Home > Politics > Regarding Trump’s Election: We listened to the wrong people!

Regarding Trump’s Election: We listened to the wrong people!


It’s taken me a bit to organize my thoughts well enough to blog about last Tuesday’s US Presidential election. I’m finally there (I think) and will try to make this fairly short (which doesn’t mean truly short – that’s just not my style!)

TL:DR: We should have been listening to Trump’s supporters and addressing their fears.

Along with, I suspect, most of you, I’ve been going through the grieving process (mostly)

  1. Denial and Isolation: Late Tuesday through mid-Wednesday
  2. Anger: OK. I still feel some, but not at the rage levels I felt Wednesday and most of Thursday.
  3. Bargaining: Got through this fast – looked at electoral numbers, combined that with my knowledge of election/constitutional law, and very quickly realized there was nothing to bargain.
  4. Depression: Full blown depression Wednesday morning. It’s tapered slowly down and is now at a very low level, but I doubt it will go away until we fix what went wrong!
  5. Acceptance: I’m there now

What went wrong?

Frankly, it’s hard to come up with anything that didn’t go wrong! But NONE of the following, taken alone or even a few in combination would have resulted in a Clinton presidency:

  • Polling – I don’t necessarily think any polling was specifically wrong (although there obviously were many failures). The big failures here is that A) We listened to the polls when all polls assume a rational electorate and B) We (mostly) allowed ourselves to be sucked in by the horserace enabled by the polls.
  • Clinton’s campaign — It should have been obvious by Trump’s and Bernie’s popularity that business as usual incrementalism wasn’t going to work. This was a Change Election.
  • Choice of Democratic Nominee — I continue to believe that, had Bernie received reasonable amounts of non-derogatory media attention early on, Bernie Sanders would have been the Democratic Nominee.
  • Media — I have no doubt that the mass market media chose their coverage to satisfy their shareholders. A close race is, to the media, a profitable race.
  • Unions — A while back, I saw an article about major union endorsements. I recall specifically that almost all unions who endorsed based on member polling embraced Bernie, and that almost all unions who endorsed based on a decision by their board embraced Hillary. As I type this, I’m listening to a podcast describing how many union members voted for Trump in opposition to the recommendation of their union leadership.
  • Opposition Research: No, I don’t mean Trump – his many failures and shortcomings were (and are) readily apparent to any who cared to look. I mean that we didn’t research Trump supporters! (More on this later)
  • Other factors are too many to list/explain. I have collected a number of links to articles I’ve bookmarked since Tuesday evening at the end of this post. For the most part, I agree with all of them.

One thing that went wrong would have changed the outcome: The Electoral College!

Hilary won the popular vote, but not the Electoral vote. This is not the first time this has happened – it’s happened as recently as 2000 when Gore won the popular vote but Bush won the Electoral College. (yeah, yeah, yeah — the Supreme Court factors heavily in this. See the grieving process above. Accept it. Move on.)

I call our the Electoral College specifically because there is an ongoing effort to nullify it without needing a Constitutional Amendment, Constitutional Convention, or ANY action at the Federal level. It’s the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Wikipedia, in my opinion, does a better job of explaining it than the official site.

Stop Sign GraphicIf you aren’t familiar with the National Popular Vote initiative, please, please, Please follow one of the above links now! Advocating your state legislature to join the Interstate Compact is something you can start doing right now. Even if you live in a state that has ratified the Compact, you can reach out to your friends/family in other states.

Fear – and how we failed to address it

Trump specifically (and for the most part, Republicans) are experts at exploiting fear. From our point of view, we on the left tend to dismiss the fears they stoke, believing them to be irrational. This is our big mistake!

It doesn’t matter that most of the fears they stoked are irrational. Fear is not a rational position, it’s an emotion. And emotions are blinders that cause almost anyone to ignore rational arguments.

We ran on “Fear Donald Trump”. Trump ran on “Fear and blame (insert your favorite tagret here). I do.” By identifying himself as someone who shares their fears – and by giving a target to the anger that fear engenders – Trump captured his supporters at an emotional level that we made no attempt to understand. And without at least some understanding of the fears of Trump supporters, we had no chance- none, zero, zip – of getting through to them.

So how do we get through to Trump supporters?

It ain’t easy. To start, you have to listen – and I mean REALLY listen to them. Talk with them (not at them). Identify their fear – whether or not you believe them to be rational. What’s important is that they have it, not how they arrived at it.

To counter it, the best way is to question them in a way that shows that you really are listening to them. Frame it in their terms. Poke at it. Prod. Find something else in their experience that counters it. Cause them Cognitive Dissonance. Once you’ve planted the seed that something in their worldview contradicts their fear – or the direction of their resulting anger – then back off! Let it germinate. The human mind doesn’t like contradictions, but if you try to contradict deeply embedded fear and anger with facts, the mind tends to reject the contrary evidence. But reveal a contradiction between thoughts/ideas/fears that they already have and you’ve planted the seed of their breaking free of their own misconceptions.

Note: There is a lot of research on this. But in the interests of keeping this post from becoming even longer than it is, I’m not going to take the time to point you towards it.

We also have to be far more discriminating in who we listen to! To begin with, I think it’s time to stop paying attention to the polls – especially as the mass market media uses them to create a horserace for their own profit.

Find independent, non-corporate journalism and then, support the best with your dollars! So far, I’ve supported The Guardian, The Nation, and The BradBlog. And I have a mental budget of how much more I’ll contribute to support other independent journalism efforts as I find them.

This one’s going to hurt: Insert yourself into the Right Wing bubble! Yes – it’s filled with hate. Yes – it’s filled with irrationality. Yes – it’s populated by “the deplorables”. You still need to do it. Why? So you can identify a few of these people who are, at least, open to dialog. Once identified, start a dialog. Listen to them. Understand their fear. Question them. Plant the seeds of Cognitive Dissonance. Many, perhaps most, of them have legitimate grievances – they just have no awareness of actions they might take other than “hating the other” and following those that tell then to “hate the other”.

I think this post is long enough. As usual, I could say a lot more. But I won’t. I want to leave you with a couple of things:

  • This Vimeo Video – Cartoonist Mark Fiore’s apology for his contribution (however inadvertent) to our current nightmare. I’d embed it, but I can’t.
  • And a bit of YouTube:

    I don’t know about you, but I’m going to be relying on a LOT of help from my friends in the next few years!

Finally, here’s the list of links to articles I’ve bookmarked. All of them, at the very least, helped me to organize my thoughts and feelings. They are in no particular order. And since I want to get this posted, I’m NOT going to even try to summarize any of them. Note that many of the titles are hooks and the point they make is different.

Categories: Politics
  1. Janice Haugan
    11 Nov 2016 at 22:09

    Nicely said, Steven. Thanks for sharing your feelings and thoughts. I think you’re spot on.

  2. Edda Schweid
    13 Nov 2016 at 16:25

    You write very well. Thank you for sending this and I could not agree with you more that we need t0 really listen to the other side and learn to not isolate ourselves.

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