Two Things Can Be Equally True and … What To Do Next
It has been nearly a week since the election and I’ve been glued to Facebook looking for answers. There are plenty to be found but there’s a problem. Many think there’s only one answer. When in fact, there are many.
Liberals Got Smug
This piece by Emmett Rensin definitely hit home for me. I fit into the ‘knowing’ and ‘good facts’ camp. I’m a logical person by nature. But I never felt the need to ridicule the other side. However, I am often frustrated by what I perceive as a lack of understanding. Even that might get me labeled as smug.
I think most liberals want to help communities who have fallen on difficult economic times. But we haven’t found a way to communicate that effectively. And calling those people names or belittling them isn’t going to persuade them. In fact, it might do the opposite.
Calling nearly half the nation ‘deplorables’ isn’t going to help matters.
Hillary Was The Wrong Candidate
I liked Hillary Clinton. I think she would have been a great President. But the fact is she wasn’t as progressive as I’d like her to be and her relationship with the power structure in this country was just too much to overcome.
I’m not sure I can blame the DNC as many are doing. They had a candidate and a platform in mind and they effectively got their candidate through the primaries. The machine worked (unlike the RNC). But the message and the messenger simply weren’t compelling enough.
Or was it? The fact is more people voted for Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump.
Nate Cohn, an election analyst at the New York Times, estimates that once all votes have been counted, 63.4 million Americans will have voted for Mrs Clinton and 61.2 million for Mr Trump, giving the Democrat a ‘winning’ margin of 1.5 per cent.
If this turns out to be true, 2 million more people in the country voted for Hillary. That’s … stunning. And it means she received the most votes of any Presidential candidate except for Barack Obama.
This despite the endless attacks on her that amounted to … nothing. And lets not forget FBI Director James Comey, who released that letter claiming there might be some further evidence of wrongdoing in additional emails.
Of course, the biggest problem was something Hillary could never change. She was a woman.
Hillary Clinton won the popular vote despite a gale force headwind. Don’t forget that.
Rural Communities Are Hurting
What has become abundantly clear is the division between urban and rural. I was moved by a piece by Jeff Guo titled ‘A new theory for why Trump voters are so angry — that actually makes sense’ that covers research by Kathy Cramer.
First, people felt that they were not getting their fair share of decision-making power. For example, people would say: All the decisions are made in Madison and Milwaukee and nobody’s listening to us. Nobody’s paying attention, nobody’s coming out here and asking us what we think. Decisions are made in the cities, and we have to abide by them.
Second, people would complain that they weren’t getting their fair share of stuff, that they weren’t getting their fair share of public resources. That often came up in perceptions of taxation. People had this sense that all the money is sucked in by Madison, but never spent on places like theirs.
And third, people felt that they weren’t getting respect. They would say: The real kicker is that people in the city don’t understand us. They don’t understand what rural life is like, what’s important to us and what challenges that we’re facing. They think we’re a bunch of redneck racists.
So it’s all three of these things — the power, the money, the respect. People are feeling like they’re not getting their fair share of any of that.
All of this makes sense and you can draw a pretty easy line between the ‘smug liberal’ and this feeling of being disrespected.
What I think is more important is this idea of identity. It’s dreadfully difficult to persuade someone to change something that they feel is part of who they are, particularly when that person can comfort themselves with a media echo-chamber.
Economic Hardship Is A Red-Herring?
The problem with the broken rural communities narrative is that the data doesn’t quite support it.
This is set against a backdrop that says the average Trump voter has a median income of $72,000, higher than the average and higher than that of Clinton or Sanders supporters.
Even if you think the numbers here are wrong I don’t think they’re wrong to the point where you’ll see the inverse. A lot of what seems to be going on here is a fear of falling behind and that many feel they’re not getting what they deserve or that … others are stealing their milkshake.
Again, I think this can also be tied to identity. They feel that others who aren’t part of their ‘tribe’ are getting ahead at their expense.
“The share of white Americans rating Trump 10 out of 10 rises from just over 25 percent in locales with no ethnic change to almost 70 percent in places with a 30-point increase in Latino population,” Kaufmann writes.
This can’t be swept under the rug. And if you voted for Trump as a vote against the power structure you must understand that you chose to do so over the safety of many fellow Americans.
A vote for Trump did embolden racists and I would hope those who don’t embrace it work hard to combat this ugly scourge. This falls in line with taking responsibility for your actions.
The American Experience
While I do believe that liberals need to get down off their high horse, I also believe that we need to stop fetishizing rural America.
There is no ‘authentic’ American experience. The rural way of life is no better and no worse than the urban way of life. If I respect that you do back-breaking labor to make your living, then those people should respect that I use a different set of skills to make my living.
It goes both ways.
Liberals should do some introspection about how they think and talk about those in rural areas. But those in rural areas also need to do some introspection about how they think about other races and cultures. I’m sorry, but you don’t get a pass on bigotry because of how you make your living.
Get Better or Get Back?
Globalization and automation are not something you can really put back in the bottle. Many people are hoping that Trump will bring jobs back by applying tariffs.
Now, despite the fact that this sort of plays into the ‘nanny state’ narrative, this type of protectionism doesn’t usually end well. People will get antsy real quick when they have to pay more for imported goods.
In truth, the days of walking out of high school onto the floor of a factory and working there 40 years while making a comfortable living for your family is … gone. It’s not coming back unless ‘time machine’ is on Trump’s 100 day plan.
There is no going back and what I fear is that the identity that many of these people have may prevent them from embracing things that will make it better. If an offer of a free college education results in shouts of ‘socialist’ and a sense that they don’t want to become one of those ‘elites’, well … we’ve got a problem.
Table Scraps or Slice of Pie
We need to figure out how to unite together so that we stop fighting each other for a greater share of the scraps on the table and instead fight together for a slice of the actual pie.
I agree with Robert Reich, in how he describes how the Democratic Party needs to course correct here and here. The party needs to be vastly more progressive and distance itself from the power structure of banks and corporations.
Nearly all of us (the 99% — remember that meme) should be united here in making sure that everyone — including corporations — pay their way. Here’s just a bit from a Newsweek piece that should make you angry.
Over 2 trillion dollars of U.S. corporate profits are now parked abroad — all of it escaping the U.S. corporate income tax.
Congress’s last tax amnesty occurred in 2004, when global U.S. corporations brought back about $300 billion from overseas, and paid just a tax rate of 5.25 percent rather than the regular 35 percent U.S. corporate rate.
Corporate executives argued then — as they argue now — that the amnesty would allow them to reinvest those earnings in America.
The argument was baloney then and it’s baloney now. A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that 92 percent of the repatriated cash was used to pay for dividends, share buybacks or executive bonuses.
Shouldn’t we all be behind changes that ensure this kind of thing doesn’t continue? You might argue trickle-down economics works and I’ll simply have to say I disagree. In fact, much of the above shows it doesn’t work.
Corporations and people hoard profit. Particularly when the tax laws make it beneficial to do so. Cue the Gordon Gecko reference here.
Love and Intolerance
The way forward needs to be together. We should empathize with those who are hurting. We shouldn’t paint other groups with such a large brush. We should be more positive and behave accordingly.
But in the same breath we must not let intolerance go unchecked. We must be fierce in identifying and standing up to racism, misogyny and xenophobia. And no, my intolerance of your intolerance does not make me intolerant.
Liberals need to let go of the pain of losing (or sort of losing) and embrace the opportunity to retool the Democratic party so that it is more inclusive and less condescending. Conservatives need to stop protecting corporate interests and look deeply at the bigotry that does exist.
Many Reasons, Many Solutions
I am gutted by the results of this election and there are clearly many reasons Trump won. But the energy I see now gives me hope and there are many solutions to ensuring progress continues.
There is a progressive agenda that should appeal to a majority of Americans as long as it’s one that is inclusive. That means both white and minorities benefit. That means everyone is equal and protected.
America is not the land of fear — of others both internal or external. It’s not about blame. Unity is the key, but it will be harder to do than it is to say. And it’s our job to do the hard work.