63 million vote for a known incompetent. Why?

The symptom is the candidate widely known to be incompetent won the election.  Why 63 million people voted the way they did is to identify the disease.  Curing the disease is a whole other thing.

Who voted for the Incompetent?

  • Rural areas and many in the third ring suburbs.
  • Urban older blue-collar white males
  • Voting against Clinton and by extension Obama.
  • Traditional republican voters voting for the party not the person

Why did they vote the way they did? 

In my opinion:

  • Rural areas and urban blue-collar whites felt (feel) left behind so someone promising to change things back to the way they were was appealing.
  • Voting against Clinton is the result of 20+ years of propaganda against them and 8 years of propaganda against Obama.
  • Traditional republican voters felt they were going to lose the election anyway so the benefits of supporting their party was worth the slight risk of voting for an incompetent leader

What is the cure?

As a lifelong Democrat, I can appreciate voting for a party rather than a candidate.  I hope that my party would not put me in the position the Republican Party put its members in by nominating an incompetent candidate with no relevant experience.

Using propaganda techniques against the Clintons and Obama built many careers.  At the center of almost all of the techniques is spreading a lie, “fake news”.  The real purpose of most fake news is to drive traffic to a TV station or website to generate ad revenue.  Eye-catching headlines and outrageous content get views and thus revenue.  The unfortunate side effect is that people (our current President) start to believe the fake news.  Even if they do not believe the news itself, they end up having a negative feeling about the subject of the news.

In today’s world it is easy to fact check almost anything.  Google and Bing are only a click away.  The way to stop the fake news is to not view it in the first place and certainly do not share it.  Let it die from inattention.  Spreading fake news is to be a liar.  There is no excuse for not knowing if it is fake.  Do not be the liar by spreading fake news.  When you see fake news, maybe spreading the truth would be a good idea.  For example, I once posted that it was ridiculous to criticize Obama for the Baptist church he attended and in the same story criticize him for being a Muslim.  In my opinion, spreading such a story would make you a liar.

Which leaves us with millions of rural folks and urban white males feeling left behind.  The cause is easy to describe; the cure is debatable.  Virtually all jobs and most social interactions are now technology based.  This is the information age and many of us are in the thick of it.  Rural America and older blue-collar workers have fallen behind.  They face many issues: Training, support, economics of access in low population density areas, willingness to change, financing, social pressure, etc.  The fancy word for this is social exclusion.

I do not know the cure.  Certainly getting broadband to all corners is a start.  Providing training and support while they transition is important.  Helping erase the stigma of learning to do things a new way rather than sticking with the old methods.  Does it make sense to encourage starting small technology based businesses in small towns with some sort of incentives?  Somehow, the 50-year-old factory worker needs to face challenges and barriers to learning the new technical skills needed for available jobs.  Somehow broadband and training needs to get to rural America.  I have no real idea how to encourage businesses to grow in a small town.


The current president is incompetent.  We need to continue the hard work of preventing him from doing irreparable harm to our nation.  However, we need to remember that he was the symptom not the disease.  Putting the train back on the tracks means reducing fake news (encouraging the truth) and addressing the need for rural America and older blue-collar workers to transition to the information age.


Adapting to the connected world we live in

We said our elected officials are out of touch, we need change.  Our choice took office.  The first month has not been pretty although it has solidified his opposition.  His trustworthiness seems lost.  How we move forward is probably less about him and more about us.    We are a connected world.  Almost everyone has a voice and has the tools needed to make their voice heard.  Rather than assume we know what “they” want, ask.  Rather than assume they know what we want, we should tell them.

When a new or different way of thinking or doing replaces the old way, it is a paradigm shift.  The combination of devices, connectivity and easy to use applications created a new connected paradigm.  Very recently that paradigm became pervasive (used by the vast majority).   Having lived through numerous technology related paradigm shifts, I have learned that adapting to a new paradigm can be scary and can leave a scar.  Yet, the reality of the new paradigm unfolds like it or not.  Refusing to participate is not a real option.  Connected with others is wonderful.  I personally have more and better relationships than I would have without the connected paradigm.

However, when you ask what people think about this or that, they just might tell you.  People are rarely just this or that.  They are all sorts of in between.  I asked what they thought and they responded.  Most often I discovery that “they” are not a punch line or a caricature.  We like many of the same things and disagree on some.  Sometimes they do not care one way or the other about something for which you care deeply.  They and I are we, and it turns out that we are human and complicated.  We hold contradictory views.  They like both opera and punk rock but I prefer 60’s bubblegum music.  They fear what I do not, and vice versa.

I have spent my adult lifetime witnessing the series of information age paradigm shifts.  All have been tough.  People quit rather than learn the dreaded WordPerfect.  Bosses were going to ban the use of e-mails because it seemed the only real purpose of email was to convey jokes between co-workers.  A county board member wanted to ban the internet for every resident in the county because someone had looked up the value of his house on a web app I helped develop.  One of my staff seriously asked, “If I am asked about my family, will I be fired for having a personal conversation on a company cell phone?”

So now, we need to work our way through this connected society paradigm shift.  When you only saw your uncle, twice a year (my actual uncles are long dead), it was easy to ignore some of his beliefs.  Now he is your Facebook friend and you frequently interact with him.  Ignoring him is more difficult because he liked your joke, wished you well on your new job, and shared a tidbit about your grandma that put a tear of happiness in your eye.  However, he also opposes that which you endorse.  He likes some things you dislike.  Besides, he is wrong about an issue that you understand.

  • Do you keep him as a friend, taking the good with the bad?
  • Do you un-friend him?
  • Do you point out every point of disagreement?
  • Do you hide what you believe from him?
  • Do you ask him to post only of the things you agree with him about?
  • Alternatively, do you accept that he is a complicated person and so are you?

Adapting to new paradigms really is tough.  Feelings will be hurt.  Relationships will strain.  People will say something and later regret it.  The socially acceptable answers work themselves out over time but in the meantime, we will say some stupid things.  We need to make sharing ok and safe.  We are not only learning proper etiquette but also trying to figure out what we believe about issues and life.  If some friend changes position, that is not a bad thing even if they change it back again.  It is recognizing that life is complicated.

If someone tells you something, be thankful.  Respond about the thing, as appropriate, but (up to a limit) support the person.


In my experience, adapting to the paradigm shift itself is not the main problem people have.  It is their fear that the paradigm shift will change their social, personal, professional relationships.  I could never convince the secretary that Word Perfect was both learnable and that while she learned, we would all still think she was a valuable member of the team.  The funny thing about this “connected” paradigm shift is that it is exactly about enhancing relationships.  Relationships are great but rarely easy.

My advice.  Do not expect that everyone agrees with you or that you will agree with everyone else.  Let yourself participate in the discussion.  Do not focus only on what you disagree with.  Finding common ground is actually more fun.   Not every post needs to be deep or profound.  If it is nice outside, it is perfectly ok to say so.  Do not tell secrets.  There are no secrets on the internet.

Apologize often.  Accept apologizes graciously.  If you are worried about hurting someone’s feelings, do not post it.  Be honest but not brutal.  Your relationship is more important than an obscure point in a debate on Facebook.  Let cooler heads prevail if it feels like thinks are heating up.  Celebrate truth.  Let most lies die from inattention.  Questions often make a stronger statement than a statement does.  Be helpful.  Explain if you are misunderstood.  Stand corrected if you were wrong.

Nuance finds its way into debates on social media

Is the raging debate on social media our big, wonderful, messy democracy at work?  I think there is hope.  Let us all hang in there.  Nuance is finding its way in.

Yes, I actually do think the raging debate on social media is our big, wonderful, messy democracy at work.   I think the debates on basic issues are starting to have some nuance to them.  The nuance entering the debate is the presence of real facts and honest analysis.  Almost all of the news outlets (responsible or otherwise) in the world have started posting their content on social media.  Social media still has conspiracy theories but next to them are articles from the local TV station or AP with some facts and perspective.  The facts have this way of moderating everyone’s positions on almost every topic.

Terrorist attacks are terrible.  The news outlets remind us that most hate crimes are committed against people of color or sexual orientation or people of certain religions.  They remind us that inner cities are not actually like war zones.  In fact, many well to do retirees are moving into condominiums and apartments “downtown”.   They remind us that contrary to narrative of the innocence of the good days, crime rates are actually way down since our youth.  They remind us that people of faith support religious freedom, even for people of different faiths.

Anytime we read something contrary to our personal opinions, it is in human nature to be defensive.  It feels negative and it might even feel like a personal attack.  In the short run, we might stiffen our resolve and state our case even stronger, but the facts plant the seeds from which new understanding grows.  Just maybe we will take the time to realize that the conspiracy theory you knew to be a fact, was not.  Furthermore, just maybe, we will realize the base issues are most often complex with a whole range of pluses and minuses.  It takes honest discussion, with real facts, over a period of time to work through to a good policy.

Here is an example.  The conspiracy theory that U.S. immigration policy threatens Christianity and our way of life.  There are about twice as many Christians in Africa than in the U.S.  There are about twice as many Christians in Latin America than in the U.S.  There are more Christians in Asia than there are in the US.  To think the U.S. is the home of Christianity is to forget the Pope is from Argentina.  To think a poor family of seven in small apartment 100 miles from your house represents a threat to your religion and way of life seems like a stretch.  In fact, if we want that family to like us maybe we should be nice to them.  Immigration policy is complex and nuanced.  It matters in all sorts of ways the casual observer might not know.  So sure, have an opinion but keep an open mind.  It is a much-nuanced sort of thing.

I am not trying to debate social policy in this post.   The point is only that real information entering social media discussions helps clarify our perspectives.  The fact that real information is trickling into to the online discussions is a very good thing.  Those annoying facts may be boring but they actually do have this way of bringing us together rather than ripping us apart.




Tony’s Tail – 44 years at the same job working on the exact same machine

Encouraging people to train for technology based jobs (existing and new) makes more sense than focusing on creating more manual labor jobs. However, Tony’s tale from my past reminds me there is nuance in what people do for a living.

It was 1979 or 1980; I was 27 – 28 years old and a couple months into my first job as an Industrial Relations Manager (Human Resources Manager).  Tony was a drill press operator in the shop who had reached what was then the mandatory retirement age of 65.  What was remarkable was that Tony had worked 44 years in the same shop at the exact same machine.  He and the drill press started on at the same time and both he and the machine were going to be retired together.  The drill press was old and nobody but Tony could create quality work using it.


(My office was in the building center left.  Tony worked in the low building across the street and railway tracks behind the closest water tower)

The records showed in 44 years, he had only been sick a couple times and he had worked at that same drill press before and after his stint in the Army for World War II.

The local press was there and we stopped production so all 150 or so of the crew could be at the celebration.  I was happy to say a couple nice words about his length of service and that we really did confirm he had worked at the same machine all that time.   Tony interrupted me saying he had worked a couple weeks at another drill press while they replaced the bearings in his drill press.  It was nice.

I was all smiles on the outside but inside I just could only imagine it must have been torture working 44 years on the same drill press.  I would have gone insane.  In my head, a life well led means facing new challenges, learning new things. I could not imagine being chained to the same machine for 44 years.

Tony’s younger brother Jerry also worked at the shop.   A couple months after Tony’s retirement I asked him how Tony was doing.  “Not great” was the reply.  He explained that Tony missed working at the shop.  The look on my face betrayed me and so Jerry explained.   World War II was very tough on Tony.  That drill press provided him a paycheck to support his family.  However, more than that, it kept him busy enough to keep the demons from the war out of his head.   He just could not handle change very well.  That drill press saved his sanity.

Here is my lesson learned.   I believe encouraging others to learn what they need to get the new technology based jobs is a good thing.  Especially for an aging workforce, running the machines that do the manual labor repetitive jobs seems better than doing the repetitive jobs with manual labor. However, we should not forget the lesson of Tony.  We are not all the same; some people are, in fact, best suited for manual repetitive work.