Has he emboldened these people? Yes. Has he given these views more legitimacy? Yes, and that’s horrible. But these were never Hillary Clinton voters, and they were not the deciding factor. Those of us who want to avoid seeing another candidate who appeals to humanity’s most primitive views need to identify the real root of the problem and solve it.
The people that made the difference in this election are the ones who don’t feel like they have the luxury of worrying about social injustice
I think the people that made the difference in this election are the ones who don’t feel like they have the luxury of worrying about social injustice. These Americans prioritized housing and feeding their families, finding and keeping a job, and making sure their kids are healthy. I would bet that most – most, not all – of them don’t agree with the way that Trump inflamed the so-called “alt-right” movement, but their basic needs took priority. They’ve been feeling financially marginalized for a long time now, and they decided that trying something different than the status quo could potentially produce different results. This doesn’t make these voters crazy, it makes them human.
In 1943 Abraham Maslow proposed his famous “hierarchy of needs”. This is a theory in psychology describing the patterns of human motivation. He identified the basic types of motivations and the order in which they should be met. I think that this theory clearly explains the results of this election.
The most basic needs are physiological. A human cannot survive without air, food, water, shelter, clothing and sleep. Just after the physiological needs come safety and security, which includes financial security, personal security and health. The next level of motivation involves love and belonging, followed by confidence, achievement and respect for others. Finally, the last level is about self-actualization, which includes morality.
Financial security comes just after things like eating and breathing
Think about that for a second. Financial security comes just after things like eating and breathing, while respect for others and morality come waaaaay after all the things that help us stay alive. An auto worker in Detroit who has been unemployed for 8 years and a New Yorker drinking $15 cocktails may have the same outrage over the hateful behavior they’ve seen from some Trump supporters, but the unemployed person prioritized the hope that shaking up our political and economic system could change their situation. They’re not sure what might happen, but they’re willing to roll the dice because what they’ve been experiencing financially hasn’t been working. It’s the same logic that propelled the popularity of Bernie Sanders in the primaries.
On some level, I can sympathize with that decision. I’m lucky that I can satisfy enough of the basics to put a high priority on respect for others. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. There are wealthy people full of hate, and poor people fighting for the rights of others, but my guess is that the voters who swung Michigan and Pennsylvania and Ohio are mostly worried about what the future holds economically for themselves and their families.
The vile rhetoric and actions we’ve seen should absolutely be denounced, but, by nature, I’m a practical person. I want to fix the roots of the problem.
Happiness is a relative concept
It’s difficult to argue that the growing divide in terms of income and wealth in this country isn’t a major contributor to the growing divide in ideology. This is just common sense. Happiness is a relative concept. You can find endless studies that show people who make $30,000 feel great when their neighbor makes $20,000 and people who make $200,000 feel lousy when their neighbor makes $250,000. When 99% of the country is looking at their ruling class making significantly more than they are, and not being terribly productive in the process, the angst is understandable. Maybe if we can close the gap a bit we can help our fellow citizens move up that pyramid of motivations toward respect for others.
This topic is a little off the beaten path of personal finances, but there is a connection. If you don’t have your financial house in order, it’s difficult to focus on improving things like confidence, experiences and achievement. Conquering this basic area of your life will allow you to devote energy to other problems, especially when you’re going through a life transition like divorce.
By Chad Stone, Danilo Trisi, Arloc Sherman, and Emily Horton
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan research and policy institute
November 7, 2016
“The share of before-tax income that the richest 1 percent of households receive has been rising since the late 1970s, and in the past decade has climbed to levels not seen since the 1920s. The vast-majority of the increase is accounted for by the rising share of before-tax income going to the top 0.5 percent of households.”
“Wealth is much more highly concentrated than income, and concentration at the top has risen since the 1980s.”