Election 2016 Analysis Part 4: THE PURPLE REVOLUTION

Quietly released on a Friday Night


It’s All Your Fault! And why it isn’t

By Dean Heagle

In writing on the subject of the 2016 presidential election, I found that exploring any one topic, consistently shed light on more and more details. Gladly, the passage of time has helped solidify and expand these ideas. Thus, what was originally intended as a short article has become a four part series, replete with sidebars and additional analysis.

Democracy statue commissioned 1990, Courthouse Plaza, Burlington, VT (Photo by Dean Heagle ©2016)

Let’s be clear: the Trump presidency will create an avalanche of regressive laws and policies, a strain on foreign relations and will inflict more than its share of pain on the environment and most ordinary people. Trump’s presidency represents more than a departure from the norm or a back lash of American conservatism, but instead manifests itself as a severely altered change of direction for the country Let’s be clear: there are troubled waters ahead.

Whatever terrible policies the Trump administration is able to enact, sit on top of an abundance of regressive legislation already being passed on the state level. Right now, coming from all levels of government, you can expect more of the same: increasing restrictions on abortion and family planning, new right to work laws and union busting, cuts to education, anti-poverty and children’s programs and the further dismantling of worker’s and civil rights. And let’s not forget a supreme court that will tilt ever more to the right for decades to come.


Many complex issues played significant roles in this election. The system is broken. What needs to be repaired are the same factors which got us into this mess, among them: voter apathy, an incompetent mainstream media, a new media which is untrustworthy and propagandistic, the unequal distribution of wealth and the failure of individuals with viewpoints on the left and the right to be able to communicate and listen to each other.

Of these factors the last article, the failure to communicate needs to go to the front of the line. While the news media put forward the idea of red and blue states beginning during the 2000 election, in fact the red vs. blue notion is just a simple-minded construct which distorts the real truth. For while one party may be dominant in a given state, there are still large numbers of the population who are allied with the other party. So in fact, most states are neither purely red or blue, but instead are a shade of purple.

Currently, the rhetoric on both sides, but especially on the right has reached a fever pitch. The right has always had a knack of appealing to people’s baser instincts and emotions rather than appealing to their reason. Certain tactics such as the “straw man” argument, the “us vs. them” argument and “demonization” propaganda are among the right’s greatest hits. The right wing stream of hate holds that members of the opposing party do not simply have different beliefs, but that they are corrupt and bad people and should be considered anti-American. They are not simply members of the opposing party; they are the enemy.

The right (and to a lesser extent, the left) employ such rhetoric because it is useful for them politically, but at the same time this type of rhetoric is incredibly damaging to the fabric of society. What both sides must do moving forward is to get rid of the vitriol and hate speech. We must learn to tamp down our anger and frustration and find better ways to listen to each other. The crucial issue is not who is president, but how we as citizens are conducting our own national conversation. The divide between the two sides cannot continue. This path is destructive and self-defeating. We must find a better way.

Once people with opposing viewpoints begin to listen to each other, they will likely continue to have major differences on such things as religion and social issues. But in the communication process, people of differing viewpoints can learn that they are not all that different and that most of us want many of the same things.

People all want the best for their children and the future. Most people want to do honest work and have something to show for their efforts. Most people are not greedy, lazy or hateful and if given the chance most would help their neighbors and their community.

Contrary to the idea that all people are selfish by nature, human nature is actually quite prone to cooperation and in fact the human race has depended on it. Cooperation and working together is even written in our genes, for humans are by themselves rather helpless animals unlikely to survive as mere individuals, but when they band together to form a society they become quite powerful and thus have become the dominant species on the planet.

If given a chance most people’s better angels will come to the forefront. And most people, once they get to know each other, have the potential to get along. There are many things that they still might not agree on, but nevertheless they can learn to work together toward shared goals, overcoming the barriers of culture, race and sexual orientation.

But, the first step is that we need to start listening to each other and discovering what we have in common. And in the process we can agree on certain societal goals and then work together to accomplish them. In the process, we will discover that government doesn’t need to look the way it does now. Instead, together we can decide how we want to shape it.

By being more personally involved, individuals can start to feel that they can make a difference, causing a feedback loop between involvement and a more positive outlook. Once people stop feeling powerless they become even more motivated to effect change. Once people are more involved they will stop feeling so disconnected and begin to feel they play an important role in a larger community. And this empowerment ultimately results in beneficial public works which are good for everyone.

Once people become empowered and more involved in the larger picture, we will never have another election like this last one where in essence one side voted to tear down the entire system and the other side favored the political status quo, but remained unexcited. The candidates will be better, not just because more of the population will be involved in choosing them, but because more people will run for office starting on the community level, ultimately leading to a better and larger pool of candidates on the state and federal levels.

They say that all politics is local and even taking the time to communicate with someone who has an opposing point of view is one of many places that a more positive transformation can begin. This is the real meaning of democracy. There is no existing model for us to emulate and we must invent the process as we go along. But it’s possible to imagine a society where everyone is much more civically engaged.

And then it’s possible to imagine many more positive changes like moving beyond the two party system, changing the way campaigns are financed to get corporate money out of politics and enacting voting reforms to make voting more uniform and accessible to all citizens.

It’s possible to work toward a time when the act of voting will be viewed as a last step in what it means to be involved in one’s community, for we will all find more mays to be more involved. And with a more educated and engaged electorate it would seem more and more inconceivable that an election like this last one would ever happen again.


Straw Man: definition

The Belief: “Us Versus Them” … True or False?

Demonizing the enemy

I Remember When Appalachia Wasn’t Trump Country

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