Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in November 2016.
As of November 8, 2016, Donald Trump is the president-elect of the United States of America.
There is a significant portion of the population that is stunned by that development.
In the wake of his election victory, many are looking for an explanation of how this could have happened.
The quick answer is that the Democrats conceded the election.
Donald Trump received roughly 900,000 fewer votes in 2016 than the previous Republican candidate Mitt Romney, received in 2012. That does no make him an overwhelming choice, it makes him an adequate choice. However, the big difference was that Hillary Clinton received roughly 5.5 million fewer votes in 2016 than Barack Obama received in 2012. That was the clincher. Again, in round figures, about 90 million registered voters did not cast a vote. Turnout was low, but it was asymmetrically low, favoring Republican candidates.
There are two things to understand:
- Why did the electorate not turn out for Hillary Clinton?
- What is the demographic identity of those who voted for Donald Trump, in spite of his personally offensive campaign.
The answer to part 1., is that the DNC shot itself in the foot, by deliberately slanting the playing field against Bernie Sanders. The DNC went for the establishment candidate over the populist candidate, who offered real change, instead of more of the status quo. They insulted their own base by telling them (the membership of the Democratic party) that the elites in the DNC knew better than them and embraced the corporatist version of their party that Bernie Sanders had separated himself from. This turned out to be a fatal error and one for which all of the executive of the DNC should be rightly ashamed. In short, they blew it.
Part 2 of this analysis is a little more complex, since it is simplistic to assume that those voting for Donald Trump constitute a monolithic demographic. There are three main demographics:
- The first demographic is the misogynist group. This group is intolerant of an ambitious woman seeking the presidency. While I do not believe that this group is the biggest factor, it is a factor nonetheless. Misogyny forms part of the additional barrier any female candidate must deal with, in order to be elected. This group was also mirrored in certain parts of the press and some Trump supporters, who chose to elevate her errors to the level of crimes for which she could not be forgiven. That is unfair. Mistakes are mistakes, they are not crimes.
- The second demographic is the white supremacist, racist, xenophobic group, who again, while not the biggest factor in this election were a definite component of the Trump victory. This group loves walls and was supportive of Donald Trump’s racist birther campaign and anti-immigrant stance. While this group was not the largest demographic, they formed a significant portion of the Donald Trump voters.
- The final and largest group, is a loose affiliation, I can only label the “Unicorn Group”. This group is the most significant in the election campaign and is a product of the Trump myth. I call them the Unicorn Group because they clearly believe in mythology more than facts. They want so much to find a savior, to deliver them from the economic and political corruption they correctly perceived, that they would hand off the presidency to a showman who is manifestly unqualified for the job. More on this below:
The Unicorn Group
Who are these unicorn believers? They are neither bad, mean-spirited or ignorant for the most part. They have however, been deceived (and successfully so), by a master manipulator. To be clear, this group has identified real issues around a corrupt political class that has left them in the dust. However, they picked a candidate who told them what they want to hear, but is unlikely to ever deliver.
Let’s ask a few questions:
Do you believe that someone who has lived a life of unrelenting selfishness, self-interest and self-promotion, has now morphed into a man of the people who will do the right thing in spite of his own self-interest?
Are you likely to get a good result in electing someone to the most demanding job in the country, who has no experience or knowledge whatsoever in public administration, other than in participating in political corruption? Imagine making someone a CEO of a large corporation, who has never worked in a business in his life. Would that seem reasonable?
Would you choose to believe the promises of someone who is a demonstrated serial liar?
Do you believe that bullies are good people, and hence make good leaders?
Do you believe that someone who has pursued a blatantly racist campaign for years is somehow now capable of viewing all people with equanimity?
Do you believe, acceptable competence as a real estate promoter and media star, confers expertise in other areas of endeavor, such as governance, leadership and diplomacy?
Do you believe that building walls, solves problems?
Do you believe in unicorns?
In fairness, I would say that of course, none of the beliefs of the unicorn group are manifestly false, however as a collection, it does seem to stretch the limits of reasonable probability. When you roll the dice, you have to expect the best, so best of luck.
Perhaps the most important aspect of understanding current events is to look at what happens at the end of empires. The American empire is imploding. Trying to “Make American Great Again”, while a laudable sentiment is unlikely to have any sustained impact on the much larger forces that converge at the end of empires. This does not mean an end of the United States, but it does mean an end of the United States as the most powerful nation on the planet. As painful as that might be, it is time to think about what the nation should look like going forward, rather than trying to recapture the diminishing empire of the past. The “Make American Great Again” slogan is symbolic of the desire to hang on to a collapsing empire, which is understandable, even if it is naive.
In spite of it all, optimism may be the best approach going forward. Believe in the best, but don’t be naive. Get involved in the political process, watch your leaders like hawks and hold their feet to the fire to ensure they represent the people they claim to represent, rather than the special interests who would corrupt them.
That simple proscription, however requires some diligence and a belief in your own empowerment. Ultimately, we are all powerful creators of our world and we should not shy away from participating, or defer our power to the elites that wish to control us, for their own benefit. That is not a statement of paranoia, it is a recognition of the value of all of us and that we must recognize our own role in all that unfolds around us. Get involved, be present, believe in the best.
April 28, 2017 Author’s Update: So far Donald Trump’s base, the ones who voted for him in November 2016, seem to still be holding fast to their guy. The remarkable thing is that very little of what he had promised in his campaign has been accomplished and his positions on many issues have drifted considerably. The belief in unicorns runs deep.