A tough election and a harder reflection

It was 3:36AM when I checked my phone. I know there are many things wrong with checking your phone at that time but I did it anyway. Then, I honestly didn’t believe the Slack messages from my partners. I went to the WSJ to see for myself. I was wide awake at this point. We have a mess on our hands that I didn’t expect. I needed to process and think about how we begin cleaning it up.

I went to bed early last night, accepting that I couldn’t affect the outcome and thinking that i would at least deal with the results well-rested. Trump was marginally in the lead but I convinced myself that was an aberration and still thought this would end in a higher-than-expected victory for Hillary.

Status quo would continue. We would have two parties, very similar in action, that provoke each other’s base around social and cultural issues to create discord and accentuate differences in policy while still largely acting the same around foreign & fiscal policy amid a strengthening federalist system. I’ve come to the conclusion that the current two-party system is largely driven by entrenched money interests and neither could afford to move off a centrist approach. I wasn’t surprised that a perceived outsider like Trump would get traction but I believed (& still believe) that he is a flawed person. Certainly, he wasn’t electable and my Facebook and Twitter echo chamber reinforced that for me. I and my echo chamber were completely wrong.

The 1% has spoken. Just a different 1%.

“NATE SILVER 2:10 AM
Something to remember: Whatever your feelings about the state of the country right now, it’s fundamentally not that different a place whether the final call is that Clinton has narrowly won or narrowly lost. Add just 1 percent to Clinton’s vote share and take 1 percent away from Trump’s, and she would have won Florida and Pennsylvania, therefore would probably have been on her way to a narrow Electoral College victory.”

I saw this note from Nate Silver on 538.com (which was a great site for understanding flawed polling through the election) and it struck me as very true.

If Clinton had won by the expected slim margin, we could all claim victory and repudiate the xenophobic and racist messages of Trump. We could celebrate even as we continued a split government. We could highlight our system of checks and balances. The world would breath a collective sigh of relief and life would go on. However, that tiny 1% swing vote in a very few polling districts has placed us in a very uncomfortable position. In my view, the election of Trump forces us to take a hard look in the mirror and deal with a reality that I and many in my peer group seek to avoid.

“This is who America is–huge parts of her, at least. I suspect that black people, gay people, women, and religious minorities are far less surprised than college-educated, upper-middle-income white, straight dudes. They have been living this reality their whole lives. We have the luxury of pretending it is not so.”

I saw this on a FB posting. I won’t provide attribution as I don’t know the person and it was listed on a private network. It’s a great reminder.

I should have seen Trump’s election as more likely in retrospect. I grew up in a blue-collar, semi-rural suburb of Fort Worth, Texas. I was exposed to all of the racist, sexist, gun-loving, meat-eating, beer drinking, culture you might imagine. Our high school mascot was the “Rebels”, complete with the Johnny Reb mascot and confederate flags. The “locker room” talk was rampant. The not-so-subtle racism didn’t allow us to define our own relationship with race or even to talk about it with our few black friends. And honestly, I reflected that cultural image for far too long. It’s something that I’ve been trying to outgrow my entire adult life. I don’t repudiate my younger self or those people for they are in a different cultural echo chamber.  An echo chamber that we need to understand and pierce.  One that I had forgotten as I considered this election.

I believe the splitting of the American people has become more accentuated by these digital echo chambers. We have a factionalized press and too many self-reinforcing online resources that cause us to further polarize along these social and cultural lines. I found this NYTimes article to be very compelling:

“Americans are angry. That’s the sentiment that many believe is driving the 2016 election. They are angry because the rich are getting richer, the average guy is struggling and the government in Washington hasn’t done anything to stop the trend.

But it may not be that simple.

Data on the nation’s economic recovery, people’s reactions to current economic conditions and their overall sense of satisfaction with life do not suggest Americans are angry. In fact, historical measures indicate people are about as happy and satisfied with the economy and with their lives as they were in 1983, when Ronald Reagan told us it was “morning again in America.”

So why does it feel more like a 1 a.m. bar brawl?

The answer may have more to do with political parties than economics, or at least with the interaction of the two. Today’s voters have sorted themselves and polarized into partisan groups that look very different than they did in the late 1980s. And members of each side like the other side less than before. Americans aren’t annoyed only by the economy; they’re annoyed with one another.”

The rest of the article here:
American Anger: It’s Not the Economy. It’s the Other Party. http://nyti.ms/1pTJ3bp

Well, it turns out that when you poke the American people enough times and whip the partisans into a frenzy by highlighting their differences, then you end up with volatile outcomes. I’m afraid we’ve just seen this result with the election of Trump. With apologies to the office of the Presidency, Trump is a terrible outcome. But perhaps there can be a silver lining. Trump forces us to take that hard look in the mirror.

What do we want to be? How do we want to respond? With more vitriol? With more hate? With more denial?

We have challenging social and cultural differences that we’ve tried to conceal. We’ve created our own networks, our own echo chambers, and we’re ripping apart the social fabric that created America. We can be better than this. I demand it. My daughters demand it.

America is great. It need not be great again. America is great because it accepts its challenges and responds. America is great because we’re a land of immigrants. America is great because of the opportunities provided through education. America is great because we can look our neighbor in the eye. America is great because we lend a hand.

I resolve to continue forcing myself out of my tech-focused echo chamber and to embrace my local community. I resolve to give back to the community through commitment of time and resource. I resolve to understand the perspective of others and to find commonality rather than differences. I resolve to use Trump’s election as a wake up call for good. I hope you will too.

Another friend on Facebook noted that she was sending out love bombs today. This is my public love bomb. Keep your chin up and do your best to make a positive dent in the world today. I’m still proud of America, even as we look in this mirror.

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