Why Did Good People Vote for a Walking Phallic Symbol?
It is an interesting question and I am writing a longer piece on this, as well as it will be subject of a future podcast episode. But many of us are still in the post-election recovery mode (I have not quite made it the resignation stage yet). So humor my attempt at public therapy. It always helps me to try to understand things (even the inexplicable).
Scott Jones reminded me of the work of social psychologist Jonathan Haidt's bestseller "The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion." According to Haidt, our morality arises out of the three social dimensions that correspond to our brains three dimensional perception of reality: solidarity/proximity; hierarchy, and dignity. Solidarity is the family/tribe; hierarchy is parental/status/authority; and divinity/spiritual/moral dimension in the social context is where our sense of disgust comes from. This divinity dimension is often most active in religious conservatives and ironically least in play for libertarians.
So why did a man whose entire life has been a wanton demonstration of disgusting, exploitive, and border-line criminal treatment of women not only get a pass, but ran a campaign explicitly appealing to the disgust dimension of a portion of the electorate? Well the short answer is that he was an alpha male that was running against a woman (with a host of her own negatives), who appealed to the hierarchal needs of an anxious group (Law & Order; I will bomb the hell out of Isis; guns, etc) and championed the solidarity needs of those who fear the increasing diversity of our society (anti-immigration; Moslem ban; thinly veiled racism towards Obama; implicit anti-semitic advertising). It is not accidental that Trump and Putin are soul mates: Putin's high popularity in Russia is a direct response to his nationalistic/authoritarian project of restoration in the aftermath of the post-soviet malaise .
Ironically, the most cynic thing Trump did was play to the shame/disgust issues that many social conservatives hold dear. A life long pro-choice advocate suddenly takes up the mantle of pro-life concerns. A practicing sexual libertine gives a nod to those who oppose the concerns of LGBTQ community. Evangelical Christians seemed to ignore his painfully ignorant and comic attempts to talk about the Bible and faith. That in part is why people who would never leave him alone in a room with their daughters gave him the nuclear codes.
This election (and the post-election response) was maybe not quite a primal scream, but it was deeply emotionally and therefore.....primal. President Obama's and Secretary Clinton's reasonable, patriotic and gracious call for an orderly transition is consistent with our better angels and in the tradition of the peaceful transition of power that has persevered this democracy for 240 years. But the genie is out of the bottle. More to come....