I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the millions of Americans who voted for Trump.
This was a candidate who had at least 26 women come forward and accuse him of sexual assault. He also admitted to sexual assault in an interview, on the record. This was a candidate who refused to denounce white supremacists on national television. This was a candidate who incited violence and spread conspiracy theories. The list is long. Too long. This doesn’t even begin to cover it.
As a person with a psychology degree and a mental health counseling degree, I aim to try and understand other people’s worldview. I am fascinated by how people think and what motivates their behavior.
One of my (many) pet peeves is when people dismiss others’ behavior by saying, “I just don’t understand.” A flipside of that is to oversimplify or label a person’s behavior, also in an attempt to dismiss it: “Oh, he’s just a monster.” “She snapped.” “She’s crazy.”
In instances of flippant labeling like that, there’s no curiosity, no desire to actually seek to understand or find out the real, nuanced answer.
And so I ask myself, why did people vote for 45? Did they:
- Agree with his policies and morals?
- Benefit from those policies?
- Or perhaps, they just disagreed with Biden’s policies (or perceived policies)?
- If they didn’t agree or benefit, did they somehow justify 45’s actions/words enough to feel okay voting for him?
- Vote Republican out of habit? Or because their friends and family do?
- They consume Fox News/Breitbart/etc.?
- Some other explanation I haven’t thought of?
I ask myself these questions because, ultimately, I am interested in how sociopolitical change happens on a macro level. Namely, how do we get people who voted for a racist, misogynist, white supremacist to change their voting habits? How do we make racism bad again (or ever)?
I studied behavior modification briefly in grad school, and I find it fascinating. Getting people to vote and get vaccinated and wear masks and use car seats are examples of behavior modification on a mass scale, as is getting people to buy Gap jeans or the new iPhone.
This reminds me of the massive anti-drug campaigns I was exposed to growing up. “This is your brain on drugs…any questions?” Really stuck with me, as that ad was so compelling and wonderfully quotable.
My guess is that the answer to my question involves attacking the issue from all sides meaning, on both a micro and macro level. I read a quote somewhere from a BLM leader, and I’m paraphrasing: what will help to end racism more is for white people to call out the racist tendencies of their white friends, and not necessarily just befriending black people. Which means we’re going to fight racism little by little, interaction by microaggression.
I keep coming back to the question of how to whittle away harmful, fear-based beliefs of a massive group of people who are no doubt feeling all kinds of feelings after the election. Worse yet, it’s a group of people who have been taught to demonize truth and facts, and many are doubling down with the emergence of platforms like Parler. …How do you reach people who don’t wanna be woke? Again, I’m guessing the answer is: slowly and deliberately and on all fronts. With equal representation, by changing social norms, by calling out microaggressions, and probably much more that I am forgetting or am unaware of.
It makes me profoundly uncomfortable to know that such a large portion of the American population actively participates in an ignorant, fearful, hateful worldview or is at least accepting of them. My hope (maybe fantasy?) is that there is a team of psychologists out there somewhere, brainstorming a massive campaign to combat racism, misogyny, xenophobia, white supremacy, etc.
Where do I sign up?