Yes, there are a lot of different things that may have lead to Trump’s victory, however, I’m about to share the single problem that made the difference. If this was properly accounted for, he probably would have lost by double digits.
The reason can be summed up in one sentence, “People don’t like to be judged.”
This is the core—though unstated—pain point, motivating and activating, throngs low information, poorly educated voters. For years, they’ve felt that the ‘liberal elites’ are out there judging them as worthless, stupid hicks. Fox news and the republican party has done a great job of playing to those fears—like by coining the term ‘liberal elite.’
Donald Trump came along and gave them an opportunity to be part of a movement. To show everyone that someone who is just like them, can be president, ‘He’ll show all you snooty politicians and mainstream media hacks how America should work.’
It’s important to take a second here and recognize that many, maybe even most, of us on the left have been judging them. We say things like, “I don’t understand how anyone can be dumb enough to vote for Trump.” By the way, I wrote a whole post on this kind of statement because it’s very problematic. We also make redneck jokes and make fun of Trump. To be fair, he makes it a little too easy.
Look, I’m not saying we shouldn’t call people out on their BS. Additionally, some of Trump supporters are actual racist scum. The issue comes about when we let the ‘easy joke’ get in the way of good persuasive communication.
If people don’t feel you respect and understand them, they will not be open to your ideas. People say the dems did a poor job communicating a positive message. I would argue we did a poor job of showing people that we understood and respected them.
It’s not just the Trump voters who felt they were being judged and/or disrespected. The Bernie supporters also got this. Again the messaging was clear, “I don’t understand how someone who supported Bernie could act in a way that might get Trump elected.” It was just assumed that eventually most Bernie supporters would ‘suck it up’ and vote for Hillary. In the end, Bernie supporters were painted into a corner. They had spent weeks explaining why they were never going to vote for Hillary, and if they caved, they’d be conceding that their rational was flawed.
With the right messaging and engagement, the Bernie supporters could have not only been convinced to vote for Hillary, they could have been advocates drumming up additional support.
Personally, in the end, I was excited to vote for Hillary. I agree she was a flawed candidate, however, she may have been an amazing president, but I digress.
Part of the reason for this issue is because sometimes you understand someone’s problem, you know you have the right solution, you want to help, however, you fail on one crucial step. You don’t show that you are clear about their problems and care about helping. That is the foundation you must build before proposing a solution. In cases where the strategies are complicated and hard to comprehend—as they often are within the federal government—they may never ‘get’ your vision for how to solve a problem, however, they may still trust you to do it, if you’ve first shown that you understand them.
People feeling judged isn’t just a problem with the 2016 election. It’s not even just a political problem. This is one of the core problems that plague all sorts of seemingly intractable situations.
We must start by understanding and respecting each other. More significantly, we need to make sure the people we are trying to influence, know that they are respected and understood.