An 80-20% Discussion

At a lovely dinner party to celebrate an old friend’s birthday, conversation unsurprisingly turned to the election. A quick poll of the table revealed that the gathering voted 80-20% for Hillary Clinton. There were no rural working class whites there. There were no minorities there. The gender split was even, but the room was devoid of gay and trans people. It was not a representative sampling of America by any stretch. The age range spanned middle baby boomer to greatest generation, so naturally everyone voted.

When the conversation turned to how it happened that Trump won, the percentages shifted. While 80% of the people in the room had voted for Clinton, 80% understood why Clinton had failed to win. And of the 80% who voted for Clinton, yet understood, one theme emerged. America needed a new political party, because the Democrats no longer represented their values.

The woman to my right was bright and vivacious, a lawyer and unafraid to speak her mind. During the course of the conversation, a fellow who served in World War II expressed disgust at the kids who had taken to the street to protest. Not because they disapproved of the president-elect, but because it was a childish response.

He was also deeply put off by protests that produced violence and property damage. Regardless of the protest itself (and he didn’t question whether they had a right to protest, but that protests, no matter how large and passionate, wouldn’t change the election outcome), he complained that it was a remarkably ineffective means of accomplishing anything.

The woman to my right responded, rather loudly, that her daughter was one of the protesters, and that she fully supported her doing so. “That’s how we change things,” she explained. The table fell silent for a moment. Conversation then resumed.

There was one additional unifying factor amongst this group, that everyone at the table has achieved some level of success. They were people who understood the difference between being effective and being self-indulgent. There was nothing wrong with protesting, provided it didn’t produce violence or impair other people’s rights. Indeed, protests serve useful purposes. They allow protesters to make their views known. They are cathartic. They may be good exercise. It gets kids out of the house, away from their screens, for a few minutes.

What these protests, as opposed to others, would not do is change the outcome of the election. Provided they were peaceful, there was nothing wrong with protesting, but it was ineffectual. No mind would be changed. The people at the table were 80-20% disinclined to engage in symbolic gestures that accomplished nothing. That’s not what effective people tend to do.

In a very well-written op-ed, a freshman at NYU took a different path.

When she outed herself to me as a Trump supporter, I realized I had finally found the “silent majority.” I looked at her, this suddenly strange girl who sleeps a few feet away from me, my college roommate. The silent majority has seen me put on my head scarf in the morning and take it off at night. The silent majority has touched my face, done my makeup, watches “Gilmore Girls” religiously. The silent majority occasionally enjoys sliced mango before bed.

We fought; I packed. This was Tuesday evening, so I headed to my friend’s dorm, where a small group of us, mainly black women, tried to find solace in one another as the country slowly fell to red. I tried and failed to speak, to write. I ignored my roommate’s lengthy texts.

Was Romaissaa Benzizoune’s roommate deplorable? Never having seen Gilmore Girls, it’s unclear what that suggests, but otherwise, the two seemed to be doing pretty well together until she learned that her roommate didn’t vote for her candidate. The roommate then morphed into the “silent majority,” a phrase used to Richard Nixon to catalyze oldsters to reject the hippies’ peace and love movement. The roommate was no longer a person, but a characterization.

Did she really expect me to respect her choice when her choice undermined my presence in this country, in this university, in my very own dorm room? Did she really expect me to shake her hand for supporting a candidate who would love to bar my relatives from this country, who has considered making people of my faith register in a specific database and carry special ID, Holocaust-style?

What with the standstill of loyalties in this election, it is no surprise that our argument proved hopeless. There was no reasoning with her….

The pervasive trope that we need to have a “real discussion” comes immediately to mind. The discussion consists of Benzizoune telling her roommate why she’s wrong, after which her roommate gushes, “you are so right, I am so evil, how could I ever have been so deplorable as to not recognize that the only valid interest is you, your fear, your feelings, you.” Some people just don’t get tolerance. There was no reasoning with her.

You may see people wearing safety pins on their lapels.

In the wake of Donald Trump’s election, many groups in the U.S., including African Americans, Muslims and women, are feeling scared and uneasy.

Trump, who has said he would ban all Muslims from entering the U.S., made sexist and insulting comments about women and racist comments about people of color in America, is a frightening prospect for many Americans who believe he is unfit for office.

So while protests rage on across the country, one movement is using a simple yet powerful symbol to show their support for anyone who is fearful of what is to come.

One of the guests at dinner manufactures safety pins. He was thrilled at the idea of the safety pin movement. Although he had voted for Clinton, he understood why others did not. Everyone at the table agreed that, regardless of whom they voted for, they did so holding their nose. Even the woman to my right.

55 thoughts on “An 80-20% Discussion

  1. jaf005

    I might be inclined to have been the “hold my nose voter”, but as I think about it, I am more and more convinced that I was rolling the dice. On one hand, this 50 yo knew exactly what to expect, having nearly 25 years of history to determine what her priorities and policies would be, on the other-hand I was willing to take my chances knowing that the result could span the full spectrum of outcomes. What I know for sure is that I have never cast a ballot with my choices defined in this manner.

    1. SHG Post author

      That’s pretty interesting insight into you. I’m sure many SJ readers wondered about you. Thanks for clearing that up.

  2. Hal

    “Some people just don’t get tolerance. There was no reasoning with her.”

    Well said. Political correctness is an anathema. Ms. Benzizoune should reflect on Jefferson’s statement “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.”

    Of course, Jefferson was a cis gendered male w/ an overabundance of white privilege and no access to twitter.

    1. Roger

      As with so many other of Jefferson’s writings, the words he wrote are more inspirational than the life he lived. If they were still around, we could ask John and Abigail Adams about Jefferson’s withdrawal of friendship over political differences, and their thoughts about his willingness to use the Twitter of his day, secretly hiring a character assassin to spread libels about Adams. Fashions and technology change. People not so much.

      1. SHG Post author

        Most quotes are deeply vague and heartwarming. Few bear up well under scrutiny. But then, there is almost always a quote for the other side as well, so it all balances out.

      1. Charles

        Safety pins are only safe for things not being held together by one.

        Safety pins are only safe when they are not open to others.

        Safety pins are only safe if you don’t get the point.

  3. Keith

    After hearing a similar story to the NYU student, and being told that this person simply could not understand how anyone could vote for Trump – I made the simple observation that you can ask them why they voted for him.

    If you had asked me a week ago if such a simple, bland comment would get me blocked on Facebook, I would have thought it insane.

    I am happy these protesters are finding a voice. We would be much better off, if they found their ears.

      1. Norahc

        It’s the connection between their ears and their brain that seems to be lacking, or at least the parts of the brain that involve critical thinking skills and the ability to think of someone besides yourself.

        1. dm

          I’m thinking of my two year old nephew who has undergone two surgeries to remove a brain tumor he was born with. He has health insurance thanks to the ACA, which Trump and the Republicans have promised to repeal despite having not a GODDAMNED thing to replace it with. Does that count as thinking of someone beside myself?

            1. dm

              OMG, we let our pesky feelz get in the way of cold logic. Thanks for helping me to see the light SHG. Screw sick kids!

            2. SHG Post author

              Your nephew v. 350 million Americans. Screw everybody else, yay your nephew. It is unfortunate your pesky feelz gets in the way of seeing the light. And when somebody else’s 2-year-old nephew needs something, like food, that costs your 2-year-old nephew, screw hungry kids.

              But everybody with a personal sad story owns the narrative for a nation. After all, the harm to vast numbers of people don’t matter when you have a personal sad story to tell. If you don’t get what’s good for you or yours, then everybody hates kids. So yes, you want selfish blind entitlement and can’t understand why the nation won’t sacrifice all the other kids for your nephew. That’s why.

            3. dm

              350 million? I missed the part where every man woman and child in the USA voted for Trump. In fact, I’m pretty sure that your boy is on track to lose the popular vote by around 2 million. Also, “[a]fter all, the harm to vast numbers of people don’t matter when you have a personal sad story to tell.” What harm, exactly, is that Scott? Are “ALL THE OTHER KIDS” being sacrificed so my nephew can continue to be covered by health insurance? Which ones aren’t eating because of my nephew? I guess simple witted liberals aren’t the only ones who use simple witted false equivalencies to argue their point. Also, I never said anybody hates kids, I did however imply that some just don’t give a damn. Finally, I never said my narrative was the narrative of the nation, but it is ONE of the narratives of the nation. Apparently it’s not acceptable because it doesn’t fit into your lesson of the day. So sorry SHG, I’ll try to do better next time!

            4. SHG Post author

              Don’t play the passive aggressive. It’s not only unconvincing, but it makes you come off whiny. That’s the part you don’t get. You annoy people. You don’t convince anyone. That’s why the Dems lost. Your argument only appeals to people who agree with you. To everyone who either disagrees, or isn’t yet in agreement, you’re an insufferable self-entitled whiner. If you had the capacity to grasp why your argument sucked so bad, you might be able to do better. You don’t. You can’t. So you become a passive aggressive whiner, as if that’s going to change anyone’s mind.

              ACA applies to everybody. It’s catastrophic insurance, which is great for those who need catastrophic insurance, but worthless to anyone who doesn’t manage to meet their ridiculously high deductible and costs a lot of money for something that the vast majority will never get a chance to use. And it’s going higher.

              That means people have to pay for it. That means the money they could spend for food (or whatever else they might spend it on, or save it for) is used to pay for insurance that’s great for your nephew and sucks for them. So what number trades off against your nephew. 300 million? 200? 100? One other two-year-old? Be honest with yourself; you don’t give a shit.

              It works for your nephew. That’s great. But don’t try to trade that off against others. They have lives too, and their lives aren’t all about you and your one sad story. Since people of moderate or better intelligence (and I count you among them, since I’m feeling generous) know that throwing the popular vote in as an argument is mindnumbingly stupid, you’re just trying to justify your own self-interest. That’s fine, but be honest about it. You want whats good for you. You just want to pretend you’re a great humanitarian for being selfish and entitled.

            5. Keith

              The ACA was about reforming how things are paid for, but it did little to nothing to curb prices of medical procedures. If your nephew is saved (at great cost), that’s wonderful. But someone else’s nephew may not be helped because no matter what, there’s a finite bucket of money and some resources will always be out of reach.

              Maybe there’s an American out there that wants a reform of actual healthcare and thinks Trump is the one to do it. Just maybe.

              And by doing so, they can save more than just your nephew.

              The simplistic notions that your team has all the answers and everyone with a contrary opinion is wrong, is exactly why the dems lost this thing.

              Maybe, just maybe, you can ask someone else why they have their point of view instead of haranguing them for it.

            6. dm

              ” . . . and costs a lot of money for something that the vast majority will never get a chance to use. And it’s going higher.” Like automobile insurance, or paying for a police force, or the military. Despite very few ever actually needing any of those things almost everybody is forced to pay for them on the off chance that they might need them. That you opt to draw a line at health insurance for sick people is your despicable prerogative.

            7. SHG Post author

              What could possibly be wrong with your analogies? My guess is us despicable folks can figure this out without need for further discussion. But you still miss the point: this isn’t about being against a national health insurance plan. It’s about the ACA, which doesn’t work. Like I said in the first place, this is why the Dems lost. Argue, argue, argue, and no clue why nobody is buying the bullshit.

            8. Charles

              Most people prefer not to have a turn to use the police or the military. The Explanation of Benefits form that they send you after the fact is a real downer, not to mention the deductible.

            9. dm

              “Like I said in the first place, this is why the Dems lost. Argue, argue, argue, and no clue why nobody is buying the bullshit.” The Dems lost the presidency because we have an indirect democracy rather than a direct democracy. About 2 million more voters bought the Dem “bullshit” than rejected it. Also, as you stated above, “it takes two to tango” when it comes to argue, argue, argue. Also, if you had specified that we were just arguing about the ACA I would have shut up long ago. Now that I know you favor a single payer (sic?) system I love you again (I’m sure you’re relieved!). I’ll now STFU and move along.

            10. Keith

              The Dems lost the presidency because we have an indirect democracy rather than a direct democracy.

              V’az di bobe volt gehat beytsim volt zi geven mayn zeyde!

            11. dm

              Keith. I don’t speak Yiddish, but I think what you’re trying to say is that your grandmother is/was a hermaphrodite? Seriously though, I don’t think that only one side has all the answers. What I do think is that Trump and the Republican leadership have expressed their desire to repeal the ACA on day one of Trump’s presidency and haven’t proposed anything that is viable to replace it. I would expand further, but I don’t think the Admiral would allow it as I’ve already veered way off topic and he’s already indulged my argumentation quite a bit today.

          1. Agammamon

            Did you try to *ask* anyone for help for your two year old nephew? You know, charity?

            Or are you perfectly comfortable with knowing that the money to save his life was taken at gunpoint from others – and you didn’t have the courage to hold the gun yourself.

            1. dm

              Agammomon. My sister (and her then infant son), like millions of others, enrolled in a private insurance plan (Kaiser Permanente) through this state’s ACA exchange. I apparently missed the part where gunmen were running about forcefully collecting insurance premiums from non-participants, but I don’t read Breitbart so maybe I missed that story.

            2. dm

              Sorry SHG. I’m suffering from inflammation of the feelz on this one and snark seems to be the only balm. I promise that’ll be my last one on this post.

  4. Billy Bob

    When some of us took to the streets in protest against the Vietnam War–a long time ago–we were called childish by the adults and authorities of the time. Certainly, [they] “…didn’t question whether [we] had a right to protest, but that protests, no matter how large and passionate, wouldn’t change… [anything]”. Oh really! I believe history has shown us to have been altogether correct at the time. If a few eggs had to be broken, well that’s unfortunate. Suck it up, authorites and adults who knew better. Admit you were wrong, even if belatedly.

    So now we’re back to Square One. What do two lawyers sitting together at a dinner party say to one another?
    “I’m going to report you to Board of Bar Overseers,” says one. “No, I’m going to report you first,” says the other as she sips her Chardonnay. (Made that up meself.) The older we get, the less clear things become. These days, nothing much is very clear. Guess that’s why Donald won, when he was supposed to lose in a landslide. We hate it whenever that happens.

    We do not anticipate that much will change under TrumpMaster, as previously suggested here. His “advisers” won’t let him. It was all monkeyshine and a game of chicken which he accidentally won, because,… reasons. Sit down, children, I have something to tell you,… Hillary and her minions took themselves waaay too seriously. Politics is a never-ending farce. There are no easy answers, just crooked, greedy people who cut corners while advertising themselves as do-gooders for the country.
    And what year was it that you passed the bar?

    1. Jim Tyre

      When some of us took to the streets in protest against the Vietnam War

      Say it ain’t so! Billy Bob and I not only are of the same generation but have shared lived experiences? I’m not certain I can handle such a shock on a Monday morning! (Hopefully, we were never arrested together, that would be way over the top.)

  5. PDB

    “I realized that I was seeing the election results as proof of my personal failure as a writer. A black friend who was with me saw the election results as proof of her personal failure as a Black Lives Matter activist. A white friend seemed to blame his choice to vote in New York rather than back home in Michigan.”

    Yes, because she was singlehandedly responsible for tens of millions of voters’ decision-making.

    The self-indulgence here is at parody levels.

  6. Matthew S Wideman

    The NYU SJW is crazy. When I was in college, I used to work for the Democrats in the Missouri House of Representatives. I lived through a divisive election in 2004. The members of my fraternity were split up 50/50. I can remember one member who had served in a Iraq call me a “liberal pussy” because of my anti-war views. I always chose to ask more questions than preach. I always felt I was not smart enough to solve all the world’s problems. The more I talked with people the better informed I became. I have never ended a friendship because of politics. My roommate and best friend in law school was President of the Federalist Society. Our views on the world and country are very different. I truly believe I am a better person and lawyer because I expose myself to different views.

  7. Nick Lidakis

    It’s a shame that Raomaissaa and her roommate won’t be drinking wine coolers late into the night watching Homeland or 24 and laughing at the silliness of it all. Oh well…

      1. Nick Lidakis

        It’s always gotta be about you and the glory days. You’ll never get confirmed to SCOTUS with that attitude.

        We ♥️ SHG for SCOTUS

  8. Andy A.

    First off, yes, Gilmore Girls is pretty damn deplorable.

    The student’s reaction would have been extreme in almost any other context, but this election was different. I’ve forgiven the Bush voters that I know, as well as the Romney voters. I’ve even gotten over the half-witted mid terms of 2010 and 2014.
    Trump is a bridge too far. There are people that I will never speak to again after this election. Were I a Muslim, I would be actively terrified. I can’t blame Benzizoune for being uncomfortable sharing a room with a Trump supporter. I sure as hell would be uncomfortable sharing a room with an SJW.

    You’re right about the “discussion” trope being played out. The fact of the matter is that the conversation is over. There is no more dialogue to be had, everyone has their opinion, and their preferred echo chamber. No one is changing their stance, so there’s really nothing left to discuss.

    Strangely, my freebie pocket constitution has just the words for a time like this, they start with “When in the course of human Events”.

    1. Keith

      “Strangely, my freebie pocket constitution has just the words for a time like this, they start with “When in the course of human Events”.”


  9. John Neff

    You said the theme emerged that the Dem party no longer represented their values. Since the platform has become irrelevant how would the party know what their values are?

    1. SHG Post author

      They could always look at the platform from when Bill’s first run. We haven’t changed much, despite the 9/11 changed everything trope.

  10. Bill Trumpington

    but the room was devoid of gay and trans people…
    Are you sure? you can’t always tell. Were all present above a certain age and … in the navy [link omitted]

    A lot of the hysteria could be calmed if you let everyone have one vote each, and made it a secret ballot.

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