I spent the days leading up to last Tuesday night, like many of you, predicting a comfortable victory for Hillary Clinton and the welcoming of our first female president, while simultaneously waving goodbye to the most depressing election cycle in recent memory, perhaps in all of history.
As election night got underway, I gave it close to no attention, just occasionally scrolling Twitter to see the results from the early states rolling in.
Quickly my confidence turned to mild concern, which evolved into full fledged panic. The remainder of election coverage was spent seeking comfort in the form of Netflix in an attempt to distract myself from the perceived collapse of our country.
I exchanged messages in a group text as confusion/fear/disbelief washed over me. By 10 o’clock ET the inevitable became more and more certain, Donald J. Trump was going to be the next president of the United States.
I went to sleep before the election was called, I had accepted that the worst nightmare that many of us could have imagined was in fact becoming our reality.
I drifted off ashamed to be a part of a system that could’ve let, as Dave Chappelle put it on Saturday night, an internet troll become the leader of the free world.
I was ashamed to be a white a male, I was ashamed of my naivety about the divide that exists in our nation, I was ashamed of my overwhelming confidence and for the first time in my life I was ashamed to be an American.
Now that there’s been nearly a week to let this news sink in and fingers have been pointed in every direction, I’ve had time to think about the way we consume news and the agendas of those sources and how this could have contributed to a sequence of events that seemingly shocked an entire country.
But, then I remembered this didn’t shock an entire country, it didn’t shock the nearly 60 million Americans that chose to cast a ballot in favor of our president-elect.
It’s the way in which we consume news in the current age and the way the media was forced to cover it that made each side believe that they would win.
We gravitate towards news outlets that have a message and a way of covering stories that possess viewpoints that line up with with our own and that immediately isolates us from many voices of opposition. But, even when everyone was presented with same program, via the debates, the opportunity to get a meaningful look at both sides was squandered.
An unfortunate reality exists where we have so many options to get news that they must do everything possible to steal even brief moments of our attention in any way that they can – and sadly covering policy is not the way to glue people to their TVs when hundreds of other means of entertainment exist.
In a perfect world television channels wouldn’t be concerned with viewers or advertising dollars, but with such a fierce level of competition across multiple platforms the reality TV format was applied to one of the most important events in the entire world.
The presidential election is not the World Series or Keeping Up with the Kardashians, the results aren’t soon forgotten and we don’t get a chance next year, it decides the most important position of power that has ripple effects across the entire globe.
Our attention spans and lust for drama forced the hands of news stations to blow news stories out of proportion a week at a time, without time to examine their impact or adequately explain them to the country before moving on to the next headline grabbing story.
And in turn this made candidates throw jabs and search to deliver their best sound bites in order to obtain coverage with virtually none of them having to do with policy or how they would act as president.
Today, the lasting moments of Hillary’s downfall will be an e-mail server, WikiLeaks and an overzealous FBI director. None of her proposed policy will be what unraveled her campaign, but instead the perception that was created about her and the unfortunate misrepresentation of experience as a negative.
While Donald Trump will be remembered for a slew of empty promises that captivated a part of the country that feels under-represented. Echoes of “Build the wall!” and hate towards minority groups that will never manifest in policy was enough to craft a following fueled by hate, anger and a misunderstood desire for “change.”
Fact checking in debates, or lack there of, will be looked back on as a major disservice to our country. The debate questions failed to provide the necessary substance and time required to fully explain to the people what the candidates could actually do for them and instead presented a soapbox for candidates to spew the rhetoric required to take advantage of the emotions of certain groups.
In 2016 our news primarily comes from the internet and from many of our peers. We often become friends with people because of shared viewpoints and their ideas are spread on our feeds at nauseam, leaving us deprived of contrarian opinions.
In addition to our friends, we gravitate the same way towards websites (who suffer the same need to for viewership as television, which leads to a surplus of clickbait headlines), pundits and others who share our mindset. With the infinite information circulating the web everyday we rely on these voices to sift through it and present opinions that we tend to take as gospel.
While many of us were focused on the racist, misogynistic and overall lack of intelligence that were littered throughout Donald Trump’s every sentence all while downplaying the issues regarding Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, others were doing the exact opposite.
The beauty of the internet today is that everyone can have their voice and opinion heard, but the problem with that exists in the fact we isolate ourselves in bubbles surrounded by people, who for the most part, express the same views we do.
That contributed to the overconfidence and resulting shock that came from this election. We were protected by the “facts” we read each day and comforted by the words of those we trust and in the end it lead to an overwhelming neglect of the strength of the other side.
I have no idea what type of president Donald Trump will be, but good or bad this election has taught us all a valuable lesson about the importance of exploring all angles.
In the future there won’t be any excuse to let this type of event come as a surprise and moving forward we should forever be conscience of the “other side” and the power that may exist in ideals that don’t necessarily line up with our own.