If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume that you are a well-educated, moderate to liberal U.S. citizen. You are shocked and horrified that Donald Trump has beaten Hillary Clinton in the general election. Perhaps you’re angry that the country has more bigots and racists than you thought. Perhaps you are upset at Bernie supporters who didn’t come out for Hillary.
At the end of the day it comes down to you. It was YOUR fault that Trump got elected.
You Never Noticed All The Trump Supporters Out There
In the months leading up to the general election, I was struck by the fact that virtually no one I knew supported Trump. I even went through my 1,300+ Facebook friends to see if anyone posted any pro-Trump statuses. Out of that 1,300, I found just ONE SINGLE PERSON (with whom I’m not personally all that close) who was pro-Trump.
The conventional wisdom was that all those Trump supporters were from Red America-conservative communities far away from us large coastal cities. And that’s absolutely true. But there were FAR more Trump supporters in our own communities than we thought. We just never noticed. (In the past I’ve also failed to pay attention to shifting demographics and that caused me to lose an election.) Of course, they were not easy to find. Trump made it difficult for educated citizens to support him publicly.
But if you take a look at your Facebook now, things are different. For example, the number of vocal Trump supporters has gone from ONE to about ten. You think those nine Trump supporters suddenly decided to be a supporter after the election? No way. They were supporters all along–they just weren’t as vocal about it.
The other thing is that you must Read Between The Lines. How do you find Trump supporters if they don’t openly post about their support for Trump? Here’s a fun exercise. Go through your feed and take a hard look at what people are posting about. Some examples of topics Trump supporters are currently posting about:
- Look at these terrible anti-Trump protestors who are rioting!
- Stop complaining about Trump’s victory it’s not that big a deal
- Not all Trump supporters are racists and bigots okay
They are hiding in plain sight. They might say things like I’m libertarian or I support Gary Johnson. Because they know it’s just not socially acceptable to say I support Trump. It is YOUR fault that your collective shaming of Trump supporters drove them underground. Which leads me to my next point.
You Participated in Useless Facebook Shaming
Virtually every political post I saw leading up to the general election was a pro-Hillary or anti-Trump article. Sometimes, someone’s Republican friend would drop a comment in support of Republicans or criticize Hillary, and then SWARMS of liberals would absolutely rip that person apart.
Now I love a Good Internet Fight just as much as the next guy. Especially when it’s not a fair fight. The liberals I know are intelligent and articulate, and often these pro-Republican commenters are less capable of putting together coherent arguments. It feels good to destroy your opponents argument with a few clever lines mixed in, and then get 5 likes for that comment from your other liberal friends. Confession: I’ve been guilty of this in the past.
But in the end your smackdown has only accomplished 2 things: 1. Driving Trump sympathizers underground and 2. Making you and your liberal pals feel good about yourselves.
And here’s the thing that bothers me the most about our Facebook fights. They are disguised as an ostensibly civil debate to Understand What The Other Side Is Thinking but what they really are is plain old Internet bullying. As for me-I no longer pretend to engage in Fake Civil Debates on Facebook. I just do two things now: Ignore people I disagree with (99% of the time) or Instigate Arguments for my own personal entertainment (1% of the time). I encourage you to do the same.
I can’t emphasize this point enough. Once you stop taking your own Internet/Facebook comment seriously, you will see that they are a huge waste of time. In the grand history of the Internet, no one has convinced anyone of anything political by leaving a thoughtful, reasonable argument. What really matters is some solid, real-life political action. Which also leads me to my next point.
You Failed to Do Anything Politically Consequential
The simple version of this is the Person Who Picks Internet Fights but fails to go vote. There are a lot of these people out there. Maybe you’re one of them. Some of these Persons convinced themselves that it doesn’t matter because they live in California or New York (where our electoral votes are automatically Democratic) or because we have to punish Hillary for screwing over Bernie.
I call BS. You failed to vote and it had a serious impact on our democracy. You know how much Hillary won the popular vote by? 1.5% Now I know the liberal leaning New York Times thinks this is a lot. But if I told you two weeks ago that Hillary would win the general by 1.5% I’m pretty sure your reaction would be WTF. Imagine Trump won the electoral college but Hillary won the popular vote by 10%. This is not an unrealistic margin! It is precisely because people in California or New York (or other Democratic leaning non-swing states) “rationally” decided not to vote.
Sure, that 10% margin would not make a difference “technically.” But it certainly would change the way we think about the Trump election, and would seriously hamstring his ability to declare a popular mandate for his policies. At the very least it would question our continued reliance on the Electoral College system. Whatever it is–it is certainly more important than Winning Internet Fights.
The more complicated version of this is the Staunch Anti-Trump person who failed to go campaign for Hillary. I am 100% absolutely guilty of this. Yes, I did my civic duty and submitted my ballot. I considered signing up for phone banking but decided against it because I figured Hillary was a lock to win.
Any of us could have campaigned for Hillary in a swing state. I know we’re all busy with our lives and our careers. But it certainly didn’t stop some of my busiest friends from doing something impactful. Like the friend of mine who is a extraordinarily busy lawyer at a large law firm who took the time to fly out to Nevada for a day trip to register voters. Or my other busy lawyer friends who made phone calls to swing states on behalf of Hillary.
Did you post a million things about Trump or Hillary on your Facebook, but fail to campaign for her? If so, you’re responsible. Just like me.
Conclusion: Do Something Useful Please
Here’s the good news. If you’re reading this you’re probably in your 20s or 30s. We’re all still young, and we have at least 10 more Presidential election cycles and another 10 midterm election cycles ahead of us.
Don’t waste your time engaging in well meaning Facebook discussions to try to “understand” the other side. That is NOT your job. That is the candidate’s job. Your job is to provide political ammunition for your candidate (votes) so that they may do THEIR job.
Got a super conservative relative posting crazy stuff on Facebook? Don’t waste your time trying to engage them. Listen to their points-sure-but do your job. Make sure you blunt their political impact by going out and phone banking or door-to-door knocking in the next election cycle. Or at the very least make sure you (and your friends) all go out and vote.
My post about campaigning for a local Asian American city council candidate who lost the election after race-driven attacks from his opponent Dan Halloran (That was the Asian American candidate’s first and last political campaign.)
My post warning an Asian American Congressional candidate to not overlook certain demographics in her district. I later worked on her general election campaign to defeat Dan Halloran (the same guy from above who used race-baiting to win the city council election). The candidate, Grace Meng, is now serving in the House of Representatives and just won her third term.
My post about losing a fraternity election. That loss taught me to always pay attention to shifting demographics and voter preferences.