It is about a week after the world changed and Trump was elected as America’s 45th president. The post-election analysis feels like it has gone on for longer than the campaign itself and I’ve read explanations that include –
- Trump won due to the support of an angry and historically under-represented right;
- The media was too carried away by the hype surrounding Trump and the clicks that it generated to do its job properly;
- Facebook’s algorithm allowed fake stories to proliferate and that influenced the elections; and
- The liberal elitists were hopelessly out of touch with the common folk and chose Hillary Clinton as their status quo candidate.
There may be truth to all of these explanations. Trump won due to a combination of factors, for sure. I think the most interesting question I haven’t seen answered is why the roughly 43% of eligible voters didn’t vote at all?
Total voter turnout was 57%. That makes the popular vote:
Didn't give a shit: 43%
— Christopher Ingraham (@_cingraham) November 10, 2016
If you look at the voter data, only about a quarter of eligible voters are responsible for electing Trump. Another quarter voted for Clinton and almost half just didn’t exercise their right to vote.
Sure, few countries have elections in which everyone votes but if you want to understand how Trump was elected despite being a horrendous choice, find out why those people didn’t bother? You’d probably find many of the reasons I mentioned above will come up.
Here we are a week later and Trump’s administration is starting to take shape and it is scary. Some of the talk reported in the media is that Trump’s victory surprised him and he underestimated what the job entails.
Steve Bannon and Breitbart News, in their words https://t.co/6xjyTh23t1
— The New York Times (@nytimes) November 15, 2016
These days, though, who knows what is true. If the elections showed the world anything it is that truth is not highly regarded by Trump or his supporters. What matters more is saying the things that get the votes.
Trump is likely to send America back a couple decades on issues like the environment, abortion, gender rights and free speech (I’m open to the possibility he will pleasantly surprise the world, I just wouldn’t bet anything of value on that happening). That is what the voters wanted so, well, so be it.
The rest of us outside the USA will have to wait and see what happens in the next four years. Hopefully, the world won’t be thrust into fiery, nuclear holocaust.
On the positive side, this could be a good thing for the Democratic Party in the medium term. Perhaps, as Professor Lessig suggested, this is what the party needs to move forward and present a better candidate in 2020 (or 2024):
Beginning today, the Democratic Party that we should celebrate is the party not of Bill and Hillary, but of Barack and Michelle — a couple with enormous personal integrity, who have only ever inspired the very best in all of us. It is the party of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — two souls constitutionally incapable of “triangulating.” And it is the party of Van Jones and Zephyr Teachout — two powerful and brilliantly articulate citizens, crafting a vision of a party that is not captured by the fundraisers of its past.
In the meantime, we have to accept our world has changed. The right is rising across the globe. The right drove Brexit, it elected Trump and it is gaining more and more support in Europe and elsewhere. Fear is a powerful motivator and right wing political parties know how to take full advantage of that to win increasing support.
Until everyone else feels similarly about messages of hope and progress, the world will become a darker place before it starts to resemble the place we want our children to grow up in.
I’ve spent the better part of the last week trying to get my head around what that means for the world and I just can’t grok it. What is clear to me is that America made a hash of things with these elections and the rest of us are stuck with the mess.
A few people in my various feeds lamented democracy’s failure after Trump won. I disagree. Democracy didn’t fail the people. The American people failed democracy and the rest of the world too.
Photo credit: Donald Trump speaking at an immigration policy speech in Phoenix, Arizona by Gage Skidmore. Licensed CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported.