When it comes to the 2016 election I was wrong on just about everything. That I had a great deal of company with that is no comfort and no excuse. So it wouldn’t make much sense to take my “analysis” any too seriously. I’m going for it anyway, over multiple posts. Maybe it will be cathartic.
It’s important to understand that most Trump voters are not openly across-the-board crazy and obnoxious. On the contrary, a great many are competent, and even far more than competent, as parents and spouses, at work, and in their communities. You can work with a right-wingnut for years and have no idea. (I know that from, among other things, repeated personal experience.)
But when the 62,979,636 Trump voters cast their ballots they were absolutely being a bunch of f*cking wretched, miserable idiots. Racism is stupid. Sexism is stupid. Buying into any kind of absolute bs that comes along just because it’s emotionally appealing is stupid. Unthinkingly swallowing the drivel that corporate “news” media dishes out is stupid. And so on.
And I just did not believe that there are still enough socio-political idiots out there to win a presidential election in the United States of America in 2016. Not in the absence of something like a serious economic recession, anyway, and certainly not behind a sexual predator, pathological liar and narcissist, spectacular professional failure, racist piece of s*it, and crass, vulgar lout like Donald Trump.
But, enough of that. Rants like that are valid, but it’s debatable whether they have any positive practical effect, and they’re not very nice. Philosophers and the like have been bemoaning collective human stupidity for a long time. People don’t respond well to being called idiots, and I don’t blame them. Moreover, Trump voters honestly believe that they voted in the way that was best for themselves, their families, and the nation as a whole. That’s how motivated reasoning works.
It’s been widely suggested that what put Trump over the top are Russian hacking and the late letter from FBI Director James Comey. I don’t necessarily buy that whatever the Russians did really made a difference (though I have no objection to the meme being out there), but the point is that this election should never have been remotely close. The question that needs to be answered is why Hillary didn’t win with the greatest ease, and exhibit ample downballot coattails in the process. I mean, come ON! Donald Trump?!?!
You can find plenty of well-researched and well-written articles (and, undoubtedly, before much longer, books) to the effect that, while of course many factors were in play, the election result was primarily about:
– Racism. More here. And its close relation, feared loss of white privilege.
– The Religious Right.
– And despite what all I linked above we can’t just dismiss economic issues, even if it is the favored explanation of those in corporate media who don’t care to face more disturbing probabilities.
– Heck, here’s 13 theories, all together.
Really, all of the above play some part in the totality of motivated reasoning here among Trump voters, varying with each individual based on her psychology and circumstances. In their voting decisions they simply refuse to apply even the most basic dictates of logic and reason (like learning from one’s mistakes).
(I am certainly not suggesting that the Clinton campaign did a wonderful job. But blaming it all on Hillary is a facile cop-out. More here.
(I may as well get this out of the way, now, too. As an antiwar socialist myself, of course I’d love to see someone like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in the White House. But I never thought he had a realistic chance to get there. In other words, about the only thing about which I was right in this election was the one thing which I would have been delighted to have gotten wrong.
(In fact, I believe that had he won the Democratic nomination, after corporate media was through casting him as a cunning, scheming socialist Jew, and after they were done featuring nightly clips of his (you gotta admit) somewhat fervid stump style, presented way out of context to make him look ridiculous and extreme, he wouldn’t have even won the popular vote. But like I said, I was wrong about just about everything regarding this election, and there‘s no compelling reason for objective readers not to regard me as wrong about this as well.)
The primary way I’m assessing the loss is in terms of non-voters. Based on a rough average of estimates I’ve seen for the voting-eligible total in this country, about 39.3% couldn’t be bothered to get off their duffs, once in four years, to vote for president. And based on how the overall population consistently favors progressive positions on the major issues, often by 2:1 or better, it’s a safe bet that if they did vote they would very much tend to go blue.
#1 is the problem we’ve been having all along – apathy, complacency, and/or cynicism among non-voters, many of whom should know better but apparently don’t. Frankly, as far as I’m concerned they’re at least as big of idiots, in this context, as Trump voters themselves. But, again, their motivated reasoning says it’s just fine to not vote. They don’t like any of the candidates (whatever “like“ is supposed to mean, in this context), or think it doesn’t matter, or they’re doing fine so why deal with the hassle. The one long-term “success” of movement conservatism is its role in maintaining this level of conscious disengagement with democracy.
I suppose that I’m ranting again. Berating non-voters doesn’t seem to work, and neither does saying “pretty please?” in whatever ways. The only thing that does seem to work, so far, is when they are personally hit by bad times. Which in all likelihood are on the way.
That’s what keeps us falling short, when it comes to getting progressive governance. And that’s what did us in, this time.
In the next installment of this mess I’ll get more into how those who did vote did what they did.
From Bill Prendergast: Hear, hear.
I learned a great new word after the election was over… “monocausal.”
Beware of people who try to tell you there was ‘one, major’ reason he won. (And those people are out there, saying that!) Beware of people telling you that if only ‘this particular factor’ had been dealt with properly and in a timely manner: he would have lost. “If only it had been Bernie instead of Hillary,” “If only the Dems had generated the enthusiasm of the identity politics activists,” “if only Bernie hadn’t decided to mount a credible challenge” “If only Dems had coopted the white economic angst” – if *only* this, if *only* that…
It wasn’t just one thing: you can cite 13 causes; I bet we could add to that.