My mind has been chewing away at this since Tuesday night. It was obviously to me relatively early in the night that the predictions were wrong and Trump was going to win. The question is why.
There have been a lot of articles (and many more to come) trying to answer this question and they're all wrong. Even the ones that are right are also wrong.
Because there isn't a single reason. The human brain likes simple answers, but that's not how the world works. Instead it is a confluence of people and events all meshing together. You can point to the FBI investigation, or economic worries or cultural resentment or distrust of the establishment and you're not wrong but you're missing the bigger picture. And if you don't see the whole, you can't start fixing the parts.
I didn't think Trump was going to win. I didn't think he would win the Primaries. I thought for sure people would realize they were being sold snake oil and not vote for him in the election itself. But they did and you can't just dismiss 47.4% of the country. You have to engage with them somehow.
A sidebar to this is that Obama's popularity sat at 56% on election day. Far higher than the vote that either candidate receive. Casting this result as purely a reaction to Obama's policies would also be inaccurate.
I don't favor hysterical reactions, I find them unhelpful. I don't think the world will end in a nuclear holocaust (well not any time soon anyway) but I do think this country will move in the wrong direction, and that in itself is a bad thing. But you can't place all that blame on other people.
People Need Hope
For years I've had conversations with people about countries like Iran and I hear questions like "Why would they let themselves be run by these religious extremists? Look how bad things are for them now!" and my answer has always been simple. "Look how bad things were for them before. They had no hope and the Ayatollah offered them some. Mistaken hope is still more appealing than no hope."
No, I don't think we're about to become a theocracy (again I stress hysterical overstatement is not helpful) but the same principle is at work here. For a variety reasons people did not feel that the Democrats (or other Republican leaders) offered them any hope.
Talking and Listening, Not Shouting
I'm still mentally unpacking a lot of this. My thoughts are far from organized (as this post probably indicates) and I'm pretty sure I'm going to have more to say on the topic, but let me end by pointing out the most surreal moment of Election Night for me.
It was listening to an interview on NBC with Glen Beck, a man I have always dismissed as a right wing loony spouting extremist rhetoric, very seriously urging people to listen to each other instead of talking over each other. And he's right. I may disagree with him on many, many, many, other things, but on this he is absolutely right. If you dehumanize and dismiss 47% of this country, don't expect things to ever get better.
They can be wrong for the right reasons. They can be wrong but mean well. They can be wrong and be fundamentally decent. Screaming and shouting leads to escalation not solutions. Problems are solved by talking. We teach this to our children. We should try to remember it ourselves.