You did it, America. You elected Donald Trump as President. This is the first Presidential election I’ve seriously participated in. I’ve had countless conversations with people I likely not encounter otherwise, and even volunteered (albeit very briefly) to get out the vote. It’s been a week now since Election Night and I just wanted to jot down a few thoughts about the election and the reactions:
Perception of reality is what matters
Perhaps one forgotten grade school lesson is the difference between Primary and Secondary sources. Primary sources are direct observations or personal statements given through speeches or recordings (or tweets for the modern age). Secondary sources are another person’s interpretation of the primary sources. Almost every single news article you read is a secondary source. The original information is subject to the author’s interpretation. Some writers do a better job of not distorting such information. For example, those in the so-called mainstream media will report facts in a fairly straightforward manner, though they do have a particular reporting style and choice of topics to drive readership. On the other hand, other news sites completely misinterpret events or make up information all together. Melissa Zimdars, a professor of communication & media, is compiling a list of these fake news sites. Googling and corroborating for yourself is always a good way to go.
What makes it so challenging is that in the short attention span internet world, people will often read headlines only. Think about the last few times you actually opened an article to read, read the article in its entirety, and followed the links back to the primary source, and examined it for yourself. Add in the extra factor of more complex issues (ex: tax policy) that requires additional background knowledge to understand. It’s easy to see why we live in an age when actual facts do not dictate decision making.
Voting for the closest candidate
Armed with their understanding of reality, people will vote for the candidate closest to their views. Although there were a few third party candidates (and an infinite number of sarcastic write-in options), the majority of voters were picking between Clinton and Trump. In an overly simplistic food analogy, if I’m craving a hot dog, I’ll happily take a hamburger or even chicken tenders, but I’m not ordering the kale salad.
Consider your five most important issues when casting your vote. If you believed one candidate met issues 1-3 but not 4 or 5, you would likely prefer that candidate over the other who only meets issues 4 and 5. At the end of the day, it would seem that the majority of Trump supporters just did not have equal protection of minority groups as their top issues. One of the demographic surprises to me is Trump’s performance among broad groups he has offended, suggesting that it’s very likely the other issues made it to the forefront in the minds of voter.
Of course, many of Trump’s supporters can vote this way because they have the privilege to not make equal protection a priority issue. However, I’m optimistic though that the majority are not overly ___-ist, but rather just putting themselves ahead of others. Is it selfish? Yes. Is it human nature? Absolutely. Throughout the election, I’ve stressed considering the fundamental attribution error when thinking about people’s actions. We do not know the circumstances surrounding each person’s choices, and to place all the emphasis on the person’s inherent nature would be a mistake. If the Democrats want to reconnect with the voting base that they lost, these are the people they have to reconnect with. The people whose personal needs do not have to be mutually exclusive with the needs of minority groups.
I should note that I have no doubt sexism played a significant role in the outcome of the election. I am very curious what a good way to quantify the effects would be.
Winning the next one
One of the most popular discussion topics for the week is how Clinton could have won. Given how close the election was, any number of small changes could have swung the election. The interesting question to me is whether or not actually expanding your platform is the viable way to win the election. We’ve heard in the past about the pivot to the general election once the primaries are over, but we also just witnessed Trump win by pandering to his base. Considering that as of right now, Florida and Pennsylvania are decided by less than 200k total votes, it would appear viable to just work on increasing the turnout among the base. This is sort of a cynical thought compared to the idea of reaching out to the other side but as we seen, isn’t it just about who wins?
Or perhaps the long term answer to avoid such critical margins in a small part of the country is changing the election to some sort of popular vote. Regardless of who you voted for, consider the argument for the Electoral College as outlined by the suddenly famous Alexander Hamilton in Federalist #68. Ask yourselves, are we still the uneducated populace that cannot decide for ourselves?
Donald Trump is your president
There it is. The bottom line. I encourage the people petitioning the electoral college to abide by the popular vote but just realize the stacked odds. Of course, Bernie Sanders could replace President Trump with little-known loophole but outside of these two scenarios, Donald Trump will be your president.
I don’t mean that you have to stay quiet about his actions or his staff, but quite plainly that his decisions will affect the your life and the lives of everyone around you. The good news is that the President actually matters less than we attribute. Certain people’s lives will be fundamentally altered, and that’s a terrible thing, but a lot of the impact we’ll see will be at a local level. This is not to say you shouldn’t contact your federal representatives (here’s a guide on how) but that you should focus efforts at a local level as well. If enough of us speak out against injustices at a small level, the impact will be much greater than petitioning at the federal level where response to electoral pressure is much slower.
Consider marriage quality as a very simplistic example. We often think of Obergefell v. Hodges as a defining moment in marriage equality, but did you know prior to the case, 38 states already had some form of legalized same-sex marriage? This is in part due to lower court decisions but also in part due to advocates working at a local level despite the lack of federal protection. Look up some community organizations or ways you can advocate for the disadvantaged in your everyday life. I’ll admit that I’ve done a poor job of this in the past myself, but I am going to make it a goal to be better moving forward.
I love to hear your feedback either on here or through Facebook/Twitter/face-to-face. If there is one positive that came out of this election cycle, it’s that many of us got a chance to talk to and interact with people we may never come across in other circumstances.