Unpacking the 2016 Election

“To the people who are crying about how could this happen. I tell you, that it happened every time you unfriended somebody just because they disagreed with you. It happened every time you shamed someone for feeling differently about something than you. It happened every time you mocked, minimized, and devalued other voters instead of engaging with them constructively. It happened because of your imperious righteousness. Because of arrogance. Winning strategy, assholes.”

-random guy on the internet

Well lets give credit where it’s due: mistrust and fear were the clear winners of the 2016 election this year.


In an effort to make sense of this year’s election results, I’ve seen quite a bit of finger pointing to try and justify why Americans turned out to elect Donald Trump as its next president.


According to the exit polls:


To describe this phenomenon in more detail,


Yeah but what about those privileged millennials….

THIS is how the future voted…”

Millennials aren’t to blame despite the very stern criticisms they received from older generations that they were ‘privileged, entitled, and only thought about effects that impacted them.’

More exit poll results can be found at:

Washington Post exit poll statistics

So… what about those 3rd party voters?


As I explained to one friend:

“You’re pointing fingers at 2.1% of the electorate who were driven to 3rd parties by the 48% of the electorate who tried to make them feel less than, while ignoring the fact that 49% of the electorate had to actually cast ballots for the man to be elected. Bullying won this election. Bullying created 3rd party candidates.”

We’ve set a really dangerous precedent in this country that can’t be fixed with just voting, there’s a lot of structural stuff that created this, and we spent so much time infighting that we completely neglected the systems that allowed this to happen.

The problem with All-or-nothing thinking is that it robs us of our agency and accountability for pushing forward when we face hard times.

We can acknowledge that there are some very real problems to be faced during this critical period


But we don’t get to tuck our tails between our legs when our community needs us now more than ever before.

Bottom line is this:

We have to choose who we’re going to be as a nation moving forward…

Knee-jerk reactions to the election have ranged across a span of cognitive distortions from learned helplessness, attribution of blame, to outright catastrophizing.

I think more so today, than any day, America needs a big ole bear hug.

Image Credit: Catherine Lazar Odell

Then they need to put their money where their mouths were prior to the election. I wanna see what how those pant-suit wearing pro-suffrage evangelicals are going to stand up for PoC, LBGTQIA, immigrants, the differently-abled, etc.

Cause frankly, it takes a village….


I spent the morning listening to Viktor Frankl, a concentration camp survivor who studied the difference between those who succumbed to despair and those who were able to rebuild after the Holocaust.


And one of the critical things we have to fix is the way the lines are drawn for the voting districts. A lot of people don’t realize that they were redrawn in 2010 using digital algorithms to split up liberal voting districts.

The reason it seemed like there were more liberal voters than what was reflected in the polls, why the numbers don’t match the outcome is because of the gerrymandered districts… they basically ran a bunch of algorithms with GIS coordinates based upon magazine subscriptions to figure out how to draw the district lines to make more of the districts red

Kentucky in 2008 before the district lines were re-drawn in 2010.


Kentucky US election results in 2016

… so the election wasn’t really an issue of their being MORE hate, it’s an issue of not being unified enough to take notice of the things that could prevent this from happening again.

W. Kamau Bell & Hari Kondabolu unpack the gerrymandering issue in much detail during their podcast interview with David Daley on the podcast Politically Re-Active

Click here to listen to the podcast.

So Vote? That’s the solution? Look at how well that worked out….

Yeah, I thought it was a weak argument too, but I also made sure to hedge my bets.

If you would like more practical solutions for how to move forward after this election, I would highly recommend starting with an mvp approach.

Start with a minimal viable product

What’s the one thing you can do that’s going to make the most significant impact? Your task can either be selecting a starting point for today, or some step toward a long term goal.

Naturally, the short-term, agile approach helps you get started sooner than later.

Just understand that the scope of your progress toward the end goal will often change as you begin to get a clearer sense of direction.

If you’re using this experience as a growth opportunity and you’re willing to learn from your experiences, your end goal won’t be the same as you started, but that’s okay. Maturity is rarely a straight and clearly defined path.

I would strongly recommend that any white person who wishes to be an effective ally get connected with the organization Showing Up for Racial Justice (aka SURJ)


Social justice work requires that you navigate a lot of trauma work. You’re going to be working with behaviors that seem irrational or illogical to YOU, because you don’t have the training or education to know how the neuro-biology of trauma and/or triggers work.

Here at The NeuroTrust, we’ll be working to improve access to these resources.

There are a lot of existing tools and approaches that will help you transition into whatever functional role you wish to fill in your work as an inclusive leader (whether you decide to become a full fledged activist or a casual facilitator for others who want to make sense of the behaviors of folks they may fear or not have a direct relationship with).

Learn How to Connect with Others

(and why it’s important)

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr


Pointing fingers at one another and belittling one another is what got us into this mess.

I saw the shadow sides of human beings amplified throughout this election season… even from people who were not aware of the fact that this aspect of their character was not only embedded in their psyche, but on display for all to see.

It’s very apparent we ALL have some relationships that need to be healed…

So we can either band together as a nation, and do the messy work of reconciliation and healing, or we can …. insert scenario here ….

This American Life did a podcast on a canvasser study which has since been retracted on the grounds that the findings couldn’t be replicated in a UC Berkeley study, that raised an interesting question, were the constituents we blame for electing Trump actually voting for bigotry and rape culture, or are we failing to take part in the behavior we displayed that drove them to the polls when we tried to intimidate and denigrate them?

Because the story was pulled, we decided to share an excerpt from the original transcript instead:

Ira Glass

The organizers had assumed that these voters were against gay marriage because they didn’t know any gay people. And the first surprise was most of them did. But they’d never sat down and had a real conversation about homosexuality in their lives.

And figuring out what to say to these voters to change their minds about gay marriage? It took them a really long time to figure that out. It was not obvious at all how to do it. And they tried lots of stuff that just fizzled. And the missteps are actually kind of interesting, because they point to what does not work and what does work to get any of us to change our minds.

Like for instance, the first thing that they tried was an appeal to idealism, to principles. Stuff we all agree with.

Steve Deline

Like this is about equality. It’s about the golden rule and treating each other the way we want to be treated.

Ira Glass

The problem with that, they found, is that it kept the conversation at this very rational, reasonable, intellectual level.

Steve Deline

And that’s not where people make their decisions about issues like this. People make their decisions about how they’re going to vote on this at a gut level. And at a visceral level. And at an emotional level.

Ira Glass

If anything, talking to people about ideals like equality and what marriage means actually made canvassers miss opportunities to talk about stuff that would be way more effective. Like with this voter, who voted against gay marriage for religious reasons.


I have two very good male friends that want to get married.


What are their names?


[BLEEP] and [BLEEP].

Ira Glass

We’re beeping their names to protect their privacy.


And do [BLEEP] and [BLEEP] know how you feel about this issue?




They don’t. How do you think they would feel if they were aware of–


[BLEEP] is a very good friend of mine. Extremely good friend of mine. And I think he would be disappointed. But he’s never asked me how I felt about it.


Sure. And so it sounds like you’re very fair. You want people to have the same rights.

Ira Glass

A plane’s coming in so it’s hard to hear. But the canvasser’s saying, “It sounds like you want people to have the same rights as other Americans.” And right there, Steve says, by doing that, the canvasser has made a mistake. Because she’s moving the conversation away from the personal and the emotional, towards these abstract ideas of equality and equal rights.

Steve Deline

It’s kind of retreating from the thing that is probably on the canvasser’s mind, but she’s maybe a little nervous to ask, which is why don’t you want [BLEEP] to get married if he means this much to you? Basically, we don’t know anything about [BLEEP]. We don’t know. When did she find out that he was gay? What did she feel like when she first found out that he was gay? Did it scare her? Was it no big deal? Have they been able to talk about it? Does she know his partner? All these things that would help us understand, OK, you know someone who’s gay, but you’re still worried what might happen if he got married. So what’s that all about, you know?

Ira Glass

This is what they learned– to stop telling people things. That they should have no road map for the conversation. Instead, the canvassers could talk personally about their own experiences. That seemed to help and connect with voters. But that, by itself, was not enough. The most important thing they could do was, they had to listen. And when the voter gave a clue about something that seemed real and emotional and important to them, find out more. See where it leads.

Steve Deline

And I think the big revelation was that our job was actually to go and give them the chance to talk about their own life. And realize that maybe that led them to conclusions that were a little different than they’d thought.

Regardless of how we feel about this particular issue, I don’t think very many people felt very positive about the way our fellow peers made one another feel.

It was an interesting podcast.

Given the neurobiology of how people respond when physically and psychologically threatened, regardless of the outcome surrounding the actionable data, I can attest, that berating others for the political concerns — catastrophizing — and delivering all or nothing ultimatums, probably didn’t help earn the trust needed for a pro-inclusion turnout.

Definitely gives us something to think about.


Anyhoo, for those of you who expressed concern over the impact that the current president elect may have on women, PoC, immigrants and other marginalized communities, make sure to connect with organizations like SURJ, KFTC, NOW, etc to learn how you can get involved and what kind of contributions you can make toward safe guarding those communities.

Anyhoo, the work that we contribute moving forward is important.

It won’t be the ONLY work we do here at The Neurotrust, but we do want to do our part in moving the needle in the right direction.