Postmortem: Why Hillary Failed to Reach More Trump Supporters

While it seems I am all opinions, I sincerely tried to understand what happened in this election. How did so many people vote for Trump?

This is what I heard as I listened. I heard more and more people being in a less and less economically comfortable situation. Bless Bernie hearing that and focusing on that.

I also heard, overwhelmingly, that the reason they didn’t like Hillary because she sounded high handed and it came off as patronizing and elitist.

I spent time thinking about this and spent time re-listening to her carefully. I tried to “get it”.

Listening to Hillary, what I heard was an introvert needing to be an extrovert. I heard someone who has very complex ideas and was trying to make them accessible to as many people as possible. I saw a woman who wasn’t terribly charismatic being forced to “smile, smile, smile” because women in politics have to smile way more than their male counterparts. Those smiles sometimes felt fraudulent. Maybe many were. But she was told (and it is true) that she HAD to smile.

I also heard a person who had a masterful understanding of the facts and the implications of those facts.

There are three ways to convince people, 1) provide them the facts and patiently bring them along, 2) confront ignorance and dispel it with the facts, or 3) listen, empathize, understand and appeal from the heart.

It seems one of the many lessons I CLEARLY got from this election is that trying to be polite and bring “my unsubstantiated opinion is just as good as anybody’s” people along, and getting them to follow or even acknowledge the facts and implications is tough. Playing the role of dispersing facts and implications, is not a real dialog, and to those receiving the information, it can seem patronizing and high handed. And maybe, it is being patronizing.  The heart of an intellectually driven campaign with the public tends to be more of a unidirectional interaction with a window trimming of discussion not an engaged dialog.

The voting public are adults, not uneducated children. Talking to adults with the patience you talk to an uneducated child is patronizing. Also, unfortunately, ignorance sort of solidifies and becomes a bit intractable; it is natural for grown adults to be less malleable than children. Whether it is aptitude or lack of educational opportunity, it is far easier to inflame people’s emotions which holds no personal embarrassment in this day and age, than lead them through facts and a coherent argument.

The guy that plays their emotions and says, “she is lying about the whole thing” completely relieves them of responsibility for understanding her position. Besides the chant “lock her up”, I believe Trump’s most common expression is, “Believe me!” And Trump is skilled at speaking the the language of the “working man”.  A quick analysis on software indicates his speeches at well below the fourth grade reading level.  He is saying what the uneducated and frustrated want to hear, no matter how obvious the lie, it is much easier to see a perceived “winner” and just believe he will do for you what he did for himself.

We live in a nation where at least 40 million people believe that either dinosaurs walked the earth the same time as men or dinosaurs are a science “conspiracy” perpetrated by “Big Paleo”. FORTY MILLION!  They can also believe the moon is made of green cheese, as far as I am concerned. Right now, it is a free country.  They can even proclaim it in the town square.

It is unfortunate that these people want it taught in public school as science, “creation science”. In the face of this, and global warming denial, it is politically ineffective to continue with a strategy of knowledge-sharing and problem-solving. Hillary’s demographic weakness is with the less educated, particularly men.  As mentioned this sharing of knowledge and problem-solving is ineffective because it is not perceived as a conversation.  It has a feel of being too preprocessed for a discussion.  It seems the person in control of the conversation, Hillary, is disseminating information to the less knowledgible person.  In the still traditional male as leader within the family in Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christian homes, the unnatural direction of flow adds further tension with Hillary acting as provider, even if just information.  It might have helped if Hillary studied styles of women evangelists like Joyce Meyer, but, honestly, it seems like there are no easy answers to be more effective in an intellectual approach in this context.

The cornerstone role of patience in the bringing people along on an analytic approach is also extremely tricky.  Patience is necessary in order to bring along as many people in understanding the facts and analysis.  But in the context of trying to dispel falsehood and unsubstantiated beliefs can be misconstrued as validating these very things. Without very clearly labeling wrong beliefs as wrong, the presence of patient discussion empowers ignorant foolishness.  It is giving the mistaken impression that their opinion deserves some level of respect. No matter how unfounded the Chinese climate hoax idea is, each time it is mentioned it is reinforced as something worthy of address.  Given every attempt is made for this to be a two way discussion, there is no avoiding it’s mention.  Without being direct and clear, saying it is wrong, a lie, a manipulation, uttering the words Chinese hoax just reinforces it.   Finally,  the appearance of patience (which is different than patience) as the person disseminating information can generate contempt particularly when the”dialog” appears a pretense.

I repeat this point as it is important.  Excessive patience with ignorant, incoherent and dogmatic beliefs in order to explain fact-based positions is actually counter productive.  It creates the illusion that these opinions deserve respect and both reinforces the “validity” of the belief and could empower believers to continue an agenda based on these beliefs.

I have no interest in denigrating anyone’s religious beliefs, UNLESS it crosses the line between the separation between church and state. At that point, there is no choice. I have to tell them they are factually wrong and their “faith” does not constitute a science. I don’t believe what they believe and I have no reason to believe it. In the public square outside their church they are free to pronounce their articles of faith in public and I am free to tell the children in my family, just as publicly, that these people are free to think this, but any scientist would think their opinions were exactly as scientific as the Norse beliefs that Oden and Thor were in an eternal battle with the wind and frost giants until Fenres Wolf breaks his magical chains and the end of the world begins.

Freedom of religion and freedom of speech does not include freedom from criticism or even mockery if it is needed to prevent religious beliefs from interfering with secular institutions.  Unfortunately, people dedicated to impose faith beliefs as science have learned to parrot science and present their “science experts”.  Again, anything less than labeling statements a “wrong” and experts as “frauds”, the showing of patience and rational argument actually reinforces the legitamacy of faith masquerading as science.

For those of you who want to stop reading because I am clearly “Godless”, you are wrong.  You are welcome to read the post about taking God back from Christian Literal Extremist titled “God, Pence and Trump”.  Christian Literal Extremists are every bit as bad as Radical Islamic Extremists and, right now, are responsible for way more terrorist acts in the US than Muslims.  If you stutter, but.t.t.t you have to respect my beliefs. WRONG.  Morally, I need to respect your personhood, not your beliefs I find ridiculous, as they are clearly contradicted by actual science.

To borrow an expression, I need to respect the person spouting the idiocy, not the idiocy.  My apologies for appropriating the wonderfully descriminating Christian jingo, “love the sinner, hate the sin”.

I hold no hope of rationally convincing 90% of Trump voters of anything. This is how Hillary failed.  Going forward, we need to find a way for knowledge to be treated with much more respect than it is now.  Anytime you hedge around the truth, trying not to insult ignorance, it just paints you as high-handed instead of knowledgable, and reinforces the legitimacy of ignorance and lies.  Kellyanne Conway was masterful in using the polite press to legitimize lies via debate.

No, humans were not around with the dinosaurs- there is no big Paleo conspiracies.

Yes, global warming is a fact- not some conspiracy theory.

Yes, the holocaust happened- the forensic evidence and records are undeniable.

Kit gloves don’t work. I believe all those Trump voters who found Hillary sounding high-handed didn’t like her patience sharing actual facts and implications.  That is what it sounds like to them.  What we thought was patience comes off as patronizing.  In some ways, it is.  Republican voters are not uneducated children.

So, I am convinced that we are left with the two remaining approaches.  The first is to make scientific fact have the respect it deserves is by flexing the muscle that science is intellectually entitled and make clear that, no, ignorant, idiotic opinions do not deserve respect. None. Zero. And  it is not required to respect idiotic opinions as part of respecting someone’s personhood.  I can respect the voter but contradict the idiocy they spout.  It would require we reintroduce words like”wrong”, “lie” and “ignorant” in polite conversation.  Arguments against idiotic ideas start with the statement, “You are wrong.”  You won’t be loved, but at least you are not providing patience that is misconstrued as recognizing some validity of these idiotic opinions. Hard to believe this will be terribly effective, but maybe it will cut down on the comfort level people feel spouting idiocy.  We have a fog of idiotic garbage being treated as acceptable discussion right now, and it needs to be stopped.  The 360 panorama of opinions does not require a token village idiot.

Finally, there is Bernie’s way.  I think Bernie had it right.  He asks questions about feelings and values.  He asks people what they need and uses their very valid emotions as a base to build a coherent framework integrating facts.  Hillary is not a “feelings” person.  She never builds a conversation from feelings expressed.  She just jumps to explaining how information will solve the problems causing those feelings.  This also comes off as “not really listening”, presuming, and high-handed.  There is a gap between feelings and her complex solution-oriented discussion.

The irony of all this is that Hillary handles problems like a man, and Bernie, like a woman, based on the “Men are From Mars, Women from Venus” framework.  It is the vastly different starting point of just listening and empathizing and not just jumping to problem-solving.  People were happy to blame email server and trust issues with a career politician, but it seems the “career politician” rejection is not a strong thematic point of rejection across US elections.  People are lazy.  They don’t always want to be analytic to figure out why someone makes them uncomfortable.  I think Hillary, being intellectual and not particularly charismatic, a woman, arguing like a man, still requires cultural adjustment.  At a certain point Hillary can adapt, but, ultimately, she can’t change who she is.

It would have been an interesting election had Trump run against Bernie.  It would have been an even more  emotionally charged struggle for the hearts and souls of the working class.  Hillary’s failure was not her fault.  Sometimes you can make all the right decisions and still lose, that’s life.  Historically, there are many fewer intellectual US presidents than war heros and charismatic ones.  And, in a world where the facts are growing exponentially, it is becomes harder and harder to make the case for the presidency to the average man from an intellectual perspective.  The take home lesson is that the campaign for the US presidency is more than ever before about winning the heart and soul of America.

Post Script:  I understand my perspective can be viewed as very uncivilized in how I believe we need to change the language and approach to defend against unsubstantiated, dogmatic and factually wrong beliefs.  I want to be explicit when this is appropriate.

It is inappropriate to speak so bluntly in people’s houses of worship.  In personal interactions, I believe the standards of patience, tolerance and kindness are still the standard.

The time for a new, direct language is in addressing people that are formally or informally acting as a spokesman or “voice” for unsubstantiated, dogmatic and factually wrong beliefs in a public arena.  I believe there is even a moral compulsion for this new mode of address when these private beliefs are insinuating themselves into secular institutions.  I believe the Betsy DeVos nomination for Secretary of Education will be a particularly appropriate place to address issues in a new blunt fashion.  Her transparent, activist approach to return Christianity to public education requires very blunt address.

 

 

 

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