Trump’s electoral college win this month and the failure of logic and reason to prevent a Trump presidency will probably go down in history as nearly analyzed as much as Hitler’s rise to power. In only two weeks I’ve read proposed hundreds of reasons for his success, from lying news to liberal arrogance. And it’s taken me a while to compose myself enough to analyze it and get past the pure vitriol and disgust I have for anyone who voted for that man. But while we cling to simple answers and quick solutions, and of course if we changed any one element of the campaigns and election, the outcome could have and should have been drastically different. I’m not sure though that my thoughts on the matter constitute a simple answer, because the question I’m asking myself is not how he won, but rather how he got any votes at all. And the answer to that question, the source of Donald Trump’s rise to power stems not from liberal media bias or Hillary’s slip ups, but rather from the ignorance, lack of education, and inability to think critically that plagues humanity. And the only way to prevent another Trump presidency is to combat all those things.
Communicating with many people is like communicating with a wall. I’ve been intolerant of religious, anti-science, or fixed ideologies dominating people’s beliefs for years now. And I’m not immune to my own predispositions and delusions. But as I cycle through opinions, learning new evidence as I grow and mature, adult members of even my own family remain fixated on wacky beliefs such as that President Obama is a Muslim. Media outlets have been claiming this is the beginning of a new era, the post-truth era. But we’ve been believing the words of preachers and ancient books for millennia.
What do political beliefs and religion have in common? For the majority of the population and the majority of beliefs, no argument, no discussion, no amount of news coverage or shaming can change these people’s minds. The confirmation bias of ignoring evidence against their views and gobbling up confirmatory evidence leads to reassurance of our beliefs. It’s beyond infuriating to have discussions with people about religion and politics for that exact reason. People are fixated on their beliefs, mostly in line with the propaganda spewed onto them by those who raised them, and there are no anecdotes or evidence that can change their minds.
I’ve been frustrated with organized religion for years now and only recently have I seen that the fundamental flaw in humanity that predisposes us to antiquated beliefs has a hold on us far beyond what we chose to worship. From anti-GMO and anti-vax to pro-Trump to climate change denying to evolution denying, I see these all as indefensible stances but they have a hold on a large portion of the population, and not just the uneducated either. The anti-vax crew is notoriously educated, wealthy, and suburban, total polar opposite of the typical rural, undereducated, and poor populations that fall in line with the other anti-reason beliefs I have cited.
It’s true that there is a general trend toward sharper critical thinking with higher educated individuals, but it’s not completely airtight. So where is the disconnect? My personal experience with my college education is that it doesn’t teach critical thinking. University studies are mostly a game of memorization, one that limits critical thinking and harps on a simple ability to ingest information. It not only fails at instructing critical thinking, but is almost the enemy of critical thinking. That religious groups like Cru can thrive on a college campus is mind-boggling to me.
The fact is, the less educated and the conservatives don’t have a monopoly on this lack of ability to distinguish between truth and falsehoods. I see the nonsense sensationalist media and outright lies in liberal outlets as well. I’ll stand by my original thesis that I stated years ago, so long as we tolerate any of the anti-science, anti-reason, faith-based beliefs, we’re exposing ourselves to situations like a President-elect Trump.
If we don’t agree that truth can be discovered and agreed upon then we’ll never find common ground and we’ll never prevent another Trump presidency. If a person can hold beliefs based on faith, then we’ll never be assured that we can prevent another Trump presidency. And I know it’s hard with people like Ken Ham, Donald Trump, Dr. Oz, and Jenny McCarthy to navigate the truth and the lies; that’s exactly why we need critical thinking and education. Unfortunately, the GOP is never going to prop up education and critical thinking when a lack of it is exactly what keeps getting them elected.
So what can we do? To prevent another Trump presidency, we have to start with looking for truth ourselves and stopping spreading sensationalist lies. We have to analyze any beliefs in our own lives that we may not have evidence for. Are you pro-choice? Ask yourself why. Don’t just believe it because it’s how you were raised. Are you for specific welfare programs and higher taxes on the wealthy? Look into the outcomes of welfare programs, their effectiveness at propping up people and communities out of poverty. Look at the impact on the economy of taxes on huge corporations and the mega-wealthy. Until we start finding arguments for our own beliefs and transforming them into well-thought out opinions based on facts, we’ll never be able to solidly criticize the other side for their wacky views.
These aren’t our enemies and they’re not bad people. They’re our neighbors, our family members, and even us. We all are prone to believing things because they fit our agenda and ideology. We’ve just been fed mountains of false information and preachings and haven’t been given the tools to sift through it. We, myself first and foremost, should empathize with these people because we’re all in this together and the ones who fervently supported Trump are some of the ones who are going to suffer the most from his policies.