How We Got It Wrong

hillary-clinton-concession-speechThe grief is palpable—if you are liberal. 11/9 is like 9/11, in that your very way of life is under attack. Which, in many ways, it is. But why it feels that way is more complicated than that.

If you are centrist, this outcome doesn’t much register—this is business as usual, maybe a little worse but not that much. And if you are conservative, it’s annoying but still a win—Trump is an unlikely hero for conservative values, but hey, you won, so who cares about the other two thirds of the country. Fuck em.

And because there is so stark a divide right now, I need to apologize to my conservative friends. I think you are dead wrong about Trump, and no, Clinton is not a corrupt criminal, and no I don’t forgive you and would never trust you with my rights—but  you were right about one thing: the media does have a liberal bias. All that grief? It’s in the media. All that confusion? Yup, that too. All our pain? Everyone seems to share it. After all, how could this happen? How could we have gotten it so wrong? The media is convulsing along with us and scrabbling for answers.

Well, in the bluntest way possible, the Onion answered that: Area Liberal No Longer Recognizes Fanciful, Wildly Inaccurate Mental Picture Of Country He Lives In. But put more kindly, we thought most of the country shared our values, or at the very least that they wouldn’t tolerate the obviously intolerable. And we didn’t realize that fairness and protecting people from harm—the principals Trump violates and derides—are themselves liberal values.

In fact, I just learned that there are five major centers of moral value: harm/protection, fairness, loyalty (and patriotism), respect for authority, and purity/sanctity. These are the things we use to build social arguments. These are the things we rely on the evaluate right and wrong. And these are the things that make us proud, angry, righteous, judgmental, or engaged.

And if you hadn’t got there yet, they break along party lines at “loyalty.” If you’re a liberal, your moral center is probably fairness/harm/loyalty. If you’re a conservative, it’s probably purity/respect for authority/loyalty. You can check.

This brings me back around to the media and its liberal bias. We tend to reject that idea, because we think bias means lying, or distorting the truth, or rejecting the evidence—you know, Fox News. The mainstream media doesn’t do that in any consistent way. But what it does do is filter all those carefully collected objective facts through a liberal moral lens that prioritizes harm/protection and fairness, with no idea at all that it is doing so.

That’s why we, and the media, scoffed at the idea that Clinton could lose to Trump. That’s why we looked at a tight race and told ourselves it wasn’t, heard about a possible two-percentage-point polling error and projected it to a 4-point Clinton win, and why, if Clinton had won by a few electoral votes instead of Trump, we would have gone on believing the same false narrative.

But in the actual America, more than half the country didn’t vote. They weren’t disgusted by Trump, or inspired by him, or energized by either candidate. And of the people who did vote, half of them figured Trump was fine, because the things that make him anathema to us are values that just aren’t that important to them. Meanwhile, Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server and accidental disclosure of classified documents ticks the other boxes hard. “No love of her country! No respect for the law! Lock her up!” And when we talk about Trump’s bigotry, they think: “Fairness? Life’s not fair. Deal with it. Protection from harm? Don’t be a bunch of crybabies. Suck it up.”

Meanwhile, the idea of taking the country back resonates. We need to get back to pure American values. We need to get rid of the outsiders and be loyal to the core American. We need to restore law and order. All things liberals tend to look at from the other side and say “that’s nonsense.”

And that’s how we got it wrong. We didn’t imagine anyone could ignore Trump’s bigotry with all its harmful consequences and inherent unfairness. We didn’t imagine that anyone could have a different moral center. But of course they can.

That doesn’t make it right for them to throw their fellow Americans under the big orange bus. That doesn’t make it right for them to welcome hate and prejudice into their midst. Not for one minute do I excuse it—but I do now begin the grasp it.

I want, desperately, to protect the people I care about. I want, desperately, for America to be a place safe from persecution and prejudice. I’m not giving those up. But now I have an idea of what’s missing beyond that.


Image Credit: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

2 comments on “How We Got It Wrong

  1. […] America needs a new coalition. I know this, because I see Americans marching in the streets, justifiably afraid that this country is not safe for them any longer. I know this because the same people who deride those protesters were, themselves, just a few days ago, talking about grabbing their guns and fighting a rigged election. I know this because a whole lot of people felt they had no one but Trump to address their struggles. I know this because we are a Democracy, and instead of running a candidate in either party who could energize the country, we ran candidates who pit us against one another. Sure, some of us feel like one of those was incredibly far above the other. But we’re tied with the people who thought the same about the other one. We have different value sets. […]


    • venice967 says:

      I voted out of disgust for Trump. When I was told he wanted to round up Muslims and mark them as the Jews were marked in Nazi Germany and elsewhere, I was scared, very scared! I knew Hillary Clinton was liberal so I voted for her. I didn’t necessarily agree with all her views but there were a heck of a lot more of her views I DID agree with, than Trumps. Oh sure, make America great. Well, any patriotic American would agree with that! But the how was what had been respected in the past; opening our shores to immigrants and taking care of the poor. We welcomed people of all nations. In fact we had advisers from 3 different countries during the Revolutionary War. I can still name them. Baron Van Steuben, Lafayette, and well it slipped my mind. LOL The point is, we respected people. Some would argue that we did not respect the rights of Native Americans. I’m sorry to say that yes, that is true. And as we grew, so did our hubris. Somehow, some people didn’t have as many rights as others. African Americans were treated like chattel and Native Americans were shunted to the reservations. That was the beginning of the end. In the 1950’s, urban planning was ‘redlining’ certain sections of the cities where the poor were forced to live due to their poverty. It was all about the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. There are generations of families who have been trapped in poverty! How can this be in such a wealthy country? It’s because of greed, plain and simple. Greed not only for money and status but for power! Like any addiction, the more you get, the more you want and think you need! Trump feeds into this. That is why people voted for him. They ignored the charges that he raped a 16 year old. They ignored the fact that Ivana Trump accused him of domestic abuse. They ignored racist remarks he made and the fact that he is it all that smart. All of a sudden it’s a NIMBY country! They think Mexicans are stealing their jobs! Who the hell wants to clean toilets and shovel shit in some rich person’s garden??!!! They are paid barely minimum wage unless the family is kind and appreciates the value of their hard work. Oh and the smugglers? They starve the girls smuggled across the country lines. Sometimes they are so dehydrated that death is just waiting to pounce. God give me strength! These people are so deluded about the truth of how Mexicans and others are treated. Slavery isn’t dead, it has jumped racial lines. It takes a lot of emotional energy to ignore all of these truths, unless there is someone willing to tickle their ears. Trump did just that.


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