2016: What Happened?

February 12, 2017

 

The 2016 election was one of the most interesting in my lifetime. 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 then offer my completely uninformed opinion about what I think happened.

Conservatives didn’t win this election; the liberals lost it. The key question is, why did the liberals lose the moral high ground and the White House?

For years, the 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. 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 (see 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. Reagan won by sharing a common vision for everyone. You may not have liked his vision, but at least he had one. 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 with Donald Trump. I think this is a large part of why Reagan 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 deliver on his promises, most Americans felt he was frustrated by a contrarian congress. The lack of progress wasn’t completely his fault, and so he was given a second chance.

Fast-forward to 2016: 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, she separated the country into different groups and attempted to appeal to each of them individually. I never felt she had a global message for America that included everyone.

On the other hand, Trump had a clear message from which he’s 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 anything he’d promised, or whether you agreed with him. It was the message, not the implementation that mattered.

Americans, no matter who they are, want to be Americans. My greatest hope is that in the 2018 mid-terms and the next presidential election in 2020, we’ll find a real statesman (or stateswoman) who will bring to us the message most of us want to hear. We need to be a united America. 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. 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 work 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; it’s just the right thing to do.

I will now step down from my soapbox.

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