Opinion | Jon Garelick

A divided country and other myths from the 2016 election hangover

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump during their second debate in October 2016.
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump during their second debate in October 2016. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

As predictable as it was pathetic, there was the lead headline in Sunday’s New York Times: “Divided Nation Set To Deliver Trump Verdict.”

Divided how, exactly? I’m not the first person to point this out, but in fact the opposite is true. When it comes to the trampoline of cultural issues that Trump and his minions love to jump up and down on, the country is vastly undivided: Sixty-nine percent of Americans oppose overturning Roe V. Wade. By a two-thirds majority, Americans support tougher gun laws. Sixty-two percent support marriage equality. And 69 percent, according to a Pew Research Center poll, “are very or somewhat sympathetic toward immigrants who are in the United States illegally.”


The “divided nation” is one of several myths that are being suffered like a bad hangover from the 2016 election. There are at least three others — myths that have somehow turned “Trump’s base” (in fact, an aggrieved minority) into a supermajority in the minds of media pundits and masochistic liberals who feel guilty for not listening to “the Trump voter.”

Here are a few other myths proffered by those who just can’t stop talking about how the Democrats are screwing up.

1. Trump’s victory was fueled by low-income voters, especially whites without a college education. This particular fiction has been debunked time and again. A June 2017 Washington Post story found that from the primaries and through to the general election, “among white people without college degrees who voted for Trump, nearly 60 percent were in the top half of the income distribution.” In fact, it’s been credibly argued that the biggest common denominator among Trump voters is not income, but race.


2. Hillary Clinton was a weak candidate. Well, actually, no. Do you remember how convincingly she slammed Trump in all three of their nationally televised debates? Or how her popularity, which fluctuated for years, was riding a high at the time she declared her candidacy (surpassed only by that of her husband and Pope Francis)? To defeat her, it took what Rebecca Solnit called “an unholy cabal” of bad actors, about whom we continue to learn. (Thank you, Robert Mueller.) If Clinton was such a crappy candidate, how was she able to win the popular vote by nearly three million, a spread of more than 2 percentage points? As The New York Times reported, that’s a wider margin than “not only Al Gore in 2000 but also Richard Nixon in 1968 and John F. Kennedy in 1960.”

Of course, there were also those e-mails. Something a lot of people in the press couldn’t stop talking about (Thank you, Maureen Dowd), because they somehow think their job is to say what they think other people think rather than what’s true — as Charles Taylor wrote in these pages, “an approach which decline[s] to say in what case distrust was matched by actual duplicity.”

Anyway, let’s keep harping on the “divided nation” — and, while we’re at it: those e-mails! Benghazi! “Pocahontas”! These are the kinds of fictions that make candidates less trustworthy (or even likable) than a man who brags that he can sexually assault women because he’s famous. And that apparently makes them less likable or trustworthy than a president who is now happy to let militia lynch mobs rush to the border, to enforce his policy, without comment.


Oh, almost forgot Myth No. 3: Trump won. See No. 2.

Happy Election Day, everyone!

Jon Garelick is a member of the Gl0be editorial board. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jgarelick.