Saturday, November 12, 2016

Election

It's been a bad week. I didn't honestly think that Trump would win. I looked at the projections and thought, well, of course Hillary Clinton will be our next president. Listen to all the awful things that Trump has said, look at who worldwide is praising and who is condemning him. How could anyone ever vote for Trump?

And then 60 million of my fellow citizens did.

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I'd Love to Change the World - Jetta (Matstubs Remix)

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This isn't going to be a coherent post. I need to write it because I've been thinking about the election in all of my free and unfree time since Tuesday, trying to wrap my head around this dumpster fire of an outcome. There are a lot of pieces to put together, a lot of different perspectives to compare and try to reconcile, and I need to get my own thoughts down so that I can have a chance of focusing on all the stuff I have to do this weekend.

This will mostly be a compilation of things that I've read and my reactions thereto*. You've probably seen all this already.
*this sentence sounds less awkward if you approach it with German structures in mind

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First: Hillary won the popular vote by about 400,000 votes. This really stings. I've seen various articles floating around calling for the abolition of the electoral college, and as someone who never thought it made sense anyway I'm likely to be sympathetic to the arguments therein. I remember my eighth grade history teacher saying "all or nothing, state by state," and those words were playing on repeat in my mind as I watched Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin fall to Trump by the barest of margins on Tuesday night.

As a Californian, I felt a huge exhale go through my entire being when our 55 electoral votes were added to Hillary's count, marking one of the few points when she was ahead as the night went on. The West Coast is where it's at, I say, with the caveat that I will address this mindset more in depth later on.

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New York Times has demographic breakdowns based on the exit polls. The race one, second from the top, is particularly interesting. For me as an Asian kid it's distressing that 11% more Asians voted Republican than in 2012. Just...wow. Way to throw other POC under the bus there. I may know a Trump supporter, one of my parents' friends, and I don't know if I'll ever be able to look at her the same way.

(This article claims the exit polls were incorrect, but doesn't quite explain why their method is more accurate. Including it here as food for thought, and for general analysis on AAPI voting patterns.)

The overwhelming white support for Trump is unsurprising. It is also scary.

Whites without a college degree voted 2/3 for Trump. For all that the narrative has been "Trump won over the white working class," though, the support by income level is fairly even, with Hillary holding narrow margins over Trump for income levels below $50k/year.

The rural/urban divide is interesting and to be explored more below.

By religion: I want to see Muslim as a separate category, although I doubt the results would be surprising. The overwhelmingly Democratic Jewish vote does not surprise me (although it's interesting that it's even higher than it was in 2012). Same goes for the overwhelmingly Republican evangelical vote.

Who the hell are the 14% of LGBT people who voted for a platform with conversion therapy?

Military leaning Republican not a surprise. I don't know if the lack of marker re: change from 2012 means that there's no data or there's no change.

The direction of country graph is the first one that makes me feel sad rather than angry, because of those who thought the direction of the country was generally correct, 90% voted Democratic. Because these are the same people (myself included) who now feel, with the results of the election, that the country's trajectory has been reversed and very much not right anymore.

The graphs farther down about family financial situation (better or worse today?) and condition of the economy and expectations for the next generation of Americans show the same trend: those with a more optimistic view voted blue. This sentence sounded pretentious as hell; let me address it later.

Most important issue: for those who voted Democratic, foreign policy and the economy. For those who voted Republican, immigration and terrorism. I'm aware that I sound like a flaming liberal by saying this but wow, look at that fear of the Other.

The responses to the question of what should happen to illegal immigrants is frightening. If you click the "scale by population" button at the bottom, it shows that more people said "offer chance to become legal" than "deport," but still...25% of those surveyed said that illegal immigrants should be deported. The margins on support/opposition of a goddamn border wall are even narrower. (As a civil engineer: we can't even get it together to build infrastructure we *need*, much less infrastructure we very much do not need.)

The "most important candidate quality" question is also interesting. "Cares about people like me" has more responses from Democrats than from Republicans but it's a 58/35 split. Trust for the candidates is low.

60% of people had decided how to vote before September. Those who decided later tended to skew Trump. What happened in the last-mile campaign stretch? I have a lot more thoughts about the failure of the DNC to campaign effectively but that chart speaks volumes.

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The mood has been tense. In some cases, including my own, fearful. I'm going to start the process of renewing my passport, not because I'm planning to flee the country but because...well, it needs to happen and I want a safety line.

I don't cry a lot, but I did on Wednesday after I'd called both of my parents. They're fine--but I realized that the factors that make me feel secure about them are that 1) my dad has citizenship and my mom is a permanent residence, all accepted by the system 2) they're educated and employed 3) we live in California. For a lot of people, these factors are not true. I am not worried about my own physical safety or about the safety of my family members, but lots of people like me are terrified for the futures of their immigrant parents.

Various people have been posting "what to do" guides on my facebook feed. Here are a few:

One of the items on both of the practical guides listed above is how to get a passport, so here you go.

I'm not personally going into crisis mode, which is a function of my class/geographic privileges. But I'm also not ignoring these, because I know I default too easily to thinking "things will turn out okay."


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Above I alluded to talking about the rural vs. urban, liberal coasts vs. middle America, tradition vs. future divide. I was raised in the Bay Area, go to school in Silicon Valley, have been in a liberal echo chamber my entire life.

Someone I know posted this article from Cracked.com, whose URL would suggest it's titled "6 Reasons for Trump's Rise that No One Talks About" but whose actual title is How Half of America Lost its F***ing Mind (language in the article is no cleaner). Some quotes that made a particular impression:

"If you don't live in one of these small towns, you can't understand the hopelessness. The vast majority of possible careers involve moving to the city, and around every city is now a hundred-foot wall called "Cost of Living.""

"The rural folk with the Trump signs in their yards say their way of life is dying, and you smirk and say what they really mean is that blacks and gays are finally getting equal rights and they hate it. But I'm telling you, they say their way of life is dying because their way of life is dying."

"Already some of you have gotten angry, feeling this gut-level revulsion at any attempt to excuse or even understand these people. After all, they're hardly people, right? Aren't they just a mass of ignorant, rageful, crude, cursing, spitting subhumans?

Gee, I hope not. I have to hug a bunch of them at Thanksgiving."

The author's name is David Wong, and when I googled I found that that's a pseudonym and the guy is actually white. Which is not grounds for writing off his article but does provide some context for this quote:

"the racism of my youth was always one step removed. I never saw a family member, friend, or classmate be mean to the actual black people we had in town. We worked with them, played video games with them, waved to them when they passed."

Just notice: we vs. them. The "actual black people we had in town." Hm.

I can read an article like the one above and try for empathy, and I do believe, or at the very least want to believe, that not everyone who voted for Trump is a raging bigot. I have never felt the kind of economic hopelessness described, but I think I can imagine how crushing that would be. But a helluva lot of POC also live in poverty, in rural areas, and every single non-white ethnic group voted blue.

I need to do some soul-searching about what atrocities I co-signed by voting for Hillary, but anyone who voted for Trump also needs to think about what they are implicitly condoning by saying that a man who wants to deport millions, vowed to ban Muslims from entering the country, and has sexually assaulted several women should lead our nation.

This article provides another perspective: I'm A Coastal Elite from the Midwest: The Real Bubble is Rural America. It suits my existing worldview better, so naturally it resonated more with me. But I also think that it's less tone-deaf on race than the Cracked.com one. Some choice quotes:

"We, as a culture, have to stop infantilizing and deifying rural and white working-class Americans. Their experience is not more of a real American experience than anyone else’s, but when we say that it is, we give people a pass from seeing and understanding more of their country. More Americans need to see more of the United States. They need to shake hands with a Muslim, or talk soccer with a middle aged lesbian, or attend a lecture by a female business executive.

We must start asking all Americans to be their better selves. We must all understand that America is a melting pot and that none of us has a more authentic American experience."

This brings up issues of the feasibility of travel, of course. I believe that the time I've spent internationally in the years since coming to college have been crucial in expanding my worldview and have made me a better person--but I also realize that there are a lot of financial barriers to travel, and that the Grand Tour tradition is one strongly rooted in class inequality. So I agree with the author's point but it's not as easy as he makes it sound.

"Change has not been kind to the Midwest and rural America.

And rather than embrace it, rural and white working-class Americans are twisting and turning, fighting it every step of the way. We will never return to the days where a white man could barely graduate high school and walk onto a factory floor at 18 and get a well-paying job for life. That hasn’t set in for much of the Midwest.

This doesn’t mean that coastal Americans can’t empathize more with their fellow Americans and try to find solutions to these problems (nor does it mean that there aren’t many struggling working-class people in coastal states). And it certainly doesn’t mean coastal Americans haven’t contributed to this divisiveness."

When Hillary first called Trump supporters a "basket of deplorables" I thought it was amusing and probably true. But now I think that it was irresponsible and probably cost her a lot of votes.

And was it true? Now that the election results are known, I'm trying to find a way around that. Because I don't want to believe that half of the voters in America are irredeemable. What I want to believe is that people who are hurting economically were persuaded, all too easily, to fall back on baser impulses (e.g. white supremacy and xenophobia), that they are driven by fear rather than hatred. And I want to believe that the DNC will realize that they screwed up and offer a better vision, a better message, for these people. A way to make America great without the "again," without the appeal to a less diverse, whiter past.

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I watched the clip below, in which Van Jones talks about "whitelash," on CNN as the election results aired on Tuesday, and have been thinking about it off and on ever since.



My heart hurts for everyone whose sense and reality of safety have been compromised. Hate crimes spiked in the UK after Brexit and have stayed high, and the same thing looks like it's happening in the USA now. I've said that I am not afraid for my own physical safety, but I am afraid for the physical safety of some of my friends. Not necessarily here, but I have friends going home to Texas, to Florida, to rural parts of states that are nominally blue, over Thanksgiving. Are they going to be okay?

My heart also hurts for the Obamas. America elects its first black president for two terms, a man who pushes for universal healthcare, under whom we recover from one of the worst recessions in our history--and then he's followed by a bigoted celebrity with no political or military experience, whose running mate is a conservative Christian whose evil is just barely better hidden, who wants to appoint a climate denier to run the EPA, who is going to undo decades of legislative progress. I'm not going to link to Trump's plan for his first 100 days but it is a goddamn nightmare.

The subtitle of this article from Dem* Spiegel, Europe Reacts to Trump, is "The World is Crumbling in Front of Our Eyes." Who is celebrating? Putin, unsurprisingly; Orban; Le Pen.
*The magazine is called Der Spiegel but if I was writing the above sentence in German the from is "von" which takes the dative case, hence "dem"

I would like to offer a more optimistic point of view but I really can't see the silver lining. Republicans have both houses of Congress, and will be able to put at least one justice on the Supreme Court. I don't think Trump will be able to deliver on all his campaign promises but there is a lot of damage he can do.

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A few notes on other topics:

Third party voters/people who didn't vote: I'm not going to blame these people for the outcome as much as literal actual Trump supporters, but I do consider it a bad strategic move, unless someone is truly indifferent to who is president i.e. the Trump policies that have me and most of the people I know terrified do not threaten their sense of safety.

I've been seeing more and more about how the Voting Rights Act was not enforced in this election, and I still need to read up on that. But voting access and voter turnout are huge issues that disproportionately affect lower-income and minority groups.

Political action and organization outside of voting is important, and I should think about that more. I just found this article on action items for young Bay Area people. I'm a young Bay Area person. Going to look at this more closely later.

Some other Medium articles that have passed across my facebook feed: an International Student's Open Letter to Americans and My Reaction to My Grieving Liberal Friends both offer alternate perspectives. I don't agree with them fully--yes, Hillary's actions as Secretary of State contributed to violence and conflict around the globe, but is Trump really going to be any better? +There are substantive policy differences between Trump and Clinton--the choice of Supreme Court nominee alone will affect law for decades to come.

The question of why liberals don't just move en masse to swing states is worth thinking about some more. In the interest of my physical safety I'm not going to move anywhere that is both more white and less liberal than my hometown, but a big city in a swing state could be an option. Looking up the swing state margins is making me upset but I could consider Pennsylvania, I could consider Michigan.

I'm renewing my passport but I don't think that leaving the country is the most honorable route for me to take. Yeah, when I was in Germany I kind of wanted to stay forever, but isn't it better to stay and do what good I can here?

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EDIT: This is Der Spiegel's latest cover.
The End of the World (as we know it)

EDIT 2: This article is good. What to Do About Trump

1 comment:

  1. I have a lot of thoughts, but I'll just write one for now. On election day, my Integrated Problems (discussion-based clinical course) had dinner at our group leader's (old pediatrician) house. Both he and his wife are ardent Hillary supporters and have helped on her campaign, advised for her, etc. As much as they wanted a victory, they pointed out something that made me think quite a lot: if it had been anyone but Donald, Hillary would not have come this far, and if it had been anyone but Hillary, Donald would not have come this far. I don't know if I agree or not, but it does put this election in quite a poor light.

    The day after, I went to a lunch talk with a panel of OB/Gyn doctors. They lamented the effect of Donald's plan to eviscerate the ACA, what that would mean for access and price and availability of contraception and reproductive health services. They were terrified for what that would mean for young people and the poor, what public health impact that would have, etc...

    ...and while the general mood was to fight back and commit themselves to protecting these rights in the future, the resounding attitude was something like: well, this is Massachusetts. And thank God (Mitt Romney) for MassHealth.

    One concrete idea they gave us was that any MD can train to be an abortion provider. Apparently, one of the former leader for our school's chapter of Med Students for Choice is now an orthopedic surgeon and abortion provider.

    We met some older MA liberals (2 white, 1 black) on our camping trip, and though n = 3, I got frustrated talking to them about politics. One seemed genuinely offended that I was voting absentee in CA, and they spoke so condescendingly about the poor, conservative, rural whites of New Hampshire and Maine.

    I don't really know what to make of these observations, but it seems like people in MA are so condescending when it comes to politics. I agree with them, but it's terribly paternalistic sometimes. Either way I look at it, we're in a bad place now

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