Ugh, Democracy — "It's not about the beer, it's about the beer"

Michael Kiser

In episode one of the GBH podcast, Van Havig from Gigantic Brewing recalled a phrase that he carried with him from his transition from economist to brewer. "It's not about the beer, it's about the beer." He interprets that to mean that people don't just get together to talk about beer. Beer gets people together to talk. 

So let's talk.

America was going to send a message to the increasingly dysfunctional Washington elites one way or another. We all knew this because we saw it on both sides with Trump and Sanders. It was an idea whose time had come.

So we had a choice. Do we send that message paired with a socially progressive—or socially retrograde—messenger? For the first time in my adult life, social issues seemed like they were clearly taking a back seat to the pragmatic concerns of jobs, infrastructure, making things work. Social issues, while always noisy in campaigns, had this time been relegated to the bottom of the list like the pork in a spending bill. Clearly a near-majority was not interested in voting on morality this time around. They treated that discussion like a smokescreen. Like noise. Most of us grew increasingly frustrated that the campaign had nothing to do with the issues. The campaign itself became the issue. And we wanted it over.

When voters entered the booths, they only had one name that represented those practical working-class concerns, however. And that was Trump. Those that voted against him held social values higher than pragmatic concerns. I was one of those. As much as I believed that the pragmatic concerns of our working class were worth a dramatic shift (a'la Sanders), I chose to be patient for at least four more years and protect my friends and neighbors from real, legitimate threats to their well-being, and, by extension, my own. That was my scale. And I voted for Hillary. There were positive reasons I voted for Hillary too, but the primary reason was that she was a shield for the social values I hold dear—the stuff some of my loved ones live or die by.

Others could not be patient. And they chose to gamble with Trump's racist, xenophobic, misogynist rhetoric if it meant they finally had a President who would make a pragmatic change like they've desired for generations. For them, this felt like the chance of a lifetime. And in their view, they weren't going to get it with Clinton, they might have gotten it with Sanders, but most importantly, they might never get it again. Those voters had nothing to protect. In Trump's own words, "What do you have to lose?"

I don't believe those people are racists or misogynists, but I do believe they are willing to tolerate those things to differing degrees in the pursuit of something they see as more fundamentally important. That's not my scale, but I understand their logic. Perhaps they even believe that Trump was full of shit on those topics and still do. Perhaps they trust our government and judicial system to contain him if he was being honest about those things. Or they thought Republican leadership would rein him in and control his force. Either way, they decided it was less important. 

The reason I can't agree with them is that to cast that vote means you're either ignorant of the actual implications of Trump's rhetoric, you have too much faith that the system can protect us (the same system you want to blow up), or you're simply insulated from the results because of your skin color and/or economic status. That's why it wasn't a conscionable vote for me. Because we don't even need Trump to personally do anything at this point. The goons in the streets will do it for him with his implied blessing, and that will ignite the violent tendencies in everyone, not just the deplorables who support Trump for the wrong reasons. That's the source of my fear.

I mourn today as a necessary Clinton supporter, along with many conflicted or hesitant Trump voters, that we didn't have an alternative candidate that represented all the critical needs that our nation clearly articulated. We were divided up and played against each other, and as a result, victory was narrow and conflicted and likely will never actually feel like victory for the majority of us. It was a dangerous gamble. And I think most of us lost. Because given status quo or change, America will, in my experience, always vote change—whether it's qualified with hope, or fury.

Regardless of your political choices in this election, I hope we can all agree that our civil liberties are fundamental to being American. In that vein, GBH is donating to the American Civil Liberties Union, and we encourage you to do the same. 

—Michael Kiser (talk to me @mpkiser)