FiveThirtyEight, the data journalism site built by the Oracle of Michigan, the esteemed Nate Silver, only gave Donald Trump a 28.6% chance of winning in 2016. Additionally, Silver also thought that Trump would win only 235 electoral college votes (and Clinton 302). Yet, when the results were finally tallied and all the dust had settled, it turned out that Silver had gotten it backwards! It was Trump who walked away with 306 electoral votes as well as the 45th Presidency. Here’s how 2016 ultimately shook out:
But the polling! All of the social media sentiment! How? Last week I saw this real gem that Athena Scalzi had posted on the Whatever blog:
Scalzi is young (still college-age) so I can totally understand her post. Once, many eons ago, I too was in college; we’ve all been there. But this general breathless sentiment which the left moves to condemn Trump is, IMHO, most definitely counterproductive. In her post, Scalzi declares that “supporting Trump will embarrass your bloodline for generations.” When I see stuff like this, I just shake my head. I guess, part of me wonders– what is Scalzi’s motivation/intention when she declares a promulgation like this?
If I’m a Trump supporter and I see Scalzi’s comment, am I honestly going to reflect upon the error of my misguided ways? “Oh, thank god– here is college-aged Athena Scalzi, swooping in from on high, reminding me how moronic I am and that my future generations will consider me a great stain upon the filial lineage. Time to change my vote in November! Good thing I saw her post!” Hooray, American democracy is saved!
If I am someone in the middle, just the fact I am somehow, at this point, still in the middle is, a) A small miracle; and b) Likely means I’m going to be quite unpersuaded. I consider myself rather centrist and when I see these kinda holier-than-thou, sweeping condemnations of Trump, it honestly just turns me off. Scalzi’s post comes across as haughty and totally devoid of empathy. With many liberals –not all! But many— I have observed (especially among younger folk) that there exists a genuinely ironic illiberalism and smugness that’s annoying as hell. Like, if we don’t all eat organic or drive electric cars, we’re spawns of Satan and are going to the ninth circle. It’s annoying. And especially when I (someone, admittedly older) get this kinda scolding from people significantly younger –people who haven’t yet even worked years in real-world soul-crushing jobs or have otherwise accrued very little general life experience like traveling and living in different parts of the world for years on end– it’s a little irritating. To be sure, as I’ve grown older, I’ve simply detached. There are tons of ways I can be annoyed– using the internet isn’t going to be one of them.
People vote for a president for a hundred different reasons. I would encourage Scalzi to try to exercise some imagination as to why tens of millions of Americans will undoubtedly vote for Trump this November. Is it possible that they’re all bigoted, uneducated idiots/racists? Every single one of them? Also, some of Trump’s most ardent supporters live in states that have benefited the most from Obamacare and the other kinds of policies that Trump is trying to repeal. Here, we have tens of millions –people in lower SES– actively voting against their own self-interest, at least for healthcare. We should all take a beat to ponder why?
My two cents on Scalzi’s piece is that it was performative and one of self-expression. I am pretty confident she felt good writing that post. Like, it was a genuine act that gave her great joy. Which is great! She’s not looking to convince anyone– it’s more like she found a hilarious $50 banner in Ohio which was so ludicrous she wanted to share. (And I confess, it is motivating! One wants to share it! Omg, that image of Trump standing on the tank with “YOU’RE FIRED!” on the barrel… Jesus, Ohio– you are seriously the best.) I’ve been writing a lot recently and self-expression is a huge part of it. But I’m also a complete nobody on the internet who has zero platform. If she does continue writing, I think, at some point, it’d behoove Scalzi to reflect on why she’s writing a particular piece and her intention/goal when doing so. Because when I saw that image, look– Real Talk: Seeing that hyperbolic/patriotic tank poster, and seeing the disbelief it generated among the liberals in the comment section, all of that encouraged me to vote for Trump. I’m not going to do that because I’m not insane. But I understand the compulsion and psychological impulse. The Trump campaign knows exactly what it’s doing and I suggest that the Democrats take him seriously. Else, it’s going to be another long four years.