Saturday, November 12, 2016

Q and A

Q: How could so many people have voted for Donald Trump to become President?
A: Because they honestly believe that a Trump Administration will enact policies that will do the most to make life better for everyone in the country, as viewed through the lens of their own experience.

In the end, it's really that simple. While there seems to be difficulty on the Left in understanding this, it's really based on a simple enough concept. Most people tend to view the national interest through the lens of their own experiences, and view that as objective, and to a certain degree self-evident, truth. And to the degree that people have non-overlapping experiences of the world, they begin to have incompatible, if not mutually exclusive, ideas on how best to move forward.

Contrary to what people like to believe (especially when their side looses an election), voters are not generally selfish people. They don't go around deliberately voting to advance their own interests by throwing other people under the bus. The Standing Rock Sioux are not opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline because they've decided that their interests are best served by pipeline workers being unemployed. Likewise, the people of Ferndale, Washington, weren't hoping for a coal export terminal because they were looking to foul the air or cheat the Lummi out of their fishery. While in both cases, the people involved are actively looking out for their local interests, they believe that they're doing what's best for a wide swath of people other than themselves. Sure, it creates problems for some. If the Standing Rock Sioux have their way, someone who desperately wants a job building or working on the Dakota Access Pipeline is going to be out of luck. But those would-be workers are not the targets of the protests. It's the pipeline company and Federal Government who the protestors understand to be the villains; people who are already well-off, who have it in for them.

And it's that idea, the failure to assume good intent that one finds in the need to assign blame, that becomes entangled in electoral politics. Whether or not people took Donald Trump's idea to build a massive (and like quixotic) wall along the border between Mexico and the United States literally or seriously, people on both sides of the issue were quick to discard the assumption of good intent and see in the opposition the villainy of people who were already doing well enough that they didn't need to do injury to others. For low-wage (and/or unemployed) workers eyeing what they see as potentially family-wage jobs being given to migrant workers willing to work for poverty wages, the "liberal" viewpoint that immigration laws could be ignored at will was at best ignorant of their needs. At worst, it was part of a hateful plot against them; a plan to destroy their communities and erode their electoral influence in a bid to impose policies that they couldn't convince people to willingly support. Likewise, for those whose understanding of illegal migration is that it's simply part of the quest for a better life, the the "conservative" viewpoint that immigration laws should be strictly enforced, regardless of the human cost was at best self-serving. At worst, it was part of a hateful plot to return the United States to a past where "White Supremacy" was the order of the day, and everyone else was second-class, at best, scrounging for the scraps that fell from the table of a WASP society built on a racial, ethnic and religious caste system.

And in each case, the everyday people who supported the scheme may not have been villains themselves, but manipulated by a self-interested and deceitful "élite" who were deploying them as cats' paws and smokescreens, putting an "everyman" face on initiatives designed solely to benefit an already well-off (and usually undeserving) few. This is a pattern that we see repeated over and over, especially when causes provoke a counter-cause of some sort - as in the conflict between the contrasting ideals of "Black Lives Matter" and the "Law and order" constituency. Each often sees the rank-and-file of the other side are pawns of a scheme - one that either ends in bloodshed in the name of racial hierarchy or the weakening of law enforcement for illegal profits.

When people ask why others have cast "badwrong" votes, what they are often looking for is an affirmation: that despite an apparent plurality of disagreement (the usual actual plurality is non-participation), that they are still intelligent, thoughtful and ethical. And while there is nothing wrong with this, the opposite idea, that the opposition is some combination of (willfully) foolish, credulous and/or immoral, creates problems, because those are labels that we often use to place people outside the bounds of our compassion. It allows us to define them as comfortable enough to be worthy of affliction, and to see our efforts against them as a heroic stand for truth and decency, born of our own intellect and sensitivity; we are clear-eyed enough to see what's right and courageous enough to fight for it.

Q: How could so many people have voted for Donald Trump to become President?
A: Because they feel, due to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or the direct actions of others, afflicted. Not for themselves, but for the nation as a whole. And they voted for the best promise of comfort that they could find.

No comments: