Posted December 2, 2016on:
Sawubona. It’s an African Zulu greeting that means “I see you.” It means much more than “hello.” It says, “I see your personality. I see your humanity. I see your dignity and respect.” In the African village context, where everyone knows one another, it’s an exceedingly powerful representation of understanding.
As this election recedes in our rearview mirror, the image is one of a distorted mishmash of demoralization. Try as I might, I’m still dwelling on the “why” of the election.
The absolute best analysis I’ve read is this one from Vox by David Roberts entitled: Everything mattered: Lessons from 2016’s bizarre presidential election. WTF just happened? It is a long read, but I urge you to read it if you can make the time.
Mr. Roberts, in a very thorough colonoscopy of the election, parses and susses out what went wrong. As Mr. Roberts explains, everyone has a theory. The conjecture is varied and in no certain order includes: Misogyny, James Comey, rogue FBI agents, Putin, hackers, WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, third-party candidates, under educated males, white working class, rural whites feeling left behind, Republican elites, fake scandals, right-wing press, the press in general, voter suppression efforts, Hillary’s campaign style, and campaign overconfidence.
In coming to the conclusion, “F**k everything and blame everyone,” he says:
Like everyone, I buy some of these more than others. But there are bits and pieces of evidence for all of them. Some of them don’t hold up on their own – voter suppression probably didn’t swing the election, nor did third-party candidates – but all of them plausibly played a role or have some grain of truth.
The most agonizing implication of the narrow loss is that everything mattered.
Every decision to hype Clinton’s emails. Comey’s extraordinary violation of precedent. WikiLeaks, Clinton’s Goldman Sachs speeches. Her refusal to dissociate from the Clinton Foundation. Her poor retail politics. Trump not releasing his tax returns. Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan hiding out, Sanders tarnishing Clinton’s image among young people. Institutions standing by and doing nothing as Trump shredded democratic norms. The gamble that Trump’s misogyny and racism would render him unacceptable.
Fake news on Facebook. Epistemological bubbles. Elite self-absorption. Hot take after hot take delivered to the choir. Americans making the contest into a crass reality TV show fueled by Facebook memes. The press refusing to cover policy.
And whatever else you can name. The Electoral College turned on a 107,000-vote margin (now less than 80,000). All of it mattered. If you’re prone to haunting, crippling regret, that’s where you should focus your energy.
There is one more issue Mr. Roberts delves into at length – racism. He says:
Why be coy or euphemistic about this? Study after study after study came to the same conclusion: What most distinguished Trump voters was not their economic status, but their attitudes on race, gender, and immigration. Trump ran on white male resentment and won because white male resentment appeals to a lot of white people.
Identity. Simple as that. Let me say this point-blank: Politics is identity. All politics is identity politics. You can’t divorce someone’s identity from their voting patterns. Trump’s unvarnished call for white identity resentment drove more non-voting white males to the polls on Election Day than Hillary’s imploring us to find our better angels of inclusion.
There are those who call that type of thinking wrong-headed. For instance, Bernie Sanders, who continues to litigate the primary in his quest to take over the Democratic Party said:
It is not good enough for somebody to say, ‘I’m a woman, vote for me.’ No, that’s not good enough. What we need is a woman who has the guts to stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industry.
So just a few clicks away from the white male resentment, you’ll find Bernie’s white bro manifesto. It’s a creed of believing in a mystical socialistic dream world where systematic prejudice magically disappears and divine class equality replaces them.
In this romanticized world “identity” is always secondary to class struggle. Who you are doesn’t count. What matters are the dragons Socialists always want to slay – corporations, banks, and the Establishment. There is a failure to understand this is the same old song of “wait your turn, go to the back of the line,” that has stymied women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community for generations.
It is the age-old game of societal Dungeons and Dragons where white males are out chasing dragons while everyone else is held captive in the dungeon. An excellent essay by Spandan Chakrabarti on the subject is, In Defense of Identity Politics: The Soul of the Democratic Party will not Sit Down and Shut Up. When I read this essay the only comment I could leave was, “This! More of THIS! Please!”
As we look at the future of the Democratic Party, hearing that we must chase the wants and needs of fewer than 80,000 white guys in the upper Midwest is the epitome of idiocy. It doesn’t even qualify as a fool’s errand because you don’t have to send out for something that foolish, it will always deliver itself.
Simply put, the Democratic table will never be large enough to allay the sociological angst of these white males. Given the societal changes and the perceived threats, these white males will never share the table. By their very existence, the various Democratic constituencies are intimidation personified to the aggrieved white males.
What this election has taught me, among other things, is that identity matters. Hillary was a champion of all those who have been left behind. She stood for those who were neither heard nor seen. She tried to weave a tapestry across cultures, colors, and orientations. She saw the beauty of our differences and the sanctity of our uniqueness. She taught us that dignity and respect means seeing one another, first as who we are and then as we hope to be.
Hillary said to America, “Sawubona. I see you.” Someday I hope we evolve to the point where we can reply, “Ngikhona,” – meaning, “We are here. We have been seen. Our personal dignity has been recognized and respected.” If we progress that far, Hillary will be owed thanks for beginning us on this path. But until that time, we will just have to admire the superior cultural enlightenment of our Zulu brethren.
What’s on your mind today?
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