Let me start by saying that I too am disappointed with the results of the Presidential election. Let me also point out that this piece is directed precisely at people who, like me, generally hold themselves out as progressive and/or liberal but can be applied to any group of people who come out on the losing side.
What I am and have been reading over the past few days is nothing short of disappointing and embarrassing. I would like to suggest for a moment that the results of Tuesday's vote is just as much about the Democrats and Hillary Clinton losing the election as it is about the Republicans and Donald Trump winning the election. Don't believe me, well feast your eyes on this:
This loss should be a time of liberal introspection, determining where they went wrong in conveying their message to the broader electorate and/or why that message wasn't warmly received. To put it frankly: if your candidate and message cannot beat Donald Trump, something is seriously wrong.
Rather than ask themselves the hard question of how their message failed, all I've read and heard is petulant whining that somehow half the country are all idiots and insane people. I've got a newsflash for you: that elitist, dismissive liberal echo-chamber attitude is exactly the reason Donald Trump is now President of the United States. Instead of actually listening to the voices of the people liberals have dismissed for the last year and a half, who now voted expressly against your world view, the response has been to suggest, like children, that California should secede from the Union. In exactly what other area of life do you get away with pouting when things don't go your way? How do you reconcile your secessionist attitude with your progressive values? I'll save you the work: you don't and any suggestion that you can is a lie and you're as big of a fraud as Trump.
To even suggest that what took place is a surprise is to continue to put on blinders to the world as it exists. Of course there is cause to be upset and concerned about the direction of the country. However, there is not cause to spiral into irrational hysteria. Here's some quick and dirty stats on why the Democrats got their shit handed to them on Tuesday:
- As between 2016 and 2012, 26 million less people voted for President. As between 2016 and 2008, roughly 29 million less people voted for President.
- As of the writing of this piece, Republicans control 33 Governor's mansions throughout the country (with a chance to pick up a 34th as North Carolina is still too close to call).
- On the state level, Republicans control 68 of 99 legislative chambers and own both chambers in 33 states.
Visualized, these stats look like this:
So as it turns out, a supermajority of the country is Republican and elects Republican officials. Thus, a lot of people feel left behind by the increasingly liberalized and globalized economy, not the least of which was the white, working-class voting block. Additionally:
- Despite all of Trump's rhetoric, Clinton carried a mere 51% of the college-educated, white women vote.
- Clinton is a notoriously awful campaigner, getting trounced by a first term Senator in 2008 and nearly having a self-proclaimed socialist take her out in 2016.
- Trump outflanked Clinton by campaigning heavily in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, states that Obama carried twice and Clinton lost, while she dumped resources into Florida, Ohio, and North Carolina, which all turned red along with the states listed above.
So with the statistics trending against them, the Democrats nominated a deeply flawed, scandal plagued (rightly or wrongly) candidate who sought to maintain the status quo in a time in which the status quo was being rejected by a majority of the country. Do I agree with rejection of the status quo? Not really. But that doesn't matter: my position lost.
Trump bet the house on a Rust Belt strategy and won big. Those same states went blue for Obama in 2008 and 2012, which is proof positive that not all of Trump's supporters are the racist, sexist, homophobic and [insert every other name] that they have been called. In point of fact, they might well have been supporters of Obama in the two prior elections.
Are some of Trump's supporters racists? Absolutely. Is it news to anyone that there are fringe elements of the Republican Party that contain nationalistic motivations? It shouldn't be.
What people should be attempting to understand is that plenty of reasonable people voted for Trump as President in an express rejection of the policy proposals laid out by the Democrats and Hillary Clinton, to come to terms with that failure, and to figure out how best to recover and move on so that it doesn't happen again. Oh, and the market panic everyone was concerned about? As of this writing, the DOW closes at a record high.
And so what is a more measured, mature response? As I explained in my last piece, self-governance is not an every four year exercise. It is an active decision that all of us make on a daily basis to try to make the world around us a better place. Here are a few suggestions on how to stay engaged:
- Stop demonizing, dismissing, and isolating yourself from ideas that oppose yours. Just because people have expressed an opinion on governance that you disagree with does not make them a bigot. Listen to them, understand their position, and attempt to find a middle ground or compromise.
- Contact your Representative and Senator. The single most effective way to influence policy on the federal government is to harass your representatives to protect interests, social or otherwise, that you feel are important.
- Invest in renewable energy and take personal efforts to reduce your environmental footprint. I'm not confident that a Trump government will take many steps to protect or conserve our environment. That does not mean the rest of us have to play by those rules. Money speaks louder than anything in a capitalist society and supporting alternative energy sources is a powerful form of protest.
- Donate to Planned Parenthood or the ACLU. I think a major concern for many progressives is the effect that a Republican federal government will have on a woman's right to choose or any number of other progressive civil rights issues. Planned Parenthood and the ACLU rely heavily on private donations to keep their doors open.
- Donate to and support independent journalism. The last great check in a democracy is the right to a free and independent press. The more widespread and decentralized of a press corps the world has, the less chance for dissenting opinions to be silenced.
These are but a few ideas to get us moving in a more positive direction and they do away with the negative scapegoating and stereotyping of the opposition. Now is no longer the time for us to continue pouring salt on each other's wounds as if anything can be changed. The people have spoken. It's time to come together because we are all on this ride together, for a minimum of 4 years. If I've learned anything from Tuesday, it is that I have been kept very ignorant of the harsh realities facing a vast majority of this country in my comfy little liberal Los Angeles bubble. I accept responsibility for that. Hopefully others do too.
Or you can keep ignoring the plights of others to your own detriment. Just don't be surprised when the finger they keep showing you isn't thumbs up.