playing by one set of rules and the rest of the country is playing by another. The one thing that protest votes did do, however, was tear the Democrats apart ideologically. I’m all for that, because I think the party system is flawed, but understand, that while some were voting for someone incompetent, like Gary Johnson, or a crackpot, like Dr. Jill Stein, Trump was unifying the GOP. Were you ever flustered because no matter what Trump would say, his supporters still supported him? Yeah.
Now on to Senator Sanders. I think Senator Sanders would have been an amazing president. I think he is right on most policies. I think he could have worked with both parties. I do think that the media cost him this election. Maybe Clinton sabotaged him, I don’t know. But he lost. I don’t like that he lost, but he did. Moving on.
Few people will admit to this, but the American population, by and large, is incredibly misinformed, uninformed, or ignorant about most topics. Even topics that directly affect them. This goes way beyond the inability to differentiate between the various “their/there/they’re”s. This has affected our very understanding of our reality. We have a percentage of our population who is against science. We have a percentage of our population who is easily convinced that most conspiracy theories are true. We have a population who doesn’t understand how our government works. We have a population where being smart is shunned as being “elitist”. Education is looked down upon, while the ignorant remain proud. Well they vote, too. And by being condescending, and shoving them into the backs of our minds, instead of trying to educate their inaccuracies, and having a discussion to try to understand where they were coming from, they felt voiceless. They were shunned and felt disenfranchised, so they turned to someone who they felt spoke for them.
Trump said that he loved the poorly educated. That makes sense. The less you know about something, the more likely you are to feel confident that you know more than others. It’s called the Dunning-Kruger effect. If you go back and look at what Trump supporters said about their reasons for supporting him, most were based on incorrect information, bias, and lies, sprinkled with a little bit of good old fashioned white supremacy. But one of the consistent opinions was that they hated the politically correct culture. We as a country have always been rebels. We don’t like people telling us what to do. McCain tried that in 2008, when he called himself a maverick. Sanders tried to make it about the people, instead of the politician. We don’t like politicians. We don’t like being told what is acceptable and what isn’t.
You’ll hear a lot of people talk about how voting for Trump made it acceptable to be sexist, racist, homophobic, etc. While I do think there is something to that, I actually think that it isn’t as widespread as we are led to believe in our bubbles. I think it was more about the RIGHT to say whatever we want, more than whatever is said. I think that most people, regardless of party, agree on certain things. I think most of us are against lynching black people. I think most of us are fine with gays. But I also think that the American people heard phrases like “microagression” and “cisgender” and “triggering” and just rolled our eyes. Perhaps the Social Justice Warriors will be on the right side of history, but they were a huge reason we lost this election. That’s still not the main reason Trump won.
There are two main reasons why Trump won. First, this has been a campaign about perception and emotion, not facts. It didn’t matter who supported what policies. It was about how the average voter FELT about the candidates. While all of the other candidates in all parties were running a political campaign, talking about issues, and appealing to voters, Trump was running a marketing campaign. And I’m sorry to tell you this, but he’s better at that. That’s what he’s been doing for his entire adult life. Marketing isn’t about selling you a product, it’s about making you think you can’t live without that product.
The Trump brand was based on an image of success. He’s a con artist. And what is a con artist? A confidence artist. A salesperson. He talks you into doing something, and feeling confident about “your” decision. He did a remarkable job at it during this campaign. No matter what he said, no matter how atrocious and immoral, his supporters either justified it, dismissed any criticism of it, or tried to distract themselves with hating the other side.
We often mocked Trump’s small vocabulary, but what we failed to realize, is that he was probably doing this intentionally. There’s something called Psychological Priming. If you repeat a phrase often enough, people believe it. When Trump said he was the best, or the best, or even the best, he was priming the American voters to associate “Trump” with “the best”. He didn’t have to have a plan or policy in place on anything. All he had to do was convince the population that his plan would be the best. In their minds, that’s what Trump stands for. It’s branding.
He did a great job. He found what his base wanted, and injected himself into the equation. We are a tribal people. He tested the waters a few years ago, by suggesting that Obama wasn’t an American. He wasn’t one of us. The racists and conspiracy nuts flocked to Trump. They were afraid of Mexicans stealing their jobs, so he started his campaign talking about building a wall. To protect our tribe. The solution was simple. We are afraid of terrorism. He’d ban them. He sold the solution, even if it wasn’t possible. The solutions FELT good.
To the Left, it was crazy speak. Pure nonsense that just stroked the flames of hatred and resentment. To his followers, they saw someone finally willing to step up and speak for them. He said what they were thinking. His ideas mirrored theirs. He played on their fears. The fears that had been built up for decades. She was going to take away their rights. She was going to take their guns. Take away Christmas. Take away their god. It didn’t matter if any of it was true. It was about how the people FELT.
He was able to get constant media attention. Even those who didn’t want to talk about him, eventually caved. He knew how to manipulate people. He knew that we are mostly stupid and can’t hold a thought for longer than a commercial, so he repeatedly came up with quick quips and buzz phrases. Crooked Hillary. Build the wall. Make America Great Again. All catchy phrases that are easy to remember, and are easy to repeat. Does anyone remember what Martin O’Malley looked like? We all knew who Donald Trump was.
Sure, he said some things that were “off putting” to say the least, but those were justified by his supporters. Just because you like a candidate, doesn’t mean you like everything about that candidate. I love Adam Carolla, but I still disagree with him on most political issues. It’s easy to discount Trump supports as being racist or sexist or idiots. Did we ask WHY they were supporting Trump? Did we actually listen and talk to them? But that’s STILL not the main reason Trump won.
The real reason why Trump won, in my opinion, is that the American people, by and large, absolutely fucking hate Hilary Clinton. It’s not even about hating her because she’s a woman. It’s about hating HER. Those on the Right see her as untrustworthy, a criminal, manipulative, and shrill. Those on the Left see her as untrustworthy, stole the election from Sanders, is everything wrong with politics, and shrill. It doesn’t matter about the fact that she lied less in her campaign than Trump and even Sanders. It doesn’t matter the fact that she is a politician and did what every other politician does. It doesn’t matter that no matter how many times she was involved in criminal investigations, she was never prosecuted. Meanwhile Trump has been involved in so many legal battles you could never count them all.
It was all about perception. Even I have a visceral reaction to her. Sure, I voted for her, but it wasn’t because I thought she would be a great president, but because I think she would have been better than Trump. Sure there are people who did think that she’d be a great president, but almost all of them did so because she was a woman, and I disagree with that. Same way that I disagree with anyone who voted for Obama simply because he is black. We should vote for individual candidates based on their individual policies and abilities.
So here we are. There’s still a chance that the Electoral College will elect Secretary Clinton, but if that happens, then the system is rigged, and Trump will have the moral high ground. The sad reality is that this country decided that they wanted Trump as our president. Where do we go from here? When Obama was elected, Mitch McConnell, said that their first priority was to make sure that Obama was a single term president. I think that we as progressives should take the higher ground. Congress needs to focus on improving American lives.
Which leads me to congratulate President Elect Trump on his election. Please don’t fuck this country up. I won’t be one of those spoiled brats who didn’t get their way, and whines about it. Even I, who complain literally every second of the day, can’t take the vitriol anymore. I hope President Trump does make America great again. Not in a “back to the 50s” sort of way, but in improving our lives, ending wars, getting money out of politics, revamping our election system, bringing equality to everyone. I want Trump to succeed, because I want America to succeed. I’ll not be the person who hopes Trump fails simply because he was on the other team.
The Republicans now control both houses of the Legislative Branch, the Executive Branch, and Trump will select the next Judge in the Judicial Branch. It will be an interesting few years. I’m not moving to Canada. I’m an American. I’m a patriot. Even if I don’t get my way, and disagree with my opponents, this is MY country, and I will continue to hope that it’s best days are ahead of it. Who knows, maybe now that Trump is elected, he’ll see how hard it is to get anything done, and the next four years will see nothing change. It sucks for progressives, but at least we wouldn’t be going backwards. In any case, the people voted. I don’t agree with the candidate they picked, but it was their decision. At least, in four years, we can do this all over again.
Until then, we must fight the good fight. We must continue to press for progressive values, equality for all, and respect for everyone, even if we disagree. That said, I can’t wait until I can go back to mocking stupid people.