A Large Portion of the Electorate Chose the Sociopath


Category:  News & Politics

Via:  john-russell  •  3 weeks ago  •  19 comments

By:   Tom Nichols (The Atlantic)

A Large Portion of the Electorate Chose the Sociopath
America will have to contend with that fact.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T

America will have to contend with that fact.

5:31 PM ET Tom Nichols Author of The Death of Expertise original.jpg Peter Van Agtmael / Magnum Photos for Liberation


The moment every Donald Trump opponent has been waiting for is at hand: Joe Biden seems to be taking the lead. So why am I not happy?

I am certainly relieved. A Biden victory would be an infinitely better result than a Trump win. If Trump were to maintain power, our child-king would be unfettered by bothersome laws and institutions. The United States would begin its last days as a democracy, finally stepping over the ledge into authoritarianism.

A win for Biden would forestall that terrible possibility.

But no matter how this election concludes, America is now a different country. Nearly half of the voters have seen Trump in all of his splendor—his infantile tirades, his disastrous and lethal policies, his contempt for democracy in all its forms—and they decided that they wanted more of it. His voters can no longer hide behind excuses about the corruption of Hillary Clinton or their willingness to take a chance on an unproven political novice. They cannot feign ignorance about how Trump would rule. They know, and they have embraced him.

Sadly, the voters who said in 2016 that they chose Trump because they thought he was "just like them" turned out to be right. Now, by picking him again, those voters are showing that they are just like him: angry, spoiled, racially resentful, aggrieved, and willing to die rather than ever admit that they were wrong.

To be clear, I never expected a Biden landslide in a country as polarized as the United States. I was a wet blanket even among my Never Trump comrades, holding out only the modest hope that Biden would recapture the states Clinton lost in 2016, and possibly flip Arizona. But I expected the margins in all of those states—and especially in Biden's birth state of Pennsylvania—to be higher. I suspected that Biden had no real chance in places such as Texas or Georgia or even North Carolina, all states in the Trumpist grip.

Nor was I among the progressives who believed America would repudiate Trump's policies. For one thing, I am a conservative—and I know my former tribe. Trump voters don't care about policy. They didn't care about it in 2016, and they don't care about it now. The party of national security, fiscal austerity, and personal responsibility supports a president who is in the pocket of the Russians, has exploded the national deficit, and refuses to take responsibility for anything. I had hoped, at the least, that people who once insisted on the importance of presidential character would vote for basic decency after living under the most indecent president in American history.

It's clear now that far too many of Trump's voters don't care about policy, decency, or saving our democracy. They care about power. Although Trump appears to have received a small uptick in votes from Black men and Latinos, the overwhelming share of his supporters are white. The politics of cultural resentment, the obsessions of white anxiety, are so intense that his voters are determined not only to preserve minority rule but to leave a dangerous sociopath in the Oval Office. Even the candidacy of a man who was both a political centrist and a decent human being could not overcome this sullen commitment to authoritarianism.

My greatest fear, aside from an eventual Trump victory over the coming days, is that no matter the outcome, both parties will rush to draw the wrong lesson from this close election. The Republicans will conclude that just a bit more overt racism (but less tweeting about it) will carry the day the next time. They will see the exit polls that called for a "strong national leader," and they will replace the childish and whiny Trump with someone who projects even more authoritarian determination. They will latch on to the charge that democracy is a rigged game, and they will openly despise its rules even more than Trump has.

The Democrats, for their part, might look at this near-death experience, and, as they sometimes have in the past, conclude that moving left, including more talk of socialism and more social-justice activism is just the tonic they'll need to shore up their coalition. Some Democrats tend to believe that almost every election confirms the need to lurch to the left, when in fact the 2020 election should be a reminder that Trump would have beaten anyone left of Biden.

If the vote plays out as it seems it will at this point, Biden will become our 46th president. But Americans can take very little pride in the overall vote and what it reveals about nearly half of our electorate.

American voters, including those who didn't show up or who voted third-party in 2016, are now like drunks who have been bailed out of jail in the morning, full of relief as their lawyers explain that the police aren't pressing charges. If Biden wins, we will have a second chance to keep our democracy intact. Some of us will have a moment of clarity. Most of us will just want to go home, throw up, change our clothes, and hope for the best.

But many millions, eyes dimming and livers failing, are still reaching for the bottle.

Tom Nichols is the author of The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters.


jrDiscussion - desc
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1  seeder  JohnRussell    3 weeks ago

I was hoping today that I would come across an article that sums up my feelings about what just happened in America.  This one will do until something better comes along. 

2  seeder  JohnRussell    3 weeks ago

Tens of millions of Americans love MAGA more than they love democracy. After four years of lawbreaking and norm-busting, there can be no illusions about President Donald Trump. His first term culminated in an open effort to sabotage the legitimacy of the election and prevent Americans from voting. His rallies in the final week of the campaign were red-drenched festivals of mass hate, autocratic self-absorption, and boredom, without a glimmer of a better future on offer—and they might have put Trump over the top in Florida and elsewhere. Even as “freedom-loving people” came out in unprecedented millions to vote, their readiness to throw away their republican institutions along with their dignity and grasp of facts suggests that many Americans have lost the basic qualities that the Founders believed essential to self-government. There is no obvious way to reverse this decline, which shows signs of infecting elements of the other side as well.

But the composition of Trump’s followers, with a large minority of Latino voters and a nontrivial number of Black voters, makes their motivations more various and complicated than the single, somehow reassuring cause that progressives settled on after 2016: racism. There turn out to be many different reasons different kinds of people want to fling themselves at the feet of a con man. The votes show that progressives’ habit of seeing Americans as molecules dissolved in vast and undifferentiated ethnic and racial solutions without individual agency is both analytically misleading and politically self-defeating, doing actual harm to the cause of equality.

Many of the most influential journalists and pollsters continue to fail to understand how most of their compatriots think, even as these experts spend ever more of their time talking with one another on Twitter and in TV studios. The local and regional newspapers around the country that could fill in the picture of who we are with more granular human detail continue to die out. All of us, professionals and otherwise, are to some extent prisoners of impermeable information chambers, in which the effort to grasp contrary narratives is morally suspect.

This destruction of the mental commons is potentially fatal to a democracy. Unlike citizens of geriatric autocracies, we lack the cynical habit of learning to live with lies that we don’t compel ourselves to believe are true. As newcomers, we’re suckers for mass disinformation—passionate believers in the most ludicrous stories, instant experts in seizing every piece of data as proof of our chosen truth. One of the winners on Election Night was Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, a follower of the insane conspiracy ideology QAnon. She will sit in Congress alongside Democratic colleagues who, by her lights, engage in child sex trafficking.

There’s nothing remotely comparable to QAnon in the Democratic Party. Nonetheless, it would be a mistake for Democrats who proudly believe in climate science and counting every vote to imagine that they are immune to the distorting effects of information technology and hyperpolarization. Having a basically sane worldview can make it harder to detect the creeping influence of self-delusion. How many people do you know who refused to believe that Trump could win a fair election? Antisocial media has us all in its grip.

There’s no escaping who we Americans have become: This is the election’s meaning. We are stuck with one another, seeing no way out and no apparent way through, sinking deeper into a state of mutual incomprehension and loathing. The possible exits—gradual de-escalation, majority breakthrough, clean separation, civil war—are either unlikely or unthinkable. We have to live and govern ourselves together, but we still don’t know how. Winning in this state becomes a chimera. Whoever takes the presidency, all Americans will remain the losers.

3  MAGA    3 weeks ago

We are 100% unapologetic for our support of him and stand by it.  Not only that, the element of the party to supported him is stronger and the establishment is weaker.  The Lincoln project is a total failure as the GOP keeps the senate, gained seats in the house, added a governor, and was strong locally.  The Trump faction of the party is stronger than ever now. 

3.1  Texan1211  replied to  MAGA @3    3 weeks ago

even when their candidate wins. some will always find something to complain about.

3.1.1  GaJenn78  replied to  Texan1211 @3.1    3 weeks ago

Candidate still hasn't won. Turns out, some people in Ga, mailed in ballots and voted in person. I'm guessing that may be a problem. I'm not an election expert, BUT that may cause a little ripple, and could be illegal. AGAIN, Not an election expert, but it seems that would be voting twice(or more). Could explain why more votes were cast than registered voters in some places.

3.1.2  Texan1211  replied to  GaJenn78 @3.1.1    3 weeks ago

That could be problematic.

I wonder who is stupid enough to do both?

3.1.3  Texan1211  replied to  GaJenn78 @3.1.1    3 weeks ago

looks like that happened during the primaries, but I can't find anything on it for the general election

3.2  Ender  replied to  MAGA @3    3 weeks ago

Can only shake my head. That you cannot see donald and his following is the establishment...

3.2.1  MAGA  replied to  Ender @3.2    3 weeks ago

No, Biden and the democrat party is the establishment along with the Lincoln project RINOS.  

3.2.2  Ender  replied to  MAGA @3.2.1    3 weeks ago

Uh huh. Keep telling yourself that.

Odd that the man that has held the highest office in the land is not a part of the system...

How does that work exactly?

Buzz of the Orient
4  Buzz of the Orient    3 weeks ago

But what about the fact that to Trumpsters, Trump is GOD, is both omnipotent and omniscient, can do no wrong, his words are sacred - what is the explanation that he LOST, or if you want to say "it's never over 'till it's over", what will you believe in if he is defeated?  Has Satan had a hand in this?  Can a solution to this be found in the bible?

4.1  Texan1211  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @4    3 weeks ago

well, your premise that Trump is a god is way out in left field.

who do you know who thinks he is a god?

5  seeder  JohnRussell    3 weeks ago


An Arlingtonian shows President Trump a finger as his motorcade makes it’s way back to the White House after a stop at their campaign headquarters in Rosslyn.

5.1  Texan1211  replied to  JohnRussell @5    3 weeks ago

always classy folks who oppose Trump!

5.1.1  seeder  JohnRussell  replied to  Texan1211 @5.1    3 weeks ago

I think Trump said he's going to sue her. 

5.1.2  Texan1211  replied to  JohnRussell @5.1.1    3 weeks ago

probably doesn't have any money

5.1.3  seeder  JohnRussell  replied to  Texan1211 @5.1.2    3 weeks ago

Neither does Trump. 

5.1.4  Texan1211  replied to  JohnRussell @5.1.3    3 weeks ago


6  IMT    3 weeks ago

Only the working class, the 90%, acting independent of either party and of the trade unions, can and will 'contend' with this.


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