10 November 2016

An Attempt to Rationally Discuss What Just Happened

I will extremely rarely discuss politics on this site. I don't really think it's ever appropriate for a site with Norwegian Morning Wood's core direction and mantra, not to mention that it tends to get people up in arms in ways that I've never been a fan of. Still, I was pretty invested in this election (although I was probably more into 2012 - for reasons I'll get to), and with all this crazy foreboding shit I just didn't really feel like whipping up something about Doctor Strange (2016). Who cares about Doctor Strange when the future of the nation is at stake?! I might get to something in a few days or next week, but that seemed so petty and ephemeral right now. Alright, pop culture is always petty and ephemeral, but that's all we know around here.

The last thing I'll say before we begin is that my goal here, again without the desire to really stir up a crazy pot of political shit, is to have a calm, reasoned, and rational discussion of the 2016 Election. Such words have never been typed or read on the Internet, I know. Judging from the general mood of liberal sadness yesterday, and the typical "shut up, pussy losers!" mood of the world today, my guess is that some of my opinions here won't really be popular on either side, but that's a big part of what I'd like to get into: the simple fact that neither side understands each other.

So let's start off here with some background on myself so you can decide how to judge me right off the bat. I lean decidedly liberal, ISideWith.com always pits me at like 96% Green Party. I'm extremely environmentally and socially progressive, which are my two biggest drives. Pacifist, although I believe in the United States' role in global aid and leadership. I'm pro-gun control, pro-choice, and pro-fiscal regulation. These aren't random beliefs, I just generally try to make everything work the most for the most people. Generally, when any of these issues is out of control or ignored, people get shot, the ice caps melt, and everyone who can't afford it buys a house.

Despite this, I always find myself angry at big government. I do think that we should reign in spending, decrease bureaucracy, and deregulate certain industries that the government has no business being in. I struggle with the Affordable Care Act - it seems like an incredible idea that never seemed to execute properly, and I think that's mostly a transparency issue, like the new regulations hit too fast and it hurt small businesses who suddenly couldn't afford it. At the same time, though, wealthy corporations are completely hypocritical without paying their share in just about anything.

So that's hopefully established me as a pinko liberal pussy, to wit I constantly argue - why is caring about other people's feelings, rights, and freedoms a pussy thing to do? I've never understood how the conservative section of the country became synonymous with the patriotic to the point of jingoism side of things. Because above all - I believe in America. My view of this country is so hardline freedom that it makes room from whatever you want to do. I don't consider it anyone's place to tell anyone else what to do. I have never fired a gun and I see no reason to ever do so. That doesn't mean I'm going to take away your right to own a gun. That also means, however, that other people shouldn't be able to take away LBGT marriage rights, especially since Gay Marriage doesn't really affect any of your neighbors at all, and having fifteen loaded guns next door is certainly nerve-wracking. Jim Jeffires is still the authority here, but besides the point for this argument. The disagreement I have with you and whatever your opinion is on whatever doesn't matter. This is America. We can all believe whatever it is we want to believe about anything.

This is a big reason why I believe in transgender rights and cautious, "politically correct" language, and all sorts of other stuff that conservatives tend to freak out over. I'm all about Colin Kaepernick kneeling for the National Anthem since that freedom of expression is what America is all about. Even someone like Edward Snowden I applaud for speaking up when he saw something shady about our government. Our right to dissent, to mistrust, to call for transparency, an urge for privacy and freedom over security and fear is of tantamount importance and the true meaning of this great country.

And of course, this is all just my opinion and you don't have to read it, you can hate it, you can hate me, and you can go write whatever you want, and block Norwegian Morning Wood forever, but none of that matters because I'll applaud your right to do that. So this is about where the results of the 2016 Election come into play, since it would seem like the victor would put into place an effort to undo that freedom, ironically while running on a platform of making America great again.

Regardless of the flaws in his slogan (chief among them the fact that America was never great for many people, and to be honest, by the tail end of the Obama Era it was pretty great), there is a lot of reason for non-straight white wealthy males to fear the next four years. This is the first of two major points I'd like to make:

1) Neither side of the country understands the other

This comes down to a big reason why there was a lot of feeling of shock in this country this week. This is based on both the polling leading up the Election and the polarization of the country that has caused many like-minded political people to group around each other and ignore or downplay the power of the other side. So let's break these two big concepts down:

Bill Burr has one of the best stances on polling - namely the fact that it probably doesn't actually exist. This is hyperbole for sure, but there's surely an issue with only asking the kind of people who would stop and take time out of their day to answer the phone or fill out a survey. Now, I have done my share of legitimate academic survey work during my time as both a fulfillment of my Master's degree in Communication and time spent as a research coordinator for a market research company. There are polling measures that are a little beefier than just asking random people, but almost assuredly the pollsters could not find the true Trump supporters.

And you can easily stereotype from there - you can't picture the prototypical rural, anti-government, anti-intrusion Trump supporter stooping to answer every poll that comes along. Especially in the rural midwest this seemed dramatically off and at its core an underestimation of both Trump, his rhetoric, and his movement.

Lastly and more importantly, we have become increasingly isolated amongst our own people. I don't think this is a technological thing, but it's more of a radicalization thing. Both sides have become so entrenched in their viewpoints that there is little toleration for discussion of the other, to the point that they are completely blocked out. As I watched talk show hosts and other East (and West) coast people cry over shock at how this is possible, it brings me back to an age old battle between rural and urban, which has been a conflict of ideology and lifestyle ever since urban was a thing.

Urban dwellers don't understand how mistreated the rural side has felt since forever. A lot of original Republican 1850s ideology was crafted in an effort to earn the rural frontier vote and likewise each side has been vying for that blue collar-working-farmer vote for decades, often forming the basis for big party shifts as platforms shift to nab votes. In recent years both the Republicans and Democrats have all but ignored flyover country, and if you don't believe that, well, there was a little election this week that just proved that.

More importantly, though, there is a bunch of stuff that liberals have thought that everyone thinks are important. These should have prevented a Trump Presidency - things like common decency, humility, magnanimous compassion, and political tact. There is a certain way the President is supposed to look, act, and carry himself (clearly, always HIMself), which Trump really doesn't embody. This was a big deal for East Coast liberals, which just isn't a thing for most people who want someone like them to lead, instead of an educated elite.

Of course the other big irony is that Trump is probably the farthest candidate in history from the actual background of low income rural America. That Trump was able to rally this section of the country has got to be one of the great cons of all time, but that likely also has to do with another big thing that cities don't understand about rural areas, which is also the scariest thing about a Trump Presidency: Acceptance of the Other.

Whether it's the Black Other, the Latino Other, the Woman Other, the Muslim Other, the Woman Other (you'd think they'd have those in Michigan), or the Gay Other, the Other is scary to Middle America because they don't really interact with it. They also can't really relate to their oppression as a problem that directly affects them. It's amazing to me that there could be this massive lack of general human empathy, but that's where they're coming from. Trump's appeal to their sense of disenfranchisement outdid his obvious character, leadership, and inclusion flaws. It may seem inexcusable, but it's not to millions of people in this country.

Likewise, the right doesn't understand us poor liberal elites. The major fears associated with Trump in addition to his taint of the honor of the Presidency, to me at least, is the threat of severe government deregulation, from Wall Street to organizations ranging from NASA, NIH, EPA, and ACA. All face the possible chopping block. No President before has had such an outward antipathy towards science, the environment, civil rights, and immigration. These are all things that immediately and dramatically affect non-white, non-straight lives, which is something that a lot of Trump-heavy regions just don't seem to care about, for either legitimate geographic and demographic reasons or because of a very innate sense of otherism, entitlement, and frankly, the outright lie of the American dream. Capitalism tends to appeal the most to those who in reality suffer most from it. Poor whites have also always relished in the mongrolization of blacks, since that's about the only leg up they have when the rest of their lives are shit. Trump gave all of this a voice, but to go back again to the truest version of America - where everyone is entitled to opportunity and freedom. This threat, even to expression and criticism, is a terrifying affront to what America is all about.

Say that Trump dismantles the EPA and Dodd-Frank. These alone combine to form a solid death sentence for the planet. Beyond these political maneuverings, the general feeling of the country is that hatespeech, discrimination, and intolerance is not only accepted, but it'll get you elected President. After riding a sincere wave of inclusive progressive reforms, this reactionary transition of power is devastating.

Yet, compassion seems to be a lost pussy art. Again, while a lot of this is deep-seeded, yet misplaced blame for the problems of low income, low education whites, this is also a mantra of the Republican Party. Now, although Republicans seem to fear Democrats as much as it goes the other way around, and the vitriol and entrenchment on either side is probably equal, the hateful refusal to compromise on any issue ever, while filling the world with angry speech seems like the conservative way. And maybe that's just because I'm polarized to be on the other side. I'd be curious if anyone out there has ever been verbally assaulted by a liberal or if there's any basis for that gut reaction of hatred. Both sides have an inability to understand the fear of the other side, but I also feel like the conservatives need to concede and show compassion if both sides are to ever work together. Maybe that just my own twisted perspective, but I know that I am willing to reach across the aisle on many things, except for the environment, which will actually destroy the planet, and social justice, which is simply American. So, in all this, what the fuck happened with Hillary?

2) Hillary was never actually electable.

I'd rather not tread over well-resolved territory like the email thing or the Clinton Foundation thing, which have all been either repudiated or overhyped, none of which stand to any of Trump's scandals. Both were given pretty equal weight and reporting, so that's not really it. Simply put, Hillary didn't run a very likable, sticky campaign.

By sticky, I mean something that sticks in your head. Something memorable, meme-able, and a pop culture phenomenon. Trump has been THE news story for over a year now. The more the media covered his antics as if to degrade them, the more the resolve of his supporters grew, both in genuine support of his behavior and as a reaction to that public revulsion which has been all too common for them. And again, I would consider this to be more perception than anything, or at least an unfulfillment of perceived entitlement. Nevertheless, that's what at least 59 million people in the country feel.

Hillary never put together something as good as "Make America Great Again." As false as it is, that's a good slogan that appealed to a lot of people. "I'm with her" feels inherently selfish, focusing on the plight of one, while Trump tended to focus on America. Trump did this consitently throughout his entire campaign - he had a natural ability to create these fantastic memorable sentences while it always seemed like a struggle for Hillary.

And I'd hope that even Trump supporters would agree that based on credentials alone, Hillary came out on top. Maybe. I mean, this was the ultimate election between someone with no experience versus someone with the most experience of any candidate in history (except for probably like...Martin Van Buren). And not belabour this point, but that's another one of the very things that galvanized Trump supporters. See, this was never a fair fight because what one half of the country thought mattered was working in the opposite way for the other half. Trump voters voted for someone who wasn't entrenched in the system (although there's a decent argument that his lifetime of luxury shouldn't make him relatable at all, but whatever), and all of Clinton's preparation and experience came off as power hungry and privileged.

This is of course a fallacy, but perception and reality are always different. For instance, Trump's whole campaign and career shift is a huge meaningless grab for power. There's no genuine desire to help people in Trump - if there was he wouldn't have ran so many crooked charities and raped so many underage girls over the years. The priorities of Trump voters were on a different level than that of Clinton.

Hillary did little to mitigate these hurdles. This is possibly because she, like us, probably didn't think she'd have to. Wasn't it enough that Trump nuked his own campaign through an unprecedented series of gaffes, scandals, and a complete lack of integrity and decency? The response I typically hear from conservatives to this accusation is that Clinton was worse, which 1) isn't really true and 2) dodges rather than confronts Trump's own shortcomings.

While Clinton probably would have made an excellent President, she could never jump the hurdle of her own likability. The one thing that politicians can get by with more than anything else is charisma, and she just didn't really exhibit any. To some extent, this is just her being a woman seeking power, which has been frowned upon for all of history (actually, really just in the US. For some reason plenty of other countries have no problem with female leadership). The blatant and unrepentant misogyny on display in this campaign and revealed in this country (both in men and women - more women voted for Trump than voted for Romney) is one of the more cataclysmic revelations from the 2016 Election. So I'll try to say this hopefully as feminist as possible - Hill-dawg didn't really have charisma. Ghostbusters (2016) wasn't a good movie. Elizabeth Warren has charisma. Bridesmaids (2011) is a fantastic movie. Don't hate me.

The last thing I'll note here is that for all of our blind love of this country we ought to remember all the pain this was founded on. Literally since Columbus first landed here it's been built on lies, including the one that Columbus was the first one here, which simultaneously discounts early Norse settlers, and supposes that even though they were actually living here, the American Indian doesn't count as people. Our proudest founding fathers were all slave-owners, and that intrinsic inequality has been this country's primary issue for the past two centuries, which is completely insane, because it has no actual basis in reality. This country has a tendency to judge each other, limit each other, hate each other, and for some reason, get completely hot and bothered by what everyone else is doing all the time.

Yet those crazy, rebellious, slave-owning motherfuckers who created us and systematically killed the original owners of this land gave us one great thing - a Constitution that gave me the right to write this and you the right to hate this. It gave you the right to vote (eventually, unless you're a landowning white male, then you'd have a great time voting for James Monroe!) for whoever you wanted, and with a bit of luck, and probably quite a bit of money, an opportunity to do whatever you want. This nation's not perfect, but that's only because of the racism. Everything else is pretty solid, and we ought to be grateful that people are getting their voice heard, even if it's anti-government, anti-immigrant, anti-woman, and anti-LBGT (shit don't even get me started on Mike Pence). It's a tough call to say our voice is the right one or "their" voice is the right one, or whose voice has been heard more, although like I said, I form my beliefs based on a desire for as many people to be happy and have opportunity as possible, because without that, America's pretty rough.

I'd be curious to hear conservative opinions that again, aren't hateful or slanderous, and some liberal opinions that aren't completely idealist and impractical. I'm probably not right in all of this because I don't have all the answers, but this is about where I'm at and the best way I can explain the national tragedy that happened for many on November 8th.

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