What I don’t understand…

How can it even be that the race for US president is this close? As I type this, Biden is about 3.5 million up in the popular vote (71.6 million) but Trump has 68 million of the votes and I’m thinking: after four years of his disastrous presidency, how can 68 million people still think it’s OK to vote for this narcissistic man who is a proven liar and a racist?

My son was up with me until 4 am our time on election night, looking at first results come in, and was disappointed with me that this wasn’t turning into a clear landslide victory for Biden. Then yesterday evening my daughter came home from her side job and heard that Trump and his supporters were calling to stop the count in the states where they are still in the lead. Mini-me laughed out loud at how ridiculous that is. She said, “It’s like when I play football and my team scores and then immediately says, ‘OK, we’ve won, let’s leave now.'” Yes, it’s exactly like that! How come a 16 year old girl can see how ridiculous this is and 68 million grown up Americans can’t? One candidate respects the democratic process, the other candidate doesn’t (yet again) and still people support him?

Results in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Nevada and North Carolina have not been called yet as the race is so close (Biden only needs Nevada to win) but how is this election not a landslide for Biden? I can almost understand that someone is fooled by Trump and would vote for him the first time around but after his record these past four years, how can anyone who is not an extremist still vote for him (again)? It really baffles me. It’s as if someone you thought was your friend turns out to be a jerk after all and the disappointment is huge. I felt that disappointment after the UK voted for Brexit, thinking “but… I thought we were friends!” and I feel that disappointment again now, maybe even more acutely after the disappointment I felt when Hillary lost four years ago.

I thought America could learn from the Trump years and reject authoritarian almost-dictators, but I guess America is not as freedom loving and caring as I had hoped. 68 million Americans tell me that.

Two people in comments on either my blog or other blogs have mentioned the David Bowie song “This is not America” to me and for the past two days that song has been running through my head. “A little piece of you, a little piece in me will die,” he sings…

Things are looking favourable for Biden and I will be ecstatic if he wins, but this election leaves me with a very bitter taste in my mouth. America is not what I thought it was.

18 thoughts on “What I don’t understand…

  1. I join you – once again – in being flabberghasted that this is not a landslide victory for Biden. However, I watched to things yesterday (distracting myself from the US election), that have both cleared up some of the reasons behind US voter behaviour. You might find this 45 minute, quite personal piece by German news anchor Ingo Zamperoni interesting – he is married to an American. She is Democrat, her father is Republican. And even though he loathes Trump, he will vote Republican again. More in the video: https://youtu.be/jyOy7GgvZeM
    Second recommendation, if you have Netflix: “The Social Dilemma”. Documentary with some dramatised elements, about social media. I found it really interesting and convincing, also in terms of isolating social media users in a bubble of like-minded people >> false impression that everyone has the same opinion/that “we” are the majority…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for the link to that German programme, I will watch that. I’ve also heard of The Social Dilemma but, as I’ve been very aware of those social media (and google search!) bubbles for quite a while now and the role of algorithms in strengthening these bubbles, I haven’t had the heart yet to watch it. I am also aware that I am in a liberal, democratic bubble myself and I know that the race was tight and there was no guarantee that the democratic side would win and yet, I hoped… At least in popular vote ‘we’ are far in the lead now. If only the electoral college could reflect that should Trump ‘win’ after all.

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      1. Absolutely true re. our own bubbles. I am quite aware of that myself – there is no dissent on *my* TL at all, but that doesn’t reflect reality… I found the Netflix programme surprisingly good (and not even that depressing). Even though I have worked in search marketing and then ad tech, and there were things that still surprised me. The addictiveness of SM was what I didn’t take into account so much.
        Anyway, today it doesn’t look quite so bad. I am just hoping that Trump isn’t going to get through in the courts.

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  2. Esther to be honest I didn’t think Biden would win by a landslide I mean I hoped he would but I think the problems in America 4 years ago where Trump be it legally or illegally through Russia’s help got 50 million people then to vote for him those issues are still here maybe louder than ever. As all narcissistic only think about themselves and bully others to make themselves feel better once people adjust their attitudes towards others politically socially economically and of course globally I think things will begin to improve
    Covid has shown us that. People live in a bubble and Trump and his followers and deniers don’t care about all of us out here floundering physically and mentally.
    Keep positive thoughts going! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t really believe he would win by a landslide but I fervently hoped I was wrong and that he would. Then again, I am learning that we, in our European bubble, don’t really understand a lot of America.
      I am keeping positive thoughts going, I hope you can too!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Hi Esther, I think it’s one part America’s original sin of the racist legacy, with white people being afraid of losing their majority and privilege, and one part the huge partisan divide being amplified by Fox, the President and the Kremlin (abetted by Facebook and other social media). The scale of misinformation is really huge, such that many Republicans have been convinced that it will be the “end of America” if they don’t win. There was a big reaction against the ideas of “defunding the police” and “packing the court.” None of this excuses the depravity of those who would still vote for Trump given his obvious stupidity, recklessness, racism and divisiveness. I have learned a lot about my fellow citizens during the last four years, most of it disheartening. But there are also many people who worked very, very hard to counter all of this. They give me hope and inspiration.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Misinformation is a huge problem and that there seems to be no consensus anymore of basic truths and facts.
      And yes, it really is encouraging that 71.7 million people have countered that racism, divisiveness and stupidity. I do try to remember that, and I hope more will join those ranks…
      Stay strong and stay sane in these awful times, Linnet!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Servetus

    Warning / long post ahead: As a matter of rhetoric and emotion, I share your frustration.

    However: I live in a swing state and apart from Obscura, I have maybe two friends around here who voted for Biden. My family members *all* voted for Trump in 2016 and did so again. My elder niece even told me she was sad that her 18th birthday isn’t till December so that she is going to have missed voting for Trump. So I honestly never thought Biden would win in a landslide and when the national polls said Biden was polling 4-5 points ahead of Trump here, I was suspicious of that although hopeful. I thought that Biden might end up in the same situation as Hillary Clinton with a popular vote majority but an electoral college defeat. As my favorite pollster, Nate Silver, said, a 10 percent chance is still pretty good (although so far Biden has not lost any of the states Silver said he was going to win).

    So although I’m disappointed about how this is going, I am not especially surprised by much of what’s happening now. It looks like Wisconsin went for Biden by a majority of votes similar to that by which it went for Trump in 2016; Trump owed that victory in WI to liberal voters who voted Green in protest against Clinton (there were 5x as many as usual) and it looks like Biden will owe this victory to Libertarians.. But we can’t really read the Libertarian vote as protest in this case, as it fell by roughly 2/3 since 2016. Trump has drawn in not only moderates, but also the far Right. When the number crunching is over I suspect we will learn that this election overturned the traditional rule that high turnout is good for the Dems, and that Trump managed to mobilize a lot of people to vote for him who never voted or rarely have in the past. And that Trump would insist he had not lost has been pretty clear for months.

    Here are some things I know that Trump voters — many of whom don’t like Trump himself all that much — would say about themselves: (a) they are staunchly pro-life and Trump has done more than any president in our lifetimes to put pro-life judges on the bench in hopes of overturning or further weakening Roe v. Wade and Casey v Planned Parenthood (b) they are staunchly pro-law enforcement, see most or all BLM protests as destructive riots, and are angry about calls to defund the police — I sincerely had a severe fear that the Kenosha deaths would swing the election to Trump, and that seems to have been the case in Kenosha, i.e., what was usually a close decision there came down overwhelmingly for Trump (c) they are staunchly opposed to any kind of universal healthcare system — they despise Obamacare either on principle or because it has impacted them negatively, and believe proposals to expand it would make it works (d) they see the Green New Deal or most efforts to mitigate climate change as either nonsense or socialism or both and (e) they think that the severity, spread, and significance of Covid-19 infections is widely overestimated.

    I would add to that the following things: (a) although it looks like Trump got significant minority votes this time, especially in Florida, anyone who says white supremacy / racial fear was not a huge component of this is either lying or blind; (b) the Trump voters I know are much less involved in any kind of political media consumption, in that they spend less time on news than the liberals I know and they read a more limited range of sources — the takeover of the smaller tv stations by Sinclair Communications and the monopolization of the low-frequency end of the FM dial by conservative talk radio in rural areas also limits their awareness (c) there is a significant piece of this that involves some kind of belief (what sociologist Arlie Hochschild calls a “deep story”) that social changes / immigration mean that people who have worked hard their whole lives are specifically being economically victimized by minorities and immigrations — this leads to a level of ingrained conviction about victimization that feeds votes for Trump. Apart from policy (much GOP policy of the last four years is actively damaging to poor, working class and lower middle class people), certain views are becoming a part of the social identity of this kind of voter and this will be much harder to change whether or not there are concrete policy benefits to changing.

    Finally, in watching this, I am very much reminded of the “who voted for Hitler” research that was done in the 80s – 90s: one of the results was that very few people voted NSDAP initially because they admired or agreed with Hitler’s racial ideas. But at the same time, while these policies were out there on view well before 1933, most people who voted NSDAP didn’t see those views as a reason not to support the party. They were political adiaphora for a lot of the NSDAP voters. There are a lot of people who are supporting Trump who just don’t see esp the nativist / jingoist / racial / anti-immigrant features of his message as all that bad. Fellow travelers, so to speak, who are there for the things they endorse.

    I also think the Biden campaign’s ground game was pitifully bad. The stated reason for this was the pandemic (which is obviously something that didn’t bother the GOP), but the GOP succeeded in finding small groups here and there who had potential latent sympathies with part of the Trump message, and didn’t move the vote by a lot but taken together, ended up being significant (Cuban Americans in FL; Latinos in the Rio Grande Valley; small farmers in Michigan, etc.) You’d think that after 2016 the Democratic Party would have changed operations at least somewhat, but once again the elites of the Democratic Party have shown themselves as blind to the actual demographic and electoral map and its complexity.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks for this! I kinda knew a lot of it but still hoped against hope for the Biden landslide.
      Over the past few years, I’m just realizing that the ideological divide between my country, maybe Western Europe even, and the US is much larger than I used to think. I mean here everyone, even on the right, agrees that there needs to be universal healthcare for everyone, that not everyone should have guns and (if they do) there need to be strict checks and protocols in place. They agree that climate change is an issue (just the views on how to handle it differ but no large party denies it’s happening) and that taxes need to be paid for the common good (again, differing views on how much). From all sides, at least a very basic level of socialism is deemed important and a basic caring for those less fortunate through government is deemed necessary. All these things do not seem to be agreed on in the US.
      Also, what shocked my kids most these past four years, is how overt racism still seems to be in the US and how bitterly necessary the black lives matter movement is. Now, I know we also have racism here, especially against Moroccans and Turks, but it’s not as pronounced and seemingly deep-rooted as we see in the US.
      Besides all that, there’s the person of Trump – it seems unfathomable that he can even be admired when he lies all the friggin’ time and acts like a petulant child. We like American optimism and can-do attitude but Trump is seen as hysterical and stupid here by the vast majority. Even with the strong man stuff, people see him as stupid rather than strong.
      The difference between right wing rural America and Europe feels more pronounced than I ever felt it to be before. I think this may even influence my ability to watch Hallmark movies set in rural, small-town America…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Servetus

        re: taxes, arms and healthcare — we have such different histories that led us to our viewpoints. My European history students are always amazed by the fact that it’s a conservative politician who pushes the first social welfare bill in Germany. But they’ve always lived in an age where the authorities were heavily armed and perfectly prepared to fire on the crowds. Same with racism: really different histories there of the presence of (and reasons for the presence of) non-whites in Europe.

        I think we’re going to struggle for a while to explain Trump (and some of it will relate to a revision of how people perceived Ronald Reagan, I strongly suspect).

        As far as small towns go: yeah. In my experience they are not much like Hallmark films and that is one element that makes those things hard for me to watch.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. It is deeply depressing that so many people would vote for Trump and support his abhorrent views but the comments about the liberal bubble in which many of us live is pertinent.There are a great many people who feel mocked, misrepresented or ignored by progressive liberal media etc, who despise the cant of conventional politicians and who felt that extreme Trump gave them a voice. Similar to those in the UK who voted to leave the EU (although there were many progressive/left-wing Brexiteers too).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, reaching those who feel left behind is essential and speaking to their concerns is important, taking into account their views and feelings. Taking away misconceptions and prejudices would be a good start too. Truthful communication without lies and conspiracies amplified for clickbait by media would help.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Well said Jane! It’s attitudes of people and until that is addressed nothing will get better. When people don’t allow for dialogue and discussion and get immediately shut down if they don’t agree or adulate the host/leader/tweeter there will never be balance and acceptance . Trump just personifies a huge issue.

      Liked by 2 people

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