What Now

I composed this post after the US Presidential election of November 8, 2016; I revised it after the election of November 3, 2020. The general question is of responsibility, as for Clinton’s loss in 2016 or the Democrats’ loss of Congressional seats in 2020. More precisely, the question is not whom to blame, but why. The former question depends on the latter. There is a common belief, retained from childhood experience, that somebody, some power, is going to judge our actions. With regard to this belief, many of us continue to behave as if we are still children, be we obedient or not. Asked, for example, to think of the feelings of Trump supporters after their man’s 2020 loss, some of us reply, “Why should we? Did they ever think of our feelings?” You can ask that of a parent whom you expect to impose fairness; do you think there is such a parent of the world? My investigation of the 2016 election continued in “How to Learn About People.”

“Everything will be fine” is usually correct, but not always.

I wrote my last article, “Happiness,” after the arrests of editors and writers at Turkey’s largest independent newspaper, Cumhuriyet (“Republic”).

A philosophical point buried the article was this: there is no one reason, not even a collection of reasons, why things happen.

If you want to know why something happened, ask yourself first: “Why do I want to know?”

You may be trying to figure out what to do next; or you may be hoping to absolve yourself of responsibility.

“Why have Americans elected, for their President, a person who cares about nothing but himself, and who has never been of any particular good to anybody else, even by accident?”

One may raise this as a theoretical question; but if all one wants is theory, I think mathematics is the best place to get it. (Note added, November 8, 2020, after the defeat of Trump at the polls on November 3: I mean not that mathematics will help you understand the election, but that if you want to contemplate truth for its own sake, then mathematics is your field.)

Many of us feel the urge to do something, even if that something may only be to think the right thoughts. One is tempted by thoughts of condemnation for those who brought about the present state of affairs.

I am trying not to blame anybody. I do disagree with anybody who thinks that Donald Trump’s election is the sole responsibility of those who actually voted for him. Responsibility is shared by those who voted, but not for Hillary Clinton; and by those who had the right, but did not vote at all. However, such assertions do us no good, unless those persons whom we hold responsible can be made to feel the responsibility for themselves.

It cannot always be done. Donald Trump has reached the age of seventy without learning responsibility.

I have voted for third-party candidates in the past. I have accepted that Gore Vidal was right in saying,

There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party … and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat.

I was amused by the slight distinction that I heard Chomsky make: the Republicans are the party of business, while the Democrats are the party of big business.

When I registered to vote in California in 1998, it was as a member of the Peace and Freedom Party. Since California was the last American state I lived in, I am still registered to vote there. In 2008, by mail, I voted for Barack Obama. At the time, an old friend to whom I had introduced Chomsky wrote me, “No offense, but anybody over 21 who votes for Obama is a total idiot.”

The quotation is from memory; I do not recall the precise terms of abuse. I figured there was no point in responding. Four years later, I did not bother to vote. I am not proud of this laziness, but Obama was going to win in California anyway. I could have voted Peace and Freedom, but did not take the trouble. California does not let non-residents vote for state offices or ballot initiatives; only Federal offices.

This time I voted, and I voted for Hillary Clinton.

Throughout the campaign season, the Twitter feed from CounterPunch was almost nothing but abuse of Clinton. Let all of it be stipulated as deserved; Trump deserves more. Clinton was subject to sexism, as Obama was subject to racism. Women and black men have as much right to make bad Presidents as white men do. In any case, I am too old for garish caricatures of politicians. Spare the rhetoric and lay out your case.

I wanted to be able to say that I had voted for the first woman President. Some people resented Clinton for thinking she had a right to be that President. She had an attitude. Let it be stipulated; Trump’s attitude is worse.

Sometimes things have to get worse before they can get better. I don’t think this is a useful philosophy when the subject is climate change. Clinton at least acknowledges that it is happening.

As for the various prejudices that Trump is encouraging, they may have been dying out, along with the people who held them; now they have new life.

Trump was elected, and if the Electoral College confirm this (which they need not do), Trump’s family will be installed in the White House.

What now?

There are many things to be said, but I am not able to say them all, and I do not want to try to say all that I could.

For Clinton’s loss, I may blame Republican suppression of voting in minority communities; but people who can fight this suppression do not need my prompting to do so. I am most concerned that people get their “news” mostly from or through Facebook, and it may not be news, but lies. Facebook does not accept its responsibility as a de facto news medium, even as it takes advertising dollars away from legitimate news media. I have ranted on this blog against Facebook, in the articles “The Facebook Algorithm” and “What I Loath About Facebook.” I do continue to look at it, since friends persist in using it. Still, I think that if one wants to do something concrete about Trump’s election, better than complaining about it on Facebook would be to get off Facebook. Use diaspora*. Keep a blog. Pay money to subscribe to a real newspaper (be it on real paper or on line).

Whether you should also be out in the streets is something I cannot say. In Turkey, the best I can think to do is to continue to try to encourage students to recognize their own autonomy as thinkers.


  1. Posted November 12, 2016 at 3:15 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Well said. It may be also said that despite Counterpunch et al., and despite Comey, it was quite close, and Clinton yet may win New Hampshire, and, less likely, Michigan.

  2. Arianne
    Posted November 14, 2016 at 8:00 am | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks, David. I’ve just learned about how Electors could upset everything, and the only penalty for them would be being fined. I can’t help thinking how comforting that outcome would be. If not, my mind can’t bend around our future. I do find it fascinating to watch Trump behave more civilly. Wonder how long that will last.

  3. Arianela .
    Posted November 14, 2016 at 8:02 am | Permalink | Reply

    I commented briefly over there. Mainly: THANKS. Arianne

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