Sunday, 20 November 2016

Why Trump won the Presidency

From Pew polling, 16th September 2016
(Warning: you are unlikely to find the reason for Why Trump won the Presidency in this post.)

Have you noticed that there seem to be as many reasons people voted for Trump as minutes in the year? Some of them contradictory. Everyone seems to have their pet theory on why the Donald is now President-Elect. Here are some of those theories, analyses of Trump voters, and some quotes from Trump voters themselves.

From the BBC, 9th November 2016:
...working-class white people, particularly ones without college education - men and women - deserted the party in droves. Rural voters turned out in high numbers, as the Americans who felt overlooked by the establishment and left behind by the coastal elite made their voices heard.
...he was bulletproof.
Mr Trump's pox-on-them-all attitude is likely to have proved his independence and outsider status at a time when much of the American public reviled Washington (although not enough to keep them from re-electing most congressional incumbents running for re-election).
...Mr Trump's sharpest rise in the standings came in the weeks between that first letter and Mr Comey's second, in which he said he had put the investigation back on the shelf.
[He t]rusted his instincts.

From The Independent, 9th November 2016:
The New York tycoon delivered a message of quick-fix solutions that many found appealing.
“We need a businessman,” [a voter] said. “I think a businessman can get things done.”
Toby and Wendy Shaw said they were tired listening to politicians promising to change things. “People are fed up with the lies,” said Mr Shaw. “How many years have we had these politicians? It’s time for someone with a backbone to stand up and do what needs to be done.”
A total of 90 per cent of his supporters listed the economy as being very important to them when it comes to making their choice, according to a recent Pew poll. (!)
Polls have shown that Mr Trump has received strongest support from white male voters without college degrees, and he has targeted communities in states such as Ohio, Iowa, West Virginia and North Carolina. Frequently he has taken his message to former industrial strongholds such as Youngstown, Ohio, that over the past 20 years has witnessed economic devastation and population decline.
“I think he will do the right thing for America,” [a voter] told The Independent. “He is going to knock the hell out of Isis. He says he will build a wall, I believe he will.”
...exit polling from the primaries found that Mr Trump’s voters made about as much as Ted Cruz voters, and significantly more than supporters of either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.
Trump support was correlated with higher, not lower, income...
Lonnie Looney, a former miner said he would be voting for Mr Trump as he believed he was the best chance the community had of returning to its glory days of well-paid work. He said: “Hillary Clinton should be in jail.”

Letter to the Denver Post, 17th November 2016:
As the media dumped more and more on Trump while turning a blind eye towards Hillary Clinton and her many follies, people identified with Trump and it made them even madder and more determined to poke a stick into the ruling class’ eye, and they did.  Power to the people.

Per Bernie Sanders, 17th November 2016:
...the democratic party cannot talk to the people from where I came from.
...people didn’t resonate with Hillary because at a deeper level they could feel that she can’t be trusted.

From NPR, 12th November 2016:

[T]he Electoral College picks presidents.
...more voters chose third-party candidates.
Clinton did not fire up the Obama Coalition.
Whites without college degrees have fled to the GOP.
Democrats' cratering with blue-collar white voters.

Per Michael Moore:
Rust Belt Brexit.
The Last Stand of the Angry White Man.
The Hillary Problem.
The Depressed Sanders Vote.
The Jesse Ventura Effect.
From ITV, 9th November 2016:
Appealing to middle America.
A vote against the establishment.
Trump's ability to survive scandal.
Clinton's emails.

From Quartz, 9th November 2016:
Silent Trump vote.
Celebrity beat organization.
A populist revolt against immigration and trade.
Outsiders against insiders.
America, the divided.

From Wired, 15th November 2016:
Facebook Actually Won Trump the Presidency.

From NY Magazine, 9th November 2016: 
Donald Trump Won Because of Facebook.

From YourStory, 11th November 2016:
Majority of Americans identified with him.
He won the hearts of Clinton’s rejects.
He fed the ravenous bellies of male and white supremacy. 
He symbolised the winds of change.
He had what Clinton didn’t – fervent supporters.
He was the ‘scandal-proof’ monk.
The fault in Clinton’s stars.

Per Julia Galef:
...humans IN GENERAL are bad at reasoning and seeing through bullshit, which caused particularly bad consequences this time via Trump fans, who made a choice that (if the human brain were better at reasoning) they would have realized was net bad for their overall goals, which presumably include avoiding nuclear war.

Per Massimo Pigliucci, 14th November 2016:
...a lot of people in the US seem to be affected by amathia, an ancient Greek word best translated as “un-wisdom.”.

Per Keith Parsons, 16th November 2016:
Donald Trump sailed into the White House on an ocean of lies.

Per Bradley Bowen, 9th November 2016:
I still believe that education has the potential to change our species into rational animals, but I fear that so long as the blind are leading the blind in our colleges and universities,  we will continue to face the threat of racist, sexist, bullies and idiots becoming elected to powerful positions where they can continue to shit on all of us.

Per Steven Novella, 17th November 2016:
The American voters essentially said – you can lie to us. You can sell us whatever fiction you think we want to hear, and we will reward you for it. In fact, we will help you spread those lies. They will become our truth.

Surely some of these (maybe even all!) are correct. The most worrying trend for me is perhaps the last one; the cavalier approach to facts and fact-checking rampant in social media suggests a distrust of science and 'experts' that has been fomented by vested interests in politics, business and the media. People discount careful examinations of our world in favour of superficial soundbites that they like the sound of and fit their personal worldviews. UPDATE: Here the New York Times shows how one conclusion-jumping tweet can become a 'fact'.

Perhaps the most unpalatable conclusion is that Trump voters simply are like Trump: racist, misogynist, shallow, bullying, authoritarian, ignorant, selfish and vain. It seems unlikely, however, that close to 50 million are like that (although perhaps we all have these traits to a greater or lesser degree). Some of them will be for sure, as the Ku Klux Klan endorsement showed. But most will have made a calculation that a racist, misogynist, shallow, bullying, authoritarian, ignorant, selfish and vain man represents the best option amongst some very bad options. Hard to believe for some, including me, but the political climate is desperate, even if the economic reality is not so. It is, perhaps, a sign that growing inequality is coming home to roost.

A bit like Brexit, there has been an unholy confluence of factors causing Trump's victory. It shows how fragile our existence and well-being are; we truly are corks bobbing on a sea of determinism, with little to no say in our destinies. Like Candide, however, I still intend to cultivate my garden.

Read more »