Every pundit out there is talking about the election. The why, the how, the wha' happen. Everyone has a reason, an explanation, a big finger to point, usually at liberals who are somehow more to blame than actual Trump voters. We've been condescending. We've forgotten Middle America. We have focused on the "special interest groups" and forgotten the hurt feelings of the white male, who is justifiably angry about being on the bottom of the heap. None of these actually work that well when you unpack the story. I'll get to those later, in a separate post. For right now, let me propose that there is one thing they are missing: the fact that our entire democracy (our economy, too) is based on a singular mistake, one made about 300 years ago, during a period we now know as the Enlightenment.
The men who established the US Constitution were Enlightenment thinkers. They were steeped in it - born and raised on the idea that humans are rational. This is one of the central tenets of the time, and it is at the center of both democracy and capitalism. One main problem? It turns out the brightest minds of 17th and 18th century Europe were, in fact, wrong. Humans are not rational. Oh, we can be rational. We can train ourselves to think rationally if we wish, but we will never be perfect. At our core, however, we are driven by irrationality. We buy irrationally, we consume entertainment irrationally, and yes, we vote irrationally. We have not been able to see this, because whenever we see irrational behavior, we immediately twist ourselves into pretzels in an effort to make sense out of what doesn't make sense - it has to be rational. That's what we tell ourselves, because we start from the flawed premise of rationality. Never mind that research is increasingly pointing us to the opposite conclusion. That research must be wrong, because we are, and know we are, rational.
The election of 2016 makes perfect sense if we let go of the idea that we are rational, and embrace the reality that we respond irrationally most of the time. If we recognize this, then we can realize why our democracy cannot work the way it is currently structured. In order to have a democratic form of government, we need to recognize that humans are not particularly rational, and that crowds are even less rational. This outcome was almost inevitable, given the flaws at the core of the system.