What Does Trump's Election Say About Democracy?

By Doctor Comrade

59.7 million Americans decided an openly racist, sexist, misogynistic, xenophobic, fascist monster will be our next president. 59.7 million Americans decided that, despite his dozens of scandals and gaffes, Donald Trump should be the leader of the armed forces, federal judiciary, executive agencies, and the sole representative of American foreign policy.

What's worse is that no one seemed to see this result coming. Every statistical model predicted a Clinton victory: Princeton Election Consortium said >99%, The New York Times' The Upshot said 85%, and FiveThirtyEight said 71.4%. And I predicted that Trump's resounding defeat would shatter the GOP.

Democracy is not dead in America, but it is dying. And it's not merely because a fascist was just legitimized by the American electorate. Rather, democracy is dying because there are two distinct Americas, and they do not trust each other, and they do not empathize with each other.

We've seen numerous demographic breakdowns attempt to explain the rise of Trump: educated vs. uneducated, urban vs. rural, whites vs. everyone else, men vs. women, working-class vs. middle-class. And moreover, these fissures between people are often geographically determined: for instance, rural, white, working-class men overwhelmingly favored Trump, whereas urban women of color favored Clinton. According to the BBC, of the 250 counties with either the most white people or the most old men, between 96-98% of those counties were won by Trump. Of the counties with the most white people, they're almost universally limited to the Midwest and Rustbelt regions. And as one friend told me, a majority of white women voted for Trump, and as such, "they decided being white was more important than being a woman."

Another observation: you can draw straight lines from Florida to Idaho or Pennsylvania to Texas without ever hitting a state won by Hillary Clinton. 

In short, there are major sections of this country that do not resemble other sections, and as a result, the people in those disparate parts do not feel a sense of unity. People in Iowa do not sympathize with the people of Los Angeles; the people of Indiana do not sympathize with the people of New York. They do not empathize with the struggles faced by immigrants and people of color and women and LGBTQ people against racism, xenophobia, and sexism. Men in Ohio didn't seem to realize that women in Seattle will suffer because of their votes. Whites in Kentucky don't realize how Latinx people in El Paso will suffer because of their votes. It is clear that everyone who voted for Donald Trump refused to hear the pleas of their fellow Americans, who begged to be protected from fascism and state violence promised by Trump.

The people who voted for Trump do not trust, sympathize with, or empathize with millions of their fellow Americans. They can't or won't see past their own situation, their own fears, their own insecurities. They can't or won't acknowledge that Trump has promised to inflict suffering on their fellow Americans. They choose not to share a common identity with the marginalized people who share their citizenship.

And because of this lack of shared identity, they do not vote for the best interests of society as a whole. They vote to assuage their own fears and insecurities. This is why democracy is dying: majorities of white men and white women voted against their fellow citizens, sacrificing the good of the nation for the good of the few. 59 million of our fellow Americans chose to support a racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, dangerously unqualified candidate. They felt no empathy towards people of other races, women, LGBTQ people, immigrants, foreign citizens, and all other marginalized people.

My faith in people is destroyed. As pessimistic and cynical as I am about politics and history, until this week I believed at least that most people had a basic sense of decency and empathy towards others. I can no longer believe that. It's not just our broken system, which rewards sycophants and sociopaths, it's the human beings who think those sycophants and sociopaths deserve our admiration, our appreciation, and our votes.  I usually would refer to false consciousness here and say that ideology has blinded them to the realities of being someone who isn't a straight, white man. But also ideology blinded me--and so many of us--because we believed that this is a decent, fair, and hopeful nation. It isn't. It's just as hateful, bigoted, and evil as I've always believed and didn't want to believe. I didn't want to think that this country was truly evil, but it's clear now that it is. 59 million of us are hopeless, and the rest of us have to do something