The cognitive dissonance from this election has been hard to parse. Here are some things I’ve heard from folks who voted for Trump and my response to each:
1. He is not beholden to anyone – he says what he wants. Except he’s said horrible things about people and had to walk back or qualify a bunch of quotes. We wouldn’t let that go unpunished in a grade school, and that should not be how the leader of the free world speaks to or about other people. He claims that he wants to be the president of everyone, but his campaign espoused something pretty different, thematically.
2. He is an establishment outsider. Unless you consider that the political establishment doesn’t fund itself. And where do politicians get money? Billionaires. He’s the money (influence) that funds and informs the establishment. Politicians are the mouthpieces, the middle managers between the power brokers and the masses. In fact, he’s so outside, he’s never actually held an office or served the country in the past. Besides, no credit is worse than bad credit with regards to risk. Clinton was the less risky choice, despite her establishment ties.
3. He stands for the little person. This one is really baffling. In what way? Even if he does bring tons of jobs back to the U.S., what assurances do we have that those jobs will pay a living wage? Part of the driver for allowing so many jobs to be off-shored was the incredibly cheap labor (at the cost of human rights, which corporations have a much easier time ignoring in China). His proposal addresses a small part of a much bigger problem in the U.S. Futhermore, he’s never worked a minimum wage job and never had to try to support a family on minimum wage. There is no possibility of empathy, and we have seen quite the opposite of that from him and his constituency. Before “make America great again” his signature slogan was “You’re Fired!”
4. The White House. Won’t he be required to live there? Isn’t that a bit of a downgrade from his current living quarters? Can a president live there part-time and be an effective leader?
5. Make America Great Again. The presumption, and what I assume was a key driver for his constituency, was that he could affect some kind of policy or change that would cause us to be “great” “again”. His proposals all sounded like turning us into the world’s largest racist debt collector. He wants to shore up ties with trade partners, peace accord partners, and build a physical wall to boot. I think his constituency equates those things with some kind of independence that will make them suddenly rich, and will punish anyone who was getting things unfairly. Of course, all of this is insanely unrealistic. Not to mention un-Christian.
6. We suffered under 8 years of Obama. Really? I saw an economic collapse in the early and mid-2000s that was averted and ended during the Obama administration. Health care costs and taxes might have gone up, but point me to an era where this didn’t happen. Also, when’s the last time an American monument was destroyed by terrorists? How did Obama make people suffer? This is where it’s hard not to look at race as the issue. Remember how there was supposed to be this black uprising once he took office? Remember how he was going to hand us over to the Islamic State? Obama never said anything to support those notions, and he did say the opposites, while offering hope. Trump, however, has said very divisive things – many of them legitimately scary.
This might have been a vote that’s less about issues and more about voting for someone who a large chunk of America feels is their intellectual equal, and who also talks loudly. Sounds like their boss, probably. Obama was derided early on for being too smart. Can you imagine?
The other rhetorical recurrence that is beyond me is how a large segment of the population talks about “socialism” as if it’s a disease, “progressivism” as a synonym for “system by which people can live for free off of my hard work”, and “liberalism” as a synonym for “pushover”.
Socialism is the opposite of walling yourself off from your neighbors, locally or globally. The opposite of stock-piling to build yourself up, and hoarding at the detriment of others around you. Socialism contrasts capitalism in that way, and I think that contributes to the division we’re seeing this election.
Progressivism is the opposite of status quo, which is why it’s so odd to hear people looking for a change, but decrying progressives. The opposite of progressive is regressive, and I believe that’s how the vote went. It’s implicit in Trump’s slogan.
Liberal means the opposite of closing borders, isolating minorities, and locking things down with laws. For a party that claims to want less government, they sure don’t mind imposing their (pretty narrow) wills on the rest of us.
All this said, if I break down the voting, it makes me feel a little better. Clinton won the popular vote, so the majority of individuals would prefer to side with her, whether they like her or not. There were hundreds of thousands of votes cast for 3rd-party candidates, and I’d presume that more of those would have landed with Hillary if no 3rd party was available. The remaining segment of voters went with Trump, and while it’s tempting to paint those people with a broad brush, it is possible that they would condemn his tactics and campaign (and even Trump, himself), but feel conflicted about crossing party lines for someone not universally loved even by her own party.
What was a conservative voter’s choice? Our freedom includes acknowledging that someone with very opposite ideas of how things should be run has an equal vote. Since we have a binary system, if you don’t like the candidate on your side, you’re forced with a choice of personality vs. ideology, which seems intractable.
My great hope is that a majority of the Trump voters went with ideology despite the personality and truly do not mean harm. As usual, we’ll see and hear every tiny detail of the folks that perpetrate evil in Trump’s name, but my great hope is that they’re still a small minority of our overall population.
God help us if I’m wrong.