2016 was one of the most interesting elections in my lifetime. Clearly, it was the most divisive I have ever seen, and I think most Americans were disgusted by both sides. I have no interest in analyzing the details of Trump vs. Clinton; I’ll leave that to people who know a lot more than I do. Instead, I’d like to focus on trends and generalities and offer my completely uninformed opinion about what I think happened.
Conservatives didn’t win this election; liberals lost it. The key question is why did the liberals lose the moral high ground and the White House?
For years, liberals have been promoting the idea of diversity. By concentrating on certain subgroups of our society, they ignored the forest and talked about the trees. Concerns about women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, Black Lives Matter, and protecting immigrants divided our country into various subgroups.
So why did the conservatives win? Commonality. They talked about doing things for all Americans while the liberals talked about doing things for individual groups. The fatal error in this is that, inevitably, liberals are going to miss mentioning a group and that group is going to feel left out (for example, Bernie Sanders and Progressives). Many Americans felt that liberals didn’t care about them because they were never included in the liberal dream of what America should become.
Inclusiveness versus exclusiveness. Diversity versus commonality. Regan won by sharing a common vision for everyone. You may not have liked his vision, but that’s what he did. Bill Clinton did the same thing. His domestic message was for everyone, and he tried to bring us together. Many Americans ignored his personal failings and believed in his overall plan just as they did Donald Trump. I think this is a large part of why both Regan and Clinton won, even though they had very different messages. Barack Obama had a clear message of inclusiveness and change when he ran in 2008. He won again in 2012 because, even though he hadn’t been able to bring that dream to fruition, most Americans felt he had been frustrated by a contrarian congress. The lack of progress therefore wasn’t seen as completely his fault, and so he was given a second chance.
In 2016, however, Hillary Clinton’s message was fractured. Her foreign policy positions were thoughtful and backed by far more experience than her opponent had, but when it came to her domestic policy positions, her message was fractured into individual appeals to different groups. I never felt she had a message for America that included everyone.
On the other hand, Trump had a clear message from which he never wavered. It’s us against them, folks, and I’m the guy who will bring us all together and make America great again. It’s Americans against the foreigners, the immigrants, the terrorists, etc. Simple, uncomplicated, and straightforward. It didn’t matter whether he could actually do it or not, or whether you agreed with it or not. It was the message that mattered, not the implementation.
Americans, no matter who they are, want to be Americans. My greatest hope is that the mid terms of 2018 and the next presidential election in 2020 will bring us a real statesman (or stateswoman) who will bring to us the message most of us want to hear. We need to be united. Every member of our society needs to feel safe and secure. Every member of our society needs to feel that our government cares about them, protects them, and helps them. Every member of our society should have healthcare, a place to live, food on the table, and the opportunity to make their lives better in every way. Our educational system should be the best in the world. Our elderly shouldn’t have to worry about the price of their prescription drugs or social security being taken away from them. We need to be strong to protect ourselves. Economically, our government needs to make sure the playing field is level for all and then get out of the way. We don’t need to be working for the government; the government needs to be working for us.
If someone comes forward and says those types of things, I will finally have a candidate I can get behind. It really shouldn’t be that difficult, for the simple reason that it’s just the right thing to do.
But, then again, I could be completely wrong. I will now step down from my soapbox.