The Lessons We Won't Learn

[Content Note: Misogyny.]

My pal Eric Boehlert points to yet another New York Times piece about satisfied Trump voters in small towns, noting it is, by his count (and I trust his count, because he's been all over this dynamic), the ninth time the Times has run a piece like this since the election.

That's just the New York Times. Other newspapers have run similar pieces, and they have become a feature on public radio and cable news. I will never forget the piece CNN ran on Valentine's Day in which they interviewed small-town Trump voters talking about progressives like we are monsters.

I'm guessing that, somewhere in the world, there exist stories and segments about unhappy, fearful, and angry Clinton voters, but I haven't seen them. If they do exist, they sure aren't being given the prominence that stories about Trump voters are.

Even the stories about regretful Trump voters are framed to suggest there were no enthusiastic Clinton voters. Following are a couple of cool passages from a Playboy article headlined: "Abandoned by Both Sides, a Secret Society of Trump Regretters Begins to Build."
The person who runs the "I Regret Voting For Donald Trump in 2016" Facebook page...says that while s/he has spoken to a lot of people, many are unwilling to publicly admit they regret voting for Trump.

Zach Wilson used to be one of them. A 26-year-old Bernie Sanders supporter living in Chicago, Wilson found the Facebook page by chance. Wilson didn't vote for Trump because he liked him. He voted for Trump because it was a "fuck you" to the Democratic National Committee, which he perceived as having screwed over Sanders in the primaries. But Wilson never thought Trump would win, and on Election Day, he fell into shock. Now, as he hears about more hate crimes allegedly incited by white supremacists reenergized by Trump's victory, Wilson's negative feelings have transformed into a tremendous sense of guilt. "I started to think about [my vote] as a fuck you to minorities and to women," he tells Playboy, obviously disturbed.

In our initial Facebook messenger conversations, Wilson wanted to remain anonymous. By the time we spoke on the phone, however, he decided to go on the record as a sort of way to make amends. "I feel like I deserve to get shit on," Wilson says. "My friend pretty much told me to think with more empathy, and to try and live with more empathy. I feel like one of those fucking people who had a concentration camp up the hill from them but just went about their lives because it was out of mind." Wilson is now reading Origins of Totalitarianism.

...Prior to the election, one of Trump's biggest advantages was that many believed he was too inexperienced to be capable of enacting any real policies, unlike Clinton. While he might have campaigned on radical ideas, his lack of political know-how would presumably prevent him from following through on any of it. Such was the thought of Jeremy Burrage, a 36-year-old social worker from Alabama and a life-long Democrat who supported Sanders fervently. He prepared himself to bite the bullet and vote for Clinton on Election Day, but had a sudden change of heart at the last second. "At the end of the day I felt trapped. I didn't want to vote for Hillary," Burrage says. "I should have voted third party, but for whatever reason, I pulled the lever for Trump."

Burrage began to regret his vote once Trump started building out his Cabinet with people on the extreme right, many of who had no credentials to lead their departments. During our interview, Burrage says several times that he's scared. In order to keep that stress in check, he now stays away from the news as much as possible. "Some of the things he was saying was so outlandish, which I didn't see as happening," he says. "Now I just don't know what to do. I think we've made a terrible mistake."
No, you've made a terrible mistake, dude. You and all the other people whose failure to make any meaningful attempt to understand who Donald Trump really is was outmatched only by your failure to make any meaningful attempt to understand who Hillary Clinton really is.

He couldn't bring himself to vote for Clinton "for whatever reason." Just another mystery lost to the sands of time, I guess!

Let me put this as bluntly as I possibly can: Privileged people who couldn't see past their own feelings of aggrievement in order to empathize with women and/or people of color ahead of this election are telegraphing pretty damn clearly why they couldn't vote for Clinton.

Just like it was easier to ignore the realities of marginalized people in their communities and country than wallow in their own dogshit entitlement, it was easier to uncritically absorb decades of misogynist narratives about Clinton and assume they were true than do some fucking homework.

Kudos (I guess) to the dude who's now reading Origins of Totalitarianism, but maybe he should have spent 51 minutes (by Medium's estimate) reading these two pieces by Michael Arnovitz last June. Or 4 minutes reading this piece by Matt Hodges. Or 1 minute reading anything that was written by people who know a little something about Hillary Clinton's actual record.

Which is complicated. Like politics is complicated. Extremely so.

Being the leader of a country the size and influence of the United States is complicated. And of all the lessons we collectively refuse to learn from the 2016 election, perhaps this is the most frustrating: People who make sweeping promises and pretend that governing is as easy as wanting something badly enough don't make good presidents.

Hillary Clinton said that shit is complicated, and had complex policy proposals that reflected that complexity. She didn't make sweeping promises, and she detailed a progressive agenda that was attainable in incremental degrees that were achievable.

Her incrementalist approach was incessantly and mendaciously framed as (for example) "she doesn't want universal healthcare," or "she won't fight for universal healthcare," as opposed to what it actually was: She knows that universal healthcare simply isn't possible right now.

Trump (and Sanders) got lots of credit and gushing admiration for "telling it like it is," but when it was a woman who was legitimately telling it like it is, and crafting policy to address those realities instead of making promises that no president could possibly keep, the response was FUCK YOU, LADY.

Really, it just comes down to the fact that Hillary Clinton was the only one running for president rather than dictator. She knew she'd have to work with Congress and a divided public, not just wave a scepter and command the defense budget be reallocated to the Department of Free Shit.

That was her fatal flaw: Running for the presidency as though she wanted to actually be a president.

Now we read these articles about people who are belligerently unaware of the impending horrors that await them, or people who are suddenly, far too late, aware and appalled by the horrors that await them.

And they still haven't learned the most important lesson about themselves: That they eagerly preferred to listen to men who told them what they wanted to hear than a woman who told them the truth.

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