My view of this great country, seen from the vantage point of my little farm in the hills of Central Virginia…where Thomas Jefferson once traveled to visit family that lived nearby. Where a few stones throws away in the Cumberland Courthouse came the first official call for freedom, for the forming of the world’s first free self ruled nation…drafted and sent to the Virginia House of Burgesses. (There is a marker for anyone driving through Cumberland Courthouse and we in the county celebrate it every year calling it Patriot’s Day.)
From this vantage point, I witnessed the discourse of this election. It was heated, it was robust but I will say…not unlike many elections. It did not surprise me how nasty and emotional and robust it got. It is just we have short memories as a nation. There have always been lies told, a biased media in the tank for one candidate or another. Heck, during the election between Adams and Jefferson, one paper claimed one should not vote for the other because he is dead. In this election it was all about the labels. It was about one party striving to define a voter by putting them in a box, labeling them and then predicting how they will vote. It was about another party loosing touch with that voter and hence tried to predermine who they thought would appeal to an electorate they did not know and could not define, so bought into the labels the other side was using.
This election back fired on both parties, simply because both parties forgot something. People don’t fit neatly into any box, they are not their labels. The media was biased, but not in the way you might think. Their bias was in how they perceived their audience. They bought into and decided to orchestrate this labeling business. And in doing so, thought they could sway an election. You see, they began to believe their own hype, their own spin. They stopped listening to who they were talking to. Instead, they began talking at, talking past, dictating to, lying to… a people that did not exist.
You see the media and both parties thought they knew what motivated folks, if they could define them. They thought poor rural folks who were not college graduates would vote one way. They thought college educated women would vote one way. They thought urban blacks would vote one way. They thought LGBT folks would vote one way. They thought all Hispanics would vote one way. They thought the military would vote one way. They thought Catholics, Jews, Pagans, and so on would vote one way.
And then there was the name calling. If you are for the second amendment, you are a dumb hick and hold your bible too tightly. If you are for gun control, you are anti American. If you are for a strong border you are a biggot. If you are an uneducated white man and for one candidate, you are a sexist. If you are a white woman and for another candidate you are a feminazi. And one candidate in particular thought those voting for her opponent were in a basket of deplorables and labeled them xenophobic, homophobic and so on. And the media ramped up the name calling and labeling to a fever pitch.
And the people often sited talking points the media put out there, labeling their friends and family in much of the discourse on Twitter, Facebook and such. Even in my own family….when we were NOT face to face, but behind the veil of Facebook, might dabble in the labeling.
And where the label bias really affected the discourse was in the polling. Oh my glorious God…the POLLING! Have we ever seen so much polling? There were the national polls, there were the state polls, there were college polls, there were newspaper polls. And as the election came closer, these polls were put out daily. And yet… They got it wrong. And not for the reasons you might think. It was not the questions they were asking, it was not the demographic of folks they were canvassing. It was their label bias. They were not interpreting the data correctly because of the boxes they were putting people in. But the funny thing is, is that people are not their labels. They do not fit neat and tidy into those boxes. They do not vote according to how the media, the parties, the pollsters thought they should vote.
I am sure I am not alone when I say that we all know and have aquaintences that defy what we might have first thought of them. I live in a very rural area that has a variety of folks. We have black, white, Hispanic, gay, young families, older retired (sort of.. many have farms so…they never retire) and so on. I know conservative gay people and young people that are liberal on social issues, but conservative on fiscal issues. I know women that are against abortion. I know some people who have never voted. I know some people that will travel across the country for a political cause. I know military folks that start out life voting liberal then change their thinking.
So what does this all mean when it came to this crazy election? The Democrat party had a candidate that whom they thought would win by a landslide because they thought she had broad appeal to who they thought were most people… people who thought like how most of the media thought because, after all, the media thought they labelled people correctly. And the media, most of them are college educated, ride the train in first class, many are married to people involved in government and they of course understood what drove people. They knew what women wanted, they knew what white college educated men wanted. They knew what Hispanics wanted, they knew what blacks wanted. And since they were the media, they could convince others what they wanted, or at least shame them into it. Some of the media, ok, let’s be honest, most of it…was the Democrat Party Superpack. They thought they had this in the bag, because the polling said so, right?
Now shifting over to the Republican Party. They believed this label stuff too. Only because so many in the established leadership failed to leave the Washington Beltway and bothered to really get a feel for what the people were thinking. Or find out what has been happening in their lives. What was their job situation, what are their fears for the future? What are they looking for in a candidate? They lost touch with the voter. They had no idea it was not only going to be all about the issues, but about personality. Yes but not in the way you think. Imagine the shock when the voters dismissed the Republican party’s chosen son, Jeb Bush. Why? Wasn’t he accomplished, believed in all the right things the typical conservative voters want? He might have been right on some….some of the issues. But wrong on personality. Imagine the shock when voters chose loud, crude, bombastic Donald Trump? And dear readers, the reason was… conservative, bible holding evangelist, gun loving, constitution purists… Wanted a BULLY! How about that label? Yes. They have been getting tired of being beaten up on by the label toting democrats and they were going to throw a label at them. And have a champion willing to get dirt under his fingernails. And what farmer does not like that?
Of course it got messy, because now both sides were name calling. And the names and labels were divisive, rude, crude, disgusting. It was a battle. Many got hurt. Families fought, friends fought. The media had their spin machine in high gear. And they did something amazing. They stopped covering the candidates. They did not do journalism. Wikee Leaks filled on the vacuum and reported on the back room deals of the Democratic Party and their campaign. Media tried to cover this up, but word did get out. And the media totally ignored the last three weeks of the Republican campaign. Because their candidate got razor sharp and bypassed the media and pulled an FDR. Right, Trump’s version of Roosevelt’s whistle stop campaign. Only he used the Trump jet. The schedule Trump maintained was dizzying. Sometimes he visited nine states in 72 hours. He had rally after rally, with tens of thousands of people attending… at a moment’s notice. And guess what? The name calling stopped, well, mostly. It was all about the issues. It was about issues actual people, not labeled people, not imagined people, not what the media or either party thought people should care about… But issues that real actual people cared about. A strong military, strong, safe border, protecting the constitution, getting rid of Obamacare that was bankrupting individuals and businesses alike, bringing back the coal industry, getting our respect back overseas, renegotiating our trade deals to bring manufacturing back and manyany jobs back.
In other words, bringing back our greatness. Since the mainstream media would not cover his words or his speeches, Trump put his face in front as many Americans as possible. In fairness, Fox Business did cover most all of his speeches.
In the end, the media believed their own hype and labels, the pollsters had eggs on their faces… and the American people did not vote their labels. They voted… Imagine this…. They voted the issues. Issues that were important to them based on their actual lives. And as the results were coming in, the media was dumbfounded. They could not believe the candidate, the one they attached every disgusting label they could think of…. sexist, bully, homophobic, biggot, xenophobic, stupid, deplorable, ….won. Smarter folks than I will be studying this election. But in the end, the people defied their labels. Neither the media or either party listened to the people, they tried to define them instead.
And this shepherd, from her little vantage point at the doorstep of where the idea of this country was first proclaimed watched, like I watch my sheep, with caring and understanding. And yes, I argued my views like many of you. Yet I am so grateful I wake up on my farm in freedom. I do not care what labels we call each other, because we all wear the best label, American.