How did this happen?

So I wasn’t going to work on this post today.  I took almost two whole days off from reading about the election.  I focused on work, my family, my friends, and football, and it felt kind of good.  I don’t think we have the luxury right now (or probably at any point in the near future) of not thinking about the meaning of these results, but it felt good to take a break, and I feel reluctant to return.

I embedded this video because I like it for a number of reasons.  I agree that hate is what was voted for on Tuesday, November 8th.  In my last post I describe how this might have be unintentional on the part of a great many voters, but regardless, that IS what they voted for (and I find this deeply troubling).  In this video, Jay Smooth points out that there may have been a complex web of reasons for why this choice was made but it was made nonetheless.  It is this complex web of reasons so many pundits, analysts, and citizens are trying so hard to understand.

The outcome of this election has been described by the media as shocking, a major upset, unprecedented, and so on.  I was as shocked and confused as those anchors and analysts. My friends were also baffled.  And we were also, of course, by turns saddened, angry, and scared.  There were however, a decent number of tweets in my Twitter feed blaming those of us who expressed surprise for our own ignorance.  Blaming us, essentially, for being kind of naive Pollyannas.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>continuing my &quot;all academics required to take a sabbatical outside their bubble&quot; initiative. This result should not surprise you this much</p>&mdash; Kristin Arola (@kristinarola) <a href=”https://twitter.com/kristinarola/status/796227061123661825″>November 9, 2016</a></blockquote>
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Reactions like this, certainly made me think hard about my expectations and beliefs leading into the election.  On the one hand, as an ardent Bernie supporter I really get (a subsection of) the kind of thinking that could lead to this result.  I knew our country was firmly divided with race issues and hatred toward Muslims (and anyone “other”) making up a significantly scary part of the division.  I am aware that while I read fairly widely, I don’t truly wander very far outside the filter bubble.  In fact, my Facebook (which I no longer have) feed tends to carry the mosts diverse set of voices, since it is made up of friends and family whom I love (most of the time) despite political and ideological differences.  My other SMSs are comprised of a much more selective make-up.  So while I acknowledge the kind of echo chamber I created for myself, I also don’t think I had my head totally buried.

It actually makes me a bit uncomfortable when I think about the similarities between the Trump voter base and Bernie voter base.  Those similarities were pointed out by political analysts a number of times, and I kind of just rolled my eyes or closed my ears.

My understanding of the election results is/was that they are very much based on the idea of a disenfranchised populace, sick of the establishment and politics as usual.  A segment of the citizenry that feels their voices and needs have been ignored by the likes of career politicians like HRC, and that they’ve been lied to, misled, cheated, and so on.  These sentiments, I believe, were held by Bernie and Trump supporters alike.  Michael Moore very much predicted the outcome of this election.

But as, Jay Smooth points out in the video (admittedly in a very brief, passing way), the reasons are complex — more complex than just a large contingency of white, blue-collar, middle-aged workers who truly believe there was a time when America was actually “great.”  While Smooth’s vlog, is essentially saying the why and how don’t matter so much, it’s the what to do next that he wants to address, I am still obsessing over the “how.”

So here is what I have come up with so far:

  1. We have the disenfranchised middle of the country, working class whites
  2. We have the alt-right/white nationalists (these folks are often college educated)
  3. Whites (in general) — in particular:  those without a college degree (some of these are probably in category 1 of this list) and older (over 65)

    White non-Hispanic voters preferred Trump over Clinton by 21 percentage points (58% to 37%), according to the exit poll conducted by Edison Research for the National Election Pool.

  4. But also important to the way this tide turned were all of those who did NOT come out to the polls for Hillary.  Hillary did not get the younger voters that Obama got.  And while she won the black and Latino vote, she did not gain the same advantage among these voters that Obama did in the past two elections.

[U]ltimately, this was Clinton’s election to lose, and Democratic Party officials should reflect on their eagerness to nominate her in the first place, despite the clear longing of so many young liberals and older conservatives for an anti-establishment figure motivated by more palpable indignation against “the system.”

Now I truly have no idea if Bernie would have fared any better as so many of his supporters are arguing.  I have to think that most of category one above (white, working class, middle of the country) were too scared by all the “socialist”/”commie” rhetoric that surrounds Bernie to have voted for him.  Or am I not giving them enough credit?  Bottom line is that we just don’t know.  I did read an interesting tweet the day after the elections stating that it is “ignoble” to “blame” the election outcome on the poor and disenfranchised.  By looking at voter demographics and pointing out who voted for whom, I certainly hope I am not being condescending or unfair.  But that tweet has stuck with me, and I want to be very careful about blame placing.  In the days following the election I really blamed the GOP for allowing it to get to this point — for giving Trump the nomination (though, admittedly, without superdelegates, I don’t have a clear road map for how they would have avoided doing this). Certainly, some of the blame falls to the media:  for both constantly showcasing Trump’s antics but also for screwing up the predications, the data so badly.  But I do think there is something to Stephanie Coontz’s opinion, which I quoted above.  While we simply cannot know how Bernie would have done as the Democratic candidate, we also cannot deny that there is a strong message that the people (across the political spectrum) are trying to send to Washington.  A message about Wall Street; a message about Citizens United; a message about keeping jobs domestically; a message about distribution of wealth; a message about corruption, fraud and lies; a message that says “it’s the economy, stupid.”  And if Washington continues to ignore these messages, these needs of the people, then I fear we are in for a far worse future than any of us are able to imagine at the moment.

So after the how did this happen (!?) comes the what do we do now question.  In the vlog, Jay Smooth talks about resistance.  The next step is to resist.  And I think too often people automatically think of protestors, violence, people shattering shop windows and setting fire to things as acts of resistance, which they are (and there are many historical moments and movements globally during which they have arguably been effective acts).  However, in Toi Derricotte’s words, “Joy is an act of resistance.”  Love too, I believe, can be an act of resistance.  These things are particularly effective acts of resistance in the face of hate.  If a culture of intolerance is normalized by the presidency, then doing just the opposite is certainly a form of resistance.  MLK and Malcolm X both practiced resistance just in different forms.

There is also the #notmypresident move as an act of resistance.  I’ve talked with others who insist we need to accept the decision and give our POTUS-elect the respect that the position (they manage to separate the position from the person) deserve.  HRC and Bernie and Obama have also said as much in various ways, all agreeing that they have to find a way to work with Trump for the sake of our country.  While I agree that we all have to do this kind of “suck it up” work for the sake of our jobs, so those in Washington might need to strike some kind of balance, I disagree that I as an individual citizen need to respect Trump or accept him as my President.  The President is supposed to be a representation of the people.  There is absolutely NOTHING about this man the represents me.  And while I just went on and on about practicing love in the face of hate, I cannot seem to muster up any kind of good will toward Trump (at the moment).

 

 

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