“The difference between a democracy and a dictatorship is that in a democracy you vote first and take orders later; in a dictatorship you don’t have to waste your time voting” – Charles Bukowski
You’re probably stunned. Donald won. Clinton was polling around two percent higher than him on Monday and Tuesday, and it seems like almost your entire social media feed and every major news outlet was both endorsing her and calling the election as a bygone conclusion, and then on Tuesday night- stop.
Clinton was polling around two (2) percent higher, and yet almost your entire social media feed and every major news outlet was endorsing her and calling the election as practically over. That’s a serious disconnect between the measured closeness of the two candidates and the media’s presentation.
I have a few thoughts on why things turned out the way they did. Let’s start with the picture of Trump painted by both the mainstream media and the Clinton campaign – I find it difficult to differentiate between the two, at this point. “Trump is a racist.” “Trump is a misogynist.” “Trump doesn’t respect LGBTQ rights.” “Trump is a bigot.” “Trump is literally Adolf Hitler!” There is undoubtedly some truth behind some of these statements. The man has spouted anti-immigrant rhetoric that evokes racist imagery. He has made some disparaging comments about women (while also being the only candidate in the Republican primary field to say anything good about Planned Parenthood). He has encouraged violence at his rallies. And these points were basically the entirety of the Clinton campaign.
By my own polling of Clinton supporter, entirely anecdotal and unscientific, I arrived with the following reasons one might vote for her: She’s not Trump, She has done a lot of things in politics for a very long time, It’s time to break the glass ceiling, Barack Obama. Most of the people I know who vocally supported Hillary Clinton did not seem particularly enthusiastic about Hillary Clinton, The Politician, and were instead focused on Hillary Clinton, Not Donald Trump, a bit of Hillary Clinton, Obama Was Great, and yes, a good helping of Hillary Clinton, The Woman (note that if you take this last position, that’s great, but if you point out that someone else is taking it, you’re a sexist).
And the chambers echoed. To spend any time living among members of social media’s Progressive Tribe was to get steadily bombarded with just how bad Donald Trump was. Continuing a growing social trend, supporters of the Other are both marginalized and demonized: “I just can’t understand how anyone could support him!” “Do this many people just hate women?” “Is America really this racist?” “It’s just angry poor uneducated white men ruining the country.” “How can this many people be voting against their own best interests?”
So if you existed in these circles, and maybe thought that Trump was better, or at least not worse, than Clinton, you shut up. You didn’t say anything. If you did, you were an instant pariah. Your tribe would have rejected you. Your line of thinking is wrong, and you are bad, because you didn’t see just how bad the Bad Person was and just how good the Good Person is (even if that’s largely because she’s not the Bad Person), you remained silent, and then, eventually you voted. It was a tactic of outright shaming anyone who thought that Trump might not be that bad, or that Clinton might not be that great, and it was a tactic that worked up until the moment that it didn’t.
To an extent, the media fell victim to itself. The people in media largely exist within echo chambers of their own, mostly in New York, some in Washington, D.C. and a few other large urban centers around the country. Solidly liberal people in solidly liberal places, hearing the same message from all directions in both their personal and professional lives, and at some point they could no longer fathom that there was any other message. That the forty-something percent of Americans who thought Trump was the better choice for any reason beyond the fact that they too were racists, misogynists, and bigots.
That forty-something percent saw a familiar pattern begin to play out. Their ideas mocked. Their viewpoints publicly ridiculed. Their narrative slowly extinguished from the greater public dialogue. They saw themselves portrayed as poor and uneducated and therefore sidelined as a statistic, a demographic that something had to be done about. They saw an urban class deriding them as unable to ascertain their own best interests. They saw an extension of the Washington ruling class that has taken a similar attitude – intelligentsia who claimed the skill and the mandate to run their lives for them. A Democratic party that nearly nominated a self-described Socialist, the full realization of the idea of a ruling elite, of a government that knows what’s best.
Large swaths of society shunned and derided them when they were vocal, so many of them weren’t as vocal. The media conducted a national dialogue in a language that left them no room to participate, so many of them just sat out and listened. And when they listened, they heard two voices. They heard one voice saying “vote for me,” and when the other voice hit their ears, they heard it saying “vote for him.”
And so they did.