It’s safe to say social media has been a verbal minefield since Tuesday night. Tempers have flared, and depending where people fall on the political spectrum, there have been gloats or groans. Feelings have been hurt, insults have been flung, friends have been unfriended, and many have been scratching their heads wondering how a bloviating blowhard who has made inexcusable comments throughout this campaign got elected.
First, let’s acknowledge their questions and concerns as legitimate. There are some angry and fearful people out there as the last two nights of protests verify. I’m not going to excuse the bad behavior of protesters, just like I will not excuse the actions of our President-elect. But their anxiety is not rooted in nothing. For example:
- My ten year old came home almost in tears because her friend at school is afraid he will have to move back to Mexico soon.
- Friends who have advocated for women’s rights are concerned that by electing a “locker-room” mouthed leader, other boys-who-shave will be emboldened to mistreat and disrespect other women.
- Multiple friends, who have voted Republican for years but did not this year are concerned that Christians have taken a giant step backwards in trying to gain the public trust because for years we have been the “values voters” but how do you claim that when Trump gained a large part of the Evangelical vote?
This doesn’t include concerns from minorities and the LGBT community. Dismissing such concerns as “illogical” or “emotional” does nothing but marginalize those who are voicing them. If we are a free society where all voices have weight, not only must we hear these concerns, we must address them as well.
Now I did not vote for Trump. Neither did I vote for Clinton. My choice was a third party candidate for some of the very reasons listed above. However, just because I did not vote for Trump does not mean that I don’t understand how he got elected. Some reasons are complex, some simple, but in order for some people to accept the facts they need to understand why and how such a candidate gets elected. Please, if you are one who is truly baffled by Trump winning, do not take this as a defense of Trump or his campaign. Instead, look at this as an explanation from a conservative who empathizes with your pain. My desire is for this to start the healing process so that we can move forward in unity, even if we do not see eye to eye on the issues.
So how does a man like Donald Trump get elected?
Reason One: A Poor Democratic Candidate
Many of the people in my circle did not vote for Trump, they voted against Clinton. They felt they could not vote for a third party candidate doomed to fail, so they sided with Trump. In fact, 60% of Trump voters said they were unhappy about their choice. That means Trump was undesirable, but Hillary was more so. If there is a truth I hope both sides of this election take from this election cycle it is this: we need to exit our echo chambers. We get our news from individualized sources on the internet, so we tend not to hear critiques of “our” candidate. This was evident on both sides. My democrat friends shared article after article from left-leaning websites that promised a landslide victory for them and dismissed any criticism, while my Republican friends shared articles from right-wing sights that were so partisan you couldn’t splice truth from fiction. So to those in shock, let me tell you something you need to know: Hillary was not trustworthy to the average American, much less a far-right American. The FBI investigations, the e-mail debacle, wiki-leaks, Benghazi, all chipped away at whatever credibility she had. The fact that she lost to a candidate like Trump does not condemn the American voters who put a liberal African-American democrat in the White House for the last eight years. It does condemn her party for putting forward such an unelectable candidate.
Reason Two: A Fed-Up Electorate
There was a lot of anger leading up to this election. Trump tapped into that anger. But what were people so angry about? They were angry at being ignored, marginalized and trivialized. As I watched the election results one term came to the surface over and over again: “uneducated white males.” Without realizing it our national media exemplified their elitist attitudes. Nobody likes being called “uneducated.” The term implies stupidity. In other words, “Stupid white males” voted for Trump. I’m sure the talking heads were merely referring to men who lacked a Bachelor’s degree, but that’s not what “uneducated” conveys. With one phrase the media made this election about class, race and gender, and in doing so they displayed the very ignorance that led them to underestimate Trump’s chances at the start.
This election was more about values than it was class, race, or gender. For eight straight years conservative values have been targeted by the White House. Issues like gay marriage, abortion, and freedom of religious expression have been shoved down our throats. The Affordable Care Act has repeatedly sought to force Christian owned businesses to provide insurance for birth control practices they find religiously objectionable. Gay marriage was legalized and this was followed by Christian business owners being targeted, sued and put out of business by activist groups. Both Obama and Clinton have been smitten with the phrase “freedom of worship” which is vitally different than freedom of religion. Freedom of worship can be restricted to certain venues and times. Religious expression cannot. If anyone raised concerns about any of these things they were labeled as “bigoted, homophobic, and misogynistic.” It did not matter how reasonable the objection was worded, the results were the same: mainstream media was quick to point out how narrow-minded and hateful conservative Christians are. Now I think Christians need to learn to operate in the margins as well as learn how to be gracious and humble, but that’s another post for another time.
Does that mean class, race, or gender played no role whatsoever? Of course not. As the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum it was middle class whites who found themselves in the crosshairs of the media once again. White America was to blame for the woes of Black America. Even if it was acknowledged that there is systemic racism and some amounts of privilege do exist, when whites insisted they were not racist simply because they condemned violence against police or rioting in the streets, they were called racists who were trying to hold on to “white power”. In the aftermath of the election, one media pundit coined the term “whitelash” to imply that if you voted for Trump you were a racist.
Eight years of being called a bigoted, homophobic, misogynistic, racist is enough to get people fed up. Eight years of attacks on religious values and having politicians say that Christians have to change their beliefs is enough to get people fed up. Eight years of slow GDP, underemployed, and failed healthcare policies is enough to get people fed up.
Enter the non-politician. If you are fed up with politics you may be willing to give the non-politician a try, even if he is less than ideal. Trump was the protest vote. He was the candidate of choice for the fed-up, working class American. How did he get more minority and women votes than Romney or McCain? It was the working class, conservative, religious voter that put him in office, and all races and genders wear blue collars to work.
Reason Three: Media Elitism
As I flipped channels between CBS, NBC and CNN the reactions of journalists on election night could be summed up in one word: shock. Not one of them could believe that Trump was going to make it close. Then Trump took the lead. Then Trump won. Both NBC and CNN waited until Clinton herself conceded before they declared a winner. Some reporters tried to choke back tears. Others fumbled over words. None could understand. NBC’s Chuck Todd summed it up best when he said, “We have underestimated rural America.” He then followed with an explanation that polls did not reflect rural American values.
In other words, the media ignores rural America. They don’t call them to conduct polls. They don’t think about them when it comes to advertising. No, the only time rural America comes to the forefront is when a natural disaster hits, and they will find the most stereotypical hick in town to interview so that all of rural America shakes their head in shame. Rural America is referred to as “flyover country” and portrayed on popular shows as backwards and uneducated (a certain Criminal Minds episode comes to mind that took place in West Virginia. It was chock-full of references to family feuds, incest, and moonshine running.) The result? A demographic that makes up nearly 40% of the population is consistently ignored and not taken into account. That high a percentage is more than enough to swing an election from one side to another.
But that’s not all. The media is also politically biased. Everyone knows MSNBC is going to lean left and Fox News will lean right. But it is also proven that CNN, NBC, ABC, and CBS also lean left, which means news stories tend to reflect the Democrat narrative and the left wing view of the issues. A consequence of this is distrust and weariness of trying to be coerced to vote a certain way. So take a demographic that is largely neglected and that sees through the bias in media, and send them to the polls, they will use those polls to send a message that says, “Ignore us at your peril.” This election was not just a condemnation of Hillary Clinton and a condemnation of liberal policies, it was a condemnation of the mainstream media as well.
So why did Hillary lose? It’s not because America is racist, homophobic, misogynistic or bigoted, although there are some individuals out there that are. It’s not because we aren’t ready for a female President, over 59 million voters felt otherwise. It’s not because Trump is so darn likable either. It’s because Americans are tired of politicians, media, and liberalism. You might not like those reasons, but from my experience with conservative voters in the rural south, those are the most plausible reasons there are. Now, it is necessary for us to move forward, and pray for as well as work towards healing, which can never happen if we resort to calling those who voted differently names and labels. We must rise above the dirt of these campaigns and love each other again. I’m tired of losing friends because they can’t understand each other because they refuse to allow for dissenting opinions. We must grow from this.