Back in 2012 there was a vicious little display of Schadenfreude called White People Mourning Romney that showed endless photos of, well, exactly that. Extra points for deflating campaign balloons or peeling posters in the background, and of course unhinged tweets always welcome. The referent wasn’t just that the candidate lost, it was that somehow (went the meme) all these supporters had been so completely deluded by FOX news or Rush Limbaugh or some other conservative echo chamber that they had never quite realized their candidate was losing. Might lose. Could lose. The apotheosis was the moment Jon Stewart called “an avalanche on bullshit mountain” on election night. After an intimidating display of shaking jowls and shaky predictions, Karl Rove asserts that Ohio is in the bag for Romney, and Megyn Kelly asks “Is this just math you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better or is this real?” Together Rove and Kelly walk down the hall, on camera, to the FOX news statistics room where the statisticians are clear- Romney lost Ohio. Ha ha, Karl Rove. Watch his face.
There’s a pretty clear analogy this week, after another candidate who ran on the basis of inevitability and snob appeal inexplicably failed to live up to the predictions smart people had been assuring themselves were airtight. Nobody’s started a photo tumblr yet, but I don’t know if people still do that. They’ll have plenty of material if they do: its tears, tears, latte tears all across the internet.
Let me apologize in advance for the rambliness of this post; I’m having a very hard time writing something here in response to the election that doesn’t come across as trolling. I should say right up front that I did not predict this outcome- my best guess, in friendly bets with assorted correspondents, was that the Republicans would keep both houses of congress, but Clinton would win the presidency. I expected the tallies to be challenged by lawsuits from the Trump organization and drawn out almost up to the oath of office, and I expected congress to impeach Clinton on everything they could find. I was pretty damned surprised that Trump won straight out. I’m still surprised.
I’m not happy about the outcome either- though I would have been probably about equally unhappy with a Clinton win, for different reasons- and among other things I’m probably going to lose my health coverage in the next few years over this. I worry that much of the “predictions” I’m hearing from liberal-leaning friends are really just imported from a Generic Bad Guy profile from some comic book somewhere. Really, E. J. Dionne? “Use the powers of government against the opposition” starting with protesters? Really, William Gillis, “Trump will begin turning the ICE into a military operation capable of the industrial-scale ethnic cleansing”? Really, I don’t expect mandatory straightness therapy for gay people, or bounty hunters rolling up everyone on the DACA list either. Everybody take a deep breath and remember you’ve been wrong a lot over the past year and you’re probably wrong again.
Me too, come to think of it.
Of Course There Is Something To Learn Here
Trent Lapinski absolutely nails this one to the wall. It turns out, conservatives who like FOX aren’t the only ones who can trap themselves in an echo chamber. To wit:
By ignoring [wikileaks], you ignored reality. By not listening to your fellow Americans, and accusing them of being “conspiracy theorists” and trusting the corporate media, you ignored reality. By only following other liberals on social media, and only reading liberal or corporate news, once again ignoring reality. When Hillary Clinton was caught rigging the primary against Bernie Sanders, and Democrats nominated her anyway they ignored reality.
Everyone was simply insulating themselves within their own echo chamber ignoring anything outside their bubble.
I am convinced that the opposite of “conservative” in this country isn’t “liberal” despite what conservatives will tell you. Neither is it something so abstract as Scott Alexander’s “Blue Tribe” (vs. Red Tribe). The opposite of conservative is “smart” and yes, the scare quotes are necessary. What’s the line about hegemony- hegemony means never having to admit you have an agenda?
The “smart” set believe that they know the facts, they are better able to interpret them, and most of all, that they are immune to bullshit- that their minds seek only to touch the very marrow of reality. I wrote the Unnecessariat in connection with a series of conversations I was having with more coastal friends. Repeatedly I said that it was the poorer, more working class people out here who loved Trump, and could talk a good line about him that never mentioned race, Muslims, immigrants, or Hillary being a woman. Nuh-uh said my smart friends, Trump’s support among the working class was a myth, he drew his backing from the rich. How’d that work out?
Another time, I mentioned Assange and a friend told me that wikileaks was BS because everything they posted kept playing into the “Clinton Cash” narrative. Or someone who told me in all sincerity that there was no class in America “other than race.”
Lets be clear. Even if you go outside the echo chamber, this was a narrow and surprising result, and I don’t think people who expected Clinton to win were all crazy or deluded, or only listening to news sources that kept clear of “conspiracy theories” or dubiously low numbers of degrees of separation from, say, the Washington Times. I am reserving my wrath not for those who were wrong -I was wrong, fer chrissakes- but for those who never imagined they could be wrong.
What do you do when you’re wrong, and you’re absolutely convinced that you are the one with the facts? Nate Silver’s being asked to “delete your accounts” after failing to… to what? conjure up a Clinton win? Give more advance notice than he did that margins of error are literally that? We’re hearing that we need to get rid of the electoral college, because surely a country in which the New York Metropolitan Statistical Area counts as much as Florida is going to be better, right? Or where increasing your turnout in Dallas-Fort-Worth by 5% gets you more votes than getting every single American Indian or Alaska Native in the US census? Why would anyone ever care what effect their actions had on Nebraska when Chicago is worth five Nebraskas and only has just fourteen broadcast stations to reach all of them? I’m sure there will be more retrenchment from the democratic party; some kind of explanation why the world really works the way we’ve been told and this was just a mistake or anomaly. I hope I’m in a better place then and don’t just mock it, even though it’ll probably be garbage…
Again, I really can’t write this post very well. Did I mention most of my friends have stopped speaking to me? I didn’t put Trump over the line- I didn’t even vote for him- but I kind of lost it over the smugness and lectures I kept getting about how all of my beloved flyover country was just a bunch of KKK rednecks who had no place in the America of the future. I failed to conjure properly and now I’m being held responsible. I guess I should delete my accounts? Nah…
For those who were concerned about my car, my friend was able to weld a patch on the frame, but it stayed bent and the suspension was never right again. Roads are terrible here, and at some point this fall it must have bottomed out on a rock and cracked the transmission housing. By the time I got it in, all the gear oil was drained and the gears were starting to grind. I found a different car on craigslist for less than a new transmission, so its sitting in the driveway getting alternately stuffed with random junk and stripped for parts.