I was shocked that Trump won. Not surprised, but in physical shock. Of the post-trauma sort you see on TV shows.
I’ve always understood how people could vote or think differently than myself, so it’s not helpful to feign ignorance and surprise at an event like this. It’s not surprising or unbelievable.
But the shock quickly turned to anger. I think I handled the anger okay considering just how visceral it was and that it lasted for two whole days, with mild nausea cropping up sporadically.
First, I’m Angry at the Left
I self identify as liberal. I don’t really self identify as the left, although I am certainly left of center on average.
However, I think most people underestimate just how “conservative” I lean on some issues. I’m fine with a less complicated government when it comes to taxes and regulation of many things, such as professional licensing and prescription drugs. I’m okay with a fairly high degree of utilitarian violence and war, with the dropping of the nuclear bombs in Japan being the ultimate example of what I would consider to be legitimate death and use of extreme force. I’m also okay with more stringent security measures based on statistical profiling in many cases. And of course, I share much of the same fear that middle America has about job destruction from automation and understand that immigration really does cost Americans laborers, particularly low-skilled ones.
In the book linked directly above on immigration, We Wanted Workers written by the leading American expert on the subject, George Borjas states that immigration laws are really a question about who you are rooting for, domestic native laborers or often extremely poor and disadvantaged immigrants who live in poverty and come looking for a better life? He, and I tend to agree, thinks that the domestic worker should be privileged when it comes to federal and national legislation. Citizens deserve to be treated as first in order of importance. I do wish for a world with open borders and unrestricted mobility in the long-run, but citizens deserve to come to that conclusion themselves and hurting Americans understandably root for themselves first. I think the question of who you are rooting for extends to and explains much of this election and modern US politics beyond just immigration.
So being liberal, rather than left-wing, means to me that I hold liberty as a cherished value, perhaps the highest and typically the default if I am unsure how to decide. When in doubt and there is not much evidence one way or another, siding with maintaining liberty over other choices gives the best chance of benefitting total welfare. In general, people are better at making their own choices for themselves than a central planner and according them the respect and dignity to do so is a defining feature of liberalism and what has made the world an extremely better place over the past 250 years.
I believe the default to liberalism when empiricism doesn’t clearly dictate otherwise should hold true for both economics and social justice.
This is where the left tends to lose me with their default to equality over liberty and a utopian belief that socialism of some as yet untried variety will get us there. The empiricism of history says otherwise.
The Nazi regime of national socialism was a human catastrophe. Stalinist communism was even worse. Maoist communism possibly exceeded even that. Then other state leaders got the message that people’s idealism of an equal society could be fairly easily manipulated by offering a plan and then slowly (or quickly) seizing complete power as they gathered more and more power to themselves - all in the name of necessary encroachments on liberty in order to realize the socialist equality the people wanted. Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and others all walked down that path of equality over liberty. Equality is a great ideal. But the cost of implementation has been repeatedly shown to be higher than it’s worth.
That leftist ideology slowly morphed into postmodernism as academic elites began to realize that their utopian socialist state and dreams wouldn’t happen. This resulted in extreme skepticism of reason, objective truth, evidence, facts, and logic, which were fundamental to liberal enlightenment and what the left viewed as needing to be undermined. They’ve done a great job of that. A recent Pew survey found that 81% of Clinton and Trump supporters could not agree on “basic facts”. That is a resounding win for postmodernism and the left, but I don’t think any of them will take solace in that “fact”. As before with socialism, it hasn’t quite worked out how they hoped.
I think it’s time the left give up their designs for both a socialist utopia that requires central planning with concurrent loss of liberties and a world without common and shared agreement of what constitutes reality, facts, and evidence. It has proved empirically costly and highly destructive.
Second, I’m Angry at the Democrats
Robert Reich is correct. We need a new Democratic Party.
I’m not that old, but the Democrats as I understood them in the past were the party of the working people. They supported blue-collar workers, unions, greater equality, social justice for the marginalized, and the underprivileged.
This election cycle, whether factual or not, no one believed that to be the case. “A majority of voters say they are very or somewhat concerned Clinton (62%) would have relationships with organizations, businesses or foreign governments that would conflict with their abilities to serve the nation’s best interests.” I imagine that comes primarily from Clinton’s ties to both Wall Street as a privately paid speaker and Saudi Arabia’s donations to her foundation, among other things. Regardless of the exact reasons, a huge percentage of the American population feels, rightly so in many cases, that their economic situation in rural, white non-college educated areas is worse today than it was yesterday, is likely to be worse for the next generation, and that the direction of the country is seriously off track.
Furthermore, “A majority of Clinton supporters (58%) say they have a hard time respecting a person who supports Donald Trump for president while 40% say they have no trouble doing this.” That seems to imply that the reality the above statistics paint is totally discounted by huge percentages of the Democratic party. Of course, it is hard to determine if what the supporters on the Trump side say is true or not, but it is very difficult to say Clinton supporters voluntarily claim to have no respect for the other side, unless they actually did feel that way. A Democratic Party that has managed to engender that sort of elitist attitude toward the “other” is one that goes against the very qualities I listed above that are aimed specifically at helping the “other”, not looking down on them.
Then there are the issues of actual policy and topics of concern among huge numbers of “middle America” where wages have stagnated for decades and jobs have been lost to foreign producers, free trade, immigration, and automation. Again, it doesn’t seem to matter much exactly how much those factors are causal in the stagnation of middle America. The feeling is there and they have voiced it to deaf ears when it comes to the Democrats. As a result, far more Trump supporters are angry and frustrated that the reality they see isn’t addressed.
This anger was not addressed at all by the Democratic party. In fact, large majorities of people in the United States believe Clinton would be about the same or worse than Obama, which is not at all inspiring to people who are angry and frustrated at their current and future prospects.
After looking at people’s actual views of their current situation, their anger and frustration with it, and their belief that Clinton would be more of the same it is not difficult to understand the following, otherwise absurd fact: “Far more voters describe her as well-qualified than say that about Trump (62% vs. 32%), and the gap is nearly as wide in perceptions of whether each is “reckless.” Roughly seven-in-ten (69%) describe Trump as reckless”.
This is essentially an admission that uncertainty with a small chance of success is better than high certainty of little to no improvement. “We” would rather take a huge gamble on winning the lottery with a large chance of implosion over sitting around and taking more of the same. I actually can’t think of something more American that. We are a country of pioneers and entrepreneurs with low risk-aversion. Bet it all and hope for the best.
Another Pew survey below shows just how seriously Trump supporters take immigration, terrorism, and job opportunities. These are concerns that should be legitimate in any liberal nation and not ignored. However, in the smug condescension described above, most of the voiced concerns were unheard, not discussed, or dismissed as not central issues. Democrats cannot expect to win an election without compromising on the issues that the entire middle America feel very seriously about.
Addressing those issues would not only gain Democrats single-issue voters by giving those groups what they want, but also provide leeway in not compromising on other less negotiable ones, to which I’ll turn to next.
Third, I’m Angry at “The Basket of Deplorables”
Many have taken the stance that we are all on the same team and it is now time to unify because we are all Americans. President Obama stated this recently in a short speech the day after the election ended. This is again where I depart from many on the left. I disagree here.
The left seems to want to wish into existence a world where everyone really does think of themselves as American first and just do what they think is best for it as citizens who disagree. That is clearly not reality and denying that not all voters see themselves as Americans first makes it difficult to identify them and have the needed conversations.
Americanism is essentially an experiment in liberalism. A place where all cherish “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” and there exists a separation of church and state to keep our liberties from being infringed upon.
However, “Exit polls show white evangelical voters voted in high numbers for Donald Trump, 81-16 percent, according to exit poll results.” This matters because evangelicals make up 26% of the vote and have for the past three elections. These are not people that see themselves as Americans first. They see themselves as Christians first, with a duty to actively influence other people’s rights and choices based on their faith. We are not on the same liberal American team.
I would also include the groups of people in the graph above on the seriousness of an array of problems in the US that don’t believe sexism or racism to be serious issues, which is by no means exclusive to Trump supporters, but whom did display a disproportionately higher disposition towards racism, sexism, and xenophobia than Clinton supporters.
It is shocking to live in a country where we say that we are all on the same team, the team of liberty and a right to pursue what makes us happy, and to have groups actively seeking to strip rights (i.e. liberties) from women, LGBTQ, Muslims based solely on their religion, and minorities of all colors.
These people are not on our team and we should not support them. Anyone that has sexist, racist, ableist, xenophobic, or bigoted attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors needs to be challenged and decried as un-American. For God’s sake, we have a Statue of Liberty as a national symbol of pride that reads,
Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
Those tired, poor, and huddled masses are real people. Not abstract ones. They need everyone’s help and protection and it is insulting to state or believe that we all agree on that. We cannot be a country that says to them, “you deserve fewer rights than me. You deserve a lesser human experience.”