It was a surprising and intense outcome to watch yesterday night. As you probably know by now, Trump won, contrary to all predictions and calls.
I’m not an US citzen, but I have followed the race with great passion, and I want to give my outsider two-cents on ‘what the hell is going’ in United States of America.
So, what did we actually learn?
1. USA is a post-fact society
Many of the things Trump have said are lies, and it is often trivial to prove so. Problem is just, people seem not to care.
He isn’t a serial liar. He’s a bullshit artist. There is a very subtle distinction between the two. Lies are when the messenger knows the truth but intentionally tries to mislead the receiver and conceal the truth. Bullshitting is when the messenger are not necessarily trying to conceal the truth, but rather giving misinformation to advance the messenger’s personal agenda.
Philosopher Harry Frankfurt wrote a great piece, “On Bullshit”, which analyze the structure of bullshit and how it is different from lying. It’s a beautiful, relatively short text, and I encourage the reader to go read it.
When Trump says that people were cheering on 9⁄11, or when he claims that unvetted refugees are pouring into USA, or when he claims he is popular among African-American voters, people surprisingly don’t seem to care. It doesn’t matter if what he says is true or not. If it feels right, it is considered true.
The wonderful term ‘Truthiness’, describing exactly this phenomena, was coined in 2005 by comedian, Stephen Colbert. It seems that people just believe what they want to. An interesting, but also exhausting, exercise is to go to Twitter and find some Trump supporter with a conspiracy theory, then call it out. You will notice how they just wave away from their original claim, rather than defend it. They know it’s false, and so do I, but they won’t accept it subconsciously.
The same goes on for Trump: he says whatever pleases people. According to PolitiFact, he is amongst the most lying politicians.
Interestingly, not all the bullshit he tells is false: it is often just vague and empty. If we take his plan to defeat Daesh, you will notice, well, that there is no plan at all, yet he is able to sell it. No falsehoods are really told in this case, it’s just vague, but people seem to embrace it.
2. Authoritarianism (fascism?) is easier to sell than previously thought
United States is largely a liberal democracy, but if we assume his words are true, it will not be so much longer.
His seemingly anti-democratic and, honestly, borderline fascist policies are very worrying, especially in the biggest democracy in the world.
I’m interesting in seeing if he will actually implement the things he has been flirting with. I suspect he will at least try to do some of these things. Although, I am doubtful that it will succeed.
I’m not in doubt of one thing though: Fascism is on the rise, both in America and in Europe. It is seen as the wave of alternative far-right politicians around the world. It is a dangerous trend, and does much more damage than conventional fanatic right-wing politicians.
3. The media and voters have the attention span of a dead fish
Every other day in the election cycle, there have been another major scandal on Trump, but the only thing that have had major impact was the Billy Bush/Trump hotmic leak, and even that died after a few news cycles.
Both media and voters have attention span of a dead fish.
Because there are constantly new scandals, they have not had the same effect as they would in a vacuum, because they tend to bury each other.
Hillary Clinton has at most 4-6 major scandals, which are significantly less than Trump’s, yet they seem to have the same effect.
Clinton’s scandals are definitely noteworthy, but they have been repeated till the point where I get sick. Because no new scandals appear (only new information about old ones are revealed), they have a stronger effect than Trump’s. Repeat it enough, and it becomes true.
4. The GOP has no nobility
I hate the GOP and everything it stands for, but I have never questioned that they had strong values they’d defend for any price, until now. No party have sold out as much as the GOP.
Trump stands for nothing, but the GOP’s platform, yet they (or at least the majority of them) accept their nominee, often while not standing behind him fully.
It seems that they value the label ‘republican’ over what the candidate stands for. The GOP is fully guilty them self for not showing any form of integrity.
5. Racism is not over yet
A part of the disease that Trump has taken advantage of is racism. A central part of his platform is based around racist policies, and he has taken advantage of openly racist groups, like the KKK, who have been strong supporters of Trump.
It seems that the average voter is largely ignoring the problem of racial inequality, either pretending it doesn’t exist or simply accepting that it exist, but refusing to make any actions to solve it.
Because it doesn’t affect them, they simply have no reason to care, but the divide is still there, and Trump has no plans to solve it, rather he has policies which have the opposite effect (such as more police and stronger punishment for non-violent offenses).
6. Sexism is not over yet
Hillary Clinton has been haunted her whole carrer for being too independent and not feminine enough, and this cycle has merely been a continuation of that.
There is an obvious bias against women in many aspects of the election. Women are portrayed as feminine, which carries the expectations of being motherly, soft, and everything she is not.
A lot of the things that have hurt Hillary Clinton have not been caused by her sex, but been greatly accelerated due to her sex.
7. Things are harder to predict than thought
This is a major things learned. I personally was way too overconfident in a strong Clinton victory, but I did so based on the polls, which rather interestingly turned out to be wrong.
The polls were pretty clear, and if the election was held a week ago Clinton would have won (the margin would be so big between them than even a 4 times MOE polling error would still have Clinton win).
But things changed quickly, and Comey is largely to blame for the Trump victory. His letter had a quite strong effect on the polls, an influence so strong that it couldn’t be recovered on 48 hours.
I think Comey’s actions were extremely irresponsible, but it’s not something we can change. What is really the lesson here is that things can change quickly, especially with the media completely overblowing things with false headlines. The numbers dropped from D+10 to D+2, so a difference so high that no one would have expected it to happen.
The question to remain really is why did D+2 result in a republican victory? While the republicans would not win in a proportional system, the polls still underestimated Trump’s supporters. A week ago I laughed of the idea of a ‘silent majority’, but there might actually be something to it. While not a majority, some segment of the voters have likely been silent about the support of Trump.
8. The electoral college is deeply flawed
Suuuuuprise! I guess you didn’t knew that already.
Hillary Clinton is at 3-4% over Trump in the popular vote, yet he won by a big margin in the electoral votes. The system isn’t rigged, it’s flawed.
The majority is ultimately who should make the decision. With electoral college, that isn’t the case. Your voice was determined by a small number of tipping-point states. It’s not fair, and it isn’t the first time, we’ve seen scenarios, where the popular and electoral majority doesn’t match.
I’d go so far and say that literally any system is better than the electoral college. It is a failed system, which favors only two major parties, and voting anything outside those is equivalent to throwing out your vote.
A better alternative is range voting, which I might do a post on later.
9. Trump is untouchable
If you ask a Trump supporter about some particular controversial statement Trump has made, they will often admit that they disagree, but you often hear the same line of response:
He isn’t a polished politician.
He’s an outsider
Matter of the fact is, you don’t count it into your total judgement if every single thing can be waved away with incoherent, effective responses as the ones above.
Trump can say anything, and the damage done to him is often smaller than the equivalent damage done to other people for saying similar things (however, it is a myth that Trump is completely unaffected by his controversies).
Trump is above the rules of common sense, which – in part – is why he won the election. The bar is set so low that virtually no effort has to be done to overperform the expectations.
In the week where Trump visited Mexico, Trump gained massively, simply by acting normally. The standards of acting ‘presidential’ simply don’t apply to him. He is above the rules of the game.