Half the United States Did Not Vote for Trump in 2016

In the media and among the public it’s popular to cite the statistic half the United States voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. I don’t know how it’s usually cited, but on its face that statement ignores the nuance that Trump won against Hillary Clinton due to the Electoral College, while Clinton won the popular vote. So literally less than half of individual Americans who voted did so for Trump in 2016.

47% of voters voted for Trump. That is on the backdrop of 59.7% of eligible voters voting at all in the 2016 election. For the sake of easy multiplication, let’s round that voter turnout to ~60%.

0.6*47%= 28.2%.

So 28.2% of eligible voters in the United States voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election. That number excludes U.S. citizens under the age of majority who can’t yet vote, as well as others such as prisoners in some U.S. states, numbering in millions. So we could fairly shave off a few more percentage points of Americans who voted for Trump.

25% of Americans voted for Trump in 2016 doesn’t mean those voters were enthusiastic supporters of Trump, perhaps perceiving him as the lesser of two evils for whatever reason. This 25% doesn’t include anyone who voted for Trump in 2016 who has since disavowed him since his election.

This is important to keep in mind when the number of Americans who voted for Trump, and are thus racists or fascists or whatever, is cited as half the country. I’m assuming you’re willing to interpret Trump voters in 2016 charitably and conclude anyone who voted for Trump for in 2016 is necessarily themselves a racist or fascist. So whoever among Trump’s electors are out and out racists, what could ultimately be a trivial percentage of Americans who turn out to be KKK bogeymen is inflated to being “half the country”. By the same token, extremists among Trump supporters could to the public claim to have more representation across the country than they actually have by claiming half the country stands in solidarity with them. Both these forms of propaganda stoke unnecessary division and polarization to further agendas seeking conflict among Americans.

More importantly, if someone is making a claim regarding how democratic and representative, or not, the 2016 presidential election turned out to be, and are talking about the percentage who voted for Trump, they’re diverting focus from more important aspects of democratization in the United States today. Talking about everyone who voted for Trump neglects talking about the nearly 40% of Americans eligible to vote in the 2016 presidential election who didn’t. Talking about issues like gerrymandering or the Electoral College as is which let Trump win the election despite his loss of the popular vote by a significant margin to Clinton.

Ultimately, statistics like

  1. half the United States voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election and;
  2. half the country still currently supports Trump in any meaningful sense based on that voter turnout for Trump in 2016,

aren’t based on any solid evidence. These claims are not facts. Any statements like these should not be cited or spread so as not to spread misinformation for any reason. If ever you’re in an argument online citing the statistic that supposedly half the United States turned out for Trump in 2016, feel free to use these arguments to demonstrate these claims are false. Ultimately, if someone cares about voter turnout, they should be focusing on getting out the almost 40% of eligible American voters who didn’t vote in the 2016 Presidential election.

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Underestimating the Political Ambitions of Islamic Extremists

The below was inspired by this piece on Islamism originally published by Quillette.

Political Islam post-9/11 preceded the recent rise of radicals of other stripes in the Western world on the right and left. I think the West’s failure to recognize what the rise of Islam politically represented. Radical Islamic organizations starting satellite cells in the Western world are participating in what is known as “extra-parliamentary” political action. What this means is political action taken outside the realm of electoral politics within a democratic society. This is political action by citizens that isn’t a direct influence on their parliamentary or republican representatives, such as by voting for them in elections. The most common form of extra-parliamentary is protest, which typically aim changing social policy at large, as opposed to impacting one politician at a time.

Since the end of World War II (WWII), extra-parliamentary action like protests has primarily been predicated on non-violence, such as in India’s independence movement of the 1940s, and the Civil Rights Movement in the United States of the 1960s. This is what comes to mind for most people in 2018, as these are events within living memory. However, a commitment to non-violence wasn’t as much a hallmark of politics earlier in the 20th century. Amidst the rise of the Nazi Party to power in Germany in the late 1920s and early ’30s, fascists, anarchists and communists were frequently violent against one another. In the early 20th century in the lead-up to WWII, the threat of fascism or communism spreading to the rest of the Western world was real, and violence became more common in employed tactics. As violence spiraled, more of the population saw violent political tactics as legitimate as non-violent ones. The fact of the matter is that even in Western democracies for much of history prior to WWII, what was typically thought of as politics included consideration of violent strategies as much as non-violent strategies.

It’s been almost one hundred years since the time when the first thing that came to mind when thinking of politics outside the was a bombing, a shooting or a riot, as opposed to a peaceful protest. That such violence and hostility to democracy and democratic values would arise within the Western world on the far-left and the far-right has been unthinkable for multiple generations. This is why it’s caught our society off guard in the last couple years, without preparation for how to deal with it so as to preserve democratic institutions and civil society.

In the Western world, the public has underestimated the willingness of their fellow citizens to use violence to achieve their political ends. This was for a long time because the vast majority of citizens had little to no sympathy for violence in politics. However, as troubled times ensue, more people are becoming politically polarized. As people become more fearful and desperate, tolerance for violence increases. On the internet, though, extremists are able to coordinate and learn from the tactics of rare books on violent tactics under democratic governments from decades ago. Thus there is a whole dimension to politics that extremists have adapted to, that most citizens of countries like the United States haven’t. In the Western world, political extremism has most recently been the wheelhouse of secular ideologies, such as Marxism and fascism. However, the efforts of terrorist organizations acting in the name of Islam in the Western world aren’t secular in nature.

So while terrorist attacks motivated by Islam may be seen as lacking a political component by the public today, the Western world has a long history of political action outside democratic norms and institutions. The populations of Western democracies haven’t been acclimated to a very violent political atmosphere in recent decades. During the same period in the 20th century, the separation of religion and politics was particularly strong. Thus the political implications for democracy of Islam in the 21st century have gone unforeseen.

Often many people see religiously motivated terrorist attacks as random attacks of violent insanity inspired by religion. However, we’re failing to anticipate and recognize the political purpose and intention of terrorist acts by radical Islamic organizations. Whether its committed in the name of secular ideologies originating in the Western world, or radical Islamic organizations, terrorism is often deliberately carried out as part of a broader strategy to dominate and transform the broader society. By only thinking of terrorist organizations as carrying out their attacks in a religious and non-political context, we fail to recognize these organizations’ other efforts to undermine democratic values and institutions. For example, organizations like ISIS use the internet to radicalize citizens of Western countries, of both European and Arab descent, and establishing local cells in Muslim enclaves. In the long run, the consequences of their activism mean more than just more frequent terrorist attacks in the West, and will accelerate the erosion of the rule of law. Islamic extremism needs to be regarded in the broader context of intentions to transform Western countries into Islamic republics from within.

There Is a Relationship Between Legal and Moral Rights

There seems this folk conception of “rights” as have little to nothing to do with law or politics anywhere. For example, when people say “you have no right to say that” when the statement doesn’t literally violate a free speech code, such as the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, or the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the Canadian constitution, they’re referring to some kind of cultural right. I hear this sort of thing all the time. Mostly when I hear this nobody mentions where these rights, in an apolitical sense, come from. Nobody in the public sphere mentions a culture or religion non-political rights stem from. It seems like people are intuiting “right” and “wrong” morally and saying a “right” are expressions of thought or actions which are morally permissible. So if you say something I think immoral, and I say “you have no right” to say that, I mean you have no moral right to say that, while saying what you said could all the while be perfectly legal.
 
Of course the relationship between law and politics over time is such that what should be and always should have been recognized as a right is indeed recognized, and some rights which are recognized should never have been recognized at all, and are revoked. One can have different interpretations of history, but that’s the long and short of it. An example of rights being granted, earned or recognized is the extension of the franchise to all adult citizens over the 20th century. An example of a right being revoked is the end of slavery, and the right to own another human being as property. So there is always a sense of political and moral rights contained in the single word, “rights”, and a tension between them.
 
But in contemporary times when people say others have no moral right to do something, I’m struck by so many people acting as though legal rights are so irrelevant to matters at hand they may as well not exist. When the first rights people go after one another for having are the rights to freedom of speech, expression, thought and belief, I’ve the sense people have no understanding of the modern conception of rights, or the relationship between some rights and others. That the first civil, legal and human rights in developed, democratic countries people are going after are the most fundamental ones means people lack the awareness eroding these rights will lead to the erosion of all the others, legal or moral. This scares me.