Why Trump Won

This week, Trump was elected president of the United States. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move, even by many of the people who voted for him. It was also a surprising result for many people, including me.

Faced with an outcome neither expected nor desired, the natural inclination is to ask “why?”. Many in the media confronting a Trump victory have been asking “why?” for months. Before the election we already knew there were legions of Trump supporters that would make Nov. 8th a close race, but now that it’s actually happened the efforts to explain his success have redoubled.

So why did Trump win? Tolstoy asks a similar question in War and Peace:

Why does an apple fall when it is ripe? Is it brought down by the force of gravity? Is it because its stalk withers? Because it is dried by the sun, because it grows too heavy, or because the boy standing under the tree wants to eat it?

In other words, complex phenomena like elections can best explained as a nexus of causes coming together at once. This is a non-obvious point because our minds easily make the mistake of attributing complicated outcomes to a one-shot explanatory variable.

We search and quickly stumble upon a single causal factor, secure in our knowledge of its importance because if our cause had changed, the outcome would’ve changed likewise. But we all to often make the mistake of thinking that after identifying one such aspect, our job is done- we ignore the host of other factors the event was also dependent on.

A beautiful illustration:

If anything had gone differently, Daisy would be fine. But a causal nexus came together just right for a bad outcome. We know the accident wouldn’t have happened if the man had remembered to set his alarm, but we know that’s far from the whole picture. While his action was irresponsible and part of the chain of causality that led to the bad outcome, we realize it would be a mistake stop our investigation, or force him to pay damages.

But if the man knew what his action had led to, chances are he’d probably be feeling a good share of guilt.

Why are we so quick to assign and take on blame, even for outcomes mostly outside our control? Why do we immediately rush to judge the character of a few and hoist the burden of causation solely on their shoulders, failing to consider the wider picture?

It’s a valuable heuristic. Our ancestors, when modeling events, needed to be able to hone in on the factor or couple of factors that were under the influence of conscious control, in order to punish bad decisions for better outcomes in the future. Thinking about decisions made by one or a few conscious minds is very different from contemplating a decision made my millions.

…Which brings us back to the election and Trump. If you see a media piece attributing Trump’s victory to any small event- the DNC Sabotage of Sanders’ campaign , James Comey’s email investigation , Hillary’s deplorables comment, realize that they may have all simultaneously have decided the election. Take every one of these incidents into account and you’ve still only done a small part of answering the question “why  did Trump win?”

There are layers of cause and effect we can examine. Most proximal, Trump won because he won more electoral college votes. He won more electoral votes because he got more votes than Hillary in swing states. He got more votes in swing states because a disproportionately white, male, and rural population in said swing-states voted for him in larger numbers that Hillary’s coalition. Go beyond that, and you’re discussing broad narratives. But the same rules apply. Your favorite narrative (racism, Hillary, sexism, out-of-touch elites, globalism) might very well have decided the election, but it wasn’t making the decision alone.

…And immediately more personal stuff

I am still not really sure how I will be using this blog yet. I originally intended it to be both personal and synonym for idea-driven, but I am dealing with a lot of personal stuff right now so it’s going to be relatively more of that for the immediate future. I might just end up getting rid of all of this later if I ever have some actual readers, so why am I still writing for an audience that doesn’t exist? I’ll just chalk it up to the i̶r̶r̶a̶t̶i̶o̶n̶a̶l̶i̶t̶y̶ ineffability of human thought.

Anyway, the personal question is how I’m supposed to deal with the consequences of my actions over the past year, and how they’ve led to me failing my first year of medical school. I originally said that I’d want to write this post for therapy, so here I am writing it an hour before class. Not a good sign for my future existence hypothetically free of procrastination. 

I know I’ve fucked up. But Im just learning that shame is Not A Good Way To Deal With Things and even if it’s probably true I’m a bad/weak person for failing, dwelling on that won’t make be do better and therefore I am not a bad/weak person failing. The Orwellian-ness of this position is not lost on me. But if I’m sekf-aware of this, does this mean I’m back to my old self-destructive thoughts of being a bad weak person?

I don’t think so. I think I can simultaneously acknowledge that I’ve been a weak bad person, and that being this bad weak person is mostly not my fault. It comes down to a combination of upbringing, genetics, and other factors that have continually compounded each other. But I don’t want this view to totally consume my thinking either. If I’m just a product of circumstances, that suggests my future is immutable. That’s what I. Thought anyway. But the insight of CBT is that past behavior can change through careful reevaluation of last beliefs further bolstered by action. The issue is that the action part is hard. Really hard. Especially when inaction has been contributing to your problems from the beginning. But habits can changes, and my mantra and driven, productive living is the first step back on the life-of-discipline horse. 

Thinking I have the power within me to change and that I can control how I’m able to change is the recipe to success. There’s been a lot of positive research on growth mindset and believing in internal rather than external locus of control. So it’s almost like I’ve been hearing too different things. I think for my whole life I’ve taken the worst position on both qualities. I’ve been saying that everything is mine to change, everything I’ve done is my fault, and yet at the same time I’m powerless to fix it. I can now see that my Helplessness comes from circumstance, but that it is my responsibility and under my control to change it.

Now, this isn’t the first time that this has occurred to me and I’ve definitely felt that frame of mind before, but it twisted itself into a hindrance rather than a help. The solution, the compromise I’ve been working toward? 

I will not be overly critical of my last or think it is unable to change. I fell into bad habits I’ve carried over from childhood and they are hard habits of personality that will bevery difficult but possible to break. In the future, It is true that I will falter and fall back on some of these habits. Slip ups are inevitable. But slipping up is not an immutable fact. if I hold myself responsive to get back on the horse in a reasonable time frame, using tools I’ve learned that I will keep available to me, I absolutely can get back on that horse every time. Over time, my mantra will hold true, “if I do what I should, it will get easier,” and I firmly believe this remains just as true in the meta-sense as it will in the individual situations I will need to invoke it. 

Hooray for improvement (and for writing asecond blog post. And hopefully editing it later.)!

Greetings from the Distant Past

Hey! I’m Nelshoy! This is my first blog post. You know this. You are here because later on you stumbled accross one of my many insightful and thought-provoking future posts and are now so obsessed with my opinions that you want to find out how the legend started way back in 2016. Hahaha. How’s that for some growth mindset?

Realistically, I’m not any traffic at all on my blog for a long time if not ever. I understand that reading silly  blogs by people without great credentials is not exactly the national past-time (If/when did blogging peak? 2007 or so?). At best, If I stick with this project, actually write some good stuff, and decide I want to try some self-promotion down the road despite not knowing how, I can see maybe a dozen people keeping me on their RSS feeders and forgetting all about me.

That’s alright though. See, this blog is for me (I haven’t read enough first blog posts to know how cliche that statement ranks on a scale from 1-100, but I’m guessing the high 90s?) (Am I doing aside statements in parentheses too much? Trying too hard to be funny?), and that means I don’t really have to worry for a while what future potential You’s think of me. Nevertheless, I’m going to pretend you’re all here already. I’m a big believer in the power of Accountability, and I think having even strictly theoretical critics will hold me to higher standards of accuracy and clarity.

So, why  am I starting a blog? I’m hoping that:

  1. I’ll  find in fun.
  2. It will make me write down what I’m thinking.
  3. It will encourage me to do better research.
  4. It will help me to do better writing.
  5. It will help me improve my self-control
  6. It will keep me (relatively) focused on topics I want to explore, instead of jumping around to different topics like a pinball that didn’t take its Adderall.

So why in July 2016 am I starting a blog?

I’m enabled first off because I’m out of school right now. I’m not in school because I’ve just finished failing my first year of medical school. Ouch. Actually, I failed a few months ago, and me not starting on this project I’ve been “wanting” to do until now is a testament to the kind of life-management skills that led to me failing medical school. You are now probably thinking rightly that I have a whole host of issues, and you’d be correct in your presumption. I’m not going to go too deep into them now, but I’ve been diagnosed with AD(H)D and depression. A psychiatrist diagnosed me with Asperger’s (now stupidly encompassed by Austism Spectrum Disorder) as an eight year old, even though I’m pretty sure that’s wrong.

So this summer, I’m doing the whole get-treated-for-depression, develop-life-skills, start doing well in life instead of miserably half-assing my way through it. I think its actually going pretty damn well so far, and I’d like to look back on this summer down the road as the time I said “This time I’m really going to be getting my life together!” and actually meant it. If this is my only blog post, the future alien superintelligence analyzing early 21st century human communication data -ie, the only being to read this- will know that I have failed.

But I don’t intend for this to be my last blog post. I’m not going to just do boring personal life posts like this one, but hopefully branch into a whole host of topics I find engaging. If I stick with it long enough, maybe, just maybe- I might even come up with an original thought? I told you I’m upping my standards.

The second reason I’m starting a blog now instead of when I was I was teenager or something is because at a newly minted 23 years old, I have just discovered that blogs are fucking awesome. Seriously. I’m reading awesome people regularly, people engaging in a form of discourse based on fairness, reason, evidence, and civility I didn’t know existed.

After years of reading boring media pieces trodding out the same wellworn boring arguments,  I thought I knew pretty much what the world was about and how I should be examing it. In the last few months, I’ve read countless amazingly insightful blog posts that have completely reshaped how I examine myself and the world, and the best part is I’m loving it. I’m getting my dopamine release from becoming a more knowledgeable, thoughtful, smarter human being, a void I’d previously filled with inane reddit links, prolonged netflix dramas, and hectic videogames.

I don’t think any of those things are bad in an absolute sense and there are definitely aspects I don’t regret, but I can definitely see that over the past decade they’ve been bad for me and I’d like to moving away from them. I’ll talk about this (and a lot more) later, but for now it just feels good to admit that thinking feels good. More details in future posts!