8 years ago, the United States showed great progress as a people. After centuries of systematic racism and oppression, we elected not simply a Black man, but a man of mixed race as president. I can remember watching the television as the polls close in California, and California was called, and the commentator announced that Barrack Obama of Illinois had clinched the needed electoral votes to be president.
Then, 8 years later, this happened.
I think for a great many people, it is difficult to comprehend why people bought so many of the accusations (mostly with scant evidence, and others being typical political shenanigans) against Hillary Clinton, but seemingly thought it far better to vote for a man getting the endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan, and who wasn’t getting the support of his own party (the only living presidents from this party voted against them), especially in a situation where the economy has steadily been improving.
What motivates people like that? I think fear and hopes for economic improvement …. but mostly fear.
Try and place yourself in the mind of some Trump supporters. Forget for a moment the uneducated white male demographic. That’s easy … they already couldn’t stand 8 years being led by a Black guy …. possibly 8 under a woman was too much to bear.
Let’s also for a moment throw out some of the less educated women who turned this into an election for high school homecoming queen. This had a big effect to be sure, but again, that’s becoming more clear to understand.
I’m talking about educated people who were perfectly clear about what they were doing, and decided that it was better to tear things down rather than continue a slow building process.
- Fear and rhetoric. While conservative rhetoric of the misogynistic and racist kind has gotten a lot of air play, there were other kinds of rhetoric that got picked up on radar that even prickled my ears a bit, and I suspect rankled more moderates than anyone suspected. I will admit that I was pretty disgusted with what I saw happening on college campuses. I fully, 100% support students who need support getting that. We know that African-American students who get in to college have a higher chance of dropping out, not because they can’t hack it, but because they lack the support system that other students have. Women can certainly have that problem in some schools and majors (I suspect there is a reason why “Women in Engineering” is a real, necessary thing, while I don’t seem to recall seeing “Women in English” or “Women in Education” as major organizations … I could be wrong, but I think my point is made). However, while I fully 100% support places and organization for these students to meet and get help and support, and that universities should 100% support these groups, what has been happening is way, way, WAY beyond that. Now students are reaching out into classes and demanding the removal of books, words, thoughts that could be offensive. That is exactly in line with the censors who tried to hold back necessary change in American university education in the 1950s and 60s, and I think this scared the hell out of a lot of people who really did see campuses turning into places of indoctrination vs education. Further, there seemed to be a more militant “us vs. them” approach that was not traditionally inclusive. I think a group like Black Lives Matter started with exceptional goals, and was completely necessary. However, as time was going on, I think more and more people started to see them as bullies, not always carefully choosing who they defended. I think we can agree that the police shooting unarmed people who aren’t a danger is a problem, but that does not mean that every single person of color shot by the police was unjustified. I think too many times they showed up in the wrong place at the wrong time, and it started getting at their credibility. When BLM crashed a gay rights parade in Toronto and shut it down until gay rights leaders signed an apology for systematic exclusion of African-Americans and when then refuse Toronto police participation in future parades, you have to wonder what was going on with this movement? Is this about saving lives and rooting out racist, dangerous cops, or is it about bullying people into getting power? I think a lot of people started wondering and worrying what was going on, and why this group was straying from their intent. In short, I think instead of educating people and making them think, it simply scared them. While your classic racists had been hearing hate and division from minorities forever, for the first time in decades, I think even some moderates started hearing that message as well, and it scared them to varying extents. I guess lost in this was that BLM was no friend of Hillary or Bernie Sanders. While a lot of people equivocated BLM to the Democrats, that wasn’t the case, but perception is your personal reality.
- Business rights and sexuality. Clearly, most people in the United States have come around to equal rights for gays, and we all had a little fun at the expense of a court clerk in Kentucky who mistook the Clerks Office for her church, and was finally brought to her knees and forced to issue gay marriage licenses. Victory was had! However, that, and similar victories also created some quiet worry. Most people petrified over the granting of personhood status to business thanks to Citizens United understand the difference between “person” and business. Certainly, as we have seen, some FRWEASPs have a problem with that seeing their businesses as extensions of their existence, and that may have scared some otherwise moderate folks who take faith seriously into backing away a bit (What else could I be forced to do?). While not covered much in the media (not as much as Hobby Lobby) was another few cases that hit more square at mainstream America: can Catholic hospitals be forced to insure for things like abortion or birth control when the Church doesn’t support those things. It is one thing to say “Pam may be a follower of Jerry Falwell, but Pam’s House of Cakes clearly is not”, but I think he situation gets grayer when you have a hospital that has treated all patients equally and competently without so much of a taint of prejudice, even though it is run by a an actual religious organization, but now has a gun to its head to violate its religious beliefs. I’ll be the first to admit that this is a grey area, but careful observers will note that President Obama didn’t see it that way, and pressed for those groups to forcibly insure over their objections. Given that the Catholic vote swung quite a bit more conservative this time around, I wonder if this had something to do with it?
- The whole bathroom thing. We admit that the whole bathroom thing is ridiculous, and showing great courage, it looks like North Carolina’s governor may be about to be voted out the challenger has a narrow lead, though four days later, the race has not been called. That was likely people voting their pocket book, but it is nice to know that a state that couldn’t carry for Hillary at least will come close to booting this guy. That all said, what if we aren’t talking about bathrooms with neat stalls, and we are instead talking about locker rooms. In northwest suburban Chicago, this became a thing. District 211 had a student who was transgendered and identified as female. Using a bathroom was not an issue, but using the women’s locker room where there is an unwritten “no penises” code became an issue. The school volunteered to build a new private locker facility for all students like this. The student and his family agreed. Who didn’t agree was the ACLU who jumped in and filed suit. The ACLU suit won. Parents started refusing to allow their daughters to use the locker room, and a counter suit was filed. Perhaps this is not a big deal for most of us, but I can at least understand why some parents might object to this. I think what hurt the most in the end was not that a transgendered teen got to use the women’s locker room, but that all parties had reached an acceptable solution and were happy until the cavalry showed up firing their six guns. In short, it was the “having it forced down your throats” approach that really might have steered people the wrong way. I could see some moderates throwing their hands up at that. The Latino vote was supposed to be a big difference for Clinton in this election. While it did show some gains in Texas, and small gains in Florida, it never materialized in any meaningful way. Some of this may be because while Latinos as a block have no love for Trump, as a largely conservative Catholic group, they may not have had a lot of love for pro-Gay and pro-transgendered stances (among other things). I doubt many voted for Trump, but clearly their numbers for Clinton weren’t there.
- The war on Christianity. Let’s get this straight, I have no doubt that there are some people out there who if given the chance would shutter every house of worship in the country, starting with churches in the Deep South, but in reality, we all know there is no war on Christmas, Christianity, etc. There is no war on Christianity. However, what has to be acknowledged is: there are absolutely several million people in this country that believe with their heart, mind, and soul that there is. Those people are likely never to be convinced otherwise. However, given some of what I have said above, I think rather than reversing, there may be some moderate folks who are starting to accept that there are forces in the country who are trying to end freedom of religion by chipping away at it. Forcing nuns who run a hospital to cover contraception is but one instance that may have changed a few minds along the way. This may also explain at least part of the decision for the African-American community to vote (or more often, note vote) the way it did. One critical place for Clinton was Philadelphia, and specifically those born and raised in West Philadelphia. Clinton support in that mostly African-American area dropped a bit compared to Obama, but Trump saw double digit gains. It wasn’t enough for Trump to win the area, but when those small losses for Clinton, relative to Obama added up to the onslaught from central Pennsylvania, she couldn’t win a state nearly everyone had her winning with ease. The lack of Black ministers imploring their congregations to get out and vote under these perceived circumstances may have had an effect.
- The Media. I’m not going to go on a classic rant about media conspiracies. I think there are some factors here that need to be acknowledged. Among them are that mainstream media has become less and less about investigating wrongdoing (this is boring, and risks government reprisals), and more about light coverage, sensationalism, and entertainment (because this gets ratings). The internet media, might be better in some cases, but it is getting more and more difficult to tell the bullshit media from the real media, and while some of us might be able to tell this apart more regularly, I think we can agree that a lot of us can’t, and what might be worse is that quite a few people will only consult a media source that fits their personal world view. Thus the job of the media has become less and less about educating and informing the public, and more and more about reinforcing what the viewership already believes. This is why so much coverage in some areas focused on Benghazi and e-mails (generally these were non-stories), and others focused on trying to explain why Donald Trump hadn’t been savagely attacked by 6-foot Amazon warriors yet. As these non-mainstream sources made more noise, the mainstream media was compelled to follow. I suspect that this helped Barrack Obama who had not very much in terms of negative past or actions, but allowed the media to focus on the missteps of his opponents. With Hillary, there was too innuendo and too many accusations in the closet to pass up.
In conclusion, if you are looking for a single, smoking gun that caused the onslaught of white people to vote for whatever it is that Trump is (I refuse to call anyone who acts like that a man), and for others to stay away, I think it won’t be found. I think that this was a death by a thousand cuts. After getting used to the idea of a fairly competent Black man being president, the onslaught of change became too much for some to handle, and downright frightened the living shit out of others.
and then the living shit hit the fan …
We shouldn’t be afraid of change, but even those of us who embrace change can be scared of it … I think a lot of us learn to overcome that fear. A lot of people don’t. If anything the progressive movement needs to be more careful with rhetoric, and needs to make change slower and more cautiously, because I think the rush to make change is more or less what drove people into Trump’s camp. Ironically, I think Barrack Obama actually understood this, and in the end really only attempted one big change in his administration, and that was health care. He figured, correctly, that people couldn’t handle too much. I suspect that many of his followers grew frustrated at the lack of utopia emerging, and took off on their own … and are now shocked that 8 years later, things might be a little better, but there is a serious threat that things may be getting much worse soon.
How the message is packaged is also critical. I noted above that BLM has a serious messenger issue. If they are looking for how that message should be packaged, they can look to Maxine Aguilar who got it RIGHT! Maxine is a high school junior, and member of Black Lives Matter Youth who was protesting a recent shooting in a predominantly white neighborhood of Chicago’s South Side, and the subsequent racist filth that has come out of that neighborhood, particularly a few students at one of the local Catholic high schools. Here’s her quote:
So they understand that when we say ‘Black Lives Matter,’ we’re not saying that their life doesn’t matter … That they understand the point of our organization, as part of Black Lives Matter, is to protect black people similar to how their job as police officers is to protect all people, and that we should have a level of understanding with each other
If there was more message delivery like this in the media, then I think you would see fear start to dissolve with some. Those who are weak of mind will always be fearful, and they won’t be changed. But that part of the middle that can be changed will be changed.
Take this as a lesson that sometimes it is not so much the message, but the messenger. As devout Hindu Gandhi once said “I love your Christ, but I dislike your Christianity”. Gandhi, in a nutshell was saying that a wonderful philosophy of love, hope and compassion towards others carried by arrogant, rich, prejudiced messengers who oppress will get rejected. The Civil Rights movement in the 60s worked not because white people suddenly liked Black people, but because, eventually, all but the most hardened racists had to admit respect for Martin Luther King, Jr. The hippies didn’t get us out of Vietnam … it was Walter Cronkite and respected journalists broadcasting the war into middle American living rooms that finally convinced moderate Americans that this was wrong. If the left wants to shorten this last desperate stand by the far right, it may not be the message that needs to be tailored, but the messengers.