Iron Ford
  • How Could This Happen?

    Michael Tow
    Monday, November 28, 2016

    We’ve now had a week to step down from the ledge, research emigration, restock the liquor cabinet, and attempt to process what happened last Tuesday night when Donald Trump seemingly defied all odds, logic, and comprehension to acquire the electors necessary to be our next president. While fear and uncertainty abound, no one yet knows what the effects of the Trump presidency will be. It’s likely to be messy, but, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, we need to try to understand just how in the hell this could happen in the first place.

    Before analyzing the election, though, allow me a few lines to explain my political evolution. The first exposure I had to politics came during the 1992 presidential election. I was staying with my paternal grandparents then, and my grandpa, the school bus mechanic for the Trico School District, explained to me his belief that the government should help provide jobs to those who are earnestly willing to work. I would later learn that grandpa was what is referred to as a New Deal Democrat. So, despite being Ross Perot’s campaign manager in our fifth grade mock election, I voted for Bill Clinton. By the time my vote counted, however, I had become a Republican and voted for George W. Bush in 2000, believing his policies best benefited small business owners like my dad. Not long after voting for Bush a second time in 2004, I strayed from the Republican Party due to the bumbling that plagued the second Bush administration. In 2008, I voted Libertarian, and over the next eight years, as Republican opposition and criticism of President Obama (who I did not vote for in 2012 either) became personal, ugly, and stupid, I resigned my position as precinct committeeman for Elk Township and renounced my membership in the Republican Party. Over those same eight years I accepted myself, furthered my education, traveled, began to understand and empathise with those who are different from me, and embraced progressive politics, bringing me to last Tuesday, when I begrudgingly voted for Hillary Clinton over the foul, dodgy, and divisive Donald Trump. I had been a Bernie Sanders supporter from very early on and voted for Clinton not because I deemed her progressive, but because I did not deem her regressive like Trump. But, a multitude of Americans voted differently, and while their reasons are varied, the following three are among the more obvious, even to the most casual of analysts.

    First, facts do not matter any more. The clever, snarky memes, the fact checking, the exposés, and the direct quotes that all worked to reveal the hypocrisy, danger, and contradiction of Trump had absolutely no effect in the end. Intellectualism is now regarded as uppity and elitist, opinions are now regarded as facts, and the lack of policy is acceptable because at least it won’t be more of a “same” that was apparently intolerable for sixty million voters. What really happens when everyone is coddled and given that detestable participation trophy isn’t entitlement or a reincarnation of the “Me generation,” it’s the assertion that any opinion, no matter how uninformed, holds validity equal to a substantiated fact because my opinion is an extension of my feelings and no one can tell me how to feel or judge me for what I feel.

    Second, there are legitimate concerns held by the “forgotten electorate” that most Democrats (and some Republicans) have disregarded for years. Though the American economy, as a whole, has recovered from the Great Recession, that recovery has not been felt by all Americans, particularly in places like southern Illinois, the Rust Belt, small towns retaining the few locally-owned businesses that have survived, or any place where the most desirable jobs were once found in a coal mine or in a factory. In its best incarnation “Make America Great Again” means returning the U.S. to industrial and economic dominance, which is fine, but immigrants, China, and Obama aren’t the ones who took those jobs away from the red states, robots, dividend-concerned corporate executives, and the simple progression of time did.

    Finally, there was an utter failure on behalf of Democratic leadership to field a candidate that even members of their own party could rally behind, let alone the unaffiliated voters. Sure, Clinton received 600,000 more votes than Trump at last count, but how many of those votes were cast for “the lesser of two evils”? There is strong evidence that the Democratic National Convention colluded against one of the most rousing candidates in a generation in Bernie Sanders, who could have beaten Trump in a wash, and, instead, offered a lukewarm candidate who, though immensely qualified, was steeped in a perception of dishonesty and regarded as willing to defend any cause or speak any line just to get a vote. In college, a political science professor taught me that every election is decided by roughly one-third of voters. Thirty-three percent of voters will always vote Democrat, thirty-three percent will always vote Republican, and the remaining one-third will need to be won over. In 2016, that nonpartisan third wanted something different, or at least something new, and they found that in Donald Trump.


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