Monday, November 14, 2016

One Liberal's Analysis of Why the Democrats Will Lose in 2018 and 2020

It's been five days since the election that utterly shocked most of our society. Wile I was hoping Trump would win the election, I was dismayed to see the Democrats lose the House. I've found my stance on this confuses a lot of people. I am not a Trump supporter (though, as I discussed in my last thread, I'm thoroughly impressed with his trolling ability.) However, a Trump win was necessary because our federal government was moving uncomfortably far to the left as evident by the complete disconnect from working class Americans. The manipulated defeat of Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary perfectly illustrated the DNC cared only about pushing their golden child political elitist, and smugly assumed the party's historical base would enthusiastically support her.

They didn't.

By ignoring the will of the people, the party not only lost the election (and the Supreme Court seat and potential future seats), but lost the House, too. The result? We now have a president with no political experience, a shaky knowledge of most pertinent issues, and a questionable temperament. AND his party has control of both chambers of Congress, many of which owe him their seats.

That's not cool.

I'm a liberal-leaning independent who prefers my government to be neutered by political balance. I voted for Johnson for strategic reasons related to the future, which I discussed in my last post. Most of my own political views are supported and advanced when the Democrats control the presidency and have the numbers to push policy through Congress. HOWEVER, I fully realize that situation heavily favors a relatively small segment of our population (city-dwelling college-educated white liberals and the dirt-poor) and is not supported by the religious right, rural America, or the working class. The farther policy veers to the left, the more those other groups are alienated.

Obama's last term worried me a bit. I saw more and more liberals in the news, online and among my real-life friends, pushing more and more extreme liberal ideals. While this delighted me on a personal level, it troubled me.

Our political climate in the U.S., at least in my lifetime and presumably throughout history, cycles between periods of conservatism and liberalism. The farther we venture in one direction, the more pronounced the swing in the other direction. That's not a bad thing. We're a representative republic, and this cycling assures we remain stable. Sure, it sucks when your team is losing, but we just need to ride out the storm and power is returned to our team.

Well, the problem is we ventured really far to the left. The farther we went, the worse the rebound would be. When this election cycle started, Trump was a complete joke. However, it was readily apparent both he and Bernie Sanders were tapping into some extreme repressed anger that had been ignored by both the Democratic and Republican leadership. As the primaries wore on, it became apparent this was going to be a... different... election. The people who had long been ignored were making some noise. Serious noise.

My Voting Rationale


As an independent, I don't feel a particular allegiance to any given party. I tend to vote for my own self-interest, then the interest of the entirety of the masses (and not just for those who support my own world view.) Given campaign rhetoric ventures into hyperbole, I usually read between the lines to determine just how any given candidate will personally affect me. It didn't take long to conclude none of the candidates would affect my personal life in a significant way, so I considered which candidate would provide the most societal stability with the least damage. I concluded either Bernie with a GOP-controlled Senate or Trump with a Democratic-controlled House would be the best bet, mostly because both spoke to the disenfranchised segments of our population the political elite had ignored for decades.

Bernie's socialism ideas were stupid, but his charisma could unite people. And I liked most of his platform that didn't involve economic policy. He was my #1 pick, but the rigged Democratic primary killed his run. Sidebar - shame on you, Democrats. Where was the outrage when your party leadership scammed you? Anyway, that left Trump. I didn't buy into some of his batshit crazy rhetoric, which I immediately recognized as trolling to further create a divide between the pretentious liberal elite (who Hillary perfectly represents) and the working class Reagan Democrats. I wasn't going to overtly support Trump, but he was most likely going to get my vote because a) he would give a voice to the working class and rural America, and b) any of his batshit crazy ideas would be killed by a Democrat-controlled House.

Then we hit summer. And liberals started ramping up the stereotyping all Trump supporters as racist, sexist, homophobic "deplorables."

Uh oh. 

I grew up in rural Northern Michigan in a mostly-white blue-collar town that had been ravaged by the closing of the town's largest employer - a paper mill. A few years later, that same economic downturn would hit the whole state when the auto industry tanked. I know how these people think. I know how these people feel. Most importantly, I know how these people vote.

Since I left my small town, went to college, and got a white collar job, I was exposed to (and adopted) a lot of liberal ideals. I went through a period in my early 20's where I was about as obnoxious of a social justice warrior as one could imagine.

Real life has a way of tempering that, however. First, being a public high school teacher exposed me to a representative sample of the population, including the dirt-poor, the working class, farmers, while collar professionals, and the rich. I came to realize my internalized liberal ideals would never be adopted by the majority of Americans because it simply violated too many of their fundamental beliefs. Eventually I started taking a more moderate approach and became more concerned about developing compromise between the left and the right. It turned out to be relatively easy to sell my liberal ideas to conservative friends, and my conservative ideas like gun rights to my liberal friends if I took the time to understand them.

Based on how I was seeing people frame Trump supporters, I started to get worried. There was no attempt at understanding. There was no attempt at compromise. Instead, there was mainstream media-fueled outrage. The left started vilifying Trump supporters in earnest be continually referring to them as horrible people.

That perspective led me to post this in July:



I spent the rest of the election cycle imploring my liberal friends to take the time to actually befriend some Trump supporters in the hopes they'd stop the stereotyping.

It didn't happen.

Most ignored the pleas. Some debated based on the rationale that they "knew what Trump supporters were really like, so don't try to convince them otherwise." A few even defriended me.

And now we have Trump as president and the GOP controls Congress.

Worse, I see my liberal friends continuing to frame Trump supporters as horrible people instead of pausing, reflecting, assessing what went wrong, and reformulating a new strategy. This video sums up the sentiment nicely:


So where do we go from here? Liberals in general and Democrats in particular need to take steps to change course. This is what I would recommend:

Solutions


  1. Support the working class, especially in suburban and rural America. The Democratic party I remember from my youth supported working Americans. They've lost that entire demographic as evident by their support for Trump. They will never win another election by only pandering to rich white college-educated women while tossing minorities a few crumbs. 
  2. Stop cozying up to Wall Street. This one should be obvious, but Hillary's camp didn't quite get why Americans would have a problem with this. 
  3. Stop vilifying white males. As I mentioned in my last post, liberals have been way too comfortable vilifying white males under the guise of "white privilege" and/or "the patriarchy." That bullshit has to stop. We're people. Until you start treating us as such and recognizing we actually have a lot of ideas on how to fix this shit, you will never win another election.
  4. Stop accepting policies that undermine families. Support stay-at-home moms. Stop glorifying single motherhood. Stop treating fathers like buffoons. 
  5. Address globalization and the need for vocational education. The rust belt voted for Trump for a simple reason... the Democratic party has largely ignored the working class since early in Bill's first term. NAFTA and other free trade agreements killed our middle class, then we made the problem worse by cutting vocational education in schools. End free trade agreements and fully fund secondary vocational programs like wood, metal, and auto shop, the construction trades, and even expand to include electrician and plumbing classes. 
  6. Abandon political correctness and identity politics. The dumbfuck idea of "political correctness" and "safe spaces" has killed our ability to engage in honest discourse because people are too fucking paranoid about being labeled a sexist, racist, homophobic... whatever. It's not a surprise the polling was so very wrong in this last election. Why would anyone publicly support Trump when they'd face the illogical, overly-emotional wrath of the Pantsuits? If you can't engage in discussion without getting offended by ideas that run counter to your delicate sensibilities, you have no right to engage in discussion. A major part of Trump's appeal is he says it like it is without dumbass coded language. Understand people hate political correctness because it's a form of intellectual control.
  7. Stop going after guns. Middle America actually uses guns to protect their families and put food on the table. City-dwellers who live a half mile from a police station simply can't relate, so shut the fuck up about banning guns. 
  8. Protect religious liberty while insisting on a separation of church and state. This is a relatively small but important point. Not all Democrats are atheists. Stop treating them as such.
  9. Abandon feminism in favor of real equality. Eighty percent of the population has a negative view of feminism. When "manspreading" is one of your biggest complaints about gender inequality, you're grasping for straws. It's time to put that horse out of its misery. Instead, as I discussed in this post, fight for REAL equality by promoting the idea of equal opportunity and equal responsibility for all regardless of sex, gender, sexual orintation, age, race... whatever. Start treating all of us equally, not just a select few.
  10. Stop being fucking pussies. The Democrats just got their asses spanked in the biggest political upset in history. Their reaction? Wear safety pins on your shirt so you'll know who's safe to talk to. Are you fucking kidding me?!? The Democrats need strong leaders with progressive values who aren't afraid to throw a few punches if needed. 


Will any of this happen? I seriously doubt it. I have a few friends (who unsurprisingly supported Bernie) who are actually getting to work on changing their local political party activity to better reach the working class, but the vast majority just keep their heads up their asses. I cannot count the number of times I've heard liberal friends continuing to vilify those who voted for Trump. They seemingly have no idea that most Americans think differently than them. They smugly believe they have all the answers, presumably because they live in a completely isolated bubble. If that doesn't change, we're in for a very, very long GOP rein. 

Liberal friends, instead of expressing fear or outrage, instead of signing Internet petitions to scrap the electoral college, instead of holding silly protests, take some time to reflect on how YOUR actions may have contributed to ordinary Americans making the decision to vote for Donald Trump. If you support any of the ideas I listed above, strongly consider if that's really a logical stance to take. When considering the folks who may have voted for Trump, use a little empathy and some of that "open-mindedness" liberals are always claiming to possess. Think about how you'd feel if the roles were reversed. Think about what message would sell liberal Democratic ideas to a person who may have supported Trump. 

Once you do that, identify five Trump supporters in your life. Go charm them. Sell your ideas to them. Don't call them stupid, racist, sexist, homophobic, Nazis, or any of the other bullshit we've all seen. Be a nice, decent human being. 

THIS is how we can right this ship. 

Now go do it. 

Otherwise, we're in for a very long, painful eight years. 


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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Did Trump Just Troll His Way Into the White House?



The aftermath of the 2016 presidential election here in the United States has been... interesting. My friends and friends of friends on social media are losing their shit. The handful of Trump support friends I have are ecstatic. The libertarians and independents are cautiously optimistic. The Bernie supporters are bitter. And the Hillary supporters are suicidal. Most are asking some form of the same question - 


"How the fuck did we manage to elect Donald fucking Trump?!?"

I have a crazy hypothesis about this, but first I have to mention I'm a liberal independent who voted for Johnson (in the hopes the Libertarians got 5% of the vote to get the Libertarian party access to federal election funds) because I live in CA, a state Hillary was definitely going to carry. A more competitive third party just might compel the Dems and GOP to do a better job nominating better candidates in the primaries. Bernie was my early pick. 


Anyway, Trump basically used Internet troll methodology to appeal to a segment of voters who the Democrats and GOP have ignored for several election cycles. These people are mostly blue collar workers, mostly white, who have perceived their standard of living drop precipitously over the last decade or two. They fear for their future. More importantly,  they fear for their children's future. Here's a short video explaining the hows and whys of Internet trolling:



Enter Trolling


I've been trolling on social media for a few years as an experiment (I have an experimental social psych background) and have found the exact same tactics he uses work exceptionally well on a particular audience. Specifically, it works on people who have been figuratively beaten down in one way or another. In many cases, they've realized people in power make a lot of empty promises. In other cases, they've been on the losing end of favoritism. In liberal terms, they've been "victimized."


Exit polling confirms this. Trump had phenomenal support among white males, which wasn't a surprise. The far left social justice warriors want to believe Trump and his supporters were racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, homophobic shitlords... just as they've been doing for the last decade or two.  As a liberal white male from a blue collar area of the country, I can confirm this message pisses a lot of people off. We're overtly vilified because of our sex and race... the exact thing the social justice warriors are supposed to be fighting to eliminate. Worse, this disdain for white males is rationalized because we "deserve it" because of white privilege. As it turns out, many so-called "open-minded" liberals are really no more open to divergent ideas than the rest of the population. 

Getting kicked in the teeth repeatedly kinda sucks. I can't count the times I've been called a racist because I'm white despite being in a biracial marriage and having moved to an ethnically diverse area for the sake of my children. I can't count the times I've been called a misogynist because I'm a male who is proud to be a male despite having created this entire SDMC project with the goal of promoting gender equality. The real kicker - I can't count the times I've been called homophobic despite having risked my teaching career to serve as the faculty adviser for my former high school's Gay/ Straight Alliance and frequent promotion of GLSEN. To the far left, none of that matters. All they see is the color of my skin. And the assumption that I have a penis. 


Being labeled these things doesn't affect me nearly as much as it used to; I've managed to develop a combination of thick skin and a "these social justice warriors are fucking morons" attitude. And I can fall back on the fact that I'm actually doing something to make the world a better place instead of just curling up in my safe space and posting dumbass memes on Facebook. But political correctness and identity politics negatively affects A LOT of people in situations similar to my own. And this is the precise audience Trump targeted for support. Trent Lapinski wrote a nice article expanding on this idea

This targeted trolling as a means of crafting a message that resonates with a particular audience is precisely what I do with my own social media experimentation, often to promote this very blog and our Facebook group. Ergo, I can vouch for the methodology's effectiveness. My messages are usually more directed at the failings of modern feminism and the dangers of beta males, but the techniques are the exact same. 

What About Women and Minorities?


Going back to the exit polls, Trump shockingly received significant support from women and minorities. This has baffled most political pundits, but shouldn't be surprising. A couple of years ago, I proposed an idea called the Protection Theory of Gender Roles, which is actually a hypothesis. Theory sounds better, though, despite the scientific inaccuracy. I later expanded on this and applied it to the American concept of "conservatives" and "liberals." Anyway, the gist is that masculine personalities are more concerned with protecting and strengthening the tribe and feminine personalities are more concerned with expanding the tribe. Read both, though; the rest of this won't make sense otherwise. 

If we consider the United States our "tribe", Trump appealed to conservatives because his rhetoric was mostly based on issues that people perceived as weakening our tribe and exposing us to danger. Illegal immigrants take our jobs and Muslim terrorists threaten our safety. Those are just two examples of the Trump rhetoric that resonated with his supporters. A certain percentage of women and minorities fall into this camp, and I would hypothesize these are the women and minorities that voted for him. 

There's one apparent problem with this hypothesis, however. Hillary is also a war hawk, which was evident in her role as Secretary of State. How can this be explained? It turns out Trump used some nice psychological judo to undermine her potential as a protector of the tribe. One of the foundations of masculinity is knowing and trusting the other folks around you who are serving as protectors of the tribe. You have to trust they have your back when the shit hits the fan. So Trump undermined Hillary's trustworthiness with a lot of help from the Wikileaks emails. 

As Lipinski noted in the previously linked article, those leaked emails weren't some grand plot by the Russians. They were news. Real news, unlike the biased news most of the mainstream media produced. Normally ideas like this trigger my "bullshit conspiracy" radar, but it's important to note Hillary's campaign never denied the authenticity of the emails. She really did "sell" special access to foreign governments in exchange for donations to the Clinton Foundation. She really did have strong connections to Wall Street and was paid huge sums of money for pro-big bank speeches. She really did base her political ideology on her campaign's assessment of the positive impact on voters. She really had colluded with the media. She really had colluded with the DNC to rig the Democratic primary to assure she beat Sanders. And so on.

The net effect of all this? We learned Hillary cannot be trusted. To the folks concerned about protecting and strengthening the tribe, this is a mortal sin. This effect was amplified by Trump's brutal "I don't give a flying fuck about political correctness" honesty. The women and minorities who voted for Trump did so because they feel he will have their back when the shit hits the fan. Whether or not it's actually true is moot; perception is what matters. 

I didn't make this connection until I was talking to a Mexican friend. His family came to the US when he was a small child and they went through the process of gaining citizenship. He's busted his ass to make a great living here in the United States. He supports Trump. Why? He hates that so many illegal immigrants don't do the hard work he went through to earn citizenship. He's a "sheepdog" (per the Gender Role Protection Theory.) Even though he's of Mexican heritage, he strongly favors a secure border for safety reasons. He hates Hillary because he feels he cannot trust her. He also believes people need to work to earn what they receive. He hates liberals (including Hillary) who insist on giving people shit without them having to earn it. I suspect he is a representative of the type of women and minorities who seemed to illogically vote for Trump. 

Trump's Actual Strategy


Every single batshit crazy stance Trump publicly took during the campaign was intended to resonate with a segment of that disenfranchised population. The Mexico wall appealed to the victims of NAFTA. The Muslim immigration ban appealed to people who fear terrorism. His anti-gay stance wasn't really anti-gay, he just said it should be a state issue (which appeals to libertarians and conservatives.) Even his bickering with the GOP elite followed this pattern. And so on.


Each one of these positions were expressed with strong emotion, softened a day or three later, then reiterated whenever he needed to engage very specific audiences. His pattern of appearances and rallies roughly correlated with that pattern. His last-ditch seemingly random appearances in weird places supports this idea that he was very deliberately building what would become his march to 270 on election night. 

In other words, Trump would say exactly what he needed to say at a particular time and a particular place based on that audience's current concerns. This isn't a revolutionary idea itself. Where Trump deviated, though, was the extreme emotionally-charged stances he took. That part wasn't meant for his audience of potential supporters. That part was intended to elicit an extreme reaction in his opponents' supporters. 


Why?

Publicity. 

Trump managed to win the election by spending about half of what Hillary spend, which is a Herculean accomplishment. While Hillary was organizing huge advertising campaigns, Trump was tweeting. While Hillary was traveling constantly and engaging small groups of loyal supporters, Trump was holding a few strategic rallies. We saw this pattern repeatedly. 

Trump made this process even more efficient by stoking outrage with somewhat vague ideas that elicited a negative emotion in his opponents' supporters, who then amplified the message by making it sound far worse than what he really said. 

Take the Muslim immigration issue. His idea was to halt immigration of Muslims until we developed a way to screen possible radical terrorists. While I don't necessarily like that idea, it's a logical, practical solution to the radical Muslim terrorist issue the mainstream media over-hypes. But the far left interpreted it as "TRUMP HATES MUSLIMS!"

Trump's followers, who legitimately fear terrorism (which is illogical based on probability but still a real fear) perceived this as "Hillary and her supporters do not care about our safety." When this message hits the echo chambers of social media, the intensity of the message is greatly amplified. This is where the trolling becomes frighteningly effective. The more the left lost their shit, the more effective the message became. It solidified his support while simultaneously eroding the possibility those folks would consider voting for her. This same pattern was repeated again and again with all kinds of issues. 

Who is Donald Trump?


I always had a hard time believing Trump was who he appears to be, mostly because he was basically a Clinton-esque liberal for most of his life... right up to the point where he started the Obama birther rants (which was another trolling attempt to galvanize support.) 

Long story short - I would be willing to gamble an uncomfortable amount of money that we're going to see a very, very different Trump in office. There are times when he's charming as fuck and exhibits exceptional control of situations. People who are filled with hate and anger rarely if ever possess this ability. 

The people who support Trump despite the batshit crazy rhetoric do so out of desperation and fear for their future. Or the future of their kids. They're not racist, sexist, homophobic, or xenophobic; they just feel they've been painted into a corner and nobody gives a fuck about them. A small, vocal percentage ARE shitty people, but the vast majority are just normal people who have been disenfranchised for years. 

More significantly, though, I think Trump genuinely cares about America and bringing the left and the right together in a way we haven't seen for a long, long time. I predict he'll charm the hell out of liberals throughout the first few months of his presidency, to the point where he will be on the verge of alienating the GOP-controlled Congress. His Supreme Court nominee will be a good test. If he nominates a moderate, this hypothesis is probably correct. If he nominates a judge with strong conservative leanings, I'm probably wrong. 

Of course I could be completely wrong and we're going to burn. Trump might be a horrible person who is going to destroy our country and won because of dumb luck. But that would mean Trump did what he did due to a million random variables falling in his favor, which includes a series of fatal errors by Hillary. 

I don't buy that. 

I think we just witnessed the single greatest trolling event in history. A man with no political or military experience beat every one of his fellow party members, including GOP royalty (Jeb), pissed off women, Muslims, Mexicans, African-Americans, the political elite, and a host of other groups, got to the point where his own party considered canning him a month before the election, beat the first potential female president who intimately knows the office, served as one of two legislators for one of the three most powerful states in the country, and was our head diplomat, AND did so by spending half of what Hillary spent. 

Conclusion


Very early in the election cycle, I noticed Trump's methodologies were a little too familiar. It took a few weeks, but I realized he was trolling exactly like I troll on social media, only on a far larger scale. He managed to beat some pretty good candidates to win the GOP nomination, then proceeded to beat a seemingly unbeatable woman to win the presidency. He did so by recognizing there was a huge, silent swath of the U.S. population that had been systematically ignored and/or vilified by both parties, then proceeded to court them with the surgical application of completely unorthodox techniques never before seen in politics. Even though I have serious concerns over the next four years, I am thoroughly impressed with his skill. 

My sincere hope is that I'm right about all of this and he'll return to his far more moderate, liberal roots. The same skillset that won him the presidency can easily be utilized to unite the country despite the rhetoric from the campaign trail. Unfortunately, many liberal Hillary supporters will completely dismiss this idea (and probably call me a racist, misogynist, homophobic shitlord) because politically-correct culture demands irrational outrage. They'll stick to the "I know Trump and his supporters are evil so don't try convincing me otherwise" attitude. Sometimes my fellow liberals can be fuckheads.

We'll see. I'm confident enough in my own ability to read people to not freak out about Trump's victory just yet, if not for my own sake, for my kids' sake.

Let me know what you think. Does this idea have merit? Is it completely off-base? Leave a comment!


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Like this post? Hate this post? Either way, give it a share. It's clear our country is deeply divided, and we need more folks willing to set aside their biases and stereotypes to get to know the other side. Hypotheses like this might help Hillary supporters gain a little more empathy for the folks who voted for Trump.