Relative – and Personal

There are times when I’m not exactly excited to be proved correct. A little over a week ago, I suggested that it was very much possible that Donald Trump would win the Presidency. He did just that, for very much the reasons I suggested. He energized and lifted the non-college educated white male vote and increased the turnout of those men significantly. He got votes from rural areas and small towns – except many college towns – in a far higher percentage than any pollster on either side expected.

He was incredibly effective in speaking to his constituency, and, frankly, the vulgarity and crudeness was part of that effectiveness, because it made him seem real to his voters and not a politician removed from their concerns and their pain. He was one of “the boys,” which also carried the unstated implication that no woman could really understand the problems facing unemployed or underemployed men.

What Trump also understood was something that no Democratic candidate since Bill Clinton has apparently understood, or, at least, been able to convey, is that politics is relative… and personal. People judge where they are in life relative to other people and relative to where they used to be, and their judgment period is fairly short. They don’t care if they’re much better off than their parents or their grandparents if they personally are worse off than last year or the year before. And if they’re minorities, especially African Americans, they’re not all that happy being better off than they were last year if they’re still worse off than non-minorities, especially if they’ve been worse off as a group for centuries… and when they don’t see long-standing injustices and discrimination being effectively addressed.

Add to that the gridlock in Washington, which Trump could and did attack as an outsider, while Clinton was in fact greatly handicapped by her knowledge and experience, simply because if she said in detail why Trump was wrong she was defending a system that all too many Americans dislike and distrust. And if she used detailed policies, which she did, that caricatured her as a bureaucrat for many and reinforced the image of someone who was just another untrustworthy politician.

Nor could Clinton connect that effectively with many women, even despite Trump’s clearly expressed misogyny.

Clinton’s policies may indeed have been better for minorities and possibly even for most Trump supporters, but she couldn’t connect with those voters personally. She couldn’t make them feel that she understood their pain and problems.

Trump could… and did, because, in the end, politics is relative… and personal. And that is why he is President-elect.

16 thoughts on “Relative – and Personal”

  1. Frank says:

    You did “call it,” and I think with a good analysis of the reasons that it would/did happen. There were others who either called it, or predicted it as a much feared outcome.

    It also seems that Clinton will end up with more popular votes, as she is ahead by a few hundred thousand at last look. Do you think this is a concern? I believe Gore won the popular vote but lost the electoral vote, which puts this facet of the system in an interesting historical perspective. If you look at the amount of electoral college votes vs. the popular votes in each State, it indicates the game is not “one man/one vote,” but more complex. Just wonder what you thought?

    1. The electoral college is a compromise necessary given the geographic and cultural diversity of the United States. As a compromise, sometimes the results of the system are problematic at best.

      1. R. Hamilton says:

        At least it provides some added protection against either side (or perhaps even the insider arms of both sides, which despite vast divides in appeal, are rather similar in behavior) obtaining a permanent lock-in.

        1. R. Evans says:

          Little factoid I discovered yesterday:

          Of the four times a President has won the electoral vote and lost the popular vote, all four have been Republicans.

          1. R. Hamilton says:

            That’s because the D’s are concentrated in high population areas and states, while the R’s are everywhere else. 🙂

          2. As a generality, you’re right, but not exclusively. Vermont isn’t exactly high population or densely populated, nor are Maine or New Hampshire, Connecticut, or New Mexico, and I wouldn’t call Florida, Texas,and Michigan low population.

  2. Lydia says:

    When I mentioned to my European friends summer before last with much certainty that this would happen they were unable to believe me. I explained to them about middle America and how it much more vast than we in Europe understand because most of the media coverage and interactions we have in Europe with the US is all about the big cities on the edges of middle America. Living in middle America myself I was aware how much he resonates with the people here. Being right however does not help one jot with being comfortable understanding where the world is heading. A question I have for you is how you deal with understanding the inevitable results of the patterns that you discern without losing sanity?

    1. I’ve often self-described myself as an octagonal peg in a world of square and round holes. I can, to some degree, fit in either. It’s really not a comfortable fit over time, but it does allow me to understand, at least intellectually, why people believe what they do and why they act as they do. I’ve tried, of course, to point out both sides, but almost inevitably, most people do slide into one side or the other. I’ve been criticized, on more than one occasion, for “simplifying” complex issues into “sides,” even when I’m not simplifying but pointing out that taking sides is how the vast majority of human beings act. But no person takes a “side” without believing they’re right. And when people are fearful, hurting, and angry, more often than not, they resort to alternatives that are dangerous and painful to others, and often, in the long run, to themselves. That’s why it’s dangerous to ignore such pain and anger, especially of large groups. Now… I can tell myself all this, but at times, I still wonder at what I perceive as human shortsightedness, and it’s often hard to accept that people will act in a way contrary to their best interests if they feel hurt and neglected and unheard. In short, I try to rant in a restrained fashion.

      1. Lydia says:

        I like your analogy. I will admit I’d chosen a side in this case, being a female immigrant, with daughters to boot.

        The problem I see with sides and ranting is that most of the time people equate the side with the person. Therefore any disagreement is not on a topic – with the option of being respectful of the other person – but becomes a disagreement between people. Then add to that an overwhelming amount of emotion and the results are quite toxic. I’ve already started to see this today on social media and in the workplace.

        I am trying (and right now failing!) not to rant – it will make me and mine less secure. Being right in predicting these things is not productive unless it aids in preparing for what the future brings. And that future seems somewhat bleaker right now.

        1. Elena says:

          Aside from a few blogs like this one, I’ve about stopped reading the comments for that very reason. On just about any issue, I can’t find a comment that’s actually about the issue and not name-calling and other attacks.

          I actually found myself writing about the issue today if only so I could then try and focus on something else.

  3. Tom says:

    You were also correct that the USA was open to revolution; I did not imagine it to be via the ballot box. So we shall see whether this US Revolution follows the path of the American Revolution or the French Revolution. Based on the white male group for Trump, I would assume they will go the way of the French. However the Congress and White House is all Republican and we may see the 1990’s relived.

  4. Devildog says:

    This election was first and foremost it was an expression of rejection. It was the rejection of the economic policies that have lead to catastrophic loss of jobs in the last 30 years. It is a rejection of government subsidies of corporate labor. It was a rejection of the constant criticism by racial, gender, sexual orientation minority of the “privileged” majority. But most of it was a rejection of the professional, crony capital supporting political class. Trump won because he was not one of them. He may turn out to be a horrible President. But the thought of another 4 years under the leadership of a President who has no respect for the constitution is absolutely unbearable. Just for the record: I am a white male, highly educated, extremely well read veteran. I was a free trade enthusiast. But the unemployment and the hopelessness that I see on the street and in the food pantry that I volunteer at has to change. I could not bring myself to support the path that we are currently on.

  5. Alecia Flores says:

    I am a woman, I am proudly Mexican by marriage, I have a mixed race son-in-law, and two half Black grandsons. What this election told me is that I (and my family) am not considered to be welcomed in Trump’s America. I am seriously concerned about the increase in bullying of my grandsons – it had already begun prior to the election – and the increase in hate speech. That we now have a man who will be on trial for fraud prior to accepting the presidency is appalling to me, but I guess it did not bother his voters. I admit, I do not understand how a platform based on bigotry, racism and misogyny was so successful. I thought my country was better than that, and I was wrong.

  6. JM says:

    I generally assume the worst of people and organizations. People call me a pessimist due to this. Personally I’d rather predict the worst and be pleasantly surprised than hope for the best and then have that hope crushed.

    FYI an elementary school in my area had to be shut down yesterday due to excessive bullying of a Latino child during the lunch break. I heard this from a co-worker whose son attends the school.

    My biggest issue with this incident is that the children are too young to express their own opinions in such a manner. They picked up this horrible behavior from the adults around them. Which says a lot, in a bad way, about the people of this country.

  7. Sara says:

    One of the interesting things about this election is that so many people appear to have voted against their apparent interests. I’m particularly thinking of people who use things like Medicare/Medicaid, which the Republicans have long promised to reduce/restructure. What do you think will happen when his promised changes hit his constituents where they live? There was such a huge disconnect from truth or practicalities in his campaign and among his voters.

  8. Matthew Hargraves says:

    Here’s the real reason he won:
    Republican – Democrat
    2004 62m – 59m
    2008 59m – 69.5m
    2012 61m – 66m
    2016 59m – 59m

    Republican vote counts don’t change much, but the Democrats just couldn’t be bothered this year.

    Maybe the Democrats will remember to vote in two and four years.

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