I’ll admit that I never paid a lot of attention to the election over the last year. I avoided talking about it, I didn’t read much about it or discuss it or participate in social media conversations. However, it was extremely hard to avoid all the time, and I found myself glued to my phone on election night. As soon as I saw the NY Times prediction graph converge to 50/50 from 80/20 for Clinton, I had a pretty bad feeling this momentum was on an unstoppable path. As Trump won the election I thought to myself that this was hardly a surprising result, as everyone around me was screaming “WHY… HOW!?”. The reasons why Donald Trump is everyone’s fault are both exceedingly complex and deceptively simple and I’d like to get into my thoughts on how the whole of society made this happen, and why nobody expected it.
Donald Trump can simply be viewed as a reflection or manifestation of the state of society in the US, and even beyond it’s borders. Most of us played a role in bringing him into power whether we supported that outcome or not, and whether we live in the US or not. We did this, all of us.
Reality TV Becomes Reality
When Honey Boo Boo was a thing, and a very popular thing at that I figured there had to be some repercussions. North Americans have become entirely absorbed in reality TV drama, celebrity culture and the like. It isn’t inconceivable to think that this might be damaging our ability to tell fiction from reality. Our attention spans keep shrinking as we move from train wreck to train wreck. The actual world seems pretty boring in comparison. Combine this with a public who are generally disillusioned with politics and we’ve opened up the potential for someone unconventional to come in and grab the world’s attention. Suddenly we aren’t bored anymore as reality and fiction blend inseparably. The long, drawn out campaign circus kept us entertained, and the season finale MUST be a cliff hanger. Choosing responsibly simply means the show’s over and we have to face our mundane reality once again and we know that people love to create drama for themselves. When this is programmed into us at a societal level weird things start happening that defy logic and reason. This set the stage for Trump to come to power. The Psychology Today blog states that “fascination with reality television stems from our desire to fantasize about the prospect of easily acquired fame”. We’ve enacted that fantasy to the extreme, and can now live vicariously through Donald as he blunders around for the next four years.
Social Media Zoo – We are all Responsible
The incessant chatter on social media over the last year and a half is what ultimately created the ‘character’ of Trump and solidified it in the world’s mind. If you’ve ever engaged in any social media activity such as sharing, Tweeting, liking or commenting then you’re equally to blame. Why did everyone get so caught up in this? Because it’s entertaining! We mixed up entertainment with real, serious global issues and created something that we lost control of. Every bit of engagement through social media or even in-person discussions fueled this larger than life persona. If we simply ignored it, it would probably have withered away and died as a minor curiosity and nothing more. We fed it and allowed it to grow out of control. An artificial intelligence analysis of social media engagement even predicted Trump would win, when the polls said otherwise. People seem to have a hard time differentiating between Donald Trump, the man and Donald Trump, the phenomenon. We voted for an artificially generated fictional idea, created purely out of our lust for entertainment and need to escape from boredom. Strip that all away and we’re simply left with a guy who has absolutely no experience or sophistication in political matters – and that’s concerning. Hillary supporters are just as responsible as Trump supporters, since they also got sucked into the drama instead of what should have been a laser focus on discussing real issues more deeply. The conversations were centered around serious issues, but they were inherently superficial and emotionally driven, addressing only a few of many important discussion topics. The Donald Trump phenomenon completely captured our attention and dominated our lives. What power it has!
Rebellious Teenagers and the Role of the Authority Figure
It seems that voters have also acted analogous to rebelling teenagers. Had we anticipated this, perhaps we could have altered our actions to avoid further pushing them towards Trump. It was the authority figures and persons in power this time who further cemented the win for Trump. The politicians, scientists, business people and others who publicly warned against voting for Trump are akin to the crusty old adults and parents that kids will constantly defy. We told them not to do it, so of course they were definitely going to do it! It’s really no surprise when you’ve got a bunch of angry, disillusioned people banding together and demanding change. Trump’s inappropriate comments, complete disregard for political correctness and downright flawed behaviour was largely dismissed by them. Despite the troubling nature of many of his comments, Trump was viewed as a real and honest person; traits that are increasingly important to the skeptical public who feel that they’ve lost their voice and their trust in the government. This, compounded with the aforementioned social media storm and brain melting escapism into fantasy should have been enough to set off warning bells. Many of us had an uneasy feeling but it was difficult to actually believe and accept things had gotten this bad. For those who did see this coming (Michael Moore), who really listened anyway?
We are Still Asleep
I could go on and on with theories and ideas about why Donald Trump is everyone’s fault, hoping that some of them resonate and help to wake us up from our state of perpetual slumber. However, what people need to do is take a good look within themselves and think about who is really in control here. Who has our attention? Who is driving our behaviours? If we can’t answer “I do” then we’re in trouble. Individuals need to take complete responsibility for their own actions, and their own situation. Blaming others is easy. Complaining is easy. Feeling angry that we’re unfairly treated is easy. Take the hard path – bring order to your own life and don’t let anyone ever control your actions by capturing your attention. Educate yourselves and question everything, always.
Featured Image: Annika Laas