Thinking through the bewilderment that came alongside Trump’s win
By Norman Gabriel
As millions across the world watched what they believed to be an unfathomable, slow-motion train wreck grind to a chilling halt at the door of the White House, half of America and all but one news network stood bewildered and wondered two things: how did we get here, and how did he get there? Trump won the House, the Senate and the Presidency by a landslide after incomprehensibly declaring a spiteful war on the Republican party, declaring all major news networks dishonest, engaging in Twitter wars with Saturday Night Live, and going on to ridicule globally accomplished reporters by name.
How could they ALL have missed proverbial train so “bigly”? Were some Americans lulled into the then-prevailing sense of the inevitability of a Clinton win? Were too many overconfident about their fellow Americans’ understanding of the gravity of the moment, and the cryptic warnings about the end of America under Trump delivered by some of the most credible voices in America – that a vote for Trump would be to abandon the very foundations on which America was built; that Trump did not possess the temperament nor the experience to hold steady, the instruments of American global power – nuclear codes and all?
But who could blame the now bewildered half of America, for feeling a Clinton win was inevitable. Like me, if they were watching CNN, NBC, ABC, MSNBC, CBS, BBC and many others, they were all (in different degrees of subtlety) either supportive of Hillary or anti-Trump. We were feasted every hour on the hour with State polls, National polls and even polls of polls, all saying that Hillary was hard to beat – a position, in which I (and millions of others) took great comfort.
So what happened? Where did his landslide come from? What blindsided us?
I’ll be the first to say I’m not a political analyst, but you don’t need to be one to recognize the obvious similarities between the Brexit campaign and the Trump campaign. Both wanted to make their countries great again and both took an almost Nazi-esque aim at immigrants. Both targeted established political institutions as corrupt, inept, and clueless – the swamps that needed to be drained. Both were able to convince their voters that all the negative consequences of their seismic shift to a radical nationalist agenda were not just wild exaggerations of their weaker opponents, but were exactly what the country needed. Trump also upped the ante over the Farage “Leave” campaign, not only by mercilessly pouring scorn on “the corrupt establishment” but by adding as Trump put it, the “biased and dishonest press” to the establishment, bolting them on as a cog in the wheel of a “crooked rigged system.”
It is now obvious that Trump and his campaign saw something in the aspiration and mood of America that the Democratic Party did not. It is also equally obvious that America’s major news networks and their pollsters completely missed the enormity of the Trump movement, leaving myself, as well as millions of others, totally unprepared for “the world according to Trump.”
Was it that they were unwilling to accept that not every Trump voter was a white supremacist, or racist, or bigot or from a basket of deplorables? Was it that they were unwilling to fathom that maybe two-time Obama supporters, may not support Hillary and might even vote for Trump, as happened in many Democratic states that flipped? The media reported daily on the crowd incidents at Trump rallies in a condescending tone thinly veiled. It was therefore easy or almost a reasonable position to think the very worst of Trump supporters, which brings me to my point. Was the Democratic Party blindsided and ultimately done in by a democratically leaning press? Did the vilification of Trump and his supporters preclude democratic and progressive ideas from being considered by once eager democratic voters?
It is worth considering – after seeing how Trump was attacked by his own party and the media – that many thought it better to remain quiet if they were supporting Trump. What if you agreed that your country needed stronger immigration laws and did not care too much if the wall was built, but voted to support a tougher over-all position? Would you have disclosed your Trump support in your church, gym, workplace or even university? Not at all likely and I think that is exactly what resulted in the Trump blindside.
How can we engage with or poll a group of people if they feel vilified, embarrassed or afraid to even say whom they support and why? How can we discuss and debate better ideas or find better options to a border wall if we shame and alienate the half of America that supports it? How can the Democratic Party reach out to the millions of moderate, proud blue collar once Obama/now Trump voters to say, “We hear you on immigration and American jobs,” if they think the media and the Democrats think they are deplorable, supremacists or worse, unpatriotic?
In my view a part of making America great again must involve the Democratic Party and the media looking deeply at not only HOW it was blindsided but WHY it was blindsided in this election, and not leave me and millions like me, blindsided.