Moving forward after the election

I’ve been mulling over what happened in the election, and what I should do now.

I think these things are key:

  • Just a small difference in turnout would have turned the election around. Any conclusions about the American people that we draw based on that election would still hold true if Hillary had won. Racism, misogyny, xenophobia? They’ve been major components of our culture all along, and that would still be the case if Trump had lost.
  • Michael Moore’s explanation of why Trump would win, in retrospect, was pretty dead on. But there’s one thing I think he gets wrong: “The left has won the cultural wars.” We’re winning — with bare majorities — on some vital issues, but we haven’t won yet. Winning would mean a candidate like Trump would never have had a chance.
  • Education is one of the things that makes the biggest difference, and it’s one we can change. In recent elections, education has not been a great differentiator of voting Republican vs. Democrat. This time it was. Combine that with age and it’s even more dramatic. This is closely related to progress in the culture wars; especially in the case of younger college graduates, there’s a shared vocabulary to talk about social justice and privilege, and a conceptual framework that has become part of our everyday social and political lives rather just abstract academic jargon.

So here’s my strategy:

  • Give money now to the organizations that can help mitigate the short-term damage. The ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and independent investigative journalism are at the top of my list to fight back against abuses of power and help vulnerable people.
  • Pour my energy into things that will help in the longer term. For me, that means my day job at Wiki Education Foundation: helping professors and their students to improve Wikipedia in the areas that really matter.

If you’re a technologist, find ways to use technology to fix democracy. I’ve got some ideas — we need a better social network than Facebook, one that drives reality-based discussion and concrete political action rather than ad clicks — but I’ll save that for another post.

If you’re web developer and you want to volunteer for an open source project that makes a concrete difference in education and public knowlege, I’ve got plenty of cool things you could do for Wiki Education Foundation’s platform. It’s Ruby on Rails and React, and every day professors and college students are using it to improve coverage of important topics on Wikipedia.

528 thoughts on “Moving forward after the election”

  1. I like your idea for a better social network than Facebook. The biggest problems in social networking in general, and FB in particular, as I see them, are that they implicitly foster a really unhealthy conversation dynamic, with a clique-ish in-group and drive-by trolls. A lot of the reason for that, IMO, is the one-size-fits-all “like” button. Here are some ideas off the top of my head.

    Authors should be rewarded for providing new, relevant information to a discussion, for challenging their peers in healthy ways, and for changing someone’s mind on a topic. So maybe there could be feedback buttons for “made me think”, “taught me something new”, “well argued”, and/or “changed my mind”.

    Authors should be rewarded for providing sources for their assertions. This could be automated, and the system could also count click-throughs, and reward authors for those.

    The more granular feedback buttons impose a burden on readers; so they should be rewarded for using them.

    There needs to be a robust system implemented to prevent infiltration and subversion by POV interest groups. I don’t know how this could be done, but I’d be surprised if there wasn’t considerable research on it.

  2. Here’s another reaction I had to this post. Moore’s #2 is essentially correct, but offensive because it is dripping with disdain. And that, in itself, is part of the reason your side lost. It would behoove all of you to try to see things from the perspective of the aging white demographic from time-to-time.

    They see a country in which every identity group under the sun is allowed to have an advocacy group except them. The Democratic party openly boasts of its plan to change the demographics of America to boost their power. And, they see that it’s working: whites will cease to be a majority sometime before 2050, and immigrants and POC overwhelmingly vote democratic.

    But god forbid any of them ever try to assert that these changes might not be in their interest — then they are a RACIST MISOGYNIST XENOPHOBE (how many times have I read those words in the last week?) If they don’t enthusiastically embrace their de-facto disenfranchisement, then they are deplorable. A lot of them (rightly, IMO) feel that maybe the government should be working a little bit harder for their interests.

  3. Yeah. I mean, racism, misogyny and xenophobia *are* deplorable. But calling someone racist, misogynist or xenophobic — even when true — is actively unhelpful in making them less so.

    But the more fundamental issue is getting everyone to participate more in the political process, especially in terms more concrete and local than a once-every-four-years national election.

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