Bubbles and daily life

It was quite a night last night. My day started early, as it often does, with the added rush of trying to get my husband and I out to vote before 8 a.m. I went to our polling place first with our 9-year-old, and we stood in line 25 minutes. He was bored (at one point figuring out how many days he had been alive on my iPhone calculator) but interested in the whole process.

In retrospect, of course, one sees all the signs missed. In this case, literal signs. Those home made Trump signs I saw decking yards in northern Pennsylvania spoke of fervor that was far more widespread than all the professionals imagined. The comment threads over at Free Republic (where I sometimes lurk, just as I lurk on NY Times comment threads – I try to understand all angles) spoke of massive rallies of people excited by the idea of “draining the Washington swamp,” and “making America great again.”

And as for the polls — I was getting called daily in a swing county in a swing state. I never picked up. Maybe many other people of various persuasions did not either. And so the polls of polls that showed Sec. Clinton up by about 3 percentage points nationwide, and more crucially in swing states, were just wrong. It was something to see, last night, the Upshot calculator at the NY Times swing in a matter of hours from Trump having a mere 20% chance of winning to certainty.

I suspect a lack of skepticism about the polls stemmed from the belief, in some quarters, that a Trump victory was impossible. One of the most pointed moments last night for me came in watching my Twitter feed. I follow people from all over the political landscape. Some of the more liberal sorts I follow were tweeting things such as “Who are these people???” As my friend Mollie Hemingway (she’s on the more conservative side of things) tweeted, she had recently been to a dinner party in DC where people claimed they didn’t know anyone who was voting for Trump. Likewise, when I went to the Ideas 42 Behavioral Summit in NY a few weeks ago, Nate Silver and Dan Pink discussed the election from the perspective that everyone in the room shared that perspective (Silver did point out that, statistically, there would be a Trump supporter in the room, but I don’t think anyone owned up to it.)

It is increasingly easy in this country to live in a bubble. Like-minded people live near each other, work together, join the same groups, marry each other. This goes both directions, but the more elite aspects of our society will always find it easier to wall themselves off. In retrospect, perhaps a telling moment in this campaign was when Anna Wintour’s Vogue endorsed Hillary Clinton. I cannot imagine someone in those neighborhoods in northern PA being influenced by the opinion of someone whose livelihood involves telling people which $3000 sequined jacket is “in” this season. I can imagine people being enraged enough by the whole concept that it would nudge them farther toward the Trump category (even if, in great irony, the women in his life wear some gorgeous Vogue-approved clothes!).

For what it’s worth, I’m a registered Republican, but did not vote for our new president in either the primary or the general election (I wrote in a candidate for the first time). I went in and out of sleep a lot last night, partially due to the election, but also because I’ve got a cold and the baby is not sleeping well at all. My husband got up with him at 4, and then came to tell me at 4:30 that Trump had won. We switched over at 6:20 or so, and then got ourselves to our daughter’s parent-teacher conference at 8:15. My 5-year-old desperately wanted there to be a girl president, and she was in tears this morning about it. I told her there would be one soon. In 30 years it could be her! Her teachers told us she was quite the leader, graciously helping the younger children in their multi-age classroom.

I watched Trump’s victory speech this morning and it was gracious in a way that was incredibly welcome. Some aspects of the campaign have been decidedly non-gracious and ugly, which is why there was some complete terror on social media last night. Yet in governing and in daily life, wild assertions often give way to eking out what is possible. There is a huge and important ideological split in the Republican party right now. I don’t know if it looks that way outside of it, but there is much to be argued out. I hope the president will surround himself with wise people and if he can figure out a way to help the country grow swiftly, that would be a good thing. I don’t know if demographics and economic realities make it possible, but perhaps it is. We can hope.

Note: I know the election has inspired strong feelings. If you’d like to leave a comment here, please keep it civil. If you want to email me anything you don’t want to post in a public place, you can email me at lvanderkam at yahoo dot com.

51 thoughts on “Bubbles and daily life

  1. I think you’ve made some very good points about people living in a bubble of their own making. Ironically, the left is reacting in about the exact same way as the right did 8 years ago. Saw my first “he’s not MY president!!!” today. *sigh*

    1. @Joanna – there is plenty of that, but the heightened emotions immediately after something are hard to maintain. Twitter has already shifted from 99% election to half notes about people’s recipes and webinars. I kid, but only slightly.

      There were definite hysterics about Obama 8 years ago. And similar ones about Bush (W) in 2000 – slightly different in that both men were within the mold of typical presidents (senator or governor).But much talk of leaving the country that generally does not come to pass.

      1. Dear Laura, I am a long time reader and love your work. However, for the life of me, I do not understand the equivalency you are making here about what you call ‘hysterics’ when it came to Obama and the much needed and vocal resistance which I hope will continue and get louder against an autocrat, who is racist, sexist, anti-immigrant in the most vocal way, anti climate change reform (the list goes on). I am deeply puzzled and astonished that someone in a swing state who had the choice between Hillary Clinton (with all her perceived flaws) and this man could not have seen the easy choice it is, and tried to persuade others too. I am very sorry you have decided to take this stance (and I know you didn’t vote outright for him, but you might as well have done in a swing state). With all my respect for other things you believe in and help us with, I think here you are deeply wrong and could not disagree more with your choice.

  2. I’m one of the heartbroken progressives who didn’t think this was possible (although, as someone who grew up in Oklahoma, I know lots of Trump voters). Thank you for this civil and thoughtful piece.

  3. I felt when I woke this morning here in England to hear the news that Donald Trump had been elected President very much as I did some 4 1/2 months ago waking to hear the news that the Leave campaign had won the Brexit vote. Stunned, amazed and very concerned. Only the weather is different from that beautiful June morning!

    It seems that Trump has probably appealed to a very similar strain of thought in the US to that group of people in the UK who voted for Brexit, being those who felt that they had been left behind or abandoned by our current society and the way it works. There is also the wildly optimistic strain that there must be a better way than the current way, even if this is often rather short on detail!

    As the post Brexit situation in the UK is showing, however, it is one thing to promise to fix the problem and quite another actually to achieve anything when the realities of the situation are so difficult. Many promises were made both by the Leave campaign and by Donald Trump but whether they will be able to deliver on any, let alone all, of these remains to be seen.

    Also only time will tell whether either of these votes makes any lasting change, whether that is for good or ill and in particular whether those who voted for that change because of their feelings of being left out and left behind by society actually see any benefit or whether it is, as is so often the case, the educated and the socially mobile who actually benefit in the long run.

  4. Count me in among the shocked & devastated, but I am trying to move on and be respectful. After all, I don’t see much alternative. That said, I do feel that maybe one positive is that this new era will encourage more activism in the milennial generation, as I don’t feel like there has been so much passion (negative or positive) in politics in a long time.

    Like the others, I also appreciate this balanced and respectful post.

  5. Much appreciated reading something balanced and thoughtful today when most everything else seems to be completely positive or negative. Thank you!

  6. A few months ago, Peter Thiel made a comment in the Washington Post that perfectly captured why the media was so shocked that Trump won. Thiel said, “The media takes Trump literally, but not seriously. Trump’s supporters take Trump seriously, but not literally.” Perhaps Trump will surprise us all by rising to the position that we’ve given him. As we emerge from this bruising election, I can’t help but think of what Lincoln said in his inaugural address: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection … when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

    1. @Brooke – I read that quote and you’re right – it’s an important insight. As for Lincoln, can you imagine an election that resulted in half the country seceding? Talk about contentious. That was existential. I don’t think this will be.

      1. The literal/figurative point is a fantastic distinction. Thanks for sharing.

        And Laura, like you, I’m a Republican who wrote in a candidate. Thank God we have the opportunity to do so – if we didn’t, that spot would have been left blank on the ballot!

  7. I am in the shocked and devastated. And while I respect (and envy) your pragmatism, I’ll say that its easier to forgive & forget the ugly remarks when you’re not on the receiving end of them, and hard to remember how tenuous certain freedoms are when you are aren’t immediately affected. Do we need to move on, of course, but I also understand those that are worried and scared. I hope that fear will come to be unfounded. I really really do.

    1. I agree with this. The rhetoric was so ugly and divisive that it’s hard to forget. and excuse — particularly if you felt it was directed at you and his supporters were riled up to address. While it’s something I would not bring up to Trump voters in my universe (who don’t yell and shout at rallies), it makes me question the values of someone who voted for Trump.

      As for “Who are these people” maybe I can finish the statement – who are these people who actually think Trump will help them given his prior history. Anti-establishment/anti liberal elite sensibilities are something very different than pinning your hopes on Trump.

  8. Honestly Laura, I don’t believe you wrote in a candidate. You’re just trying not to alienate 50% of your readers, like any good politician. And even if you did it doesn’t absolve you of responsibility in a swing state. Sorry.

    1. Yes!! I couldn’t find it in me to say this in a civil way.

      I’m so disappointed that close to half the voters supported a campaign run on hate.

      1. I’m also really appalled by this. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but as a scientist, medical student, woman, and minority, the fact remains that a huge portion of the electorate decided that all his slurs against anyone not white and male were an okay price to pay for…what, exactly?

        And I’m from your state, Laura. Swing state voters had a responsibility. You and your family are in a very comfortable position of privilege, where you will never have to endure racial taunts, among others, so I guess I can see why you might not think about your responsibility to those of us who aren’t like you. Doesn’t mean that I have to like it.

    2. your vote is your vote. Her vote is her vote. end of story. Antagonizing someone for their vote or view gets us no where.
      This is an honest essay on her view, like most of her posts are. She didn’t alienate anyone and she is not a politician.
      I write this as a passionate liberal who is devastated by the current results of the election. Im with her, and I’m with Laura.

      1. Thank you Angela for writing what I wanted to. I tried several times and it just came out as snark which I didn’t want in this “balanced post” which I also appreciate.

      2. Laura chose to open the discussion of this controversial topic on her blog, knowing full well that people would comment.. Feels a bit unfair to call the posts questioning her choice “antagonizing..” Those commenters are merely explaining their views and values in response. That’s the whole point of blogs/messages./discussion, no?

        1. @June – I’m happy to have discussion here, as long as it’s civil. That is the point of blogs and mostly the discussion has been fine. I know feelings run strong on this topic. I think the antagonistic part refers to the accusation that I was not being truthful.

          1. Hi again Laura (I wrote above too). I believe you were truthful, there is no reason to believe otherwise. I just believe you were hugely wrong in helping to vote in this man, who amongst other things, brags about sexually assaulting women. Is this the world you want for your daughter? As I said, I am deeply puzzled and surprised. I live in the UK, where we have similar problems with the threatening rise of the far right, and I cannot understand how someone intelligent, educated and thoughtful as you would not be standing against this craziness with the loudest possible voice.

          2. I was trying to understand why an educated woman such as yourself would throw away her vote. the reason I suggested is far less inflammatory, I assure you, than the other alternatives I was considering.

  9. Hi Laura, from a grey London morning.

    It may be a transatlantic misunderstanding, but I was really surprised to read that you wrote in a presidential candidate’s name. I suppose from reading your blog for six months or so now, I had assumed that you would be supporting Hillary Clinton. She looks pretty moderate in her policies to me (which may be just, again, a cross-cultural misunderstanding), and the comparison in professionalism and readiness seems significant, given the power of the office. Can you say a little more on why, given the stakes, you didn’t feel able to vote for her?

    As a proud Brit and a lover of the US (I last visited just 3 weeks ago), I feel really concerned that western Europe may no longer be able to rely on the unstinting support of the US in keeping our world a safe (safer?) place. There are many Latvians, Lithuanians, Estonians, Ukrainians and Syrians in London who feel like the bulwark the US presented against Russian expansionism is at risk under President Trump.

    All the very best.

    1. Laura – I am a little disappointed that you didn’t reply to my comment. Why didn’t you feel able to vote for Hillary? And what’s your perspective on the implications for the world?

      As always – with very best wishes.

      1. @Antonia – I just replied to you privately – I’m working my way through these comments and responding to most that way. Thanks so much for reading the blog, and as always, best wishes to you too!

  10. I’m pretty apolitical, registered independent, but have voted R in the past. What I find interesting from living in a blue state and working generally in a blue field is that people just assume everyone around them is Democrat. So when people say “I don’t know anyone voting for Trump”, it might be because they’re assuming everyone around them is like themselves when in actuality they’re not.

  11. I appreciate your courage in telling us how you voted, though also astonished. Your state was one of the three (the others were Florida and Michigan) whose third-party voters gave Trump the electoral college Hillary missed. If those votes had been hers, she would’ve had 297, vs Trump’s 276, and she would be our next President.

    I know I sound like one of the very elitist snobs Trump supporters hate, but never have I felt so strongly that many of my fellow Americans are just not very intelligent. I predict we’re going to see MORE anger, not less, as Trump supporters wake up to the reality that manufacturing jobs are not going to magically re-appear. I wonder who they will blame then.

    The best we can hope for is that Trump doesn’t accomplish a lot of what he said he’d do, which is realistic since much of what he promised is just not feasible. How is he going to find 11 million illegal immigrants and deport them? How is he going to produce coal jobs out of the ground when coal is dwindling?

    I too am puzzled at the vitriol against Hillary. She is smart, experienced and, despite accusations by the press and Trump, more honest according to fact-checking sources than any other contender, including Bernie.

    I live in Mexico part-time and apologized to my Mexican friends. I feel ashamed and complicit. They were, as ever, gracious, forgiving and kind.

    1. I totally agree. Count me among the devastated. I’m so disappointed that so many people from both ends of the political spectrum decided to either vote third party or write in. You knew that either Trump or Hillary were going to win so choose one. Don’t throw away your vote especially in a swing state. Maybe your vote would be against someone rather than for somone but I don’t see any point in a write in. God help us.

  12. There are not too many political discussions on this blog but last time we had one I’ve mentioned that in the past two years I’ve had a mounting sense of fear for what is going on in the World and impending doom. As an European immigrant living in Silicon Valley I’m fully aware I live in the bubble and I’m grateful for it every day. But as a child of Balkans 2016 feels to me an awful lot like 1990 did, and I fear the mounting hate in the Western world and the explosion it might bring. I hope I’m wrong.

  13. I appreciate your honesty about how you voted, Laura, but like some of the other commentators I am deeply puzzled. One of the things I most admire about you is your pragmatism about how we build our lives (e.g. It’s fine pay someone else to cook or do laundry because then it allows you to do X, or if Y is important to you then skip doing Z, even if Z is something everyone else says you should do). In a swing state, any vote that was not for Clinton was a vote for Trump, simply because of the math of the electoral college. I can’t square your typical practicality with your vote. I more than understand if you don’t want to discuss this any further in a public forum, but I am confused.

  14. As a Canadian, but with an American husband and children, I feel pretty invested in the election results. I’m pretty upset about where it went, though I really wasn’t a huge supporter of Hillary Clinton. One of my friends on FB posted this, and I think it’s really insightful:

    “I am an expert at shocking election outcomes. My adult life has given me Berlusconi 1 (as i turned 18), G.W. Bush 1 (a month after I moved to the US), G.W. Bush 2 (as I finished grad school) and now Trump. I got 2 Obama to keep me sane.

    So here’s my survival guide/life lesson summary:

    1. Don’t be shocked. Types that look like clowns to us get elected all the time. The left around the world seems to be constantly baffled by the low characters that the right brings forward and win the election. Berlusconi? Impossible, he’s a clown. Bibi? Impossible, he’s a clown. Bush? Impossible, he’s a clown. After a few reps, you got to adjust your expectations.

    2. The election outcome does not change the electorate. The fact that the “clown” got elected does not make the people despicable and the country doomed. The country is the same as before he had been elected. Same people. It was not a great America with Obama and a bastion of bigotry today. It’s the same America.

    3. They won. We lost. *It’s our fault.* The people are the same as that one time when we won. If we lost this time is because we did something wrong. We did not read the room well. We did not have a convincing candidate. The bigger the “clown”, the more we should look back at us and fix our mistakes.

    4. Do not demonize the enemy. At the fringes of the clown’s electorate there are racists and bigots and the KKK. In the middle there are people not that different from us. They are not the devil. And they decided to vote for the clown. So the clown cannot be all so bad and our guy ain’t a saint. Try to understand why the clown got the votes in the middle.

    5. Work on ideas not on disqualifying the clown. During the opposition phase, do not focus on judging the character of the “clown”. This is what the left did with Berlusconi aimlessly for years. We didn’t like him. That’s true. But people voted for him in the first place and harping on his flaws that were known from the beginning is not going to change things. We should work on retaking office by saying why our programs are better. We need ideas not moral superiority, even against people that are objectively at a moral low.

    6. Progressives are a minority. It’s a fact of life. If we want to get to power every once in a while we need to compromise on some issues. So let’s pick our battles carefully. Maybe all the focus on toilet rights was not great to keep the rust belt blue.

    7. Do not complain about the rules. I hear this today in the US. Always in Italy. You do not win by changing the electoral rules. You win with ideas and people. Also complaining about the rules after you played the game and lost is childish. You want to complain about the rules? Do that after a win or way before the game.

    8. Make a friend from the other side. It will keep you sane.”

      1. That’s a very weird phonomenon! I agree that many of the points are very good food for thought. I don’t agree with every single point in its entirety, but with quite a lot of it. (I’m definitely not as liberal as he is, from a political perspective.) In particular, point #4 really resonated for me. It’s so easy to vilify. Also, the comment about “toilet rights” in #6. One of my friends who voted for Trump once said to me: “In my town, people are struggling so much financially and feel absolutely forgotten. And the liberals are focused on gender-neutral washrooms. How out of touch can you be?”

  15. The problem is that most moderate politicians, left and right are actually too honest. They know how difficult it is to achieve large (or even small) changes in society and they admit to this. Voters think they are weak or half hearted or uncaring. They only aim small and end up achieving even less.

    More extreme politicians either don’t believe change is difficult or if they do never say it, so they make huge promises which it will be absolutely impossible in the real world to deliver.

    People believe them, either because they desperately want to believe them and/or because they are also stupid and they get elected. And then they can’t deliver on any of their promises and blame the system for preventing this. For example people in the UK voted for Brexit to reduce immigration, but to get a trade deal with India we may actually have to loosen controls on immigration from that country. It is so easy to stand on the by-line criticising, so hard to do anything about what needs to be done.

  16. Laura, I can’t let this go. I feel betrayed. “All it takes for evil to triumph is for (wo)men of good conscience to do nothing.” — exactly as you have. You had the opportunity to help keep a truly evil man out of the presidency — an avowed fascist who has incited his followers to violence against people of color, not to mention a misogynist facing accusations of rape. And you declined to use that opportunity. You bear a portion of the blame for his ascension to the White House.

    So I ask you this: will you continue to pretend that life goes on as normal? Will you continue to hide behind your privilege? Or will you start making choices to help put things right? As a start, I suggest financial contributions to the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Black Lives Matter.

  17. Laura, I appreciate your candor and calm. While many of my views are quite liberal, I try to do my research and vote for whomever I deem the best candidate (on Tuesday this included three down-ballot Republicans). I am uncomfortable with the proposition that one should do anything other than cast a ballot for their preferred choice. In the wake of my profound sadness and fear, I am trying to seek solace by widening my understanding of the pain and anger felt by those who voted for the president-elect. I’m also remembering how important it is to treat others with dignity and respect. Your post is an example of the thoughtfulness I hope to emulate, and I thank you for it.

  18. Hi Laura, big fan of your work, first time poster here… Thanks for the opportunity to comment and discuss the election. I’m still in shock. While I haven’t agreed with the policies of past Republican presidents, I’ve never doubted their hearts and intention. This time is different. We have elected a bully to our nation’s highest office. I’m surprised by your write-in, and can only guess it was because you assumed Clinton would surely win. Then you could enjoy her pragmatic, compassionate leadership while still opposing her policies on the grounds that you didn’t vote for her. Many other like-minded write-in voters essentially handed Trump the presidency. I’m curious, had you known the race was tighter, would you have voted the same?

    1. @Jenna – thanks for commenting, and thanks for reading my work! Good question. In general, I would say that I want to cast my vote for someone I want to have be president. While it is true that the predictions were completely off (I mean, HuffPo at 98%??) on the other hand, looking at the current tallies, Trump would have won without Pennsylvania, and it was not recount close in PA. As for third party votes, we really have no idea what combo of Stein or Johnson voters might have gone for each of the major party candidates or would have stayed home. I don’t believe candidates are entitled to anyone’s vote.
      As a thought experiment, consider that Trump has shown a certain ideological flexibility over the years. The Democratic party had their reforms to keep from nominating a crazy person a generation ago. The Republicans didn’t restructure the same way, which made Trump possible. But what if Trump had publicly kept the socially liberal views on things such as abortion he long had, and somehow became the Democratic nominee? And the Republicans nominated someone like Ted Cruz. How would you feel about voting for Cruz? Would you do so knowing that in victory he might cite your vote as a mandate to do things you would want no part of? Or would you want to write in someone like Clinton in that case?
      I don’t think there’s one right answer, and different people would do different things, which is why this is a conversation here (and generally a civil conversation, which I appreciate!). But it’s something to think about.

      1. Out of sincere interest, what are some of these ‘things you wanted no part of’ in Hillary Clinton’s policies that you felt so strongly about that you voted essentially for Trump (I am sorry to say it like that, but that is what it amounts to). As a European, who lives in a country with a National Health Service and has seen the great advantages that brings, and who in fact works in the NHS, Hillary to me seems very mild politically, not that left-leaning. So I would be interested to hear what these things are. I am not writing in opposition (well, I oppose your views here but that is not why I am writing). I am writing out of a genuine wish to understand more about how on earth this autocrat was voted in.

      2. I have run this thought experiment and would have voted for any Republican candidate of this or any other year over this guy. I would vote for a third term of George W Bush and Dick Cheney and thank God for their victory against this man.

  19. Hi Laura – I am also a fan of your work 🙂 I thank you for being brave enough to even attempt a civil conversation in a time when emotions are running so high. I too am struggling to understand and learn more. We are a black and hispanic family, we have different abilities, religions, genders and sexual orientations in the immediate circle of people whom we love. I am an independent voter who believer that neither party has a monopoly on good ideas. However, during this cycle, one party had the monopoly on sexism, bigotry & intolerance. I am disappointed to learn that consideration for those basic things make us elitists. For our family, basic respect for differences, enough sensitivity to not encourage lynching our president at rally’s or disrespect a family who lost a son in combat are not nice-to-haves. The majority has spoken and I will follow President Obama and Mme Secretary Clinton’s lead and give our President- Elect a chance to govern. But I am a very weary citizen at the moment because words can become dangerous actions.

  20. And just an addition as to your hypothetical dilemma about Ted Cruz. I would vote for Ted Cruz in that situation you describe. In fact, many french people did exactly that, voted for Sarkozy even if left wing themselves to not allow Marine LePen to win the french presidential election. It is the only moral choice under very hard circumstances. And by the way, Hillary is NOT Ted Cruz but that’s beside the point, we agree to disagree there.

  21. Laura-are you just going to ignore all the posters who express their disagreement or disbelief? You put your entire life on public display, including who you voted for, and won’t engage in civil discourse with people wanting to hear your perspective?

    You aren’t going to spend the next few years worrying that you or your family will be stared at with suspicion, or told to go back to your own country, and your children won’t be bullied for their skin color. Maybe your blog isn’t the place for those of us who don’t look like you.

    1. @DVStudent- slowly working my way through comments. I’m not on my computer much on the weekend.

      I didn’t agree with much of Trump’s message or how the campaign was done, or approve of his behavior. That’s why I didn’t vote for him.

  22. Very easy to vote for Trump (which, let’s just clarify, is basically what you did by voting for a write-in in a swing state) when you are white and affluent. I hope your daughter never hears about how you didn’t vote for the first major female candidate for president and instead helped bring to power a man that spoke about sexually assaulting women and repeatedly demonstrated he values women exclusively for their looks. You’re on the wrong side of history.

    There’s nothing that disgusts me more than privileged people only protecting their own interests and privilege.

    1. @Heather – thank you for your comment. As mentioned before, I did not vote for Trump, for many reasons. I also did not vote for Clinton. I wrote in my preference. No one is owed a vote.

      I discussed my vote with my daughter, and so your concern that she “never hears about it” presumes much.

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