Get All Your Blame in One Place!
Perhaps the impulse to find blame is coping with trauma; perhaps is a sense of solidarity for those who can’t find fellows to protest with; ideally it’s a lesson we can apply in the future, something to learn from. The smoke is clearing and it seems we are beginning to move toward constructive planning and a course of action in how to deal with the President-elect. So, just to recap what’s been discussed in the last days, I put together a list of all the paper scapegoats that have walked out on stage for a moment of projecting collective despair.
The first blame I heard was Black voters weren’t turning out. This was based on the fact that counties were Obama overwhelming won, Clinton lost. I’m not convinced. Urban areas tend to have higher African American populations and they overwhelming voted for Clinton. Also, there are anomalous Black voters who even voted for Trump. The rationale was something like Bill Clinton’s Presidential Three Strikes You’re Out disproportionately incarcerated Black men, broke up families, and the lackluster support for Hillary gave us Trump. More recently, I would expect the first debate when the question of the national police crisis was put forward, Hillary barely touched on the fact of institutional racism THAT EVEN THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT HAS ALREADY UNCOVERED in police departments…not to mention the myriad of studies facts and you know, the video every week that shows police officers shooting Black men. But both she and Trump very quickly transitioned to talking about the need for mental healthcare. Uh, wait. Didn’t that sound strangely similar to blaming a rape victim for her outfit? I digress. But yeah, usually society blames the Black guy first, so in keeping with historical precedence, Clinton fans started blaming Black Americans for Trump. Again, I’m not convinced.
The next target I heard was “the rest of the country,” i.e. that Clinton supporters lived in a liberal bubble–you know, a bubble of 40 million Californians, 8 million New Yorkers, 5 million Seattlites, 3 milllion Portlanders, 6 million Chicagoans, 1 milllion Austinians…a 62 million person bubble, plus most other large cities…But as we can see from the protests around the country, many people did not vote Trump in many parts of the country. And as the votes keep coming in we see that a growing majority voted for Hillary. So again, I’m not convinced.
Another scapegoat was the 50% voter turnout. Okay, who was that? Obviously people who felt their voted didn’t matter or they didn’t like either candidate, equally. Maybe they didn’t have any cause that echoed with them, any policy the candidate proposed. Well, let’s say everyone had turned out–the lukewarm people–there’s no telling how minuscule a difference they would have made either direction, that’s why they were lukewarm; maybe they would have split 50/50 or maybe they would have slightly favored one candidate; it could have been better for Trump. As a counterfactual, this explanation doesn’t make use of time or thought, but it does go toward another scapegoat about how in touch each party is with the American people. I’ll get to that.
Another target were the polls. Data journalism failed to accurately project the winner, which caused people to not understand the closeness of the race. Again, from the previous point: if people had been compelled by a cause or a candidate, they would have voted regardless of the level of competition. Another version of this is that people secretly supported Trump but didn’t express their opinion either to polls or in public due to one or many phantoms: what’s politically correct to support and/or believe; what’s least confrontational, i.e. the person who just wants their milk and doesn’t want to debate politics in a grocery store line. What I don’t understand about this variation of voter data is that the appeal of Trump–who is a loud mouth, non-PC, repeating record–doesn’t explain why his supporters would refrain from acting similarly? Is the suggestion that these individuals lionize Trump for overcoming the PC burden that they feel so oppressed by in society? Maybe some. But what’s more interesting about this argument is that data journalism is a field of study that provides statistical projects. These are pseudo scientific claims, but still aim for concrete, hard data. Ironically, Trump supporters have not been persuaded by either data or science. Clinton supporters, like her campaign, were motivated and assured by data. It appeals to them. The obstacle becomes two fold. Firstly, how can an emerging field of study like data science, infiltrate communities that aren’t swayed by data toward the more accurate prediction? Secondly, how can those assured of data be more suspicious and conspiratorial to avoid future trauma? It’s a discipline in crisis. And in a world moving toward Big Data (at least in the urban areas) how will this evolve?
I’ve heard the Bernie card. The problem with supposing Bernie would have won is that the projections that showed him as a sure winner were created by the same data journalism discipline that inaccurately expected Clinton’s win. Why should we believe them in retrospect? I guess some people still feel the Bern?
I heard the Democratic Party is to blame for having a flawed candidate or not aligning with its supporting voting members. This is a variation on the Bernie card but with a slight Trumpian twist: the system is rigged. “The Democrats are political elitists out of touch with Americans and for that reason they failed.” I’m not sure about that. Garnering support is one thing; turning out to vote is another, votes being counted is another. One scion to this argument is to refer to the point of closeness of the race. If people were supporting but thought it was a tight race, they’d turn out to vote, so they must have not supported, therefore the Democratic Party failed to garner support. Well, the Republican Party not only failed to garner support, many of their officials didn’t even vote for Trump. “But the Republicans won,” you say, “even in maintaining the House.” Still, almost 50% of Americans didn’t vote. The reason is likely multifaceted. I’m not sure people know what they want, and/or whether a better candidate would change a personality trait in which an individual lives in a country, operates every day with the assumption of being free to do certain things but then can’t connect the importance of choosing another individual who will create laws that will impact their daily life. This is rather abstract, but I’m basically talking about democratic states. What’s nearer to this question than the idea of a single party failing (when really both failed) is that urbanites are subjected more strongly and directly to laws governing you and the person two inches from you on the sidewalk while ruralites benefit more strongly from rights because the sphere of influence of the right extends until it encounters another individual’s rights and due to less dense populations this can be a larger sphere. In my model, which party is for the suburbanite? It seems the Republicans at the moment.
Another explanation is voters simply voted for change. Clinton was an extension of Obama and they voted against the continued program. The reason that this argument fails is that 11 Presidents have served two terms, so why didn’t people vote to change them? The ad hoc argument here would be that people re-elect an incumbent because they are familiar and have recognition advantage. Well, 13 served only one term, so that argument fails. You get the picture. Sometimes people vote for change, sometimes they vote for the familiar, sometimes one term sometimes three (FDR).
Then there’s the electoral college. Basically, each state has at least three electoral representatives despite populations that don’t reflect that in the House of Representatives. Secondly, most states have a winner-takes-all system, so 51% of the voters determine how the other 49% of voters are forced to vote. This is the most clearcut scapegoat because it undermines a core belief that American have for America: that it’s democratic. That is, each citizen gets one vote and that vote is echoed in the government. Ironically, this was Trump’s campaign from the beginning: that the system was rigged. So as Clinton and the Democratic party faced lost they adapted Trump’s campaign but with a clearer objective: to unrig the (electoral college) system.
The last scapegoat, and one I’m proposing is simply this: people made the wrong decision. I’m not saying if you voted for Trump you’re stupid. You’re not. I’m not saying if you voted for a Republican you’re a racist. What I’m saying is if you voted against something, you used your vote incorrectly. A vote is not a weapon, it’s an endorsement. When you vote you are saying, “This is what I support,” not “This is what I’m against.” Trump took advantage of this misinterpretation of democracy. His campaign was contrarian. That was his whole point. He was against EVERYTHING. And if you were against anything, you defaulted for him. This argument is similar to people voting for change, but I’m adding a twist. Here it is simply: don’t be a hater. That’s it. Don’t shit on someone’s parade when you’re voting.
Inherent in my argument is a critique of democracy, but I’m not proposing a dictatorship, I’m not proposing another form of government, I’m proposing a better form of democracy. This is the point. Rather than saying, “I want anything other than X,” how can democracy be position so that the only way to vote is like “I want Y.” The former statement is vague. Anything other than one thing you’re against. You really have no idea what you’re going to get other than not X. The latter statement is specific. You want one thing and if you don’t get other things, that’s okay. The one thing you want is the one thing you’re aiming for.
For me, the most frustrating aspect of blame is how Trump has, throughout his campaign, evaded it. He just does not accept wrongdoing. This is a personality disorder. The short satisfaction we pursue in punishment and potentially punishing Trump now seems basically impossible. I’m talking about legal punishment for his not paying taxes, I’m talking about his legal punishment for sexual harassment, I’m talking about his ethical punishment inciting hatred, violence and undoing civil society in the name of “economics.” Americans, relish punishment. We call it ‘justice’ most of the time.
Please share your ideas about whom to blame for this disaster