Cynthia, born in 1951, lives in Ohio, perhaps the most important state as far as modern American presidential elections are concerned. Political forecasters watch the state closely because it’s one of the few whose results are unpredictable and whichever candidate wins there tends to become president. Examining Ohio, analysts can speculate about factors that contributed to outcomes on a national level.

Ohio tends to have a fickle electorate. Barack Obama won the state by four and a half points in 2008 and three in 2012. In the recent election, Donald Trump won Ohio by about 8 points: 51.3 percent to Clinton’s 43.2 percent. What appears to have happened is that the counties in Ohio that are typically democratic strongholds—such as Mahonig County which includes working class stronghold of Youngstown where Cynthia lives—lost considerable ground. Obama won Mahonig by a landslide—as much as 28 points, helping tip the state in his favor—while Hillary squeaked ahead there by only 3 points.

If votes cast by Ohioans and older white women were two of the most significant contributors to electing the current president, then Cynthia herself is a big part of the reason things turned out the way they did. You might go so far as to say Cynthia, and several others like her, decided this election.

If this is true, Hillary didn’t have a chance. Cynthia never had any intention of voting for her. Not that Cynthia hasn’t gone for Democrats in the past. She was all for Jimmy Carter back in the 1970s and though she has tended toward Republicans since then, she has also thrown a wild card or two, voting Green when that felt right.

Unlike other women I’ve spoken with, abortion didn’t factor in to her decision. She wants abortions to be legal, says they’ll happen even if they’re banned, and she’d rather they be safe. She also didn’t seem all that concerned with homeland security or immigration. Unlike other Ohioans who were said to be attracted to Trump’s promises about manufacturing jobs and a revision of NAFTA, Cynthia didn’t list those as influences either.

What appears to have swayed Cynthia is less concrete and more difficult to articulate. During her attempts to put words to it, she pauses so many times to gather her thoughts that more than once I think the call’s been dropped. What she communicates in stops and starts is about the current cultural climate, specifically popular media, which includes Hollywood, music, and even advertising. It’s in the near nakedness of our entertainers, the over-sharing about details once considered private, an almost shock-value openness woven into even the simplest commercial. She feels a sense that most power-holders are complicit in these changes: either promoting them or failing to question them. Regular people who aren’t comfortable with new norm are dismissed as inconsequential or never acknowledged in the first place.

In addition, Cynthia says that we appear to be suffering from over-correction on certain issues, creating worse consequences than those with which we started. She feels that an almost compulsive focus on diversity is fueling racial tension rather than mitigating it. Similarly, she points out that anti-bullying campaigns have gone hand-in-hand with a spike in meanness and harassment both in person and online.

Here I am at the looking glass again, only now I’ve stepped through. I’m struggling to understand how Trump is meant to help with these issues when he seems to me to be a perfect demonstration of much of what she finds offensive in popular culture.

I listen closely as Cynthia explains, interjecting questions here and there to flesh out her meaning because I’m one of those people who has ignored viewpoints like hers. My interpretation is that overall the changes she points to are positive signs that our society is becoming more authentic and inclusive and that whatever anger or cruelty being expressed is poison coming to the surface like a wound that has to weep before it heals. In fact, it seems to me that the worst rage is being spewed by those who feel or have felt voiceless and invisible—and, if this is the case, I’ve been part of the problem. It’s why I was so shocked when Trump won. I had a huge blind spot where opinions contrary to my own existed. I minimized the people who held them.

After speaking with Cynthia, I can see how she and others might interpret recent cultural changes as too aggressive and with correlations that are negative. I don’t even think it matters if I agree or if I can see how Trump is meant to help. Cynthia’s vote for Trump was her way of rejecting a ruling class that does not acknowledge her. The important part is that I opened myself up to trying to understand because I think it’s the mainstream’s reluctance to do this that’s really the issue here.

7 thoughts on “Cynthia

  1. I love the work you are doing with this variety of opinions. Cynthia may be experiencing what I sometimes experience as a person dealing with my elderhood: The world around me is changing faster than I can keep up with it. Societal norms are changing regarding homosexuality, same sex marriage, abortion rights, hip hop. It’s kind of like when women decided it was more comfortable to wear long pants than dresses, skirts, garter belts, and girdles. It’s fun to watch Turner Classic Movies and see what the culture required. Voting for Trump isn’t going to change most of these things but he had the charisma to convince people of a return to life in the 1950’s and his core group rose up and applauded saying, “Yes. Let’s go home!” It’s too late. He may be able to make it look like it but just as in prohibition days people will find a way and go underground with it until the next election.

  2. Does no one see the terrifying illlogic of someone voting in a person who is the epitome of everything she says she hates? Forgive me for saying that I have to find her answer to the problem to be total BS.

    • Unfortunately people like her got so taken up with Trump’s BS that they decided to elect him and now are wondering if they did the right thing. I wouldn’t doubt that many of the marchers and demonstrators are doing so as a kind of penance. Too late. He’s up and running. One can only hope for a narcissistic implosion.

    • I agree with my friend Patti. His life is a mockery of the values she holds so dear. Half-naked people in movies? What did Trump say about women he could grab by the p***y? Over-sharing your personal life? How about the Tweeter in Chief making money off his circus-act family? As for diversity, it’s a simple fact of life in the 21st century. You can deny, wrap yourself in the flag and a cocoon of “traditional values”, but it is an undeniable reality that won’t go away no matter how many bans Trump puts in place. If it takes a viscous bigot like Trump/Bannon to defend “traditional” culture, maybe its time for the culture to change. And this is coming from a 55+ white male who’s father’s family hit our continent’s shore in the 1680’s.

  3. I continue to see this kind of thinking as a failure of our educational system. Has no one been taught reasoning, logic, or the difference between reacting an responding? Does anyone remember their history lessons about fascism, stalinism and those calamities of those political extremes, or did everyone think that couldn’t possible happen in our country?

    I’m focusing on keeping a calm mind and aloving heart ,while joining my energy with others in my community to reassure immigrants and minorities that they are welcome here. We’re using ideas from Indivisible and Swing Left to multiply our local actions for a wider result.

  4. You may need to change the focus of this inquiry from why women voted for Trump to why women (or people in general) did not vote for Hillary Clinton. Were Trump’s attractive qualities or Clinton’s repulsive qualities more relevant? Or was pure sexism more relevant? There was indeed a significant gender gap that favored Trump among men and Clinton among women – but not by enough, which is a central assumption of your inquiry: why didn’t more women vote for Clinton.

    • Hmmm, lemme take a wild guess and suggest a well-orchestrated multi-media smear campaign might’ve played a teensie-weensie role here, with decade of hit-piece books (i.e. Roger Stone, Ailes), non-stop TV coverage (Fox), websites like Breitbart/Infowars, and House Oversight Committee perma-witch-hunt hearings broadcast on Fox and spoken of by AM radio infotainers (Hannity/Rush/Savage/Levin) all playing a role?

      Add in the GOP voter suppression, purging rolls, disconnecting electoral college safeguards, gerrymandering, Russian hacking/Wikileaks, etc and we have the PERFECT combination to land DT in the White House.

      My Poly Sci textbook from undergrad was prescient with its title, ‘The Irony of Democracy’, where it quantified via multiple studies how democracy was ripe for a hostile takeover, thanks to manipulators using Madison Ave-like marketing techniques. Throw in low-info (optional facts) voters, and you’ve got Idiocracy in action: inexperience and conspicuous consumption are valued over meritocracy.

      Net result is US just elected someone from GOP who is the quintessential Robert Redford ‘Candidate’, so focused on winning but without a clue as to the workings/mechanics of accomplishing his stated goals.

      None of which really matters to DT, since his goal is simple: drop tax rate, repeal inheritance tax (to benefit his heirs; estimated value is $7 Bil to them), and drop RU sanctions (bad 4 Trump Org’s biz, which make ALOT of $$ by offering money-laundering services to Putin’s cronies, selling Int’l real estate to them). Trump cares about little else.

      Suspicion is high that someone from his campaign met with Putin’s reps last Summer, agreeing to release hacked emails to Wikileaks in exchange for throwing relationship with Russia. That would be ULTIMATE kompromat, as ex-KGB Col Putin no doubt recorded every word spoken, and conspiracy to hack is a crime.

      Our democracy is dying before our eyes, thanks to decades of intentional neglect (if not outright democracide, Putin’s dream to destroy Western democracy as payback for ruining his USSR).

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