[NOTE: This is a post about politics. And it’s super freaking long. I wrote this the night Trump won, and sat on it for a bit, not sure if I should post it or not. If you don’t like reading about politics, or are just sick of the election in general, feel free to skip it. Believe me, I won’t blame you. I don’t intend to make politics a regular thing here, but felt this was worth discussing, and something that perhaps added to the general discourse rather than made it worse.]
Well, that happened.
I know a lot of people are surprised that Trump won. Surprised that our country has elected a boorish man who brags about sexual assault. Surprised that America would elect a man who has made racist, homophobic, misogynistic, and xenophobic comments. Surprised that we’d actually hand the keys to the country to a man who gets into Twitter wars with celebrities at three in the morning.
Frankly, I’m surprised that anyone is surprised.
How could we not see this coming?
The culture wars have been playing out nightly on the news since at least the nineties. And now we see the results of this all out war on one another — a war in which we’ve played right into politicians’ and media’s hands, by the way.
And now, for Liberals and many old school conservatives, a somber mood stretches across the country as we wonder, what the hell have we done?
Watching scenes from Clinton HQ after it became clear that she’d lost was like watching an Audience Reacts segment to the Negan scene from the season premiere of The Walking Dead.
And since I’ve been writing about The Walking Dead, I figured why not do a postmortem of the 2016 presidential election?
One thing to get out of the way: I’m a centrist, leaning liberal on a lot of things.
However, I tend to ignore party lines, choosing to instead form my own opinions based on logic and ever-changing information, rather than follow the script the media wants me to follow.
One other thing:
I voted for Clinton.
Some of you will think that’s awesome. Others will think I’m a fucking communist cuckold or some other less-than-masculine insult.
Sorry, I couldn’t vote for Trump. A Trump presidency is like a Bloom County strip come to life. I just couldn’t check that box. I have serious reservations about him that stretch beyond the politics of culture.
I don’t usually talk about my political beliefs because I don’t like to alienate readers of my fiction. I don’t want your opinion of MY OPINIONS to get in the way of you enjoying my books.
Because if last night didn’t show it, we’re in a war right now, a war with our neighbors. A war with anyone who holds an opinion other than our own. A war where everyone has their finger on a trigger, literal or figurative.
Over the years, we’ve been made to hate The Other. We’ve been made to think of our neighbors not as complex people with complex thoughts on complex matters, but in terms of Liberal or Conservative.
That’s it. One word titles, and those are the polite ones.
It removes nuance.
It makes it easier for us to HATE.
Easier to CONTROL us.
Our puppet masters are quite happy right now.
While I’ve often enjoyed talking politics with friends and even people who aren’t friends, I’ve avoided it in a public space (for the most part) because it never felt right. Even now it doesn’t, as I write this.
I think it’s mostly because politics is incredibly personal. And I don’t like judging other people’s politics and acting like mine are The One True Way. The same reason I don’t talk about religion.
I didn’t live your life.
I didn’t walk in your shoes.
I can’t possibly know why you feel the way you do on any number of subjects.
And additionally, I don’t think ANYTHING is static.
Things I think now may very well change over time given new data.
Same with you?
So why paint ourselves into corners we can never escape from?
But as I watched this Trump phenomena happening over the past few years, I wanted to know more. I wanted to know WHY people were supporting him.
Beyond the basest reasons, beyond the racist, misogynistic, xenophobic reasons.
I know it’s easy to assume that every Trump supporters is a monster. And many monsters support him for sure. But not every Trump supporter is a monster. Not even most of them.
I saw social media explode last night after his win. Saw Liberals lose their shit, ending friendships, blasting “stupid Americans,” and blasting “stupid white people.” I saw many comments that said more or less if you voted for Trump, you are a monster that hates women, who supports rape and racism.
Again, I understand that there are MANY people who definitely fit that bill. People who have made life very difficult for cultural progress. And those people are definitely fucking assholes.
But … everyone?
I know it’s easy to fall into the trap of hating the Other, and thinking that EVERY Trump supporter is a monster.
But that’s not even close to reality. And I think it’s a dangerous belief to hold because it ignores some very basic truths that we’ve been blinded from seeing in this 24 Hour Cable News Culture War.
I live in Florida, surrounded by Trump supporters. Some are assholes, sure. Some are scared white people who hate the idea of change, and they need to just get over it. But many are decent hard-working folks who feel left behind, feel ignored and manipulated by a political system that looks down on them.
And I wanted to know why they were making a case for Trump. So rather than just assume the worst about them, I decided to talk to them over this past year.
I also started reading blogs, watching videos, and generally trying to figure out WHY these people were voting the way they were. I wanted to understand — especially if he was going to win.
As cynical as I am, I really don’t want to believe that HALF our population is made up of ignorant racists, homophobes, and sexists.
I think the first step in attempting dialogue with someone of opposing viewpoints is to actually UNDERSTAND their viewpoint. To get beyond the self-righteousness that we ALL can feel from time to time when we believe in something so passionately. And to actually talk to others.
You can’t do that if you blindly cling to this belief of all Trump supporters as THIS OTHER. THIS EVIL.
And I’d say that the Democrats CLEARLY did not do their homework on the REAL REASONS (beyond the horrible ones) that people were voting for Trump. If they had, they would’ve gone out and actually sought to change the hearts and minds of the non-crazy Trump supporters. They would’ve made a better case for a Clinton presidency.
But they didn’t.
And I think this is a lesson we must learn before the next election.
So I’m going to share this with my Liberal friends so you can understand WHY a non-racist/non-sexist/non-Nazi might have voted for Trump. Again, yes there are conservatives who are racists, homophobes, misogynists, and any other number of -ists that are holding society back. Some of them don’t care. Others might not even realize their biases. But this post isn’t about those conservatives. Well, at least not the openly hostile to progress ones.
One other thing. I’m not saying that these are reasons I would vote for Trump. These are simply some of the reasons that people might not see Clinton as the better choice for them.
WHY TRUMP WON
Trump listens to them. So many people in America feel alienated by the powers-that-be. They’ve lost jobs. They’ve been taken advantage of/screwed over, talked down to, made fun of, scapegoated, and a host of other things, and they’re sick of it. Finally someone comes along who says he understands them. That he’ll “make America great again.” And who can blame them for listening? Whether you think Trump is exploiting these people’s desperation as most politicians do, it doesn’t matter. If even there’s a thin shred of a chance that Trump DOES deliver on his promises, it’s more than anyone else has done in quite some time.
The Public ALWAYS switches things up. They want something “different.” Americans get tired of having the same party in the White House. Seems our limit for parties these days is two terms. After that, vote the bums out and replace them with someone, anyone. Happens a lot. Happened again. Not a big shock.
They think Trump will deliver on the promise of smaller government. People are tired of the government being in their business. Tired of restrictive regulations. Tired of high taxes to support a broken system. We could argue the merits of these things, the merits of said restrictions, and just how “small” Trump’s government will be with some of the outlandish (and expensive) plans he’s made, but a belief in smaller government is a legitimate belief that drives MANY conservatives.
They think Trump will change immigration laws. Trump did a LOT of horrible fear mongering about the dangers of immigrants during the election. His promise to build a giant wall out of A Game of Thrones is one that appeals to some people. But there’s also a legit discussion to be had about immigration which many people think we’re not having. There’s also a belief among conservatives that Democrats only want immigration because it will swell the number of people who want more “free shit.” And those people are going to vote Democrat, thus lowering the number of likely voters for conservatives in the future. Whether this is real or not, it’s a perception that Democrats need to address if they want to win over conservative voters.
They think Trump will keep the Supreme Court from becoming too liberal. This is a big one. With a vacancy to fill, conservatives want to ensure that they get someone from their team on the Supreme Court. Whether they want to go after Roe v. Wade or simply want to ensure the law abides by the Constitution, this is a concern many of them have.
They think Trump will repeal the Affordable Care Act. This is a big one. While the ACA has given insurance to a lot of people who wouldn’t otherwise have it, it’s also FUCKED a lot of people — and not in the good way where you cuddle after.
The ACA has become, to many, the Unaffordable Care Act, driving up prices while also offering less by way of services. I could tell you some truly horrifying stories of “Obamacare,” nightmares that people I know have suffered. And again, I’m a liberal, and if I can see the problems, you bet your ass that conservatives can.
Trump says he’ll make something better. Probably something “HUGE!” What that will be, who the hell knows? But when people are feeling hopeless, going broke just trying to pay for insurance they’re mandated to have, they go with the guy offering to do something, anything different!
They don’t think Trump assaulted women. Whether you think Trump assaulted women doesn’t change the facts of the case, which we don’t actually know, other than his crude comments. Conservatives would argue that the timing of these accusations makes them likely false. They’d also point out that Trump hasn’t been found guilty in a court of law, which is the measure of guilt most people abide by. And further, they’d argue that Bill Clinton also assaulted several women, and outright raped one, and that Hillary ignored or attacked these women. I am not arguing the veracity of any of these arguments, but simply pointing out the reason that Trump supporters would dismiss a serious issue.
They think Trump will lower taxes. People hate taxes, especially when they think the government is wasting their tax dollars. And nobody can argue that we’re not wasting tax dollars, particularly when we’ve been in a constant state of war since at least the time of The Mad King Aerys.
Trump claims he’ll get us out of wars, stop interfering in other countries’ business, and cut taxes. Again, this isn’t to say he will actually do these things, but again, something different, opposed to Clinton’s tax changes which might have increased taxes for many in the middle class.
Conservatives are tired of being labeled as the “bad guys.” Liberals have made a bit of progress in recent years when it comes to issues like equal rights and changes in the laws prohibiting marijuana, as well as a host of other social issues.
Is the job done?
Not even fucking close.
However, if you ask a conservative, there’s been a shift where the oppressed have become the oppressors. I know it seems silly to Liberals that members of the traditional ruling class can possibly complain about oppression. But you can’t just tell people to shut up and check their privilege and expect any change. If you want them to listen to you, you must also listen to them.
Conservatives (and even many liberals) have fun afoul of so-called Social Justice Warriors, finding themselves labelled a homophobe, racist, or sexist if they don’t believe, act, or accidentally call someone by the wrong pronoun.
There’s a veritable laundry list of things you could do to offend someone these days, many of them you might not even be aware of (like microaggressions). Many of those grievances are legitimate. Many are seen as nitpicking or self-righteousness.
Hell, I’m fairly certain that this post will offend someone for me even bringing up that some liberals cross the line into extremism.
Conservatives are fed up with political correctness, and who better to vote for than the most politically incorrect politician ever?
Trump is seen as a hero to people who feel they’re no longer being listened to. To people tired of being accused of being racists, misogynistic, or homophobic (whether those accusations are just or not).
Don’t get me wrong, I see a definite need for people to stand up and fight for their rights. I’ve argued with many, many conservatives for years, particularly when it comes to gay rights and issues of race. Liberals can truly affect change and make lives easier for those who feel marginalized by society, those who are told that they don’t matter, those who struggle to even have their problems acknowledged.
However, you have to know how to fight effectively in order to create change.
When EVERY offense is blown up by social media into a SERIOUS offense, then NOTHING is taken seriously by the opposition.
As one conservative said to me, “they’re shrill and hysterical, special little snowflakes.” Others have complained that it’s seemingly okay, even fashionable, to attack or discount someone for being privileged white men, and “you’re just supposed to accept it because historically, you’re the oppressor even if you’ve never oppressed anyone.”
Some conservatives feel that they are the victims in these culture wars. Which seems impossible for us liberals to believe when we see things through our own biases, or just one particular lens. It’s something we blindly dismiss at the peril of our own causes.
I find it interesting that there is this much of a divide between oppression and perception of oppression on both sides of the issue. Everyone is offending everyone, and both sides feel attacked and just get further entrenched in their beliefs rather than … having an open dialogue! Rather than hearing what the other person is experiencing.
This is a line that deepens the longer that we dismiss one another as both “special snowflakes” and “privileged oppressors.”
This is also the sort of stuff that has driven moderate conservatives, people who support some liberal ideals, to just say fuck it, finding liberals unreasonable, and going all-in with The Right.
I’m not saying that liberals ought to kiss the asses of their enemies. Or to just sit by as people are victimized by racism, sexism, homophobia, and any other marginalization. Or they ought to stand down and “know their place,” or any of the other things that the power structure has typically told the aggrieved.
As I said before, fight your fight!
However, you have to know WHEN to fight, and you also need to know WHY your opposition thinks the way they do if you ever hope to win that fight.
You also have to consider context.
Is the conservative you’re going after truly an evil fuck who deserves public scorn and condemnation at the slightest perceived misstep, or is it someone who said, or did, something stupid but can learn from it if given the opportunity?
Is it more important to call out and ridicule the enemy, or try to open their minds?
This part is for the Liberals and Conservatives.
WE COULD keep attacking everyone who has an opinion different than us.
WE COULD make enemies of people who are resistant to change, rather than try to have an open dialogue which would help us discover our commonalities.
Hell, that is what The Powers That Be want us to do — FIGHT amongst ourselves!
They keep us divided so it’s easier to keep us blind to the REAL SHIT they’re doing to us.
WE COULD just keep thinking of each other as some monstrous Other, or The Enemy, because that makes it easier not to see one another as real people.
It makes it easy to ignore or overlook valid points to consider.
It only entrenches us further in our battle formations.
Yeah, WE COULD keep doing that.
But how far has that gotten us?
I think we only need to look at last night’s historic election to see the answer.
Imagine if we’d actually had open dialogue with one another rather than succumbing to social politics the past few years?
Imagine the presidential candidates we MIGHT have had.
Imagine the next four years we MIGHT have had.
Here’s the good news: there’s still time to shape our future.
And it begins when you stop pointing fingers and assigning blame.
It begins when you start to actually talk out your differences.
Imagine what WE COULD DO TOGETHER.
We wanted something different, right?