The US presidential elections of 2016 happened against a backdrop of political polarization in the country as regular Americans were increasingly divided. The presidential campaign between Trump and Clinton degenerated into an all-time low with both camps trading barbs and insults. Supporters of Trump, who espoused racial, ethnic, and misogyny rhetoric against women and minorities, won against expectations. Many analysts have connected his victory with fear of white people’s declining supremacy (Painter, 2016). The media’s coverage of the political campaign also helped polarize the public opinion rather than unite it. Facebook, for example, never debunked major lies about the candidates that were being spread over its platform (Solon, 2016). With the election of Donald Trump for the highest office in the 2016 election, his campaign’s rhetoric against women and minority groups puts the country at loggerheads with common moral beliefs. At the same time, the relationship between the media’s election coverage of the 2016 elections and its outcome helped polarize the country further developing obscure perceptions about the election outcome.
The Presidential Election Outcome and the Country’s Attitudes and Perceptions of Race, Class and Gender Inequality
According to the results of the concluded presidential election in the USA, Donald Trump is the next president of America. Political analysts and commentators had predicted Clinton would become the next US President. However, it turned out that Donald Trump’s rhetoric had convinced the white Americans, who in their anger and desire for change ensured that one of their representatives was elected to the highest office of the USA. Gallagher (2010) citing the 200 US Census puts the white population at 217 million. He notes that the racial status in the USA has undergone transformations over the last century and the white majority is being wiped out slowly. The American society, according to Bratter (2010), confounds instead on race and culture. This tendency, however, does not mean an end of racism as people will continue to classify themselves further into smaller units. Trump only woke a sleeping giant.
According to Draut (2016), the 2016 presidential election was not about a working class rebellion but rather a white revolt. Writing in BillMoyers, Draut asserted that Trump won the 2016 election because of resentment by the white people, who feared that their dominance had been weakened. Trump’s rhetoric to deport illegal immigrants, restore law and order, and endanger Christians was “an icing on the cake” for his supporters (par.2). Although a quarter of Trump’s voters felt that he did not qualify to be president, they still voted for him. This outcome represents a clear white revolt. While the Democratic Party had left the working class people for wall street titans, they did not commit a big crime in this collection, and the Republican Party was never the solution, as their economic platform was geared towards blaming African-Americans and immigrants for the struggle of white people, mainly taking their jobs. Painter (2016) agrees and points to some factors that may have alarmed white people, especially in the last decade. Asian, Black, and Brown people are involved in the selling of financial instruments. For example, Obama and Michelle are African-Americans. College has also seen a lot of multiculturalism, and now students study Junot Diaz and Toni Morrison. This change has essentially marked a demotion of the white race. Thus, people decided to vote for Trump to say no to a multicultural America.
Painter further echoes Draut’s sentiments in The New York Times article. Painter’s claim is that Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” is a phrase that means “Make America White Again.” Trump won for white Christian Americans but against others, including multiethnic people, multiracial groups, and professionals in various fields. Painter points out that the 2016 election has marked a turning point for white supremacy in America. The white voters underlined a racial identity stamping white Americans with race. Trump’s camp gain tilted towards white nationalism and entrapped white voters, despite the white identity being a spoiled entity with white nationalists like the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and Nazis being a national farce.
Draut (2016) warns that not all of Trump’s voters were racist, but some of them were willing to vote for a racist. Similarly, not all of Trump’s supporters were sexist, but they voted for a sexist because they just wanted the white privilege. They will enjoy the white privilege in Trump’s America, where they will worry less about being told to go home despite being born in the USA. Whether living in poverty, they will not experience Trump’s aggressive policy strategy that he has championed during the campaign period.
In an interview with intellectual Noam Chomsky, journalist Polychroniou (2016) noted that before the elections, actually years ago, Chomsky had warned that the political climate in America was ripe for the rise of an authoritarian figure. The 2016 elevation of Donald Trump espoused Chomsky’s opinion. Trump had record-breaking votes from white voters in the presidential election. It happened in spite of Trump’s ignoring a science fact that climate change was a Chinese hoax, which meant to slow down American industries. According to Chomsky, white supremacy was planted first during the Ronald Reagan era when Reagan fabricated racist remarks against Black people that they were stealing white people’s jobs, and, hence, their money and other luxuries (Polychroniou, 2016). Chomsky declared in the interview that Trump’s 2016 success was mainly due to white supremacy doctrines. White people in America feel threatened, and they have voted for Trump, who espoused change rather than Clinton, an establishment candidate. This line of thought is exactly what Williams (2016) has written in the Harvard Business Review after the elections. Clinton has epitomized the smugness and dorky arrogance that is the American professional elite. She actually labeled them as a basket of deplorable. Trump tapped into white working class voters by placing economics at the center.
Bianco (2016) believes that women have also voted for Trump in large numbers because of the believe that white men are their saviors. Exit polls indicated that 53 percent of white women voted for Trump contrary to earlier poll opinions. White women used white supremacist rhetoric of choosing white men over women and racism to gain power from those who have it. From early on, white women aligned with their male counterparts against the African-American women were given the rights to vote. Suffragists like Elizabeth Stanton and Susan Anthony used racist rhetoric against the African-American women to frustrate the 15th Amendment achievement. They were welcomed together with their movement by white male supremacists supporting white nationalism while voting. This attitude was also clear in the 1960s and 1970s, when white women excluded their Brown and Black sisters on a structural level to appear more acceptable to white male congressmen. Thus, the African-American women continued to struggle against heterosexual, class, and racial oppression due to white feminism rejection. In spite of calling them names like slobs or pigs, millions of white women still voted for Trump. Clinton’s declaration for the Black Lives Matter (BLM) had angered them. This tendency indicates that white women still view white men as their saviors. That is how 53 percent saw a man who wanted to grab them by their private parts as their savior.
America may have moved forward from the segregation days or when women would not vote. The extent of such an advancement is, however, debatable as shown by the 2016 elections. The issue of gender, race, and class are some of the issues that still bedevil the country as brought out by the 2016 elections.
The Role of the Media in Obscuring Perceptions of the Presidential Election’s Outcome and Polarizing Political Views
The media’s coverage of the 2016 presidential election may have helped polarize American issues. In particular, the media coverage increases the belief amongst voters that the electorate is polarized. Voters are then likely to increase their apathy towards the opposite party. It will lead to disliking the other party. According to Levine (2011), TV viewing in the USA was at an all-time high in 2009 through three screens: laptop, cell phone and TV. Television is good for the ruling elite, as with more money they will control what people watch. The media can, therefore, polarize people’s political views as they may deem fit. In an analysis of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Jennifer Szalai, notes that Huxley’s assumption that in the future (now), people will love oppression and will let technology undo their capacities has only come true. Media has co-opted politics and turned it into some entertainment package. The presidential elections in the USA just made that Huxley prediction true.
Solon (2016) provided an example of a fake news story on Facebook that wrongly quoted the Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump. The phrase “if I were to run, I’d run as a Republican; they are the dumbest group of voters in the country; they believe anything on Fox News;. I could lie and they’d still eat it up; I bet my numbers would be terrific” was widely circulated on Facebook attributing to Trump quote during an interview in 1998 by the People magazine. It was an outright fake news story, but Facebook did not take any measures to tackle. Facebook only helped to grow the bitter polarization of the 2016 elections rather than connecting people as its mission statement claims. With Facebook, however, the more people like certain stories, even if they are false, the more they will feed the audience similar stories that may only resonate with individuals’ worldviews. It is especially important as, according to the Pew Research Center, about 44 percent of the Americans get their news from Facebook (Solon, 2016). BuzzFeed analysis discovered that about 38 percent of posts on three right-wing politics pages on Facebook were either misleading or represented false information and three left-wing pages had 19 percent of false news (Solon, 2016). The president-elect Trump has repeated false news and urged his followers not to trust the corrupt news media. As correctly mentioned by Marger (1996), media controls the minds of the millions of Americans and even influences some of their major decisions. It means that even if Trump has uttered some false news and the media used it, his followers will not trust this information.
At the same time, people keep providing false information. According to Shermer (2002), people believe such false stories even if they look weird due to wishful thinking. These people will continue to believe such stories even contrary to the evidence either because they do not want to admit they are wrong or they want some unchallenging news. Racism also plays a part as the false news is propagated through witch hunts and numerous feedback loops. Solon (2016) reports it as the left-wing or right-wing posts with false “memes” that comes into play. However, contrary to other scholars, Shermer (2002) believes that such news articles should be left and not be debunked. Thus, the left-wing and right-wing propaganda should eliminate itself.
The above sentiments are echoed by Ken Doctor (2016) in an article in the Newseconomics. Doctor worries about the survival of the American journalism as people have known it in the past half a century. During and after the campaign, the media was a punching bag with trust levels of the media hitting an all-time law. The public is now confused whether to believe the media and especially due to the fact the media had shown Clinton winning. Media credibility will further diminish during post-election.
The media has also widely reported on the post-election and Trump’s position. Trump was endorsed by the KKK and the alt-right news Breitbart. Breitbart is an alt-right propaganda machine that has moved its CEO to the West Wing of the White House. Reliable news outlets like The New York Times are instead entering an uncertain future. Trump has labeled it the enemy especially due to its perceived coverage during the elections. It will be interesting to watch The New York Times in 2017 with president Trump. Given the anti-Semitism, racism, dishonesty, and misogyny that have been the hallmark of the 2016 campaign, the response of the press is one of a mission. Obama has played his role as the incumbent, while Clinton has conceded, and the press has to survive in a tough and an unknown future (Doctor, 2016).
Chernus (2013) seemed to understand the 2016 media rhetoric well and forewarned the media in advance. In his piece titled “Political Dreaming in the Twenty-First Century,” Chernus mentions that everyone has a dream and every person is entitled to his dreams. The point is not to argue who has the best dream but to voice all dreams openly and share their interpretations. The media is warned not to shout about what is wrong from the rooftops. They should, however, take time to show how the dreamers propel policies and politics.
The election of Donald Trump for the highest office in the USA despite his misogyny, racist, and xenophobic remarks against Hillary Clinton will be discussed for years to come. Many journalists, however, point to the fact that for about a decade, white Americans have seen multicultural changes that seemed to threaten their supremacy. This tendency prompted them to vote for Trump albeit his many flaws. White women have also used the guidance from white men and voted for Trump amid his insults. The outcome of the elections shows that the white populace, fearing of losing their supremacy after seeing the African-American man and woman in the White House, decided to vote for whoever claimed to champion their superiority. The media’s coverage of the elections during this period was faulted for either leaning to one side or not debunking myths. It helped to polarize the nation more. The post-Obama era will be watched closely by analysts to see how the Trump presidency unfolds.