As pundits and everyday Americans scramble to explain the unexpected results of Tuesday’s presidential elections, the new buzz word is the “rural vote." Everyone is blaming, or suddenly trying to understand, the “rural vote." Even my “tolerant" liberal friends are trying to understand the “rural vote," while lambasting that demographic for not caring about issues of equality and social justice. Essentially, the consensus seems to be that rural America signaled its true colors to everyone by voting for Donald Trump in the presidential election.
However, I don’t think that explanation tells the complete story. People who voted Trump also made the choice to not vote for Clinton -- possibly because they didn’t trust Clinton or maybe they couldn’t accept a woman as President or maybe some felt like her policies wouldn't account for their economic interests. But the bottom line is that not all of those people live in rural America. Trump’s victory simply can’t be explained away as solely rural voters doing what rural voters do. What it certainly displayed was that a high number of people both within and outside rural America saw voting for Trump akin to their self-interest, even when they didn’t agree with everything the candidate was about. When people are alone in the election booth with no one to judge or attack them, they tend to vote for their self-interests or at least what they perceive it to be. For some, that self-interest was Trump being a solution to their economic frustration in a way that the Democratic and Republican Party establishment had ignored for a long time. To others, American demographics were changing too fast and Trump spoke to their racist and xenophobic tendencies, or at least their version of what their beloved country used to look like.
So, if you choose to participate in the electoral system, I need liberals and progressive friends to realize that voting for your self-interest is a more effective strategy to put candidates you favor in power. Not everyone in the progressive or at least liberal-leaning pool, showed up to vote for the candidate that represented their self-interest, hence weakening their coalition. Take for example, Ernie Johnson’s impassioned speech during his Inside The NBA Show on TNT with Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith. I am a fan of Ernie personally and his overall speech was moving, but he said “there were a couple of trust issues with Hilary Clinton I couldn’t get past, and there was this inflammatory rhetoric from Donald Trump which to me was incomprehensible and indefensible, I couldn’t vote for either one. For the first time in going to the polls for 42 years I hit the write-in button and voted for John Kasich”.
In case you were wondering John Kasich wasn’t on the ballot and it was clear from Ernie’s speech that he didn’t expect nor was he happy than Trump won. It is very safe to say that Clinton represented Ernie’s self-interest way more than Trump ever could and yet he voted for a candidate that wasn’t even on the ballot. I am in no position to judge Ernie (plus I like the dude), but his actions mirrored the countless of other voters who either wrote-in candidates or didn’t even bother to show up to the polls. According to Carl Bialik of the respected electoral turnout site, FiveThirtyEight.com, “A smaller share of eligible voters cast ballots in 2016 than in either of the previous two presidential elections”. Clearly those who voted for Trump (rural or not) picked the candidate they believed represented or was close enough to representing their self-interest and didn’t take this election for granted. Many of those who didn’t bother showing up or wrote-in candidates, are somewhat culpable for a Trump presidency and would have drastically preferred HRC to The Donald. Yet, they woke up Wednesday morning shocked when the new president-elect had toupee-looking hair and didn’t have Clinton for a last name. This same group, and just about every liberal-leaning person, walked around Wednesday in a state of emotional imbalance, uncertainty, and fear.
Sticking to the subject of voting your self-interest, this works better if along with such an approach, you build a coalition of like-minded people and support their causes as well. It is often said that the enemy of your enemy is your friend, but one could perhaps posit that the friend of your friend should be your friend too. Essentially, your friends or what matters to them should matter to you too; this is how you build a coalition. So when your black friends, gay friends, Latino friends, women and anyone else you care about are marginalized, you need to show up with your electoral power and support them. Showing up means voting in not just presidential election years but mid-term elections and for down-ballot candidates as well. If you choose to participate in the electoral system, stop being passive about it. You need to show up and vote consistently, until this current system is dismantled or rearranged in a way that favors your self-interest, that’s how you make your coalition legit. Trump voters including rural and non rural America showed up, so clearly their coalition was/is legit. Show up and vote for your coalition or at least be honest with yourself in answering this question, do you really want to win or look bad losing?