It was unexpected. Nobody thought it would happen – he was too ridiculous. “America is smarter than that,” they said. “He is on trial for rape in a month – who could vote for that?”
Well, America did. Not all of them – voter turnout was high, and the race was close, meaning so many Americans did vote for Hillary. But Trump won, and is now president.
Why? DEAR GOD, WHY?
(I believe I have now shown my bias, yes?) and also Why didnt we Know?
(1) Mobilizing an Unexpected Vote
Parallels to the North
This past Canadian Federal Election saw something similar: a Harper defeat was hoped for, and predicted as a possibility, but the end result – a sweeping Trudeau victory – was unexpected.
Because Trudeau mobilized a population that was not expected to vote – and they turned out Voting, and the face of a country was changed.
In our case, it was Millennials. The demographic of kids just old enough to vote, who had inherited both their parents’ prosperity, and a terrible job market flooded with overqualified employees trying to ‘find themselves.’ The youth vote was expected to be its usual pathetic few, a low turnout based on political apathy. But somehow, thousands of young Canadians that were historically apathetic – came out to vote, united by a single message: Get Harper Out. Thus a troop of Millennials added their strategic votes to the fray, tipping the election from a ‘hopeful defeat of Harper’ to a Liberals majority. (Which by the way means that Proportional Representation is still important, Trudeau – but thats for a different blog post.)
Trump mobilised a population that historically didn’t do a lot of voting: disgruntled Americans who distrusted the voting system itself. He gave them a way to fight ‘the system’ while still voting: Him.
Ok, lets start with the stereotype:
After decades of poor education, the American bible belt has largely maintained their sense of American Individalism (known colloquially as yelling ” ‘Merica!”). But they have been neglected by Education. With less education, they have fallen from the once-grace of white priviledge, and become what has been rudely called “White Trash” – which is apparently the world’s name for caucasians who dont get the priviledge part. Uneducated and distrustful of politicians, given very little by the system which cultivates a belief in self-sufficiency and “keeping their guns,” poor-white-America was still stuck in the culture of a few years back – including its xenophobia, misogyny, racism, and love of platitudes instead of actual numbers.
American society should have been keeping an eye on them. I can imagine analysts from other countries looking at the States and being like “You know, in addition to black people being shot by police for no reason, and systemic racism, and a system with not enough taxes or education or health care – look at those white folk in the bible belt. Wow, they’ve been left out of the loop – thank goodness they don’t vote.”
But this time, they did.
They had a champion who voiced their (outdated) concerns, and spoke to them as people that felt alienated from politics, as a non-politician – and out they came. People who wouldn’t have been caught dead at a polling station were recording videos about how they were going to “Vote for Trump because Hillary wants to steal our guns and stop us from shooting them.” Trump mobilised that vote for himself, and it stuck.
That said – the bible belt alone would not have given him the victory. What else happened??
(2) American Racism
Yup, we may as well address the ‘Elephant’ in the room (see what I did there? 😉 )
There was a panel on the CBC last night, and they were brilliant. The most passionate was a young lady who spoke of how, after 8 years of Obama, there was bound to be a backlash – just like the renewal of a super-racist set of “Jim Crow laws” a few decades back, which tried to take the country back a few years.
During the campaigns, I saw comments by comedians that “People support Trump so they can say all those white supremacy things without being called racists.” And according to this infograph, we cant blame the poor – but apparently the dividing line was race. Across many different income lines, Race came up every time. White people, voting for a racist man. What is this, 1920?
Did Trump really manage to make a country of rational humans vote for him based on racism? …. Looks like that was a big part of it. Take that, Brexit. lol.
But there was more than that. I saw young, educated black people talking about why they supported Trump, a latin American say “he’s not racist he just wants to make sure nobody gets into the country illegally”, and a white Muslim-convert say how Trump was good for Muslims. How did this brilliant, Hitler-esque racist rapist make people suspend their logic like that?
(3) Left Brain, Right Brain:
Trump, Hillary and the Emotional Appeal
Once again I will start at home – in the last Canadian Federal election. Trudeau had the strategic vote, as a Liberal, but we need to also give him credit where it’s due: he also worried less about specific numbers, and more about an image of his vision for this country. And it was a vision that meshed with a lot of people: a vision of not being about the political bickering, or the ‘he said she said’ mudslinging, but being sincerely interested in Hope and a better Canada. He gave us the impression of being a young, hopeful Canadian with visions of our country being a place of happiness, love and prosperity. After years of Harper’s smooth, slimey feel, Trudeau’s sincere faith in humanity was so refreshing, that it caught on. And Trump did the same thing.
Hillary would be the better leader. Smart, experienced, dedicated, not without skeletons (and not great about using email, though the FBI came out two days ago and said it wasn’t criminal just misinformed) but would clearly be a Much better leader. She was the part of your brain that says “You should probably be on time for work today – did you set an alarm? Good. Sugary cereal isn’t that great for you – grab that yogourt smoothie instead. Have you finished that report? Ok put those on priority, you can go on facebook after lunch.”
She was the typical Democrat in a way – telling people what was good for them. And America, if we have learned one thing from their history, doesn’t like to be told what to do. She was the celery of the race – cold and logical, the best option, but with such a focus on actual-qualifications and substance, that she came across as cold and elitist and part of the system. A better leader, but people didn’t feel like she cared about them.
Healthy for America, but a little bland.
America didn’t want celery. America wanted Chocolate Cake. And Chocolate Cake – Was Trump.
(Or in this case, maybe we should call it “American Pie.”)
Trump was the part of your brain that says “Screw those reports – you go on facebook and tell them how good you are. You deserve it.” Trump is that sweet, gentle voice that says “Hit Snooze – they’ll wait for you, you’re America!” Trump is the Id of the race: he gets mad, can’t control himself, makes stuff up based on what you want to hear, and tells you you’re gonna be amazing. (Specifically “America will be great again.”) He hasn’t done the homework – who needs homework? #TrumpBookReport. He’s not a Politician, he’s not gonna say what’s best for you – like a good business man, he’s gonna say what makes you feel good. And damn, did he feel good.
That being said, for all of us internationally making fun of America’s decision: Yeah, go ahead, they deserve it. I saw a comment relating to Brexit, “Take that Britain – Nobody gets to be Dumber than America, NOBODY!”
But ask yourself this – how many times, when you get up in the morning or want a snack, do you hit snooze, or go for the chocolate cake?
(4) Trump tapped into the National Identity
There is this emotional underlying identity that runs like an undercurrent through the shadows of their national psyche. A National Identity that has existed since the Boston Tea Party, and the American Civil War. It is a staunch individualism, and belief that every person should work for their own benefit and leave others to theirs. It is a Hope, too – a belief that Anyone can acquire the American dream, if they work hard and get lucky (sadly it ignores the systemic discrimination and socioeconomic factors that make this less true, but its a beautiful idea.) It is a feeling of Greatness – that America is The Best, and that immigrants who come in should be Happy to join this Great Country, and should give up their cultural identity and become one with that which is greater – the American Identity. It is an identity of “Home of the Brave, Land of the Free.” (Which is ironic as Trump has tapped into it using fear, and other forms of fear such as racism).
This national identity feels Great – and, like Benito Mussolini promising to bring back the glory of the Roman Empire, Trump tapped into it by saying he would make America Great again.
It is also, as a national identity, one that is not fond of systems and taxes and politicians. It hails back to days when you would be on the frontier, protecting your land with your gun, in need of no sheriff or government.
Trump tapped into that too – by telling everyone he was not a politician.
(5) False Causation:
Trump Used a Logical Fallacy to Inspire Supporters
Trump was brilliant in this one: he began by working on that bit of the national identity that says “Politicians are crooks, give me my gun and my own business and I will be fine.” He then worked with that, with his platform that Politicians (aka Hillary, the quintessential politician, with years of experience with the American government) are liars. This was excellent at discrediting Hillary, as – with every well crafted response or logical argument – she showed herself as more politician-like, allowing his supporters to hate her even more.
Then comes the logical fallacy:
Politicians Lie. I am Not a Politician. Therefore I am telling the Truth.
(this, by the way, is a logical fallacy. Its like saying “Bluejays have feathers. A swallow is not a bluejay. Therefore swallows do not have feathers.” aka, False.)
That was it. He took that, and ran with it – but the national identity was one of being so against Politicians and The System, that it worked wonders. It was easy to go further, too:
Politicians do not have your best interests at heart. I am not a politician. Therefore I have your best interests at heart.
This is why we saw groups like “Women for Trump” and “Latinos for Trump.” I watched a reporter ask a member of the latter group, in Florida, “Do you not resent that Trump has insulted your people?”
He responded that Trump had never insulted them. Verbatum, “The people that know Mr. Trump know that he doesn’t hate Latins, he doesn’t hate anybody.”
… Seriously? Was the entire country not listening to a word he said?
No, they weren’t – and thats the point. He won his supporters over emotionally so well, with his use of the national identity and being ‘not a politican and therefore not an elitist and totally honest and wants whats best for you’ that they didn’t listen to a word he said, as long as he kept giving them those deliciously warm and fuzzy “Make America Great Again” feelings.
As he finished his speech of victory, the crowd went nuts, chanting – like Bros at a sporting event – “USA! USA! USA! USA!”
Talk about National Identity.
If that’s not closing the sale, Trump, I don’t know what is.
To Sum Up:
Trump won over his supporters’ emotions so well, that even educated rational Americans Suspended their Logic so they could Believe in him
On the night of the election I watched a white-American-converted-Muslim (already a rare thing) tell a caster that Trump was the best thing for Muslims in America.
The news caster then turned to a fellow Trump supporter to ask about how he felt that Trump was on trial for rape in a month: the supporter explained that ‘well that’s unfortunate and all, but you know, that one with the 13 year old, that wasn’t proven – all these women coming out of the woodwork, it must all be lies – Now Hillary, She’s a liar.” Similarly both supporters expressed that they had been concerned that Hillary would win because the election was rigged – but Trump was winning, so that meant the election was fair.
Trump proved what we already knew: politics is a game of popularity, getting people on your side, of images and memes and sound bytes. People vote based on how they feel – just like people typically make sales decisions based on emotion too. Perhaps Donald, the quintessential Salesman, knew this. Perhaps his bluster, anti-politic-politic and racism just happened to get lucky and mesh with the American identity. But I doubt it. This man has built a million dollar empire on Chinese steel, declaring bankruptcy again and again, and not paying his contractors. When he dies, it will be called “Death of a Salesmen.” When he writes a book, I’m pretty sure it will be called “How I Sold America.”
Donald Trump, I take my hat off to you. So thorough were you in your sales pitch, so well did you catch onto the American National identity, with its distrust of politicians and its racist undertones, that you are now the President of the United States of America.
Many Americans saw you for what you were, and they voted for Clinton. But they were not joined by some who felt she was too allied with the system for Bernie Sanders, and others who she had alienated.
Misogyny may have been part of how well you were able to degrade her – but the other portion of it was you degrading of what she stood for: logic and politics. Once you got half the country to admit their dislike of politics (not hard) it was easy to make her, the politician, a hated woman.
And now you are President. Well done, Sir.
What Now, America?
Will Trump appoint a new Supreme Court judge (probably) and revoke gay marriage and legal abortions? If so, Canada is ready for a new industry, “Touristbortionism,” as well as to bring back our Niagara Falls LGBTQ marriage-tourism industry. Will he revoke NAFTA?
Trump is the essential Salesman. We just watched him con America into electing him. But, we weren’t expecting him to win:
now we have to hope that he is a better president than we expected, too.
Good luck, America.
(want some memes? We have a group for posting them, its too late now but here she is