Post-Election 2016

This post has taken days to work on, and it’s not finished, but I gave up and you’re just going to have to deal with it because I’m ready to move on now.

I’m aware that people feel very passionately about this election, so I will warn folks on both the left and the right that there might be some triggers below.

I’m still a centrist, and I view this election and this country through a fairly dispassionate moderate filter. Still, even *I’m* feeling overwhelmed by all the anger and fear and disappointment I’ve seen after the election. Most of my Internet circles experienced this election result quite like another 9/11. So it might be better if you wait a while to read this. I don’t want to throw gasoline on any fires here.

But it helps me to write it while it’s fresh in my mind.

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I can’t really prove this, but I wrote the words below as an epilogue for my Election Day Tale, but removed it because I didn’t want anything resembling partisanship in that post:

“I don’t know how this election will turn out. But I’m inclined to agree with something I saw on another blog, which is that it won’t be a close Clinton win like the polls suggest. It will either be a *huge* Clinton win, or a close Trump win. I’ll be watching the results of my state (Virginia) to get a better idea of who might win. Polls close in Virginia at 6 7 PM (Eastern time), and I hope to post this before then. If Trump wins Virginia, I’m pretty sure he’ll win the nation. If Clinton wins Virginia as predicted, but it’s closer than expected (say less than 3-4 points), Trump could win a close election. Otherwise it will almost certainly be Clinton all the way.

“Also, despite the long line at *my* polling place, I predict very low voter turnout overall. I’ve heard a disproportionate number of non-millennial people say they weren’t going to vote.

“Please note, though, that I don’t know anything about anything.

“Regardless of how it turns out, 2020 is going to be a nightmare. This [year] has been nothing. In 2020, we’ll look back at the good old days of 2016 when elections were sane. If Trump wins, can you even imagine what Democrats will say in their [2020] campaigns? If Clinton wins, can you even imagine what Republicans and whatever-other-alt-right-party-develops will say in their [2020] campaigns?”

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That last paragraph really worries me. I still believe it. I’m not looking forward to 2020 and 2024.

I feel like I need to disclose that yes, I’m a white male, and I voted for Clinton. I don’t *like* feeling the need to disclose that, for reasons that I will get to down below somewhere, but I know that matters to some people.

I’m not afraid for myself or America. I still believe Trump is fairly moderate on the political scale. I don’t believe he will start World War 3, or deport Latinos, or build any walls. I don’t believe he will be able to reverse everything or possibly even anything that Obama or Bush or Clinton has done. I understand and sympathize with the reasons that people are afraid of Trump, but I believe those fears have been amplified out of control in the echo chambers of social media.

Still, I fervently hope Trump stays in office for his entire term. I’ve already seen #ImpeachTrump on Twitter. For me, the *real* nightmare scenario is a Mike Pence presidency.

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So what have we learned from this 2016 election?

I can’t speak for you, but here’s some things that *I* learned. They aren’t good things.

2016 is the year that I began to fear the power of the Internet to influence the democratic process negatively.

(When I say “the Internet” I am referring to the largely leftward-leaning Internet, controlled by leftward-leaning corporations such as Facebook and Google. The rightward-leaning Internet is still in its infancy. It’s basically the alt-right.)

I should leave it at that, because I’m on the Internet, therefore I fear what could happen to me if I express the “wrong” opinion. There’s no Bill of Rights on the Internet, you know. There’s no “freedom of speech” giving me a legal shield to speak up against the governors of the Internet. (And yes, I view the Internet as a new kind of lawless nation state.)

I know that might sound like something a Sad Puppy or GamerGate supporter would say. “The elites are oppressing me!” I don’t support those guys, but they have some valid criticisms and I understand their arguments.

Since I’m afraid of getting beat up by the Internet, I need to say that I’m a white male and I voted for Clinton. Truly. I probably didn’t do so for the “right” reasons though. I was not advancing progressivism (neither am I necessarily opposed to that). I think Clinton is a very capable public servant and politician, but I didn’t want a Clinton presidency. I’m not with her. I didn’t and don’t endorse her.

I voted for Clinton because my dislike of Mike Pence was greater than my dislike of Hillary Clinton. That’s basically it.

My main opposition to another Clinton being in the White House, by the way, is a purely philosophical one. I don’t believe any relatives or spouses of presidents should be eligible to become future presidents. I didn’t like that Bush Jr. followed Bush Sr. I don’t believe Jeb Bush should be president. I don’t believe Michelle Obama should be president. It feels too much like an aristocracy or a monarchy to me.

I briefly considered voting for Jill Stein, because I respected her conduct as a presidential candidate and I fully support the struggle to get more third parties on ballots. But I don’t agree with much of the Green party platform.

I might have supported the Libertarian party, but I can’t support Gary Johnson.

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Okay, so what makes me worry that the Internet is turning bad all of a sudden? Hold on, I’ll explain. I’m trying to be very cautious and non-inflammatory in the way I phrase things, so it takes a while.

The very fact that I feel like I need to be so careful is part of the problem. All it takes is one wrong word and people will ban, block, disengage, and retreat into their bubbles. When I write about politics, I prefer to write in a way that will engage with everyone. Or at least try to.

I’ve observed some disturbing trends in the tone of Internet advocacy. Since the Internet is mostly liberal, that means liberal advocacy. There’s a right way and a wrong way to try to convince people to vote for your candidate. By which I mean there’s an inoffensive way and an offensive way.

The right, inoffensive way is to list the reasons why you like your candidate’s platform. Maybe even point out things you disagree with in the other candidate’s platform.

The wrong, offensive, *divisive* way is to make fun of the opposing candidate, or make fun of the opposing candidate’s supporters.

The Internet made fun of Trump and Trump supporters all the way from beginning to end.

I’m not saying there’s no cause for it. I’m just saying it undeniably happened.

Again, I’m a centrist. I look at the pros and cons of all candidates. When I examined the Trump message and the Trump platform, I found plenty of cons, but I also found pros. In some way, that made me a Trump supporter, or at least a *potential* Trump supporter.

So when the Internet made fun of Trump, it was also making fun of me, a moderate, a centrist. I didn’t like that.

The Internet has developed into a snarkocracy where the snarkiest rise to the top. It’s a fairly simple process. Surviving in the top echelons of the Internet requires staying popular. Staying popular requires hits, and correspondingly, hits also generate revenue. The most effective way to generate hits is to create controversy.

Controversy—snark—generates hits, which generates money. I can’t stress enough that when we fight on the Internet, people or corporations are making money. It’s like digital war profiteering, a concept I just thought of and should probably trademark immediately. Unless somebody already thought of it.

There’s very little that’s more infuriating—more controversial—than challenging someone’s beliefs using snark. It’s impossible to remain calm when someone is making you feel dumb. It’s impossible to be receptive to changing your mind when you’re being attacked. Nobody in the history of the world has ever changed their mind about their core beliefs because somebody made fun of them.

I understand what it must have felt like to be a solid Trump supporter and be subjected to the torrent of snark from the Internet. Since I considered Trump to be at least worthy of consideration, the Internet was effectively making fun of *me*. At least it felt that way.

I’ve gotten angry at the Internet a lot in the last few months, for its complete lack of open-mindedness on the Trump front. Closed-mindedness generally makes me angry. I had to bite my tongue a lot because I was afraid—literally afraid—to make any kind of stand against the anti-Trump momentum on the Internet. Even just a quiet remark here or there felt like I would be exposing myself to an Internet death blow.

I could also lump the entire entertainment industry (including the news media) in with the Internet here, by the way. But I’m not in the entertainment industry, I’m just on the Internet.

Snarkiness has always been particularly bad during election years. That’s nothing new. I’m sure it was bad on Usenet and Fidonet in the early days, but my memory of this phenomenon started in 2006-2008. It intensified in 2012, and it’s never been so bad as it has been in 2016.

I can’t wait to see how bad it’s going to be in 2020, because I *know* it’s going to get worse. The backlash from the election has already started. “Trump supporters were bastards to us, so we’re going fight harder and be twice as bastard-y to them next time!” That’s the mantra of all political activists. It always gets worse. It’s all over Twitter and Facebook right now. The social media echo chamber turns it into a deafening cacophony. Voices calling for calm are completely drowned out. The Internet is getting out of control, and it’s going to bite us one day. We’re living in the Cyber Old West, where cell phones are our six guns, and eventually we’re going to need some lawmen to come in and clean up this town.

Sorry about that terrible analogy.

Look, I didn’t vote for Trump. But this is still a democracy and he was legitimately nominated by legitimate elections by legitimate Americans with legitimate thoughts and feelings, which makes him a legitimate option for thoughtful voters to consider. It really annoys and frightens me that the entire Internet might come down on me for saying something as fundamentally American as that. Or even worse, that the entire Internet might consider me a racist, misogynist, whateverist for saying that.

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I’ll admit I’m a bit contrarian at times. There’s a part of me that *wanted* to vote for Trump, because the Internet consistently made me angry about this. I wanted to vote for him just to prove that the world wouldn’t explode if he were elected. Just to prove that American democracy can and will survive the most ridiculous president ever.

Unfortunately, thanks to confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance and all those fancy logical fallacy arguments we know and love, rabid Trump opposition will still find a way to believe he is the new Hitler, no matter what he does.

Eventually everyone will forget that Trump is just Trump, while Hitler was motherfucking Hitler, and that makes me angry.

(The comparison of Trump to Hitler makes me particularly angry because that argument is such an incredible insult to one’s intelligence, one’s knowledge of history, and the memory of 60 million dead people.)

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As I said I’m a white male. I understand what white privilege is. I understand what male privilege is. I try to be conscious of it, for whatever good that might do. I try to follow Wheaton’s Law, and not be a dick. I fully acknowledge all of the advantages that I’ve had in my life by pure genetic luck.

But I’m not going to apologize for being a white male. I’m not going to feel ashamed about it.

I feel like a lot of people on the Internet think I should. I feel pressure to accept and acknowledge that everything is my fault, and that I should atone for it. I feel like I hear that message every day, from every direction, all the time. In some circles I feel like I’m hit over the head by a sledgehammer with it.

I understand that it’s a natural response from the plight of people who are less privileged. But it sucks. It sucks for them, and it sucks for me. It wears on a person. I don’t *want* to be responsible for the suffering of vast swathes of the planet. I just want to do my thing, ya know?

The point is that I’m not surprised some of that feeling filtered into the election results. I’d like to think we can work out a happy medium someday.

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In real life, for some reason I don’t fully understand, I often find myself in the unfortunate position of trying to mediate between people who have opposing views on things. Work things, usually. Most of the time, I find myself interpreting what one side says to the other side, because for whatever reason they can’t understand each other. Sometimes, I have to tell people that they are both saying the same thing, in different ways. It’s weird to me that people can’t tell that. In my personal opinion it usually boils down to the fact that people love to talk, but they hate to listen and learn.

So I think I have a pathological need to remain neutral. I don’t like it when people fight, especially when they are both saying the same thing. It wastes time. It doesn’t get anything done. The clock is ticking, we’re all going to die someday, so sitting around bickering pointlessly seems dumb.

So it’s been painful to watch people in my networks express how personally betrayed they feel about the election results. I wish I could say something to make them feel better. I want to explain all the reasons why things turned out this why, and why everything will be all right, and why this election should not be viewed as a referendum against any individuals or minorities. But I know people need time to grieve. Some people may never be ready to listen. The only thing I can do is keep saying that I don’t believe a Trump presidency will destroy America. It’s been only a single day and there are already hopeful signs.

I *do* believe that divisive politics and a constant need to seek vengeance against the opposing party will destroy America. Eventually, it will cause a dissolution of the United States, similar to the fall of the Soviet Union. It might happen in my lifetime at this rate. Maybe in 2020 or 2024.

I guess I should acknowledge that there are people in the world who *enjoy* fighting. There are a lot of people like that, in my opinion. A lot of them can be found on the Internet, in the wake of this election result. A lot of people think political bickering is the most fun game ever. I can’t do anything about them. I have to accept that they will never change. No matter how much middle ground you show those people, they will find a way to fight, because they are defined by fighting opposition.

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I can’t support blaming third party voters for the Trump win. The blame (if it can be called that) for the Trump win rests 100% on the shoulders of Washington’s elected officials. Collectively, they’ve failed. I feel like Paul Ryan acknowledged that in his remarks, which is good.

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I’ve been horrified by the way the Internet has consistently rejected any attempt at understanding the reasons why somebody like Trump could gather support in America.

The *real* reasons, not the throw-away Internet meme reasons. Not the reasons we tell ourselves after we’ve covered our eyes, believing we understand everything we need to know already.

America is now geographically split between rural citizens and urban citizens. Those are the two different countries we Americans live in.

I saw a tweet imploring us to stay friends because we have to live with each other.

We *don’t* live with each other though. Look at the electoral map, broken down by county. The tiny blue spots are the population centers. The red sea between—the huge swath of red that sprawls all the way from one coast to the other—is the rural area. Rural voters never see or interact with urban voters, and vice versa.

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One huge issue that needs to be addressed is why Trump won the nomination. And I don’t mean how he was able to “cheat the system.” I’ve already seen discussions about changing the nomination process so that someone like Trump can never win again. That is wrong, wrong, wrong, and more wrong. Not least because it will further inflame his base.

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There needs to be a discussion of why a large percentage of the country prefers an unqualified outsider to an established politician. It has nothing to do with grabbing women or racism or emails. It has to do with the fact that rural America doesn’t believe the government cares about them, and they have a lot of valid reasons to think that. That is the main conflict I see within America right now, and possibly everywhere in the world: Rural lifestyle versus urban lifestyle. Somebody needs to address that pretty soon.

(I have no idea how to address that.)

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Another problem to be addressed is the rapidly developing Cold War 2.0 happening over there in Syria. Remember when Russia used to be scary? Well, they never really stopped being scary. Now they’re shooting at people. And Putin apparently doesn’t have to step down after eight years.

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Other thoughts: I didn’t and wouldn’t ever vote for the Green party, but Jill Stein was the best candidate in terms of acting presidential. At least on Twitter. (I hardly ever saw her on television.) I wish *she* had been the Democractic candidate. Almost all of her tweets made me think about issues, and made me lament that there are only two parties to choose from. Kudos to her. It’s too bad Green policies are wackadoodle. (See, I made fun of them and now you’re mad, right?)

The Libertarian Party really, really needs to nominate somebody else in 2020. Somebody in Gary Johnson’s position in 2016 should have done a lot better. He was a non-factor on Twitter. If I saw one tweet from him in a day, it was a miracle.

On third parties in general, if anyone is going to take them seriously, they need to moderate their positions more than they do. It won’t be long before legalization of marijuana isn’t controversial for a Libertarian candidate, but Gary Johnson trying to defend closing down half of government agencies is still going to be a deal-breaker for most reasonable people. Even people who hate the government know you can’t just *close* it.

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In other news, Scott Adams is a genius. A little sociopathic, but a genius. It’s very fascinating to read his blog. I’ve been reading it off and on for, I don’t know, five years? Ten years? If nothing else, he gave a master class in how to recognize when someone is social engineering you. Everyone should learn that. He’s also kind of a dick sometimes, so buyer beware. But you can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs yada yada.

Seriously, every high school should teach classes in basic skepticism, critical thinking, social engineering, and how to lie to pollsters.

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I feel dumb saying this, but I honestly do not understand why LGBTs feel they might be persecuted under a Trump presidency. Latinos, I understand. Muslims, I understand. (I disagree, but I at least know what Trump said to cause the fear.) But I cannot recall ever seeing or hearing anything from Trump about LGBTs.

LGBT fear of Mike Pence, though, I fully understand. However, I do not believe he will be in a position to change any policies.

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Other brief thoughts from election night:

I loved the disbelief I saw on the faces of the election night pundits (I mostly watched CNN). I am not immune to feeling a smug sense of satisfaction when the mainstream media is wrong. I love it when polls are wrong. I hope everybody who ever answers a poll question lies.

I have never accepted the premise that Trump is dangerous. I wish I could think of a way to convince the rest of the Internet of that, but even if I could, I don’t think anyone is ready to listen.

What makes me saddest for the future is knowing that a lot of people are never going to know or even try to understand why this happened. They will blame third-party voters or racists or voter suppression and that will be the end of it for them.

What this election says is that people on the Internet (essentially, people in urban areas) do not know or understand people in rural areas.

I felt it at the time, and I now I definitely believe, it was a big mistake for Clinton to rely so much on that Access Hollywood tape.

I would like to see the electoral map laid over a map of Broadband penetration. Just out of curiosity. I suspect broadband penetration has a correlation with Democratic voting results.

What will happen when Trump *doesn’t* “lock her up?” Because he won’t. Oh, he might appoint somebody to push some papers around and make it look like there’s an investigation. But it will go away. There’s no doubt in my mind. How long will Trump supporters wait before they turn on him?

Trump’s victory speech was exactly the right tone.

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Brief thoughts from the day after the election:

European folks woke up on 11/9 (in their weird backwards date format) to the news of a Trump victory. Comparisons to 9/11 immediately ensued. It occurred to me that I was staring at cable news exactly the same way that I had been staring at cable news on 9/11. I haven’t done that at any other time between.

When I remove all emotion from the equation, I find this to be a very fascinating election result. It’s a very “interesting” time in history. I read about other interesting times and sometimes wonder what it would have been like to live through them, and now I’m apparently living through one myself. It doesn’t really feel that special, to be honest. 🙂

“Political correctness” is no longer necessary to run for office. I’m a little relieved. The days of filming candidates 24/7 to catch them in a “gotcha” moment might be over.

I suspect Clinton was “late” on her concession speech because her team simply did not prepare for it. And when they finally realized they needed to make one, they realized they needed to make a *really really great* one to address all of the people (half of the country) who are terrified.

Result: I thought Clinton’s concession speech was really good.

I was encouraged by Trump’s acceptance speech on election night. I was encouraged by Paul Ryan’s brief speech the day after. I was very encouraged by Clinton’s concession speech. I was further encouraged by Obama’s followup speech. And finally I was very, very pleased to see that the market didn’t crash the day after the election. All of those things together are signs that the apocalypse is still some distance into the future, and we can expect a plain old four-year presidential term.

When Clinton said someone would break the glass ceiling “sooner than we might think” in her concession speech I was pretty sure she was referring to Michelle Obama. I like Mrs. Obama and all but I do not believe spouses of previous presidents should be eligible to run. Can’t we get people to run for president without any baggage?

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Here’s a dumb joke I didn’t share on Twitter because I thought it was too soon:

The real question here is what will happen to Trump’s hair over the course of his presidency?

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I’m disabling comments because I just don’t have the time or energy to deal with them.

Update: Then I went and forgot to disable comments. Now they’re really disabled. 🙂