Though the outcome of our November 8th presidential election was a shock to most, it really should serve as no surprise. What is surprising, however, is the total lack of awareness as to why this happened. The victory of Trumpism is being dubbed as a rebuke of the establishment. And that might have legs. But this misses the central issue at hand and therefore threatens to allow such victories to become more than anomalies. In actuality, what we are witnessing is not a reproach of the establishment, rather a racial majority in the United States unwilling to admit the fundamental truth of life: We have almost no control. We cannot control the weather that affects our afternoon, nor the traffic that impedes our travel, just as we cannot control the future that will come to our country.
The 2015 U.S. Census estimates whites account for 61.6% of the population, and consensus approximations show this white majority indeed propelled Trump to the presidency.1 Yet most of the majority should not be labeled racists or bigots just because they voted for a man that often embodies such ideals.
For hundreds of years the majority alone has claimed the ground at the top of the mountain, with no one to disrupt the order of things and their view of the promised land. While certainly unfair, such consistency has been vital to appeasing the majority’s anxiety – not relative to minorities or change itself, but the principal of having no true control in the bigger picture. Many of the majority in this country are great people, simply afraid of life’s fundamental truth; like all of us, guilty of not wanting to admit the ultimate lack of control that is our reality; like all of us, clinging to every possible crutch.
Of course, for some, having their majority threatened manifests into hardened racism and bigotry. For most, it is much more nuanced: the natural shrinking of their majority endangers a synthetic control found by merely being in the majority. It turns out, being a majority is a powerful coping mechanism as it feigns control in a profoundly uncontrollable world, enabling the majority to imagine they have more control than our existence truly affords. Pretend control gives them something to fall back on when an ultimate lack of control surfaces – as it always does.
Since 1776, the majority in the United States has been able to rely on this synthetic control to make themselves feel better about life’s fundamental truth. In 2016, as the country evolves, it should be no surprise that the majority clings to its historic technique for overcoming the ungovernable reality of our existence – as minorities become the majority in America, whites struggle at all costs to hold on to this substantial crutch. And we all have our mechanisms: some look to religion, some preach nihilism, some seek positions of relative power, and some vote for a candidate and platform that do not represent their morals. It is why your friend who is kind and compassionate and intelligent just voted for an extremist, and why extremists exist in the first place.
It is going to be a difficult four years watching as many in the majority – at the expense of minorities and each other – grapple with life’s reality by tearing down our framework for equality. The evolution of our population jeopardizes the synthetic control that for 240 years has helped them cope. But those of us in alternative positions are smart to recognize their motivations. Like us, the majority are scared of a world that is largely out of their control. They subscribe to Trumpism not to penalize the minority, rather clinging to a key lifeline in chaotic world. And those in the majority that voted for the candidate and platform of fear will do us all good to recognize that control is an illusion and nothing – and no one – can change life’s fundamental truth.