Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Why They Lost

I didn't support Trump or Hillary Clinton. Were it up to me we would have had Rand Paul vs. Bernie Sanders. Yet now that Trump has won, I can't help but be amused by all of the shocked democrats that thought he would be crushed in a landslide. I too thought Trump would lose, but I never wrote him off. As I said in my previous post, I figured he had a chance if Hillary's turnout was weak and the polls were inaccurate. Both turned out to be true.

Progressive and moderate Hillary supporters need to do some soul-searching. The usual advice given to the defeated party by the victorious one tends to be self-serving; they'll suggest democrats need to moderate their positions, compromise more, yield to republican preferences, etc.

There may be some temporary political benefit in that, but it is not the key advice I would give. To the frustrated leftist out there wondering why Trump won, I would NOT advise them to change their views on gay rights, racial injustice, feminism, Obamacare, immigration, multiculturalism, the welfare state, etc. Fight for what you believe is right. No need to change your values unless something convinces you to do so.

Instead I would just advise progressives to think about their tone.

I'll give an example of what I mean.

Throughout Trump's campaign I heard it mentioned several times that he was receiving high levels of support from poor, uneducated whites. Progressives should have responded to this by saying, "Ok, how can we reach these people. Why are they not buying what we are selling?" Instead, whenever this fact was brought up, it was always said with a kind of snarl. The attitude was, "Hah! see! only uneducated and poor people vote for Trump. Smart, rich people know to support Hillary." There was no attempt made to conceal the contempt for these people. This is why Hillary's "deplorables," comment was so powerful. It was a shockingly honest moment for her.

Progressives used to care first and foremost about the downtrodden. They were the champions of the poor. They were the advocates of the less-educated. Thanks to identity politics they have lost sight of this. They saw that a lot (though not all) of these Trump supporters were white and immediately branded them as bigots. This allowed them to immediately dismiss any and all of their concerns. They closed their ears and their minds.

Once the progressives wrote off Trump's supporters, Trump's supporters wrote off them. They too stopped listening and didn't care about Trump's many flaws or the reasonable arguments for supporting Hillary. It became a numbers game. From there the media did much to help Trump by overplaying their hand. They made Trump into an underdog by endlessly demonizing him. To be fair Trump set himself up on more than a few occasions with some of his rhetoric. But it became obvious to the voters early on that Hillary Clinton was essentially being coronated.

I think this sense of entitlement rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. That all the media, academia, and Hollywood had aligned against Trump only served to create the impression that Hillary was the candidate of the elite and Trump the candidate of the little guy. The #NeverTrump wing of the republican party added to that feeling. You had video games parodying Trump. Celebrities attacking Trump and urging people to vote Hillary on Youtube. Speaking of Youtube, I was watching Epic Rap Battles of History the other day, and I saw that they even made their latest episode into a pro-Hillary rant. I think this all had the opposite effect as these sorts of efforts only end up preaching to the choir. But the creators don't realize this. They don't realize how much they are in their own bubble.

A recent Onion article describes it well:

The problem is not just that progressives are out of touch. The problem is that rhetoric on both sides has gotten so toxic. The problem is also the notion of "sides." This election has shown that the traditional left / right divide is breaking down. Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin all going for Trump is a sign of this.

We need to get out of this factionalized paradigm and start trying to build a shared culture again. Modern society with its internet communities and smartphones, has made it easy for us to wall ourselves off into echo chambers. This is more of a problem for progressives because conservatives have a harder time avoiding progressive viewpoints. Every time they open a newspaper, go to a college class, have an HR meeting at work, watch a movie, play a video game, or just try to watch a Youtube video about rapping historical figures, they end up hearing progressive ideology. What's more there is a perpetually outraged mob of internet warriors ready to attack people's families, employers, and livelihoods if a conservative happens to say something that triggers a progressive.

Again, I'm not saying progressives need to change any of their views. I just think they need to think about how to actually win hearts and minds. Deep down I sense that a lot of progressives don't want to try to persuade the other side. I have heard a lot of people react to the election loss by saying things like "I'm just done trying to reason with these people! They're just racist, sexist, homophobic idiots!" Many progressives I think hope that persuading the other side ultimately won't even be necessary. The Young Turks mentioned this during the election coverage. The demographic trends of the United States favor the democratic party in a number of ways.

The hope seems to be that, given enough time, conservative white voters can be made irrelevant by importing enough foreigners and having minorities outbreed them. This is a dangerous Machiavellian game to play that is guaranteed to invite backlash (see yesterday's election results for evidence). Writing off a massive political constituency that you disagree with is bad strategy. Hoping to gradually disenfranchise them is no better.

Progressives need to look in the mirror and consider their approach if they want to come back strong in 2018 and 2020. I am sure Trump will give them plenty of ammo. Yet none of it will matter if all of their arguments fall on deaf ears.