aNewDomain — I know, I know. I know you’re freaking out.
You thought we were getting ever more sane, that the run of wins for candidates backing tolerance and working for gender equality and the end of racism couldn’t possibly end.
To be fair, the polls supported that view. So did the popular vote, which Hillary Clinton, despite all the negativity and division of this interminable election season, won. But our new president-elect, Donald Trump, won the electoral vote, the one that matters.
How did things go so wrong? Why did so many people vote for Trump?
Now that Trump’s been elected as our 45th president, I see so many of my friends in significant emotional distress.
It’s easy to see why. Trump is the candidate who threatened to jail his opponent, who asked Second Amendment enthusiasts if they could think of any Second Amendment solutions to her, who threatened to deport millions of people and who claims he wants to upturn the basis of our nation, religious freedom, by restraining immigration based on religion.
He talked about twisted, dangerous goals, saying he wanted to encyst the nation in a wall, renegotiate all our trade deals and our Iran nuclear non-proliferation deal. He promised, if he were elected, to Americans insurance back in the money-grubbing hands of private insurance companies by repealing the Affordable Care Act, a move that would cause insurance rates to skyrocket everywhere.
Trump even wondered aloud what was the point of nuclear weapons if he couldn’t use them.
Over the course of a bitter campaign, Trump said a lot of sexist things and a lot of racist things, all the while rejecting empathy and sensitivity, which he branded as weak “political correctness.”
He chose a known white supremacist as his campaign’s CEO. And for his running mate, he selected a rapidly hyperpartisan man who champions gay conversion therapy for teens and a complete ban on abortion for any reason.
That’s a lot to take in.
From progress to the founder of the Birther movement, that’s how far we’ve fallen.
But that isn’t what my friends are most concerned about.
So why did so many people vote for Trump?
What my fellow non-Trump supporters worry most about the fact that so many people voted for Trump.
They are also beginning to panic about what he will do with a red Senate and a red Congress, too. What we have before us is a loose cannon with neither checks nor balances to restrain him, who will take control of an executive branch with a matching legislative branch that’s prepared to confirm a far-right conservative Supreme Court.
All that aside, the main thing they worry about now is that people they know personally voted for this man.
So many of my friends are not straight, white men. They are people of color, people who are non-gender-conforming or non-hetero-normative. They are women. They are parents.
And they are all worrying about the same thing: how to live in the kind of place where anyone, much less their neighbors, colleagues and the people who teach their children, could vote for Trump.
For these wounds, I have only weak balm.
First, I’ll ask you to remember that people do not vote rationally or even much on ideology. They vote based on who is best with the communication medium of the age — in this case, that’s social media and partisan-backed paramedia innuendo and fake news.
They vote based on who they might like to have a beer with, on name recognition, on how they perceive the state of the economy now and on party affiliation.
They do seem to adjust their own values to match the candidate, a worrisome trend, but they probably did not, by and large, vote for Trump because they hated the rest of us.
Also, I’d like to remind you also that the margin is exceptionally narrow: fewer than a half million votes in a record-turnout election. That’s about a four percent difference between Trump supporters and the rest of us. And the votes are not all counted yet. And Trump, I’ll repeat again, lost the popular vote.
But it’s important to realize that the vast majority of Americans who voted for Trump didn’t do it because they are racists.
They did it because they believe the economy sucks and that the incumbent president and party can be held accountable.
Unless you work in technology or banking on one of the coasts, there’s some truth to their economic fears. The Obama administration delivers rosy economic facts and figures, sure. But they do not reflect conditions on the ground. For most of us, the job market is sluggish. Our jobs are ever more part-time and contingent. And benefits? They’re a thing of the past.
Problem is, for the average voter who does not watch hours of news per day, the fact that Republicans are responsible for this state of affairs did not enter the calculations. Obama had little power to enact and progressive policies with a deadlocked Congress and Senate, and a hostile Supreme Court.
That Obamacare premium increases were matched in 85 percent of cases with subsidy increases was something they never investigated. They also didn’t research the fact that most of the failures in the Affordable Care Act were due at least in part to Republican scare tactics never computed.
What Republicans pulled on this wide swath of Trump-supporting Americans was amazing snow job: They did nothing for eight years, and now they point to the state of the economy and blame Obama for it.
And our fellow Americans fell for it. Not because they are bad or stupid, that’s not it. They fell for it because they are angry, or poor, or just victims of a failing American educational system that never taught them to think critically. That’s clear when you examine how many Trump supporters had trouble telling the difference between facts and opinion, much less credibly-sourced news and the tidal wave of fake news that so-called paramedia outlets churn out daily.
But the Americans who voted for Trump are, no question, every bit as disenfranchised as the rest of us. Thanks to the election of Donald Trump, all Americans now share Trump supporters’ fear of the future. Now we’re all in the same boat.
Cover image: CrooksAndLiars.com, All Rights Reserved. Inside images in order of appearance: WTNH.com, All Rights Reserved; NPR.org, All Rights Reserved; TownHall.com, All Rights Reserved; Spiked-Online.com, All Rights Reserved.