Like just about everybody in the country, I certainly didn’t see Donald Trump’s victory on November 8th coming. Although the never-ending email investigation and the FBI’s questionable behavior just before the election seemed to have tightened the race, I felt confident since all the polls and experts assured us Hillary would win, relatively easily, if not as convincingly as we would have liked. Then came Tuesday night—Virginia was closer than it should have been, North Carolina slipped away, Florida, and then with Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, it was all over. It’s a week later, but I’m still having a hard time accepting the idea of President Trump and am trying to figure it out.
No, I’m not an expert or someone with especially brilliant insights, absolutely not. (I am happy to let you delude yourself into believing that if you want to, however.) But as I’ve watched and read many of the autopsies on how this happened, a few things stood out to me. You may have heard many of them already, so feel free to abandon this essay anytime it starts to seem repetitive or inane to you. If you’re up for it though, here we go with my analysis on why Donald won and why it seemed to come out of nowhere.
Polls and Pundits Can’t Know Everything: This seems pretty obvious, although it is easy to fall prey to the seductive confidence of those providing us with information that seems so scientific and logical. But humans defy easy categorizations and predictions, so we need to keep reminding ourselves that our sources can only provide educated guesses. Trump was such a polarizing candidate in so many ways that we should have suspected many of those polled were reluctant to state for the record they were going to vote for him. Hey, I’m totally abashed to have voted for Rod Blagojevich, twice, so I can appreciate that many kept their support of Trump hidden. (To be fair, though, we didn’t realize how awful Rod was until after he was elected—that was not the case with Trump.) Then too, turnout wasn’t great, although we were told we were getting information based on “likely” voters. I do believe that the pollsters and experts did their utmost to provide us with the best data they could, but the public has to understand just how limited any sample or analysis can be. Forecasting how people are going to behave is way too difficult to accept anyone’s guess as gospel or, most importantly, to let those guesses alter our behavior in any significant way.
Ridicule Can Push People to Dig in their Heels: Now don’t for a minute think that I’m criticizing all those who made this election cycle much more enjoyable for me by satirizing Donald Trump. Seth Meyers, Samantha Bee, Bill Maher, Trevor Noah, John Oliver, Saturday Night Live, Steven Colbert, and Larry Wilmore are my heroes; I probably spent way too much time laughing with them the last year. But now that Trump has won, I do understand why some who saw merit in Trump’s candidacy might have been put off by how much ridicule was heaped on the Donald. I thought he deserved each and every shot (and would have added more if I could have); but this satiric tsunami probably did drive some of Trump’s supporters underground (see the above paragraph) or made them angry enough to shut out any possible doubts which might have led them to changing their minds. I think this is especially true when many anti-Trumpers were also ridiculing those who were going to vote for him. There’s no question that Trump bullied others as much or more than the media made fun of him, but non-Trump folks shouldn’t have been so quick to pile on in attacking his supporters (some of whom are our family members and friends) as being blithering idiots if they were going to vote for him.
We All Need to Be Better Informed: Having just chastised some of us for over-doing how mean we were, I still believe that all citizens have a responsibility to find as much factual information as we can and to do better at evaluating the credibility of what we see on the Internet. It was discouraging to this former teacher how wide-spread the horrific techniques of false equivalencies were used in the Donald/Hillary comparisons. Too many people rationalized their poor Trump choice as being the lesser of two evils, based on many inaccurate characterizations and bad side-by-side evaluations. While we can rail at the crushingly relentless barrage of misinformation and try to blame the media for its existence, ultimately individuals have to understand we need to work harder to find good sources, especially since we can tailor that to which we are exposed and censor out anything with which we might disagree, facts be damned. This laziness on our parts coupled with the myriad of choices available made it possible for people to rationalize that somehow Hillary’s behaviors were just as bad as Donald’s—a conclusion not borne out by reality. But as we’ll see next, reality had little to do with much that came from Trump.
Lying Doesn’t Matter Anymore: There has never been a candidate, at least during my fifty-nine years on Earth, who has lied as often, as blatantly, or as bigly as Donald Trump. There are so many which are documented many, many times that’s it’s truly unprecedented. In helping to solve the problem listed in the previous paragraph, I will let you find them for yourselves; you could also compare them to Hillary’s lies pretty easily too—except there’s no comparison when it comes to numbers: Trump lied much, much more than Hillary, by any measure. But no matter how many times he lied, he had his minions on all the media channels “explaining” what he really meant; his supporters obviously accepted these convoluted, stammering, nonsense answers or chose to overlook all the lies. Again, the false equivalency cancer helped here since Donald would often (as did his minions) ignore questions about his own lies by diverting attention to some alleged issue (often another lie) he leveled at the Democrats—be it Hillary, Obama, or Bill. If you want to believe in a candidate rather than evaluating his actions based on their merits, I guess you can vote for someone capable of making fun of a disabled person in front of a large live audience and on national TV, and claim that’s not what he was doing. Steven Colbert coined the term, “Truthiness” to stand for how people believe what they feel to be true rather than considering the facts. Judging a choice with your gut rather than your head does not lead to choosing the best candidate, but instead the most visceral, the one who makes your pulse race, not the nerd who understands policy and can hold forth on the intricacies of trade pacts. Lying leads to more conflict, which leads to better teases for news networks, which leads to more eyeballs, which leads to more revenue. Donald Trump was excellent content for the media, just as he was when he hosted his reality series—he was just firing politicians this time rather than fledgling business moguls. And we, whether we voted for him or not, ate it up. Again, this is not the media’s fault; they just gave us what their ratings told them we wanted.
Endorsements Don’t Make Much Difference: Without a doubt, Hillary got many more significant endorsements than Donald. Newspapers which hadn’t backed a Democrat in centuries—or ever—came out for her or explained why they wouldn’t support Trump. About the only print media that put its seal of approval on Donald was the Ku Klux Klan’s Crusader, not exactly a prestigious get for him. Celebrities also preferred Clinton, and the contrast was hysterical: Gary Bussey, Scott Baio, and Ted Nugent versus Oprah, George Clooney, Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian, Magic Johnson, Katy Perry, and on and on. And that’s not even taking into account all the prominent Republicans who wouldn’t endorse Trump either—Mitt Romney, George H.W. Bush, Condi Rice, and George W. Bush to name a couple. Then there were the back-and-forth Republicans who vacillated frequently and never were completely clear on their stands—Paul Ryan and John McCain, for example. Hillary had the Democrats lined up and out working for her—Barak Obama, Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, and Bernie Sanders all made impassioned pleas for voters to get “with” her. In the end, it clearly wasn’t enough as turnout was so-so, and Trump was able to win, despite not getting more votes than the last two losing Republican nominees, Romney and McCain. Apparently, voters couldn’t care less what the experts and the famous have to say about who should be President. And with all the negativity and trash of this election cycle, large numbers chose the Mercutio credo of “A plague o’ both your houses!” and chose not to vote at all.
Sexism Is Still a Huge Problem in America: By now, you will probably have come across many analyses which blame Hillary in some way, shape, or form for the loss. Fair enough, the buck has to stop somewhere, and Hillary was not the perfect candidate. She has never been noted for her ability to work a room or rally a crowd, and she can be secretive about mistakes that, in retrospect, seem foolish to conceal—the concealment then becoming another issue on top of the somewhat embarrassing thing she tried to conceal in the first place. (Samantha Bee’s “Let Hillary Be Hillary” gives a superior analysis of how this came to be—be warned, though, that Samantha doesn’t mince words and does know how to swear.) So these minor flaws along with her vast experience in all aspects of government somehow make her a worse choice than an unqualified mass of (pick at least three of the following) racism, religious intolerance, homophobia, sexism, tax-evasion, flip-flopping, and ignorance that is Trump? I don’t understand how anybody can come to that conclusion, unless there’s an underlying bias Hillary could do nothing about. Just as Barak Obama was often attacked simply for the sin of “being President while black,” I believe a healthy dose of the fear and anger of those “fearful-angry” white men we heard so much about during this campaign was anxiety and resentment at the idea of women in positions of authority. Remember how many dismissed racism as a thing of the past after Obama’s election? The same smug complacency which generally leads to significant regression in the opposite direction followed Hillary’s Democratic nomination, which was seen as a sign that equality of the sexes had now been achieved. And if ever there was a candidate who made it clear that he knew how to keep women in their place, it was Donald Trump. It seems like Hillary’s “bold” assertion of feminine achievement threatened many people, especially white men in areas where technological advances and greater access to cheap labor in other countries had reduced their standard of living. Change is exactly what has cost these people so dearly, so you can imagine their reaction to change over which they could have a say; “Make America Great Again” was sweet music to their sexist ears. Add in how Trumpers labored mightily to link this woman to every other change factor in the country that can be perceived as scary to conservative, white, older people—immigrants, Muslims, blacks, and gays. Purée at maximum demagogue speed, and can you say “President-elect Trump”? Which leads finally to,
It’s a Horrible, Frightening World Out There: Some of the very tactics Trump’s campaign exploited will now loom large in shifting from running for office to running the country. If you saw any of his Republican nomination acceptance speech, you know how dark a picture he painted of our country’s direction. That the United States isn’t nearly that bad made little difference to those who voted for him; the veiled (and not so veiled) racism, sexism, religious intolerance, and homophobia (more so by his awful, awful running mate) allowed many of his supporters to choose their own boogie people on whom to blame whatever they imagined was wrong with their lives, safe in the knowledge that Donald agreed with them. And that makes the future even more frightening: Now not only do recently empowered Trump supporters believe their fears have been justified, but all black, Hispanic, Muslim, Jewish, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and female people have real reasons to fear Trump and his supporters. It didn’t take long for stories of harassment and violence from the “winners” of the election toward minorities to appear; naturally, one of them was a fabrication since both sides have learned the truth is no longer necessary when making accusations or hurling charges.
I’m sure there are many other plausible explanations for Trump’s win, but these are the ones that make the most sense to me. I did briefly think about blaming it on the Cub victory—the two events did happen a week apart—but goats have suffered long enough. (I will snidely point out how when we had a die-hard White Sox fan run for President in 2008 and 2012, the superior candidate won; but when a Cub fan tried to follow, well…) So, that’s how Trump won, as I see it. Now what happens? Next time we’ll take a guess at how this will play out in the near future. I’m hearing it’ll be huge; everybody says so.