Who’s to Blame for Trump’s Election?

As the nation comes to terms with the devastating results of Election Day, we take a closer look at who's to blame.

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Complex Original

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As someone who spent the first two decades of his life as a reluctant Alabama citizen, the mournful results of the 2016 presidential election shouldn't have surprised me. Trump supporters, you see, have been around much longer than Trump himself. Living in a bubble has a certain way of obscuring the devastating fact that Trump supporters have always been there, and now they have a world leader to call their own. They're signing your checks. They're bagging your groceries. They're filling your cavities. They're even, especially in red states like Alabama, teaching your children. 

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But are voters solely to blame for the election of a man who once called Mexican immigrants "rapists" and openly bragged to a now-fired NBC personality about sexual assault? No. In fact, at the time of publication, Hillary Clinton was leading the popular vote. So before we begin the necessary work of preparing for a potentially spirit-crushing four years under the greatest threat to American democracy in our lifetime, let's take a closer look at who we can blame, starting with an unflinching and sobering look at ourselves:

The Media

Though the very phrase "the media" immediately conjures images of a sweaty Rudy Giuliani frothing at the mouth while blasting the very basis of journalism, the role of mainstream publications in this election simply can't be understated. At first, headlines and late-night commentary appeared to treat the former Apprentice host's bid for presidency as a joke. But as the eventual GOP nominee's appeal to large swaths of white voters became apparent, many publications and celebrity voices failed to recognize or successfully translate the very real chance of his victory. The President-elect's offensive, inflammatory, and only sometimes coded language only garnered more headlines and effectively gave him a free platform from which to spew the most divisive rhetoric in recent memory.

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With less than two days to go before Election Day, FBI Director James Comey issued a letter to top congressional Republicans declaring the "conclusions that we expressed in July" regarding Clinton's emails would remain unchanged. But the damage was already done. Just days earlier, Comey had issued a vague statement to Congress alleging that "emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation" had been discovered during a probe into former Congressman Anthony Weiner's electronic communications. The Republican nominee used Comey's initial letter as fuel for his supporters' fire, ensuring they had the word "emails" on their minds when hitting the polls. "Hillary Clinton's corruption is on a scale we have never seen before, we must not let her take her criminal scheme into the Oval Office," the GOP nominee later said at a New Hampshire rally, according to CNBC.​

Third Parties

When we publicly declare our ire for third party candidates, it's not because anyone assumes a Gary Johnson vote or a Jill Stein vote would automatically go toward Clinton in the event of their nonexistence. Instead, we find third party candidates particularly distracting in an election year of this nature because the ones most vulnerable to their campaigns, i.e. young people, are often a beacon of hope for older voters who feel abandoned by their fellow Americans. Some states, political experts argue, could have swung in Clinton's favor if the Johnson-Stein voters had instead united against the now President-elect:

Now, if you're unwilling to talk about what this data means, then you're not ready to talk about the work ahead. pic.twitter.com/iXsbxVUHiK

— deray (@deray) November 9, 2016


The speculated involvement of Russia in the 2016 presidential election, which the Obama administration argued back in October has included a fleet of hackers intending to sway the vote by leaking documents, has perhaps been one of the most harrowing aspects of this cycle. The President-elect even openly challenged Russia to hack the country, a challenge unsurprisingly linked to his campaign's obsession with that aforementioned (and repeatedly debunked) email scandal.

White Voters

I'm a white man. Even at my lowest moments as a human being, even when life barely seems worth it, I still have it much easier than my fellow Americans of color. This is a flaw in the very idea of "America" that extends back as far as the very founding of this nation. When I picture the average Trump supporter from, say, Alabama, I imagine the guy with a What Would Jesus Do bracelet on who screamed "f*ggot!" at me the first time I painted my nails. I imagine the cop who literally accused me of hiding a dead body in my car because I "looked high." I imagine hateful white people, emboldened like no other time in American history by a campaign of division.

Updated poll numbers

231,556,622 eligible voters

46.9% didn't vote
25.6% voted for Clinton
25.5% voted for Trump
1.7% voted for Johnson

— Josh Nelson (@soxmachine_josh) November 9, 2016

People Who Didn't Vote

This is a complicated one. We all have that one friend, the one who routinely shares typo-splattered memes made up of grainy photos of George Carlin and vague quotes about a broken system. The system is broken. No doubt about it. But apathy at near-anarchy levels isn't exactly helping anyone, especially voters. Sadly, some abstain from voting not by choice, but due to certain states' apparent insistence on suppressing voices which might chip away at the GOP establishment. Overly strict ID laws? Registration purges? These acts have an inarguable impact on voter turnout.

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Fake News

To bring this full circle, now is the time to boldly face one of our greatest threats head-on: fake news. These are the sites (the names of which we won't plug here) with headlines like HILLARY CLINTON NOW FACING PRISON or REPUBLICAN NOMINEE SCORES MAJOR ENDORSEMENT FROM MEXICO. For anyone brave enough to still be rocking a Facebook account, you've seen this on the regular. The very definition of truth, it seems, has been shifted to mean something dangerously at odds with the previously accepted qualifications required for a "fact." The result? Damn near anything can pass for truth now, giving way to long and grueling days like this one.​

The common thread among all these factors? Fear. The President-elect has snaked his way into the White House on the momentum of a campaign dedicated to instilling palpable fear in the hearts of white America, an America seemingly fine with self-sabotage at the hands of a man who routinely dismisses climate change as a fabrication and may very well bring about the saddening normalization of outright Islamophobia. If we take a closer look at how we got here, perhaps this nation still has time to check itself before it unceremoniously wrecks itself.

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