Like many Americans, I sat last week after voting closed, watching the numbers come in, and witnessing Donald Trump get elected as president. And like many Americans I was left with a very simple question, “How?”
As a Republican and fairly Conservative voter, this question is not a new one for me. When Donald Trump first declared his intentions to enter the political race, I was thrilled. I thought, ‘this is amazing! He’s not going to get anywhere, but it will be entertaining as hell to watch!’ And then he started to win the Republican primaries, and it was no longer entertaining, and I was faced with that simple question – “How?”
I found my answer in a Communication class. We were studying Group Deliberation, and learned a very interesting theory in Social Psychology called Group Polarization. This theory argues that groups tend to adopt more radical positions than those of any individual in the group. In deliberation, this theory comes to play in a mutual polarization; the more one side becomes radical, the more the other side responds with radicalization.
So what does all this have to do with Donald Trump? If you ask me, Trump owes his victory not to the bigots in America, but to Barak Obamas and Bernie Sanders of America.
For the last 8 years, Americans have been subject to a radical left wing, dovish, almost socialist government. From Obamacare to “Leading from Behind” foreign policies, the current administrations have been pulling farther and farther to the left. And the results of such policies? Growing national debt, and the destruction of America’s image as a superpower.
Enter the election race of 2016. The Democrat Party puts forth new candidates, each more radical than the next. From Hillary who promised more liberal economy and even less active foreign policy, too Bernie Sanders whose policies were arguably un-American, so far from the free market ideals our country was built on. The Democrats and liberals of the US continued to radicalize.
And the response on the right? A mutual polarization. The Republicans dismissed moderate and relatable Conservatives like Marco Rubio, and turned to search for the candidate with the most extreme views, to match the alternatives on the left. And that’s where Trump starts to gain support. With his extreme rhetoric, his hawkish or unreasonably capitalist policies, and his fight against the “political correctness” of the left, Trump is the perfect radical option to counter the polarization of Hillary and Sanders.
And that leaves America. A country of radicals, torn apart, with a growing gap where the moderates once lived.