Who’s to blame? Russian paid trolls.

This part of a series where I hypothesise how Donald Trump came to be elected.

That Russia interfered with the US election is not an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory.

The current understanding is that:

  • It was Russian hackers who hacked and released Hillary Clintons email server
  • Russian paid shills and bots congregated social media like Twitter and /r/the_donald to post and promote pro-Donald / anti-Hillary content.

Here’s Republican Paul Ryan agreeing that Russia interfered with the US election:

Here’s Mitch McConnell condemning the Russian interference:

What’s still in question is whether Donald Trump and his campaign were directly working on orders from Russia – there’s currently no concrete evidence for that. With every link between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia that comes out, it looks worse and worse.

Who’s to blame? Cynical establishment politicians

This part of a series where I hypothesise how Donald Trump came to be elected.

I think it’s a fair criticism that Hillary Clinton must have been a bad candidate to have lost to Donald Trump.

That isn’t to say that I necessarily think she would have been a bad president. After all – Obama did make her his Secretary of State, and I do respect Obama’s judgement on many things. I don’t know what to make of the ‘Hillary Clinton is a corrupt warmonger, in the pockets of wall street’ arguments, they smell of fringe conspiracy theorying to me.

But I do think that Hillary Clinton appears to be an insincere politician who panders to political winds, rather than bravely sticking to idealism.

Her about turn on the TPPA is a good example, from calling it ‘the gold standard of trade agreements’ to saying she opposes it. I’m not sure I believe her when she says she no longer thinks it’s right for the US.

It’s fair to say that a huge amount of Trump’s support base was from people who felt that neither Democrats nor Republicans represented their interests. This video here gets into it well:

I sympathise with the sentiment – but I can’t abide accepting Trump’s hateful rhetoric as the price to pay for shaking up the system. I’d much rather have a slow moving establishment politicians, than four years of Trump’s rhetoric.

The 2016 election wasn’t just defined by Trump though – there was also Bernie Sanders who gathered a significant chunk of Democratic support in the primaries, and polled  better than Hillary in head to head polls vs Trump.

The pet peeve I have is politicians’ resistance to announcing that they’ll end the drug war. I think that there are many policies, like this one, that politicians agree with, but don’t want to announce, because their research shows that it won’t be politically popular with certain demographics (eg. social conservatives, religious).

Especially in a two party system, there is an incentive to remain as politically close to the opponent as possible – the idea being that it’s more about winning those swing votes, than winning over people who are already aligned your political leaning.

But I think people see through this game playing. If politicians were willing to be a bit more honest about their genuine political views – then they’d at least appear more credible – even if they piss of some of their potential support base.

Addendum: Perhaps this comes back to being the fault of the public again. Politicians do what they do, because research shows that it works. If people were more ok with voting with politicians who honestly expressed opinions that the voter disagreed with, then perhaps we’d have more honest politicians.

Who’s to blame? Racists and hateful people who are sick of being polite about it.

This part of a series where I hypothesise how Donald Trump came to be elected.

 

It’s quite clear that a significant chunk of the US hold anti-mexican or anti-muslim attitudes, and these people loved Donald Trump’s rhetoric.

This video contains examples:

Obvious caveat: This is from a comedy show, and obviously they’ve cherry picked their interviews to find the most interesting and outlandish soundbites.

Also – this shouldn’t be taken to say that this represents all Trump supporters – but I think it’s clear a significant amount of Trump’s support is from people who don’t like immigrants  and/or gays/transgender people, and don’t want to be polite about it.

Who’s to blame? Unprincipled Republicans.

This part of a series where I hypothesise how Donald Trump came to be elected.
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I googled ‘unprincipled republicans’ to get this image. 

When Donald Trump eventually won the Republican primaries, all Republicans by and large got behind him and endorsed him at the Republican National Convention.

It seems like Republicans desire to gain power and push their agenda, trumped their unease with Donald Trumps alarming rhetoric or basic incompetence.

Even Republicans who seem like a voice of reason, like John McCain endorsed Donald Trump John McCain endorsed Donald Trump – though he later withdrew his endorsement.

For context here’s:

Who’s to blame? The media.

This part of a series where I hypothesise how Donald Trump came to be elected.

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During the Republican primaries, I think the media saw Donald Trump as boon.

Not seen as a serious contender, I think he was seen as a good source of interesting soundbites that would draw viewers and sell advertising. Trump was always saying something crazy, such as attacking one of the other Republicans, which the media would then pick up and make the focus of the news that night.

Essentially – the media the fed the troll – giving the air of attention to the person saying the most outlandish stuff.

This has been part of an ongoing trend of dumbing down in the media. I think the media have got lazy and instead of providing intelligent, informed news, they’ve been providing the public with news that the public wants to see. This is reflected in the clear trend of soundbites getting shorter.  A provocative Donald Trump insult is a more attention grabbing sound bite that an informed policy outline can fit in nine seconds.

Addendum: The public is also to blame. The media produces inflammatory content, because that’s what the public chooses to view. If the public were more discerning with what they choose to watch or click, the media would be more incentivised to produce more intelligent content.

 

Select quotes from Donald Trump’s inaugaural speech

Source of quotes: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/01/20/donald-trumps-full-inauguration-speech-transcript-annotated/

Identifying enemies

For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth. … The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country.

We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate from the face of the Earth.

January 20th, 2017 will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again.

I mean, that’s quite serious rhetoric.

Classic ‘fall from grace’ imagery

America will start winning again,

For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidized the armies of other countries, while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military.

 

The US military is depleted? What world does Donald Trump live on?

…and I will never ever let you down.

Did Donald Trump just rick roll us?

Strong, worrying isolationist tones

Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families.

it’s going to be only America first, America first.

An isolationist attitude is not going to help solve global problems. I think freetrade + paying for carbon is the answer.

Misc.

We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example. We will shine for everyone to follow.

I actually quite like this.

Is ignoring politics a reasonable course of action?

I’m sure I’m not alone in being in a fairly perpetual state of anxiety about incoming Trump presidency.

Take a look at this Google trends chart:

trump 1.png

However, for balance – the search volume for anxiety doesn’t appear to have particularly spiked, it just has a continuing steady upward trend.

t2.png

I find myself spending a lot of time thinking, and watching news commentary about whether this means Russia is going to invade its neighbours, what’s going to happen to the economy in the light of Trump protectionism, etc.

Thing is – there have been plenty of political crises in my lifetime, and even before I was born. The Cuban Missile Crisis, the Thatcher government, the collapse of the Soviet Union, September 11.

While all of these events have clearly shaped the world we live in, it’s reasonable to say that my paying attention to them or not hasn’t had any effect on how they’ve played out.

If paying attention to and engaging with the current climate of politics is causing me anxiety and is disrupting my life, then perhaps the best individual course of action is for me to quit engaging.

But: Lack of voter engagement and uninformed voters seems to be precisely one of the things that got us into this mess in the first place.

While the Trump phenomena can’t be explained by any single dynamic – I think that out of touch politicians doing what they want to do without regard for their voter base, and disenfranchised voters is one of the key contributing factors that elected Trump.

It would seem that me dropping my engagement would indicate a further exasperation of this dynamic. That’s concerning.

One positive is that this does increase my empathy for low-engagement voters. When potential voters say ‘I don’t really pay attention to politics’ or vote along the lines of a single buzzword, or say ‘voting doesn’t change anything’ – I’m a lot more sympathetic – because it seems true – whatever happens is going to happen anyway – I might as well spend my effort worrying about something I can change.