YOU are not a majority

If there is one thing I have been able to take out of last year’s horrible, messy, painful election that has so divided our country, it’s this: YOU ARE NOT A MAJORITY.

Yes, you.

Whoever you are, Bernie Bro, Trumpkin, Cuckservative, Neo-Liberal, Establishment, Revolutionary or Counter-revolutionary, YOU are not a majority.

Hillary supporters, myself included, went into election night confident that we would come out with a majority of voters in enough states to win. We were wrong. Trump supporters were elated to win and thought that surely that meant a majority of voters agreed that their guy should be president. They were wrong.

Bernie Sanders supporters thought that the energy and fervor they displayed in their rallies and through small donations meant that surely a majority of the country agreed with them. They were wrong. Bush/Rubio/Cruz/Carson supporters believed that surely there was a majority of their party who would prefer one of them to Donald Trump. They were wrong.

I believed that a majority of the country thought basically as I do about our needs as a nation, about our collective shared values, and differed mostly on how to proceed about addressing them. I was wrong.

Trump does not have a majority, and I’m not talking about the popular vote tally. He received 62,985,106 votes, but that doesn’t represent an army coalesced and marching in lockstep behind him, that’s a big, messy, chaotic coalition. Some voted because they believe in his values, some because that’s the team they need to support, some because they are pro-life, some because friends and neighbors were going that way and some because they were so fed up with anything that could remotely be described as “establishment” that they would do anything to get away from it. Some simply abhorred his opponent more than they disliked him. All these people happened to vote that way on election day, but on another day, with a different news cycle for the preceding 48 hours, it might well have been different.

On another day it would have been a slightly different number that would have elected second President Clinton, but there too, there would not have been unambiguous support. Even in the final tally of 65,853,625 voters, there was a huge variety of motivations. Some voted because they were excited by a historic woman presidency. Some agreed with part or most of her exhaustively researched and detailed policy positions. Some simply abhorred her opponent more than they disliked her.

Any election is won or lost on the size and motivation of the coalition a candidate can assemble. Trump had 62,985,106 individuals that managed to cobble together into a whole. We cannot possibly go and ask each of those 62,985,106 people a question, interview them and try to understand their choice, so we try to break it down into categories.

That’s why the media keeps obsessing about working class whites or latinos with a college degree or religious conservatives or social liberals or whatever. These labels are only useful to the extent they let us understand the seething mass of humanity that makes up an electoral coalition, and they DO give us some insights from time to time. Still, the temptation to put everything into a tidy narrative is strong enough that we often assume that it is the ONLY narrative. We assume that the motivation we assign to some people in a group must apply to all of them, or that it was the ONLY motivation.

Were some Trump voters motivated by racial resentment? Yes. For some was it economic anxiety? Yes. These two ideas are NOT mutually exclusive! Even if you could identify the primary motivation for a subset of voters, that alone would not tell you very much about the motivations of the majority, simply because there wasn’t a single motivating impulse pushing everyone.

Any coalition will inevitably be a mish-mash of these loosely defined categories, but we lack any other vocabulary that would give us a more precise notion of what the teeming masses of the nation are up to.

I have a tendancy to believe that there are millions of people out there who agree with me. That the silent majority secretly yearns for the same things I do. That even those who disagree with me are most likely just mislead by dishonest people or simple mistaken judgements.

This is not true. The majority of people don’t have my background, do not share my point of view, and would vehemently disagree with many things I have to say. That’s not because people are stupid, or because I am.

It’s because I am not a majority.

And neither are you.