Let Them Get Hoisted by Their Own Petard

There was a moment in the 2016 election when many, many people — myself included — were convinced that there was no way that Hillary Clinton could lose the election. It happened sometime after the first debate. Clinton even did a little dance about it:

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There was no way that the Orange Man-Child could mount a comeback and win, right? This was especially true (in our minds) after he admitted to groping women.

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Artist’s rendering of Trump grabbing… you know.

So what happened?

What happened was that Hillary Clinton and Friends (and Friends) decided to pile-on when it came to the missteps of the Great Orange One. They put out email after email and television spots, and everything else they could, to emphasize that the man-child was also a sexual predator and overall creepy guy. Then they took it one step further and decided to accuse everyone who thought of voting for him of being, well, “deplorable.”

To be honest, I’ve ended several personal and professional relationships with people who voted for El Anaranjado, but I’ve done so after the election and after they were unable to explain to me why they supported his xenophobic and homophobic proclamations. “Yeah, but her emails, though,” was more than just a joke in a meme. They actually said to me with a straight face that they could not vote for someone who mishandled emails like that. But they could somehow vote for a racist, sentient urinary tract infection? So I saved them the trouble of being conflicted and just cut them off.

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But I digress…

That whole strategy backfired because people like to take sides. We like to grab on to a team and be loyal to it. For a big section of Republicans, being called “deplorable” (and other names) only cemented their support. Like petulant children, they grabbed on to their candidate and decided to vote for him come hell (almost literally, if we keep playing games with North Korea) or high water (almost literally, given global climate change). Combine that with a low turnout of Democrats in critical areas of the Rust Belt, and we have what we have.

Now look at what happened in Alabama last month. There, Roy “16 and Under” Moore was the likely winner in state that has gone for the right-wing candidate for a long time. It doesn’t get redder than Alabama when it comes to politics. Only the urban and suburban bastions of Birmingham and Mobile were projected to go Blue, and that would not be enough. To win, Doug Jones would need a lot of votes to come out of the not-so-rural areas, and a lot more to come out of the rural ones… And for Republican voters to stay home.

So did Jones attack Moore for Moore’s sexual predation of young, teenage girls at malls? Nope. He stayed quiet and just rode the wave of disgust to its natural conclusion. The voters of Alabama were not going to put a predator in the Senate, and the Black voters of Alabama were going to vote against a very weird and racist dude with a small gun. And the Republicans who did vote for El Gato Moore? Many of them stayed home. They were not called names. They were not incensed by “The Liberals.” Jones just kind of stood back and let “U16” Moore’s own actions and words be his undoing.

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Fast-forward to this week, when an “explosive” new book about the Trump Presidency is being published. An excerpt of the book on the New York Magazine website has this interesting passage:

“On Friday, January 27 — only his eighth day in office — Trump signed an executive order issuing a sweeping exclusion of many Muslims from the United States. In his mania to seize the day, with almost no one in the federal government having seen it or even been aware of it, Bannon had succeeded in pushing through an executive order that overhauled U.S. immigration policy while bypassing the very agencies and personnel responsible for enforcing it.

The result was an emotional outpouring of horror and indignation from liberal media, terror in immigrant communities, tumultuous protests at major airports, confusion throughout the government, and, in the White House, an inundation of opprobrium from friends and family. What have you done? You have to undo this! You’re finished before you even start! But Bannon was satisfied. He could not have hoped to draw a more vivid line between Trump’s America and that of liberals. Almost the entire White House staff demanded to know: Why did we do this on a Friday, when it would hit the airports hardest and bring out the most protesters?

“Errr … that’s why,” said Bannon. “So the snowflakes would show up at the airports and riot.” That was the way to crush the liberals: Make them crazy and drag them to the left.”

My emphasis in bold.

This has been the strategy of Chief Troll Bannon and his troll army. They exist to push buttons and have people overreact to their provocations. Then, when people do react, these trolls quickly act like victims and point and say, “See? They’re nuts!” And this has been a favorite tactic of the anti-vaccine trolls as well.

One such troll we’ll call “The Kid” traveled to talks given by a prestigious vaccine scientist and pediatrician, asking some very idiotic questions and provoking organizers of those talks to act against the little troll. The Kid would then go on his blog and tell his followers of how he was victimized, and how he was not victimized because he was launching handgrenades of lies and misinformation… He told his followers that he was being victimized for being autistic, and — naturally — he was autistic because of vaccines.

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While I do love me some back-and-forth with anti-vaxxers and the like, I’m learning more and more not to play into their game. If I go at them and call them what they are (idiots), they’ll just play the victim and say that I’m victimizing them. When anyone does this to them on social media, they are quick to say that someone is making fun of their “damaged” children. In fact, that was the whole subject of an email to the Dean of Students at the school where I go. They accused me of using this blog to make fun of autistic children when I was clearly making fun of idiot antivaxxers.

So I hope that all this is a lesson to people who are planning to run for office in 2018. Yeah, it will be a referendum of sorts on the Trump Administration, but try to stick to the issues at hand. Hillary Lost because she didn’t really have a plan for the forgotten people of the Rust Belt and Appalachia, and the South. She didn’t have a plan for African Americans who are hit with the double whammy of institutional racism (which hardly went away during the Obama Administration) and poverty, though they both go hand-in-hand.

The candidates in 2018 need to go above and beyond “Trump Sucks!” to win. (Remember “Bush Sucks!” in 2004? Didn’t work, did it?) They need to explain to us that they have a better plan to deal with threats like North Korea, and that they will continue to promote policies that have led to the current gains in employment and consumer confidence. (Hint: It wasn’t Trump that helped with that. We’re riding a high of an economic recovery after the Great Recession.) Because, frankly, we know that the Great Orange Emperor is a big baby with fancy toys. We know he sees women as objects, and that he will turn against anyone who dares speak ill of him.

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We know all that. What we, the voters, really want to know is what the next Representative, Senator, and President will do to right the ship for everyone, not just people on one end or the other of the spectrum.

Enough divisiveness, is what I’m trying to say.

I'm a doctoral candidate in the Doctor of Public Health program at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. All opinions posted here are my own, of course, and they do not necessarily reflect the opinions of my school, employers, friends, family, etc. Feel free to follow me on Twitter: @EpiRen