One of my favorite get-togethers has always been the night before a wedding or reunion–everyone’s in town and it’s much more casual in some bar than the big shin-dig the next day. But one of those great nights was tainted on September 11th, 1998 with the release of Kenneth Starr’s report on Bill Clinton (link).
One year earlier, I had been ridiculed by one of the guys when I admitted voting not once but twice for Clinton. While I knew many of my friends were clearly planted on the opposite side of the political spectrum we’d always handled our differences smoothly; but that night seemed to move beyond the friendly rivalry, beyond my buddies’ standard bewilderment about rooting for the Lions. It felt very personal, very judgmental–that I was being regarded as a naive, weak fool–a 1998 “snowflake.” I have always had friends who voted differently than me, but I don’t recall ever questioning their intelligence and morals the way that I’d felt since Whitewater began.
Someone had run out and purchased a hard-copy of the independent counsel’s findings and it was pored over with great enthusiasm and the downfall of the “Teflon President.” I was sad, angry and frustrated that my president had not only committed such a ridiculous error, but continued to deny it until brutal evidence was made public–and to top it all off he’d lied under oath. I can clearly remember even as a third-grader, understanding the same disappointment and shock as Nixon was forced out of office.
Some lay the blame for our current grand canyon of political differences at the feet of Newt Gingrich’s 1994 Contract with America and the Tea Party movement. Others point out that deep-seated prejudices that have been barely below the surface erupted after eight years of an African American president, followed by the election of a celebrity tycoon who has never been afraid to “speak his mind” (and one who long-accused President Obama of illegal citizenship). I started noticing a deep partisan split with the 1991 Clarence Thomas hearings.
I truly wished Clinton would have resigned, after all he had not faithfully executed his office, thus not allowing Al Gore to run in 2000 on a much smoother track as the sitting president. But Clinton’s hubris got in the way and he became a liability for Gore on the campaign trail, creating a strong anti-Nixonian aroma that had drummed in Jimmy Carter–an earlier version of “Drain the Swamp” of Clinton & Company.
It’s hard enough to discuss politics with most people–but now it’s dangerous. And I’m guilty as anyone of preaching to the crowd of my friends on Facebook and Twitter. It’s an easier alternative than debating in a bar to instead post something and de-friend anyone who disagrees. I cowardly choose not to scroll through my newsfeed and try to engage anyone who might have different views than mine–sort of a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” behavior that is especially important at those weddings, class reunions and long elevator rides.
I do, after all, have friends and family who didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton, so I decided to try to better get their angle on things–especially seven months into this presidency following two heavy news weeks, and create a terribly unscientific survey with Google Forms. I shared the link, encouraging any of my friends to also share it. Granted, the 106 replies might indeed be from one bored guy stuck in a dentist waiting room who just loves surveys. But it was shared 12 times with friends of friends so perhaps my own narrow cross-section of America might have been expanded a bit…
I tried to frame its intro in a non-slanted way, just kind of a “Help me understand your side of things” type of lead-in. My wife’s angle on why Michigan went to Trump, for example, wasn’t as much a ringing endorsement of Trump’s policies as much as what Michael Moore stated on election night–middle America giving the middle finger to Washington, thus not giving them the president they were sure they’d get. It was the only thing Joe the Plumber could do to strip some power from the powerful.
As promised to many who passed the poll along, below are the results with just a few of my observations
For example, I was sure there would be more Trump voters in the poll. The orange voters below certainly support history’s lesson that third-party candidates are bad news for incumbents (and heavy favorites)–including Theodore Roosevelt helping Woodrow Wilson, Ross Perot aiding Clinton and Ralph Nader poaching votes from Gore.
So what was the chief reason for their non-traditional vote? No real surprises; we’ve all heard enough times throughout the three year campaign season, “Really, is this the best both sides can offer?”
Asking Trump supporters for their chief reason, it’s interesting to note that less than 30% selected his policies or party-line support of the GOP as their main rationale, while just over 40% could not pull the switch for Hillary Clinton.
The question below, one that has been on my mind since February at least, is the back-in-time question–would Trump and third-party voters select Donald Trump if the election right now? Out of the 103 respondents, 60% said no, seemingly a 13% increase from the non-Trump voters in November.
Just like I’d like to think I’d vote against Bill Clinton for lying under oath, I am interested in the last-straw for Trump supporters, if there is a last-straw. The following check-boxes allowing for multiple reasons surprised me– that Trump’s lack of discipline and questionable leadership abilities outweigh the rationale of Russia, Charlottesville, murky financial details, North Korea and Obamacare
So what’s the up-side of the president for those 40% who would still vote for him today? It would seem that the “fake news” war-cry is a strong enough reason for half of those surveyed in the chart below.
Write-in opportunities provided other reasons one might vote still vote for Donald Trump:
- He hasn’t changed his platform. He is embattled from both sides. More disgusted with GOP and Dem partiesHe is controversial but the Clintons are criminals, deceptive, corrupt & added to the public distrust of politicians.
- He is not a socialist.
- He tells it how it is. Whether you agree or disagree.
- Hillary was not a good candidate for the democrats
- Pro life
And the final statistic seems to offer the most engaging point for the perfect storm for Donald Trump’s election–whether it was the name “Clinton,” her gender, her emails, Benghazi or her status as Washington insider in an America with a quickly shrinking middle class…
So perhaps the most accurate summary of the pulse of the 3 AM swing-states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin might be found in Jimmy Kimmel’s summary (at 5:42, below) of Donald Trump’s perfect storm–before Kimmel suggests creating a Trump monarchy to remove his power:
Thanks to those who took this part in this English major’s lab-experiment. It’s at least helped me to understand those friends of mine on Facebook a little better–without any name-calling.
My hope is that we can respectfully discuss issues with better understanding of one another’s side, minus the blanket-statements and generalizations–and even enjoy a beer together the night before the next wedding!