Let me start by saying that this is going to be an empathic exploration. I didn’t vote for Trump and didn’t think many people would. But now, days later, I think I’m starting to assemble the pieces for an explanation.
I believe that there are lots of reasons that people voted for Trump. That may seem obvious, but it’s a little more nuanced than that.
I’m saying that there is a set of reasons, and (this is the important part) for any given person or group it’s hard to know which of the reasons was primary, secondary, or not in play at all.
Let’s explore what I think they are:
- People are tired of an impotent government. This is the tableflip theory. Less than 20% of the country approves of the job that congress is doing. People have realized that lobbyists largely determine what laws are passed. And the general consensus is that the link between the people and the government has been broken. Note: This is precisely the reason Bernie was popular, and why he might have won were he the other candidate.
- People are tired of the central liberal message. People are tired of oversensitivity in our discourse and tolerance of intolerance. They’re tired of everyone being offended all the time, about everything. They’re sick of being told that everyone’s a winner in their own way. They’re angry at being told that America is the villain. They’re tired of the excellent being hampered by the mediocre. They’re done being told that they don’t deserve the things they worked hard for. And they’re tired of being told that they need to tolerate beliefs such as radical Islam’s treatment of women and homosexuals because they should be protected by religious speech. They’re done with the regressive left, or what I call Lupus Liberals.
- Many white people are at the breaking point over white guilt. Many whites (especially in the middle of the country) have pride in their race, in their history, and their overall accomplishments. They see the United States as a good thing and they believe it’s ok to be proud that their ancestors helped make that happen. Independence from Britain, WWII, being considered the best country in the world, going to the moon—they are proud of these things. And when they’re told they should be ashamed by not just their country, but of being white as well, their frustration leaves the surface and buries deep where it becomes anger and then rage. Many feel that they and their children have to basically apologize for being who they are. This has been happening for decades now, as part of the liberal narrative.
- Racist whites see the rise of non-whites (and particularly Obama becoming president) as an attack on the white race as a whole. The idea of a black man being put above the country THEY built is the ultimate offense in their mind. They smile and stay cordial in public, but they secretly relish the fact that they live in rural places where there aren’t many other races. And when they do encounter them they see it as the impending doom of their own. And every year and every election, as they see more and more racially diverse young people, they see their own country dying. Their own heritage dying. Their own race dying. And they’re near the breaking point. They voted for Trump because they saw him as white above all else, and as a champion for their race.
- Hillary was a bad candidate. People get caught up in the Trump side of things, but they’re missing some important truth when they do so. Tens of millions of liberals simply stayed home. And many of them voted for Trump. This isn’t because they’re racist or sexist, it’s because they didn’t want Hillary to win. The corporate speeches. The emails. The foundation drama. And probably most importantly—the fact that her campaign basically snuffed out Bernie Sanders, who was the TRUE voice for change, that ended her as an ideal candidate. All these things turned her into a status quo, better of two horribles. This activated the “CHANGE” reason below.
- Some people just wanted change. They didn’t care much about the left vs. right, the racial issues, the sexism issues, or either of the campaigns at all. They simply saw Hillary as a continuation of what we’ve had, and Trump as something different. And since they know for a fact that they don’t like the current model they were willing to give ANYONE a chance, even someone they despised.
Again, the crucial point here is that with all these reasons out there, when I look at a particular person (as I have been doing) I cannot necessarily tell why they voted for Trump or why they did.
Of course, if they’re black and holding a sign that says “Bernie supporters for Trump!” I know it was likely about wanting change. And if they’re white and wearing a neonazi shirt, I can bet it’s mostly race. But without those clear markings I can’t know which of these were the main reason, secondary reasons, or weren’t even part of the calculation.
And you can’t either.
One thing I believe deeply is that people often have no idea what’s really motivating them. Many people are driven by emotions that are not accessible to them, and this applies to everyone—not just Trump voters.
The other thing is that even if they did know the exact mix of why they voted for Trump, most people are horrible communicators. They’re not likely to be able to articulate their feelings even if they knew what they were. And this is made even more difficult if they don’t feel like they’re even allowed to mention liberalism or race without being labeled a bigot or a racist.
So really the best signal comes from those who have one main driver and they make it clear, and I don’t think that’s many people. I think most who seem to be doing that are actually either missing their other motivators or are simply saying what they think sounds best to their audience.
So now that we’ve collected the various reasons people voted for Trump, let’s look at them and possible responses.
This one’s easy: elect people who will give us back our representation. Maybe that’s Bernie, or maybe that’s Trump. But that’s the solution. Take action, vote, and refuse to be silent.
Tired of the liberal narrative of oversensitivity and tolerance
I think this is a liberal self-inflicted wound. Liberals take good things to the extreme, even to the point of being the main group infringing on free speech in recent years. The solution is to back up, reevaluate, and realize they’re doing more harm to their cause than good by behaving in this way. It’s like the BLM movement where the concept and goals are clearly correct but the tactics often hurt them more than help.
White guilt is like technical debt. It accumulates, festers, and then turns malignant on its way to causing a problem. The biggest fear is that it gets activated by rhetoric or extreme behavior and turns into racism.
The solution to white guilt is simple in a healthy world but nearly impossible in one controlled by the current liberal narrative. The solution is to acknowledge as a civilization that most every race and civilization has things to be proud and ashamed of. Yes, white people are allowed to be proud of their heritage. Of being European. Of forming America and helping to make what it is.
And they should also be ashamed of it.
It’s not one or the other. It’s not either-or.
If you’re white and you’re not aware of the horrible things Europeans have done in recent centuries, and you don’t feel bad about that, then you’re either uneducated or you’re racist. But if you’re white and you’re not allowed to be proud of the the revolution against Britain, of the largely WASPish force that got us to the moon, etc., then you’re suppressing something natural that will ultimately turn nasty.
Every race and civilization should know that they have reasons to be ashamed and reasons to be proud, and every other race and civilization should allow each of the others to experience both as part of their identity.
To pretend that either the pride or the shame is not justified—with any race or civilization—is to guarantee that something painful will rise in the future.
White guilt is an unnatural phenomenon caused by the regressive left, and it goes away peacefully once you do what I recommend above.
White racism, on the other hand, is a pure cancer. It’s something from the past that is quickly going away but occasionally festers.
The solution is luckily simple and natural: young people grow up surrounded by people of all races who are exactly like them in every other way. And when they are then told by someone that they should hate people because of their race, it’ll seem like the dumbest idea they’ve ever heard.
Because it is.
The solution to this one is to call it out when you see it, and to let it to die out on its own. The answer is the future.
Hillary was a bad candidate
The solution there is to not accept crappy candidates as your representative. Demand better. Hillary had a lot of positives, but too many negatives. I feel like she played the Faustian game and lost at the very end due to the choices she’d made to get there. I feel sorry for her because I think she had a lot of goodness inside of her.
But we can do better, and we must.
People just wanted change
This is an interesting one. It’s another issue of technical debt.
When things are bad enough that Obama and Bernie supporters are willing to vote for Trump, you can expect bad things to happen.
The answer is to not let it get there in the first place. But if it does, expect this type of thing to happen. It’s the snapping of the rubber band.
- There were lots of different reasons people voted for Trump
- Some were positive, some were neutral, and others were ugly
- You can’t know by looking at someone (in most cases) which cocktail lead to their vote for him
- They often can’t tell either because most people are either unaware or unable to articulate their own actions
- The regressive left, and white guilt in particular, have created a stretched rubber band that has many moderate whites pushed to their limit of tolerance and understanding. This tension needs to be released by honest dialogue that acknowledges that both pride and shame are healthy feelings for all races and civilizations
- White racism needs to be called out explicitly, especially by other whites, and allowed to die off with the old people. Children growing up with friends of different races is the best solution of all
- If you don’t want to lose to horrible candidates, don’t run horrible candidates yourself
As for what to do now, I think the answer is to try to find the good in Trump and magnify it as much as possible. Encourage him to fight for everyone and be inclusive like he promised. Encourage unity not only in him but in ourselves.
And if it goes completely sideways…well, we oppose him, we learn our lessons from above, and we come back stronger next time.
My recommendation in the meantime is to be nice when you speak to people. Give both their perspective and your own when you talk to them. Let them know you see their side.
It’s the only way we’ll get through this.
- Since many people have asked who I voted for, I wrote in Neil deGrasse Tyson. I live in California so I didn’t feel like I had to vote against Trump (which I would have in a swing state). Because of that, I felt I had the freedom to vote for someone that didn’t make me uncomfortable.
- I wrote a post recently about how rhetoric can be used to activate different beliefs in themselves, which especially applies to the mixture of reasons for voting for Trump.