Wednesday, January 4, 2017

"Explanations Up The Wazoo"

I discoursed yesterday on the scintillating subject of not knowing something – e.g., the actual perpetrator on Law & Order or why the Lakers were losing so many early-season games – the reason you don’t know being that pertinent information has been deliberately withheld (leading to mistaken hypotheses promulgated by its absence.) 

Wow.  I’ll be you’re sorry you missed that.  (Or possibly sorry you didn’t.)

There, is in this same area of inquiry, also the issue of not knowing something because the information we receive from long-trusted sources is incorrect.  For me, that’s cable news, who, in the last presidential election, unforgivably “missed the story.”

Imagine Lewis and Clark relying on an accredited mapmaker to direct them to the Pacific Northwest and they wind up instead in Miami Beach Florida.  No more cable news for me, thank you – they are the dictionary that spells words wrong, the cops watching the wrong house.  (Not entirely their fault – you cannot see what’s there when you are ideologically programmed to see something else.  The “fault” part is they never questioned their programming.)

And then there’s this one:

Too many explanations.
Otherwise known as “complexity”, a helpful approach if you are trying to figure a thing out, rather than filing it dismissingly under “I get it.  Moving on.”

Quoting the recently mentioned columnist Meghan Daum on some people’s hostility towards complexity (with minor interpolations of my own):

“What’s more, a lot of people who harbor an intolerance for complexity see it not as a character flaw but a cognitive virtue.  That’s because they have fallen into the trap of believing that complicated ideas {or explanations} (’complicated’ now constituting anything that requires reading, watching or listening to it in its entirety {or giving it some serious thought} are the purview of the ‘elite.’”

I echo those sentiments.  (As I plagiarize those words.  Wait, I gave Meghan credit.  I just used them without permission.)

I recall a post-November the Eighth gathering after the election – or, as some Jewish people call it, a “Shiva” – where I heard my voice say,

“There are twenty reasons it turned out like it did.” 

That, of course, was post facto.  The Trump victory surprised virtually everyone, including Donald Trump operatives, and arguably, posthumously, Abraham Lincoln.

“I knew you could fool some of the people all of the time, but I’ll be danged if I knew ‘some of the people’ was an Electoral College majority?”

The “twenty reasons” assertion just spilled out of me.  There could be twelve; there could be fifty.  “Twenty’s” just an “Umbrella Term” for a lot.  (Though in the context of “speech rhythm”, “twenty” is right on the money.)

Also, just because there are “twenty” reasons Hillary Clinton lost the election does not mean that each explanation is equally significant – a subject for another post, which I shall not write, lacking the skill and sagacity to “weight” them.  But that’s a big subject.  I am deliberately ignoring.

Let me empty my mind’s desk of these accumulations of reasons the election turned out as it did, so I can, then unencumbered, move on.

Okay, here we go.

Reasons The Recent Presidential Election Turned Out As It Did, In No Particular Order Except The Order They Come To Me (An Objective Investigtion, Though Personal Bias Inevitably Seeps In):

Hillary Clinton is not a galvanizing campaigner.

Donald Trump, fighting in an unconventional manner – Read: vulgar, lying and despicable – was permitted to get away with it without consequence, if you exclude “his supporters loved him for it” as a consequence.

Hillary Clinton accepted $200,000 for Wall Street speaking engagements, forfeiting her ability – unlike Bernie Sanders – to “connect with the people.”

Hillary Clinton was intemperate with her emails.  (A self-inflicted blessure.)

FBI announcements, including exonerations, retained Hillary’s email activities in the public’s consciousness until Election Day.

Hacking Russians helped tip the election.

Donald Trump gave away free hats.  (People appreciate those things.)

News outlets, seeing a “spike” in their ratings whenever they did so, provided Trump with disproportionate unpaid media exposure.

Some people, upset over enduring a black president, took it out on the Democrats, unwilling to accept two historical precedents – and presidents – in a row.

Bill Clinton was surprisingly unhelpful.  (You think, maybe deep down, he wanted to be the only Oval Office-occupant in the family?)

In certain, ultimately determining, states Hillary took impending election victory for granted.

Pollsters supplied the Clinton campaign with questionable data.  (That may have possibly gone unquestioned.)

Decent people, despising the alternative, swallowed their principles and gave an indecent person their vote.

The Electoral College displaced popular preference.  (Brought up only when you lose.)

The country was not sufficiently ready for a woman president.  (That one should probably go higher.)

Competence and experience seen as disqualifying liabilities.

Hillary Clinton is excessively secretive, unwilling to admit even to pneumonia.

“Buy one, get one free” seemed less than an asset when the “free one” back in the White House was Bill.

Hillary Clinton was seen as unreliable on international trade policy, that policy costing many of her opponent’s supporters – and arguably numerous “Undecideds” – their jobs.

The “Obama Coalition” turned out bigger for Obama.

Hillary Clinton reminded inveterate filmgoers of “Tracy Flick.”

When attacked, Donald Trump executed the reliable “Pee Wee” Herman strategy:  “I know you are but what am I?”  (I mean, who exactly is “crooked”?)

Trump voters equate “successful businessman” with “capable president”, forgetting that the last successful businessman occupying the White House was Herbert Hoover. 

The Republicans were really into it.  The Democrats, not so much.

It was an anti-Establishment revolution.  (But not on the Left.)

Okay, how many was that?  Wow!  Twenty-five reasons!  I blew right past the “Finish Line!”  And I am not even breathing heavily.  I’m sure there are more reasons it turned out that way.  Like “Trump’s children were hotter.”

But where does it leave me?  I have twenty-five reasons for a surprising result.  Yet there remains this unsatisfying “Wha’ hoppen’?”

Sometimes, you don’t know something because information was deliberately withheld.  Sometimes you don’t know because the information you were provided was wrong. 

And sometimes you don’t know because, despite a plethora of viable rationales, the outcome in question remains elusively, and somewhat scarily… inexplicable.

The third one feels better.

But not much.


Canda said...

Those were excellent, and "well-reasoned", reasons.

Hillary later admitted she made little to no effort to reach out to the Trump voters who had been hurt economically by trade policies. In fact, it shows how far removed Democrats are from this base when Hillary said, "We're going to put a lot of coal miners out of work". Can you imagine Truman saying that?

Also, at some point people get tired of constantly being called names (the deplorable list).

Further, Hillary and the Democrats doubled, tripled, and quadrupled down on telling us how despicable Trump was, usually highlighting the NBC behind-the-scenes tape with Trump and Billy Bush. The problem with all those anti-Trump ads was they were all about "Trump". Few Presidential ads were about Hillary, and what she would do. Running against someone is never as effective as running ads about a candidate everyone is excited about. Bernie's ads were mostly about Bernie. Same with the President when he ran.

As for the Obama coalition, the President did little base-building for the Party in his 8 years, to make sure that coalition continued to turn out, things most Presidents know they need to do.

Lastly, while the release of the emails may be seen as Russian hacking, the truth is the American people got to see what Democratic Party officials really thought of certain groups, and how they actively worked to sabotage Bernie Sanders. Those
who say the hacking only went in one direction are missing the point. What could any GOP Party emails reveal that we didn't already know about what Party officials thought of Trump and how actively they worked against him?

Wendy M. Grossman said...

All those reasons, plus the 20-odd years people have had to develop arguments and hostility toward both Clintons, but honestly, I thought "basket of deplorables" was the key turning point. That alienated even people who voted for her.