Seven Week Vacation
In less than two months, Donald J. Trump will take office as the President of United States and Commander in Chief to the US Military. So far this election cycle, every one of my predictions has been wrong. I predicted that Bernie Sanders would have wide enough and strong enough appeal with young people to win the nomination over Hillary Clinton; that played out differently of course, due to the virtuous campaign run by Hillary Clinton and her completely kosher relationship with the DNC. (Sadly I feel the need to point out my sarcasm here.) I refrained from giving a prediction about who would win the Republican nomination, but I was quite confident in my prediction that Donald Trump would not be the one to do it. And like so many people, I predicted that Trump actually winning the presidential race was a ridiculous idea, but alas, we have come to the realization that this too would come to ring false.
So far, there has been some significant activity in terms of the transition preparing to get the president-elect ready to take office, much of which has been alarming to virtually every liberal news outlet, but I've been relatively silent on the building of the Trump Administration.
As I watched people across the nation protesting election results, the values of the president-elect, his behavior and that of his supporters, oppression of different social subgroups, and who knows how many other ideas, all under the mantra "Not My President," I am filled with disappointment. I see a lot of well-intention people loaded with misguided passion. I see angry people without a clue how to efficiently express themselves.
Not My Protest
We have all seen videos of protests on some college campus with students coming out in droves to protest. I personally paid a bit closer attention to one of the protests that was being broadcast live from Rutgers University (my home state if New Jersey's primary State University) on Facebook by someone on my friends list. You could see tons of students peacefully gathering at some location on campus chanting "Not My President!" and "Black Lives Matter!" which immediately confused me. As I continued to watch, however, it became very clear that I was not the only one who was confused.
The was a platform up a few steps on which a series of speakers addressed the crowd with a megaphone. First there was a black girl talking about how Trump's rhetoric had inspired and encouraged hate and that we need to fight against police brutality. Then a Hispanic girl came up and talked about how we need to fight to make sure that Rutgers remains a safe haven for students who are not legal citizens. Then a Muslim man took the make-shift stage and went on a little rant, similar to the first speaker, about how we need to fight against the bigotry that he and his family had already experienced which was according to him, due to the rhetoric of Trump. The last person I saw speak before I was simply bored and closed the video, was a girl who said something about feminism and also about how Rutgers needs to be a home where students can feel safe from offensive language or something, and then finished off with something about how Trump was not her president because Hillary won the popular vote. I guess she needs a lesson in civics and recent American history.
Now don't get me wrong - I am all for fighting against the abuse of power in law enforcement. I feel pretty strongly that deporting 10, 15, however many millions of people who are in this country illegally is not the best course of action for dealing with immigration policy. I have no sympathy for bigots of any kind whether it is bigotry against people of different races, or bigotry towards Muslims, even as a strong antitheist. (Regular readers/listeners will know how often I emphasize the difference between condemning a horrible set of ideas such as Islam or Christianity, and respecting Muslim and Christian people, despite their allegiance to something I find repulsive.) But I digress. Like I said, I find that these kids are well-intentioned, but ultimately their efforts are counterproductive.
I want so badly for common language to adopt a new term for the latter half of the Millenial Generation. I've written and spoken to some length before about the factors, namely the rate of technological advancement, why the traditional grouping of a generation has become antiquated or at least significantly more narrow in its useful application. I just turned 27 years old last week and you'll find as many manifestations of a generation gap between the average person of my age, and the average 18 year old college freshman as you would between that same 27 year old and the average 40 year old, if not more. The same phenomenon applies when comparing the differences between that 18 year old and and 14 year old high school freshman and between the 18 year old and the 27 year old. Yet we are all still labeled Millenials and this seems to be increasingly problematic when trying to collect and analyze demographics. Characteristics that embody people born within a certain period of time began spanning fewer and fewer years for the last 30 years.
Not My Generation
Once we differentiate between grade schoolers, college kids, and young adults instead of just lumping everyone together as Millenials, it becomes much easier to understand that the "Middle Millenials," the college kids, are voicing their frustrations at a political context in which they've just recently been introduced as relevant, contributing members. When we understand that the media is portraying these kids as representative of the entire political left, we can see how inaccurate (and convenient) that really is. College kids are always going to be a bit more unctuous and ready to protest if for no other reason that they've got nothing better to do, and are concentrated with a dense population of people who all want to affect change for the first time in their lives.
We probably do not have much to worry about with the "Late Millenials," those to young to vote, because while its important to start getting them involved in the system so that by the time they do get to college, that they can do things a bit more effectively than the Middle Millenials, they are not really out affecting policy to any great extent. The "Early Millenials," people like myself, have been around the block once or twice before. We are not old enough to hold any significant offices, but for the most part, we've been paying attention since at least the beginning of Obama's first term. We are the ones who pioneers of the new age of information. We are the ones who built upon the late Gen Xers, who brought us the first computers, and the Internet itself, and turned social media into powerful weapon against the mainstream media.
I want to believe that the caveat I am about to offer is unnecessary to the Awe, Really audience, but just in case this is the first thing you've heard or seen from us, I will say this - obviously these terms of Early, Middle, and Late Millenials are just a categorization that I've offered as a way to highlight the fact that intragenerational differences are apparent within a macro-generation. Generation, whether micro or macro, of course is not the only determinant factor in how well-informed an individual is, party affiliation or political leaning, or any of the other things I'm talking about, but it is certainly a factor nonetheless and I have not heard anyone else talk about how this effects the public opinion of the different parties and public opinion of Millenials
If you are a college kid, while I do not think that the protests of your peers that all fall under the Not My President umbrella despite not having central message or purpose, are the best use of your time, but I get your frustration and if I was in college, I'd probably want to do the same thing.
But as someone who has had a lot of time to mature a little bit and get a handle on how things seem to work in terms of the clusterfuck of politicians, elections, policy, campaigning, the media, corporate interests, social injustice, human nature, and the trap of the dichotomous two party system, and whatever else gets sucked into this who whirlwind of shit that somehow allows our civilization to remain standing from day to day, year to year, and term to term, I might have some better ideas.
First - chill the fuck out. Nine times out ten, the thing that you so passionately feel you must fight against at any and all costs because you think it's going to end the world tomorrow, only makes you feel that way because of media sensationalism. Now, of course there are plenty of issues that call for immediate action and peaceful protest has been a tool for the disenfranchised throughout the history of or civilization. You can probably name more than one time it has worked in the past right off the top of your head. The problem is that Middle Millenials seem to think it's the only way to get things done in society.
Whether it is a bakery that wont make a cake for a gay couple, or the person you wanted to win the election lost, every little story that is reported on by the news seems to cause some type of demonstration. We have boycotts of every other company in the book for various social justice 'atrocities.' All this does, however, is create a "Boy Called Wolf" scenario (or should I say non-gender specific person to avoid my own protest) for each case. People are deciding which factory farmed, GMO, gluten laden, fast food sandwich they are going to buy from an underpaid cashier based on the religious beliefs of the CEO of the company. Even companies that sell children's cereals are choosing who they advertise to based on political affiliation - it isn't just the college kids. It seems like going to the grocery store itself has become a form of political action and all this half-assed activism from people of all ages and on both sides of the aisle has gotten out of hand.
The only thing I can think of that warrants actual physical protest (at least on a nationwide scale) currently, is the Dakota Access Pipeline. Again, you can read about the events going on at Standing Rock from any and every different news source and decide which side you're on, but regardless, it is a time sensitive issue. It is happening now. The time to fight through the bureaucratic channels of our government has passed and that is why people are out there every day, and have been for months now, protesting the building of this pipeline. It gets lost, however, amidst stories of what Donald Trump has tweet in the wee hours of the morning and the next offender of SJWs. We have to be selective with our attention.
Since it is a little to late to cast any kind of vote on the Pipeline, we are forced to put our trust in those who have the power to do something. This is a scary notion because of who those are, whom actually do have the power and this brings me back to the election and our new president-elect.
It has been about a month since Trump won the election and he has been well on his way to getting the transition under way. There is a large part of me that wants to follow everything very closely. I want to put every person who is named as a possibility to be a part of Trump's entourage under a microscope and analyze the possibilities of what it would mean for this person or that one to take this position or that one. I want to be prepared. I want to continue the political revolution that Bernie Sanders got all of us to realize was not only necessary, but was in our hands.
I haven't done this though. I have not paid very close attention at all. Mainly because of how little control I'll have over any of it. Trump is going to build his Cabinet regardless of what I could possibly learn about any of them. The list will be solidified before the Inauguration and at that point, there won't be any need for guessing or following rumors. After the Inauguration, once the Cabinet members have been appointed and personally vetted, and Trump is officially the President of the United States, things will happen. Meetings will occur between Trump and world leaders. Policy will be introduced, much of with I can predict that I will not support. Then, when there is something to react to, is the time to be prepared to react.
Until then, I just do not think that our time is best spent standing out in the cold and screaming. We need to be understanding what it is for which we are preparing. If you are protesting the election results, you have to understand who voted and how they voted. If you are protesting the racial divide, you need to understand what's causing it and how to change it. If you are protesting immigration policy, you need to understand how many people are coming into the country, where they are coming from, and what they are doing while they are here. If you are just watching corporate funded cable news, you wont get any of this information. You will simply be enraged by the portrayal of people who are being demonized and directly scapegoated for the causes about which you care so dearly.
The first question I wanted to ask was how the hell could I have been so wrong about the likelihood of Trump winning? It seemed so obvious to me that a loud minority of ill-informed bigots were playing right into the con of a billionaire businessman's media hack to stay relevant, but that most Americans simply did not take him seriously in any respect. The media sure did not help as the left wing news put out basically this exact narrative, and right wing media seemed to ignore the perspective of the more rational Trump supporter. Even dedicating two different podcast episodes to exploring that exact demographic, bringing on a Trump supporter who we knew personally to be a well-informed, intelligent, non-bigot, I saw him as representing a smaller portion of the Trump camp, when in actuality, he is pretty much the epitome of those who voted for him.
The next question was, "Did America truly want Donald Trump, or did people simply not vote?" or more simply put, "Who voted for who?" and more importantly what those answers mean.
Based on the news that I read and the people that I'd been listening to, it seemed that younger people were overwhelmingly against Donald Trump, but we can see that barely over half of voters under 40 voted Democrat. That means that this idea that young people's opinions are not being ignored quite like the left wing media wants us to believe. The fact that 37% of all voters under 30 supported Donald Trump means that there is no consensus among young people that Republicans and Donald Trump are spawn of the devil. There is a lot of disagreement and despite the SJW condemnation that Trump is a racist, homophobic, mysogynistic monster, there are many young people who look past the crass nature of the campaign Trump ran and believe that he was at worst, the lesser of two evils.
If the media and the pre-election polls were right about one thing, it was the fact that Trump's antics would not play well with minorities. We have to assume that the comments from one of his first public appearances after announcing his candidacy that have been repeated ad nauseum, as well as a constant focus on immigration, including claiming that he would deport all undocumented immigrants, split up families who have "anchor babies," a term that also got him in some hot water, and of course his infamous wall which was promised to be almost 30ft tall by the end of the race, and to be paid for by the Mexican government are all factors that lead to less than 30% of the Latino vote. That being said, it is surprising the number is even that high.
It was black voters who really did not want Trump. With only 8% of black votes going to Trump, it begs the question of what exactly gave this demographic such an aversion to him - definitely something to pay attention to as time goes on, but we can imagine that perceived racism of any kind is not going to play well with black Americans. Furthermore, we might hypothesize that his economic policy has a significant effect on how black Americans feel about him.
It is not surprising that as income goes up, so does support for Trump. What is interesting here is how even the lowest socioeconomic demographic still barely favored Hillary Clinton. It seems that income had very little to do with the way people voted. We would expect lower income voters to vote Democrat, thinking that the billionaire Republican candidate would not have their best interests at heart. It was overwhelmingly clear, however that Trump appealed to a wide range of blue collar workers. This would explain why many minorities still voted for him.
After all the media propaganda about racism, bigotry, xenophobia, etc, when it came to the voting booth, it seems that policy was what influenced people's choices. Whether or not promised policy is actually going to manifest is yet to be seen, but we can be sure that people just did not feel that Trump's sound bite behavior was as deal breaking as it was portrayed.
What is most alarming about these findings, seems to be that people who care about foreign policy most created the second largest margin, followed by terrorism, but despite the inherent relation between these two issues, they produced two different results. People who cared most about foreign policy voted in higher numbers for Clinton, most likely based on her government experience dealing with foreign affairs and world leaders. People who care most about terrorism voted in higher numbers for Trump, probably due to his hard-line position on Muslims. While President Obama refuses to utter the words 'Islamic' and 'terrorism' or 'extremism' in the same sentence, Trump went the opposite direction and though left wing media made it look like proposing a ban on Muslims was the absolute worst thing that could ever be said, to many Americans, it was music to their ears.
Of course, I am not condoning his comments, firstly because its just a dumb thing to propose given it is impossible to determine a person's religion without asking them, and some crazy notion leads me to believe that if someone were going to come into the country to carry out an attack, they would probably be willing to lie; and secondly because I can see those soundbites taken straight from MSNBC right into the next ISIS recruitment videos. Nonetheless, people are afraid and do not appreciate Obama's pandering to the regressives, which is a perfect segue to the next and perhaps most important factor in what I think caused my predictions for this election to be so off base.
Political correctness, trigger words, gender pronouns, safe spaces, micro-aggressions, and such terms have become the unraveling of society, particularly the left. The regressive left has become a term for the far leftists who have become so obsessed with tolerance that they want it to be legislated. This is a threat to freedom itself when people are forced to behave in ways they do not agree with, given behaving differently does hurt anyone. The concept of being hurt has become so loose that it now applies to feelings. Being offended has become grounds for legal action. Particularly on college campuses, it is being written into the policy of the schools that being offended by something entitles one to bring action against the student or even faculty member has offended them, regardless of the content or intent of what was said or done.
Looking back, it is no wonder things played out this way. Beginning with the 'participation trophy generation,' kids being told they could be whatever they want and do whatever they want despite a tumultuous economy and an uncertain future. Freedom of speech, a cornerstone of our civilization, is being eroded by people wanting to make disagreement illegal. The world is full of issues that can and should cause outrage, and that outrage should be used to fuel a fight to better society. And while that seems to be what is going on, the legitimate issues that plague our nation and our world are lost by distractions. Between social media and mainstream media, people are so focused on celebrities and each other that this outrage is misguided and focused on the wrong people.
It is not that I am dictating how people should feel. Emotions are personal and everyone has the right to feel however they feel. When people are focused on everything except what is actually causing suffering, but the outrage is just as fervent as if protesting a crime against humanity, the result is a bunch of people who all want to make things better, but no idea how things really are, or how to actually make them better. I've spoken and written on this before so I wont repeat myself too much, but it is important to understand how social norms swing like a pendulum, and this election was no exception.
People were sick of the political correctness. People were sick of feeling like their freedom was being stifled, whether or not that was actually the case. White people were sick of hearing about the hyper-focus on the plight of minorities, wealthy people were sick of being demonized, straight people were sick of having homosexuality shoved in their faces, cysgendered people were sick of keeping up with the list of gender pronouns (which at the time of writing this is up to 70,) men were sick of 3rd wave feminism, secularists like myself were sick of the religious overtones of a nation that is supposed to completely separate church and state. Regardless of the legitimacy of any of these positions, people were sick of the majority demographics being made to feel like their 'privilege' nullified their grievances with the government, the economy, and any other areas of their life.
Enter Donald Trump. He came riding in on a white horse to bring down the establishment and pay attention to the straight, white, blue collar, males, who despite having all the privilege, were still beholden to the same oppression from the government and the 1% of the 1%. While it is unarguable that many of the people who were already racist and otherwise bigoted ate up his rhetoric and jumped right on the Trump Train, it is time for us to realize that just as the Middle Millenial college protesters are not representative of anyone but themselves, those bigots are not representative of everyone in the Trump camp.
While I voted for and strongly supported Clinton over Trump, I think it is safe to say that even if she were to be a better president than he, we still dodged a bullet. Whether or not we dodged that bullet for an even bigger one is yet to be seen, but the active support behind Clinton from the beginning of the race was extremely low and seemed to only have risen by default. People did not want her as a president. The fact that she was running against Trump is the only thing that accounts for her numbers being as high as they were. The same, however, rings true for Trump. People who voted for him didn't necessarily love him, or trust his (lack of) experience, but by default, he became the only choice in their mind as a way out of oppression.
If we want to prevent our nation from falling apart, we need to be aware of what people want and how to unify to achieve our goals. I've already dubbed this election a political singularity - the two party system will have a tough time retaining its stronghold on the election process. We have a chance to truly represent the will of the people, but only if the will of the people is understood. When Trump and his crew take office, we have to know what their actions and policies will do to people's lives and the effects on society.
We can not be distracted by identity politics. We can not be fighting people who want the same things as us just because their view on how to get them is different than ours. Ideas must flow freely and intentions must be transparent. Differences must be celebrated and we must accommodate each others' differences on our own instead of demanding that our ideas take legal priority.
Then, once we have all grown up and realized that we can live peacefully with others of different ethnicities, philosophies, and political ideologies, we will be able to fight against oppression as a unified force. This may sound idealistic, and I admit that it is, but it serves as a point to which we can all strive. Obviously people are going to have conflicting interests, but that doesn't make anyone wrong.
The Bottom Line
We have no idea what lies ahead. When we do, we can react accordingly. Until there is something to react to, there is no appropriate reaction. When there is something to react to, understanding is the only path to appropriate reaction; understanding meaning both comprehension and compassion. And if the time comes to protest, we must have not only understanding, but a plan of action. We can not demand change without any change to implement.
It is going to be an interesting 4 years regardless of what happens, but all of that is 7 weeks away. So let's just all relax, take a deep breath, and be glad that Facebook has repopulated with pointless videos without getting too lost in the distractions. Change in politics is always incremental. Civilization will not fall overnight unless we remain in the dark, but that does not mean we have to remain in a constant state of anger and anxiety. Balance is key, and right now, that means taking a break from the political nightmare we just endured. That may change very soon, but let's enjoy the ride while it lasts.