Toss and Talk: What does our surprise at Trump’s victory in the United States say about us?


Avantika: So, it’s been a helluva week, guys. All of us were following the US presidency for different reasons. And, none of us predicted this outcome. How does everyone feel about Trump 2016?


Janani: Will kick off by saying that I was 100% sure that Trump wouldn’t win and then the margin with which he won left me reflecting a lot on my understanding of Reality vs. Actual Reality. So apparently whether I like it or not I totally missed the boat on understanding the point of view of a large chunk of the American population.

Avantika: I have to say there was a huge gap between analysts and voters this time. Perhaps the biggest since our 2014 election with Modi.

Janani: I do believe that part of the reason is the glass ceiling associated with a woman being in this level of position of leadership.

Avantika: How big a part, though? We have Theresa May in the UK, Merkel in Germany. So, it’s not like we’ve never seen the glass ceiling shattered. Could there be a deeper reason for Hilary’s loss beyond the glass ceiling? Please keep in mind I’m not saying it doesn’t exist.

Janani: I think it’s part of the reason – not the only reason. There’s more to her loss than just the prejudice of her being a woman. That whole likability thing.

Avantika: I do have to point out: she’s a leader. Leaders, politicians– regardless of gender — do need to be likable, relatable to their voters. She lost the white woman vote, even.

My favorite example of a female politician I’m not fond of, but who rightly deserves her people’s love is Mayawati. And I’m willing to stomach my issues with her because she’s figured out how to help and relate to her core voting group. Isn’t that a leader’s job?

Janani: I think the stunner for me – that is a large chunk of people align to Trump’s views on the country. i.e. clamping down on immigration, gun control being left where it is, and belief that someone who’s a successful businessman will help the economy get stronger and bigger.

I’m obviously coming from a place of anger and frustration that this happened – so he may have said other things that I’m choosing to miss.
Avantika: Perhaps they’re aligning with emotions, not views? Like AAP– he appealed to the anti-establishment sentiment. Which, Hilary personified all the way to the end with that FBI reopening and dismissing of her case.

Pakhi: But she should have gotten more credit than she did. She’s very right wing and has her many demons.

But when I read about her past and her rise, I feel like it takes a lot to be a woman in a male-dominated field like politics. I hated Thatcher, but she deserved respect in her sheer strength. Hillary has taken so many blows, right from her husband to Obama and still she sticks it through. I think that deserves some respect.

I believe there is some serious sexism. I don’t think Hilary lost because she was a woman. She lost because of sheer disillusionment with the Democrats.

Avantika: So, we are saying in the current climate – decidedly patriarchal – for women to move forward they have to dance with the devil. Fair enough.

But, in what way must we take that into account when judging whether they’ll be a good leader? Is it sufficient to stick it through? We all watched the debate, yes? What all Hilary said was “check your facts” She never presented a single fact.

P: That’s my only problem. She is bad, but nothing is as bad as Trump.

Divya: I think for a lot of people it was voting for the lesser evil.

Pakhi: Like, Kanye is better than Trump. The man gives me nightmares. I feel the sexism part comes in the tolerance of a man who is such a misogynist.

Divya: Clearly, Trump is not the lesser for me at least.

Avantika: Does anyone remember the July DNC? Where Bernie’s followers were beaten and he too had bruises? That’s gunda politics. How’s that better?

Janani: Sure – no one’s saying she’s a saint. But can I say that Bernie’s supporters also played dirty? This entire campaign was one of the dirtiest in history.

Avantika: Let’s circle back to what Pakhi said. When I heard the news: I too thought “ok, you’ll elect a strange, nonsensical man over an establishment woman.” And would that be different if the Democrats had a male candidate?

Janani: For me, it wasn’t who’s the worse evil of the two but a) who’s values and thoughts do I align to (I’m liberal, so it was automatically a Democrat.)

Plus, someone who I think can do the job because 1. They have proven experience 2. They have the political might. 3. They have leadership qualities I can relate to.

Divya: It bothers me that he has absolutely no experience in any political capacity.

Pakhi: For me, it was – Trump was the misogynist right from the apprentice. How is that even allowed?

I was a full-on Bernie supporter cos I genuinely never even considered Trump.

Avantika: I’m getting a lot of these memes on my whatsapp from liberals, democrats that are Attacking trump’s wife for being a nude model. How is that not equally misogynistic?

Divya: Aaah the memes , they are downright misogynistic.

Janani: The memes are awful and a horribly way to hit back.

Pakhi: But Trump is equally likely to ridicule his wife.

Janani: People are doing exactly what they didn’t like being done to Hilary, and that’s just hypocritical.

Avantika: Even if he did make fun of his wife, that’s a non-sequester. The liberal defense can’t be: he is just as bad. Such isn’t giving the people a better choice. It’s pandering to their worst selves.

Pakhi: Democrats aren’t all feminists, I don’t think the party is fantastic. It’s just that there’s only one other option.

Janani: I was just saying to a friend today that my heart goes to Melania because I believe she isn’t equipped to handle the requirements of a White House First Lady – this is based on her poor handling of the limelight so far. But that doesn’t mean insulting her via memes and misogynistic is fair either.

Avantika: Yet, there’s one piece – only one – in the HuffPo about the slut shaming of trumps wife. No Guardian shock, no NYT opinions.

Pakhi: But, isn’t that also because Melania is not standing to be President. Guardian and such were desperately trying not to have Trump elected?

Janani: The larger question is do we understand what they’re going to do from their ‘job performance’ perspective.

Divya: I agree. You are free to criticize their capabilities for a job, and that should be the focus.

Pakhi: I feel sorry that Melania is married to Trump in the first place. He also ridiculed her copied speech publicly.

He hasn’t once even spoken about her with any respect or defended her. He could have spoken out against sexism. Esp after his grabbing pussy spiel. When he was jumping to defend and apologize

Avantika: Again, are we to excuse the slut-shaming behavior because her husband didn’t protect her? How does it matter that he didn’t defend her? I mean, frankly, I wish Hilary had spoken up against it. Opponent’s wife or not, if you’re running on a feminist platform, how does one ignore the slurs and shaming?

Janani: So no excuses there. That he didn’t defend her that’s between the two of them and honestly just speaks to where his priorities lie and what kind of person he is. I do agree that there’s so much more Hilary could have addressed.

Pakhi: I don’t think she’s running on a feminist platform, though. Feminists have just supported her. Though, yes, I think she should have addressed it too.

Janani: The thing about campaigns that I hate the most is the compromises candidates end up making or the ‘playing dirty’ so they can score more points. In this case not speaking about it was a compromise.

Avantika: Any other thoughts on reasons?

Pakhi: A lot of people voted third party, because they didn’t agree with her politics. I think that’s what cost her the elections.

Divya: I think she may be in a state of shock. But I also don’t think she will come out and make a statement against all the shaming.

Janani: That’s campaign politics, though – cause if she’d spoken out for Melania, there’s a good chance the trump campaign with Melania in tow could have hit back saying this isn’t misogyny and other reasons for his behavior. All candidates would have done it in elections across the world – I don’t think it’s limited to just her.

A: Now, let’s go back to the last election when in the primary it was Hilary vs. Obama. Everything Trump said about her was spoken by Obama (in nicer, more educated words.) And Everything Obama said about Hilary this time was diagonally opposed to what he said during this election.

J: Let’s look at specific examples –
What are some of the points of dissension between Obama and Hillary?

Avantika: “This is a person who has taken more money from drug companies and lobbyists than anyone else in the world. The same person who took money from Wall Street and then voted for a bankruptcy bill that makes it harder for folks right here in Penn to get a fair shake.”

This is Obama in 2008. Not Trump.

My real issue with this election is the polarization to be honest. Thoughts?

Janani: The polarization is because the ‘liberal world’ had higher expectations of a potential world leader and when someone came along who’s previous been a corrupt businessman, proven sexist with multiple cases of sexual harassment in tow, shamelessly uniformed and who hosted a reality show where he treated people like shit.

It was hard to get on board and listen to what he was proposing for the country with all that baggage, and he didn’t help it with ongoing rhetoric on divisiveness, violence (we’ll just bomb them), misogyny and so on.

Avantika: Agreed on his proposals. Though, one of his first appointees is an Indian man.

Janani: Are we talking about Bobby Jindal?

Avantika: no, Amul Thapar. Bobby Spindle is a conversation for another day. He makes my head hurt.

Janani: Most world leaders now have polarizing groups of people for and against them – let’s look at Modi, is his USP likeability?

Avantika: Modi’ USP in 2014 was relatability. I remember I did a casual survey of every auto driver, every construction worker, every street hawker I encountered before May 2014. They identified with Modi, his chai walla story. The majority USP may not be what works for us. Is anyone else wondering about that?

Janani: How about the fact that the popular vote went to Hilary – is that not a sign of likeability?

Avantika: I’m not sure. She didn’t win the popular vote by much. Though, I believe its growing.

Janani: But a win is still indicative that a larger population chose her over him – that’s a majority. As for the state of the American psyche – what I’ve learned from his election is that I know shit about it!

Avantika: Ok, fair enough. Because not of us and so many others saw this coming. Could it be that we saw it from a place of privilege? Did we dismiss a large section of a population — like in 2014 — because we just ignored them or assumed their point of view was impossible/ ridiculous/ silly?

Janani: Oh absolutely – I was considering it from what I thought was a variety of sources of information but if I now reflect on it, they were all aligned to my thinking and my point of view.

Avantika: Could social media have something to do with this? The idea that we are increasingly only choosing to listen to those with whom we agree? I mean, I feel like this election was fought on Twitter. Like 2014 for India.

Janani: Late night talk show hosts, NYTimes, Huffington post, social media liberal and feminist influencers – yup all people I already listen to and continued to listen and agree with during the election. This was a real eye opener.

Avantika: If we don’t expose ourselves to opinions we don’t like or agree with, how are we to depolarize?

Janani: I don’t think so – it’s got me thinking about how I need to expose myself to other sources of news, information, and discussion.

It’s also about being ready and more open to having these discussions because the lost opportunity is missing the reality of situations in such a massive way!

It’s behavioral change that won’t be easy but is necessary


Trump cake illustration by Pakhi Sen. 
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  • G

    I hate saying it, but I had a strong feeling Trump would win. It’s a larger trend – countries across the world are voting for the conservative party and my reading is that it is a last ditch attempt to maintain the old patterns and hierarchies in society. People are afraid of change and the conservatives are promising a return to the days of glory when the now-diminishing majority was the clear majority and had all the privilege in the world. Anyone would hate to let go of that so you cling on to whoever tells you that things will be like the good old days. On the other hand, a smaller section of the population (currently) is looking for radical, or at least tangible, change and the democrats had nothing radical to promise – in fact Hillary hardly painted a picture of what the world could look like in a third term under the democrats. The liberals had nothing to cling themselves to, except anti-Trump. That isn’t a strong enough reason. Bernie had clearer points for his campaign but I’d wager to say even he may not have won. On a more optimistic note, though, if people like Trump don’t fuck up the world before that, I predict that this would be the last decade in which the old patterns/powers will give their all to survive. Eventually they will have to embrace the new way of thinking, at least partly. The fight for the rest of us is to ensure that they do not fuck things up beyond repair in this decade.

    • Avantika Mehta
      Avantika Mehta

      HI G,

      Firstly, thanks for joining our discussion 🙂

      I wish we had seen it coming.. Before going to sleep that night, a friend and I were betting on the Election result, and I was pretty certain of mine on Hilary. Simply because I couldn’t imagine any one voting for Trump.

      Your point on seeing it makes me think you saw a bigger picture like my friend did. And, that actually got me thinking about why I missed these exact signs — all around the world people are voting for conservative parties — and also got me wondering whether I was being entirely fair to Trump reporters. Since then I’ve watched several people being interviewed about why they voted for Trump, and while I don’t agree with them they are articulate. This again makes me wonder: could part of the problem be that we (liberals and conservatives alike) are both guilty of refusing to hear out or even empathise with people whose opinions and experiences differ from our own. Perhaps… this us vs them attitude is part of the problem?

      • G

        Valid point, Avantika. And of course that is an issue – but not just in political or social debates. How often do we empathize with people in our day to day lives? We hide behind various garbs to escape really seeing things from another person’s perspective, to try and understand why they think the way they do or feel what they are feeling. One doesn’t have to agree with another’s point of view, like you didn’t with the interviews, but at least communication channels need to be open. I don’t personally see the same in a lot of my interactions with people cause it takes time and is underpinned on the assumption that one at least cares enough to try and make an effort. And increasingly both of these things seem to be diminishing.