A lot of people are upset with how things are going right now politically. Most people were angry throughout the entirety of the election. In fact, most people were angry before the election. But the dissatisfaction of the American people is at an all time high. But people on the left keep questioning how Trump, a man that was unrepentantly offensive, unintelligent, and selfish in their minds that there was no way he could win, is now president. There are answers to this. They reach back several decades and they involve both sides and others degrading the foundations of our democracy, insulating the fourth estate from unbiased thought, and the ignorance of history.
The Presidential Debate Commission
Before the Presidential Debate Commission control the Presidential debates, it was controlled by the League of Women Voters. The Leauge voted in complete agreement to pull their sponsorship of the debates in 1988. This is said to be due to demands made by the Democrat and Republican parties that in the League’s opinion would degrade the quality of the debates. In fact, the president of the League at that time stated that to meet their demands would be to “perpetrate a fraud on the American votes” and would be “hoodwinking the American public.” What demands were these? Well, after the League pulled out the CPD was formed. One of the biggest changes? Now the third parties needed 15% in specific polls to be allowed to debate. Since third parties don’t have major primaries to choose their candidate, the candidate does not have as much recognition as the two major party candidates. Before the best way for a third party candidate to get recognition were the debates. So by making this change, the CPD basically cut the American public off from their third options. Other changes include allowing candidates to see the questions beforehand. I don’t have too much of an issue with this, because I think it is pretty nice to be prepared. I can also understand that letting the candidates be surprised can be insightful.
What I have noticed, however, is that the debates have had a lower quality each election year. By lower quality, I mean, that candidates have displayed a lessening amount of decorum over the years. On both sides. They constantly undermine their opponent with eye rolling, head shaking, and other non-verbal methods. What’s next? Making the jack-off motion? Then there are the verbal methods: talking over each other, ad hominems, straw men, appeals to the crowd, and on and on. I’ve seen more decorum from high school debates. Hell, I’ve seen more decorum from elementary school debates. How is it that children who are still learning social rules can give a better quality debate than adults who claim to be professionals? I’d rather watch Rory Gilmore and Paris Geller eviscerate their opponents using sound logic and data to back it up, and THEY AREN’T EVEN REAL! This has been going on for decades. A lot of major party affiliated people have defended it to me by stating that the other side is doing it and their candidate would have no chance of winning if they also didn’t stoop low. Two wrongs don’t make a right and have some freaking integrity. Is it really any wonder that Trump flourished when the press, the CPD, and the major parties created an atmosphere that promoted fallacies, claims without backup, and disrespect? The press loves debates that are disrespectful because that’s interesting. The CPD wanted them to be a little crazy so ratings would go up for their sponsors. The major parties didn’t see how rapidly they were letting them get out of hand and weren’t willing to step up for their responsibility in making it worse, thereby deciding not to stoop low. They made a home for Trump. They made it clear to the American people that being the most disrespectful is what made you the better candidate because that’s how you won the debates, because apparently disrespect and strength are the same thing. I was sickened by the atmosphere all the way back to W in the debates, so when Trump came along all I could think is “He’s going to win.”
The Exclusion of Independents in Primaries
There were a lot of protests during the primaries from Independents and unaffiliated citizens who were mad that the primaries weren’t including them. I was upset by this as well. Not just because I personally wasn’t being heard, but because it is an extreme mark of stupidity from the major parties. It says: “Even though your vote counts in the major election, we aren’t interested in who you’d vote for. We know your vote could swing the election either way, but we don’t care who you’d rather have from us.” God forbid the major parties look after their own interests by seeing who the large chunk of Independent and unaffiliated voters would rather have. God forbid they act as if they care about those citizens. Making it insular like it currently is, is illogical. It means the parties are not putting forth their candidate with the best chance to win. Instead, they put forth the candidate that their party, and their party only, wants. Well, members of your party are not the only people voting. It is also a sure way to turn Independents and unaffiliated voters away in the main vote. The thought is “Well, you didn’t care about my opinion then, what makes you think I’ll believe you when you say you care about my vote now or what I want for the future later?” Way to go, you shot yourself in the foot. I believe the election would have had completely different candidates had others been allowed to vote in the primaries. I think we would have been looking at Bernie Sanders, D; Ted Cruz, R; Gary Johnson, L; and Jill Stein, G. I would have been happy with either of the major party candidates in that scenario. Instead, about half of the voting public didn’t vote at all in the 2016 election, which suggests extreme apathy over the two main candidates. The thought probably was “What’s the point? Neither of them represents what I want.” Apathy was probably one of the predominate feelings of this election, and I believe it came from the choices themselves. As everyone always says, third parties never win, so no point in voting for them, but if Clinton and Trump were both antithetical to your needs, no point in voting for them either. I feel the voter turn out would have been dramatically different had the primaries been more open to citizens. Because to those who had been excluded, the battle had already been lost.
The Media’s Private Circle
Everyone was so surprised. “I was surprised. Were you surprised? I was so surprised.” How could he have possibly won, they asked themselves. When the press kept telling them that Clinton was a shoe-in, how could he have won? The press lied, to themselves and to the American people. They wanted to believe that there was no way he could win. No way. He was a joke. They depicted him as a joke. A bad one. How could a joke win the highest political office? He can’t, right? No way. Well, wishes aren’t horses. Just because you believe it, just because you tell yourself it, just because everyone you know says it, doesn’t make it true. And that’s the biggest issue. Most of the media is owned by a handful of companies. One of them is right leaning, the rest lean to the left. Those that lean left are mostly made up of reporters who unabashedly say they are Democrats, and most of the people in major parties don’t spend any time with anyone from the other side or even in the middle. So in their personal lives, these journalists are surrounded by other Democrats. And their Democrat friends, coworkers, and family were all going to vote for Clinton. But it isn’t just a personal or professional bubble they are living in. It’s also regional. With the advancement of digital communication, most of the country knows the same twenty journalists, five news stations, five papers, and five magazines. They may not get all of the information, and they certainly don’t get it all from the original source material. Typically it comes from the websites of these stations, papers, and magazines. And their stories are run down the line to the local level. Recently I saw a joke on some show where they showed a compilation of news broadcasts around the whole country all using the exact same phrase on the same story. And they weren’t the same station only local. It was cross-station. It was funny at first, then horrifying to see just how far we’ve fallen that every single station not only runs the same national stories, with the same bias, but with the same phrases. I thought the video was about to end and then it went on longer and that’s when I just started screaming out loud. All of America is getting the news from New York and LA, whether or not we agree with how they view the state of things, whether or not their view is even applicable to the region, state, county, city, or community we live in. National events are covered by the same people with the same thoughts and they don’t search too far for their data. Well, what about polls from around the country that showed how she was leading? See below. The media thrived on wish fulfillment while reporting on the election. They wanted the first female president. They thought it was only logical that people would vote for her over him. They didn’t want to think that their personal opinions were wrong. They didn’t want to think that logic might lead to a different result overall. They didn’t want to believe they were a minority. They didn’t want to admit that the anger behind Trump supporters couldn’t just be brushed off. They didn’t want to admit that they had a hand in electing Trump by giving him the most airtime because they were using him for ratings and the time to laugh at him. “Shucks, what’s he gonna do next?” Win.
Identity-Politics and Rejection
It seems like politics has gotten more vitriolic recently. Some may argue that this is just perception bias, but I don’t think this is true. I think over the past few decades that adversarial tactics have been used more and more in politics. It has come down to shaming the other side. Finger-wagging seems to be the first response in any disagreement. While most of the worst of this shaming comes from the average jerk on the internet, our politicians are where we got it from. It’s why I can’t stand to see political news. The representatives of our country are constantly shaking their heads at the other side or the American people. Psychologically this is the poorest tactic for getting someone on your side. It only makes people feel unheard and rejected. Because trying evoke shame in a person means you are judging them and not listening to them. Now some people may say that we don’t have to listen to certain people because of what they are saying. That’s crazy. You know why? Because someone else will come along and listen to them and feed into the frustration they have felt from not being heard and being put down and take advantage of them. Does that sound like anyone you’ve heard of?
The hardest part is when there is a large group of people in the middle who are told by both sides that they should be ashamed. These aren’t the extremists. These are people who just don’t fall into easy black and white categories. And each side rejects them by assuming they are of the other side. What’s most ridiculous about this is the fact that political ideology is not even just a one dimensional sliding scale. It actually has a y axis too. I suggest everyone find out where they are on that graph and retake the test every four years. I myself am literally a centrist on that graph, smack dab in the middle, so being called a libtard or a fascist is incredibly shocking. Based on one issue, a person will decide what you are, died in the wool, and no amount of stating your opinions on the myriad of other issues will ever change how they feel. Things are far more complex than that. There are always more than two choices. The world is not simple, no matter how much we wish it were. So please, stop using an us versus them mentality to “discuss” politics, because let’s face it, it’s not a discussion if name calling and shaming tactics are used. Those are ad hominems and don’t help anyone. This is also why a large amount of people didn’t even want to say who they voted for or previously, who they were planning to vote for, because everyone was so angry and mean for the answer given. Repeatedly telling the people in the middle that they are the other side or that they are stupid for not choosing your side are both horrible tactics for getting them to vote for your side or to even get an honest answer out of them in polling and conversation. Losing the middle, who always sway the vote because they eventually pick one of two sides if they are willing to give up their dreams of a middle candidate, is the surest way to lose the election. While most of this came at its most extreme from everyday people, a milder version came from major party players in the Democrat party; thereby, ensuring a major loss. This just didn’t work. Obviously.
Tired of the Same Old People: Republican or Democrat
People have been upset with the two choices they’ve been given for decades. In my speech class during my undergrad, I gave a speech about Independent voters and how the numbers were actually much higher than the two parties would have you know because a little less than half of voting Americans don’t vote for a candidate or party but against the other side. That’s a lot of dissatisfied people, and that was about a decade ago. My guess is the numbers only went up past the half-way mark. The conclusion of my speech was that people should vote for third party candidates that more represented them and that the statement that this is a wasted vote is circular logic. It perpetuates itself. If everyone in the next election had never heard that statement before and just voted for who they wanted, then no Republican or Democrat would stand a chance because people are sick of them. Hillary Clinton was just more of the same. Not as in she’s just Bill 2.0, but that she’s just like any other candidate they’d seen before, only now this one comes in double XX flavor as if that might spice her up a bit. It didn’t. She was just as selfish and into the special interests as any other major party candidate has been for the last few decades. So a big chunk of America decided to skip the middle man and go straight for the special interest himself. He was like nothing before seen in that he was obviously lying, in it for himself and his buddies, and arrogant, instead of being all those things and hiding it well. (Jaded, you say? I raise you with Frustrated.)
The Republican party didn’t really want Trump as their candidate. Some of them did, but a lot of them turned to third party candidates as the election went on. Not that it helped them turn the tide to a more believable Republican candidate, and a large amount of the party stood behind their candidate, no matter how crazy and unintelligent he seemed because the people seemed to like him. He wasn’t like any of the more legitimate candidates they put forth. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is just like all the other candidates before except for one thing. This one thing was not enough to distinguish her from the previous candidates and suggests that those people who were disillusioned with all the previous candidates didn’t put much emphasis on that one difference because, to be honest, her sex has very little to do with her political leanings and practices which like many previous candidates have been in flux over the course of her career. For example in leanings, voting for the Iraqi invasion or not supporting homosexual rights. For example in practice, using a private email server without a cleared and established IT security team. Whether or not that is illegal or deliberate obfuscation, it is at the very least poor IT safety and shows a lack of forethought and a high level of incompetence. Some people find those attributes more dangerous than deliberate treason. Most people are tired of incompetence and unethical actions in our politicians, especially when they get away with it. Right-leaning press were given ample ammunition against her in a cultural climate that had had enough. Did they blow it out of proportion? Probably. But this was a barn full of hay and all the press did was fan the flames.
Hillary Clinton and the DNC vs Bernie Sanders
A large amount of Democrat and third party citizens wanted Bernie Sanders as their candidate. He was well spoken, he didn’t pull any punches when it came to what the people needed and who was standing in their way, and he has been pretty steadfast in his political leanings since the days of Martin Luther King, Jr. It says a lot of a person who sticks to his guns for that many decades. I’ve never questioned whose side Sanders is on, and by sides, I mean special interests versus the people. Sanders, while I don’t agree with all the ways he wants to do things, has always wanted to help the people. Sanders should have been the Democrat candidate. He had a much larger support group in the people than Hillary Clinton, including a large group of Independents and non-affiliated voters. For some reason that I just can’t really fathom, the Democrat party wanted Hillary Clinton over him. They and she did everything they could to put him down and promote her. Some of it was underhanded and unethical. That alone put off a large amount of voters because it made them feel unheard and that the whole thing was dirty. The press was also part of this and often didn’t report on Sanders. She really messed up and put a lot of people off when she was going on about how she had fought for health care for all and didn’t know where Sanders was during all that, when he had been right freaking behind her at many of the rallies and that could be seen on video as she gave her health care speeches. Talk about a gaff. It was a low-handed jab that couldn’t even land. It looked like bullying. The whole primary the media and the Democrat party pushed him down and pushed her to the forefront, trying to sell her. America didn’t buy it. The delegates did, but the citizens wanted him.
The History of Post Two-Term Presidency
Hillary Clinton had been told from early adulthood that she was probably going to be the first female president. That might have been true, but it also seems to have gone to her head, because it is the only thing I can think of to explain the absolutely poor timing of her bid. Not only were the citizens tired of the same old people, but there is a history associated with post two-term presidencies like Obama’s. After two terms of one party holding the presidency, the citizens almost always choose the other party candidate. The likelihood of a Democrat president after Obama’s second term were close to nil. No matter who was running, and since Hillary Clinton was just like previous Democrat candidates, she brought nothing to the ring to differentiate herself which is why early polling only showed her beating Trump and no other Republican. Bernie Sanders did have a lot to differentiate himself which is why that same early polling showed him beating all the Republicans. I’m not sure why she felt that this was her only chance. I’m sure that had she waited for a riper environment she could have won. But after this election and how she and the party handled it, I’m not sure she will ever be considered a viable candidate again.
The Danger of Arrogance and Moral Superiority in Progressives
I’ve heard a lot of people put off by the vehemence of Progressives. The you’re-with-us-or-against-us mentality and the downright outrage the most vocal of them show off is a lot like the emotions at a Trump rally. Or from Hitler’s supporters, I imagine. What makes it worse though, more dangerous in my opinion, is the idea that history is on their side. It’s like they think they have a crystal ball or Cassandra in their corner. They are so sure they are right, because how could minority rights or entitlement rights be wrong? Bring up more complex sides of these topics or ideologies that are at odds with how these are implemented, like less federal control, and be ready to be shouted down into oblivion or at the very least spoken to with contempt and disdain for your intelligence and personal leanings that can only come from a sense of moral superiority and the arrogance of knowing the future. Everything is always more complex that two choices. Always. I have never heard of a situation that is truly black and white, unless I’m literally looking at a Yin Yang, and even that is more complex because of those two inner circles. So the attitude of “But I have concerns over x” is a completely reasonable one to have when it comes to politics. In fact, you should always have concerns because politics, federal and state legislation and policy, economic reaction to such, and social result is a highly complex system and can never be seen in crystal clarity. So no, you can’t know the future. Is wanting everyone to have access to affordable, good healthcare right? Yes, absolutely. But it is not so easy to just make it happen. Forcing everyone to have insurance is probably not the best way to go about it. Insurance at all is not the best way to go about it. But socialized medicine has its own problems. A young woman in Canada was going to have to wait several years to get a hip replacement, but gained the system by being a volunteer at the hospital, but she still had to wait more than a year. Socialized medicine can be extremely slow and doesn’t allow for much medical research. But insurance also doesn’t allow for much medical research and often means people go without proper medical care. Neither is perfect. And like with most things, I suggest a more central approach. And this is just one of many dozens of issues that politics tries to address. So this or that is not going to solve any of them, and as such this adversarial attitude won’t work. It and belligerence don’t get people to vote for a candidate either. Do I think all Progressives are like this? No, obviously not. And of course some Traditionalists are also like this. I don’t believe any group is homogeneous. But aggressive Progressiveness is dangerous because it believes that history will say it was right, which means a barrelling forward without looking to unintended consequences or the pain it will cause others. Certainty is by far one of the most dangerous feelings. It promotes arrogance and stubbornness and an inability to see what went wrong. And I think the more vitriolically verbal members of Progressiveness put a lot of people off. Those same people knew that the similar Traditionalists were trying to roll back the clock, and that just seems like trying to push back a waterfall. There was arrogance visible in other ways, such as a lack of emphasis on the importance of internet campaigning or campaigning in Michigan (that’s a sure bet, right? No need to focus on that state too much). These kinds of things built on each other until a lot of the voting public was sick of it.
Pride Goeth, Right?
The day they announced the winner was an odd one for me. I opened Facebook, big mistake, after already knowing who had won, and someone in my feed posted this: “Fuck Gary Johnson!” Most of the posts from my leftist friends were like this, and of course, my right-sided friends were all happy. Me and and other centrists and libertarians felt like we came close, with Johnson at 3%, when we were all hoping for 5%. I can’t help but think that some people didn’t learn anything, because thinking that third parties were the biggest factor in the Democrat loss ignores so many other factors. Did the Russians have a had in it? Probably in the same way the US had a hand in swaying elections in other countries during the Cold War (or as it seems the DNC did in the RNC primaries), only we’re way more outraged by their influence even though they probably won’t be able to influence us into military coups like the US did to those countries that the Socialist parties were more successful. Isn’t history fun? But getting back to the point, I don’t believe that the Russians could have swayed the vote without all the other factors involved. I was actually pleased when Trump won, not because I wanted a Trump presidency or looked forward to the changes he would (try to) implement.
But because I hoped this election would be wake up call. The old way of doing things doesn’t work. You can’t promote negativity and sensationalism and expect the person best at those things to lose. You can’t piss on everyone else’s opinions as being outright wrong and get enough people on your side to win. You can’t ignore the internet, because the TV isn’t enough anymore. You can’t brush off incompetence. You can’t ignore what the people obviously want just because you think you know better than them or you just want it your way. The US is not a giant Burger King, the voting public are not the employees, and the political parties are not the customers. The parties are here to serve the public. They should allow as many people as possible, even those not in their party, to vote in primaries. That is the only way to guarantee the best possible candidates that appeal to the most people. Then the main election can be close like it was in 2016, only it will be between two people that the public actually wants.
I feel like this election has severely damaged both parties, the Democrat party more so. I’m pleased by that, because when I think “Drain the swamp”, I think of new parties, not just new politicians. I do not believe that either party represents a large portion of the population. Even if they were to stick around, I would at least appreciate if a third option were more viable. About 42% of eligible voters didn’t turn out. If democracy is about representing the people, then we are failing. I certainly feel as though my government as failed me. Not because my party lost, but because I don’t feel like my government cares about my or like-minded people’s opinions. Our votes don’t count, because under the current system, we aren’t even represented. Should we dump some tea into the harbor? Would that get your attention? While I don’t feel represented, I still vote, but I don’t vote for one of the two. I can always hope for that 5% for a libertarian or another third party closer to representing who I am. But the Democrat and Republican parties have prevailed in beating the hope out of so many people, so they don’t vote or they don’t vote for who they really want. With this election though, it feels like it might be changing. The two parties seem desperate to prevent a sea change, much like the oil companies, but once change starts taking over society, much like the growing consensus that gas has got to go, it’s downright impossible to stop. It’s not as if political parties in the US haven’t died before. I say let ’em fall. The walls that divide us have become bloated and unstable. The anger and violence are the signs of the instability. We can only do what we think is right. We can only stand firm in the wake the desperation and calmly say “No. We want something different. We deserve better.”