4 Harsh Truths Donald Trump Taught Me by Winning the 2016 Election

Donald Trump won the 2016 United States Presidential Election.

I didn’t think he would win, and I don’t think he deserves to. Not after he’s demonstrated himself to be a racist, sexist, name-calling bully. He’s also been accused of fraud and sexual assault. Not someone you’d want to be the leader of your country right?


America chose, and they chose Donald Trump.

You’re probably shocked that he won. But I’m not here to explain why or how he did. (If you’re interested, you can read about that here, here and here.)

Instead, I’m here to share personal lessons that I’ve learned from his surprising win.

None of this is new. Most of what you’ll read here has already been covered by writers who know a lot more about politics than me. But I think these truths are important enough for me to rewrite in my own words.

These are the four harsh truths I learned from Trump’s recent victory.


1. All of Us Live in Bubbles

If you’re like me, you consider yourself a decent, rational citizen. Sure, you agree there’s some space for different opinions — but you believe in a basic moral code that society should follow. Your family and friends believe in this code too — that’s how you know you’re a rational person.

The thing is — if all the people surrounding you believe in the same things as you — it’s very easy to start thinking that everyone else thinks the same way too. I like to call it a bubble: we see and understand the world based on things that happen within our own bubbles. We think the world outside our bubbles is exactly the same as inside.

It doesn’t help that social media is designed to show you more of what you already like. For example, if you’re the type that Likes topless guys dancing to Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen videos, you can be sure that more weird PPAP videos will show up on your timeline.

So we end up in a cycle of reinforcement: I think Trump sucks; all my friends think Trump sucks; so I keep seeing articles telling me Trump sucks. Now I think he sucks even more.

(BTW, Jamal Yunos sucks.)

Before the US elections last week, it seemed there was no way Hillary Clinton was going to lose. All the “reputable” publications were painting Donald Trump as a joke, and predicting that Hillary would win.

But when Trump won, everyone realized that these publications had been living in their own bubbles. And all the people who lost had to deal with something frightening: “How could Donald Trump win when everyone knows he’s a racist bigot?”

What happens when “weird” new information forces its way into our bubbles?

You can either choose to shut that information out; look for excuses and bounce it off the thick wall of your bubble. Or you can let that information in, expand your bubble — and learn something new.


(Ugh… Still more handsome than Jamal Yunos)


2. Sorry, Life Isn’t Black and White

Politicians like to paint life in absolute choices. For example:

Donald Trump: “If you want change, vote for me! (p.s. Hillary Clinton is a lying snake who takes money from Wall Street companies.)”

Hillary Clinton: “If you’re a decent person, vote for me! (p.s. Donald Trump is a racist, sexist bastard.)”

The same thing happens in movies too; they make it simple: you’re either mostly good or bad. And if you’re one of those interesting half-good, half-bad characters — you get killed before the director has to figure out what to do with you.

(Confession: I do this all the time in my writing too. To make points clear, I often simplify things till it becomes a simple choice.)

But the reality is not so simple. Life isn’t so simple.

Is everyone who votes for a racist leader also a racist? What about everyone who votes for a cheater? We’re such complex people in such a complex world, that the answer is surely more difficult than “Yes” or “No.” Maybe it’s “I know he’s a bad person, but I still voted for him because…”

I wish that things were as easy as the movies. That we’d always have an option that is the absolute right decision. But despite what politicians say, life doesn’t usually give us simple choices. In the end, we sometimes have to choose the lesser of two evils, and pray that things turn out well.


3. Everyone’s Angry About Something

In case you’ve been living in a fantasy bubble, people everywhere are angry.

It’s ironic, because if you look at things from a historical perspective — we live in the most peaceful, prosperous time in human history. Zoom down into individual people’s lives though — and you start to see it.

Poor people are angry because they’re barely surviving, and the rising cost of living is killing them. Middle-class people are angry because their dreams of nice houses, big cars and good jobs are disappearing. And the elite rich? I’m guessing they’re angry that everyone wants to raise taxes on them, take away their money, and give it to lazy commoners like me.

For this US election, it seems like an entire segment of the population was angry about getting ignored: the working-class people. The people who work in factories and coal mines; tired of seeing slimy Wall Street companies getting government bailouts. So like their British Brexit friends, they sent a “F*ck You” message to the government.


Picture of farmer
“F*ck you and your Frappuccino.”


BTW if you’re a Malaysian, you’d better listen up — because this isn’t too different from what’s happening over here.

As you’re bitching about how corrupt our politicians are while sipping ice-blended Frappuccino with your middle-class colleagues, understand that the majority of your countrymen have never even stepped into Starbucks before. And it’s hard for them to care about fluffy things like “openness,” “transparency” and “sustainability” when they work 16 hours a day and their children are still hungry.

Everyone’s angry about something, and they have the right to be.

It’s a problem when you disappear into your bubble and think everyone else should be angry about the same things as you.

But if you listen and help address what people are angry about, suddenly you have power…


4. Maybe You’re Wrong

If you asked me for the one reason why I wanted Trump to lose, it’d be this:

My moral compass tells me that to be a leader of a nation; a president — someone needs to be a decent, moral person.

And because he’s not, Trump doesn’t deserve to be president.

I thought that the majority of Americans would feel the same way. And maybe they do, but Trump still won the election. I was wrong.

I thought the majority of people would think standing against racism is more important than having traditional jobs. Apparently I was wrong here too.

We’re all wrong about some things, but could it be that I’m actually wrong about most things? Even things that I believed to be absolute truths…

Like, if the self-proclaimed champion of democracy (the fairest, most elegant government system right?); the USA; can elect someone like Donald Trump, then is democracy itself a flawed concept?

I don’t know. But the final hard truth this election has taught me is that I need to question more. Maybe there’s still a lot for me and you to learn.

Because ultimately, it is not faith that we are infallible; that we know everything that brings us forward. It’s the ability to acknowledge that we sometimes get it wrong. Very Wrong. It’s the ability to question our deepest beliefs, analyze our failures, and improve ourselves to get back up.

It is proving ourselves, by first testing if we need to be disproved.

Then maybe we could fix things. Together.


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  • Hitler got elected in a democratic vote. All systems have it flaws. And the same a**holes who shot down MH17 are now being revealed as culprits in manipulating social media (really just Facebook) through false information to exacerbate the bubbles that Trump’s voters & Hillary non-voters (Bernie Sanders supporters) lived in. Voting machines might even have been hacked.

  • What can be worse than what currently it is?

    For decades, these politicians can promise the sky, but things get worser and worser? Hillary represents the establishment, so another of the same? Trump gives a fresh perspectives? So what he is a racist, molestors, everything a politician should not be? Well he is not a politician but a businessman? Anyway who gives a damn!

    Even if a monkey is the President, what harm can it do to make it worse already? You nominate a dog , IT will still be elected! That’s how angry the electrorates can be today. Look at Brexit, Duterte, and others.

    • Yeah, it’s definitely the sentiment of the season: anger. I was just surprised by the scale of it in the USA. And by a lot of measures, things have improved economically for people in the USA during Obama’s time. Maybe just not for White blue-collar workers. Hmmm…

  • I think it’s more or less the same thing of what’s happening in Malaysia. The people who live in the urban area, live,breathe and expose to ‘pop culture’, self-perceived intellectual and civilized human beings were all rooting for Hillary Clinton and that includes the media which most HQs are in the so-called ‘urban area’. Therefore, we all thought Hillary would win.

    However, people often forget those working-class people who are so busy trying to stay alive in the crazy cost of living while making the top 1% richer every year do not have the time to be ‘pop cultured’ on social media etc and having someone to address their primary concerns despite how racist and sexist he is, seems like a better choice for them.

    Hence, I agreed with your article.

    • Yeah, it’s quite sad to see. Syahredzan Johan retweeted something I really liked recently: “Activists, political people in Malaysia have long realised that there is a great urban-rural divide. They just don’t know how to bridge it.”

  • An interesting and analytical point of view.

    I also feel that this scene is very applicable in Malaysia or life in general. Everyone lives in their own bubble.
    Polls do tell a story and the numbers cannot be ignored… in this case – a marginal difference, and nothing can change that.. Unless everyone is really in a dire and similar situation in need of change. Only then we will see a significant difference in the vote count. For now at least.. we can say that the majority of Americans decided to give Trump a try to see what he can do

    I’ve also done a different take on why Trump won that election https://youtu.be/mlGRavLYxv0 . Do have a look if you are free.


    • Thanks Keong for your comment and dropping by.

      I like the concept of your YouTube channel. Anyway, based on the popular vote, Hillary Clinton would have won. But Trump hacked their Electoral system brilliantly. Again, not too different from how BN lost the popular vote in our last election, but still won overall.

      • Yeah! Been dropping by a few times now because there are many good reads on your blog!
        How much time do you usually spend on a post? Looks like you’ve put much thought in most of them.
        Please keep up the good work man

        • Thanks man. Hope you come back for more. And please let me know if you have any suggestions.

          I probably spend 5-7 hours on each post on average. Longer for some of the more extensive pieces. 🙂

  • Its a bulletproof election. Racist, sexist & bastard. It sounds like an ordinary man from Wall Street company. Its forgivable. Another one message is stealing money+no change is okay. On the other hand, Trump message is well delivered. ‘Difference and more benefits for women’. Most voters will decide based on emotional to vote, especially women. When the scandals are released, Trump said “they are not against me, they are against you”. Deliberately, he seems superior. Nobody cares anymore what decent represent. Its different now than it is back then when the voters vote for Obama. But hey , both have in common. They both promise a change which Hillary couldn’t. That’s how I know he would win.

    • Hmmm… not sure I follow your train of thought here Yana. I think most people would agree that (before the election), Hillary’s position seemed vastly superior to Trump’s.

      • Sorry. try to read it backward. :-p joking. Somehow I wasn’t convinced at all. people are so angry with hillary and the government at the first place. dont they?

        • I think people always have a rebellious streak against authority. I was just surprised that their “anti-establishment anger” was more than their fear of a racist, sexist, and some say fascist person becoming President.

  • Imho, democracy is definitely a flawed concept. Never mind the average IQ of the average voter, you’ve also gotta consider the tyranny of the majority… “Democracy is two coyotes and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.” – John T. Wenders

    Having said that, I still can’t think of a better alternative. 😛

    • Yup, that’s the big question. What’s a superior alternative? The USA system is more of a Republic than a true democracy — a lot of checks in place — but as can’t be that good either if Donald Trump can get elected!

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