2016: Election as Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

On January 9, 2015, a full ten months before the results would be known, a columnist for a major metropolitan newspaper made a prediction about one of the results of the upcoming Presidential election that not only proved true, but turned out to be even more fundamentally prescient than he imagined: “the 2016 one points to a country that could end this year even more divided against itself than it was after the 2012 election” (Balz, 2016). The recurring motif that defined nearly every second of the 2016 Presidential was the divisiveness in America which either candidate was likely to be ill-prepared to heal. Nevertheless, with reference of a divided American came calls for unity and cooperation. The irony of the candidate who had been planting the seeds of doubt in the democratic election taking his place as winner in a non-democratic result not only put the exclamation of irony on this call for unity, it also revealed the fundamental insincerity of grave expressions of fear and despair over the current divided state of the union.

At the heart of this insincerity was the way the campaigns reformulated reality to manipulate existing divisiveness into something greater than it actually having “concluded that there is little overlap between the groups likely to vote for them, and that success therefore lies in making those on their own side as furious as possible, so that they turn out in higher numbers than the opposition (“The dividing of America”, 2016). Such attempts to emotionally defraud voters contributed to a Presidential campaign which sought—especially on the Republican side—to drive a wedge between those supporting each candidate with each passing day. The cumulative effect was to create a self-fulfilling prophecy: if voters assumed that the context of a “divided America” is actually true, they will begin responding as it were true and thus wind up making it truer tomorrow than it was yesterday. In light of such a cynical approach to campaign strategy, the call for healing and unity only became less hollow and more patently mechanical.

The true depth of how insincere and meaningless the lip service paid to uniting the distressingly and dangerously divided country referred to daily by pundits as well as the candidates was revealed—yet again—in a manner that the January prognosticator mentioned above did not even take into consideration. America has a systemically hollow process of electing the President that comes with a built-in potential for its vaunted democratic process not just fostering division, but actually encouraging it.

Even without the politically motivated attempts to create the illusion of a more intense divided electorate the nation would have been divided by the outcome regardless of who won. Campaign descriptions of supporters of her opponent as “deplorable” or the encouragement from the candidate for supporters to react with violence against his protesters attending his rallies only guaranteed a greater intensity of division. As could only be expected, after spending months stoking this division, almost immediately came the calls for unity and healing. Just one problem.

Those calls for unity were revealed as hopelessly insincere directly as a result of the process by which outcome was produced. The 2016 Presidential campaign resulted for the second time less than a decade in a result that is—by any measure of the term—undemocratic. In fact, is irrefutably anti-democratic. How can a nation put through a year of Donald Trump’s promises to disenfranchise practically every minority group that exists possibly expect to unite in support of what is by democratic terms nothing more than less than an illegitimate President? The campaign strategies of the 2016 Presidential candidates and the continued existence of the Electoral College proves the two political parties see increased divisiveness in America not as an issue to be solved, but as opportunity to be exploited.

Works Cited

Balz, Dan. “A Divided Country Gets a Divisive Election.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 9 Jan. 2016. Web. 26 Nov. 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/a-divided-country-gets-a-divisive-election/2016/01/09/591bfccc-b61f-11e5-a842-0feb51d1d124_story.html

“The Dividing of America.” The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 2016. Web. 26 Nov. 2016. http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21702188-donald-trumps-nomination-cleveland-will-put-thriving-country-risk-great