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Pretending that “apathetic” voters carried Trump to victory

by | Nov 17, 2016

By Dave Andrusko

trump-vic  Driving in this morning, I heard parts of a broadcast in which the soon-to-be-retired host of The Diane Rehm Show was talking with filmmaker Ken Burns about  “Documenting The American Experience.”

Since Rehm is not only predictably pro-abortion, anti-Republican, and pro-euthanasia by way of starvation, you could have predicted she’ll roll out Burns to hammer Donald Trump. The summary at the top of Rehm’s webpage asserts, “This year, after decades of remaining mostly quiet on partisan politics, Burns also raised his voice in protest of now president-elect Trump.”

This is absurd–the notion that Donald Trump’s candidacy caused Burns to break out his partisan colors. He’s been reliably Democratic in all his utterances for decades.

Why do I mention the interview at all? And what does it have to do with “apathetic” voters.  Because of an exchange they had in response to a listener’s question about how better to teach history to children.

Burns begins by telling us history is mostly made up of  “hi” and a “story.” Cute.

If you remember that the way human beings communicate to one another is with stories, we live in a complex, overwhelming universe that seems chaotic and random. And what we do is we tell stories to one another. We superimpose the frame of a narrative. …

What we do is we edit human experience, the seeming random chaos of events, and we put a frame around it. Sometimes it’s the artist’s frame, sometimes it’s the storyteller’s frame. But we put a frame around it and that’s what we have to do with our kids.

Burns’ point is you organize your material. Rather than merely  providing one “fact” after another, you “tell” the story by imposing order on events that seem “chaotic and random” by use of a “frame.”

But the obvious cautionary observation is what if your “frame” not only “edits” out everything that doesn’t further your “narrative,” your story also treats one side as the equivalent of a damsel in distress and the other side as an unqualified, villainous thug?

To the Diane Rehms and Ken Burnses of this world, there is an urgency to find as many ways as possible to reach a “not guilty” verdict on Hillary Clinton’s assorted misbehaviors and announce “off with his[Donald Trump’s] head” for real and imaginary behavior.

A related thought. There have been a cacophony of explanations for why President-elect Trump won last week. AOL cranked out a story today, the gist of which was Trump prevailed because he did much better among “apathetic” voters.

You couldn’t get a better example of “framing.”

The voters whom AOL’s Christina Gregg calls apathetic were anything but.  These nearly one in five voters were genuinely conflicted, not having a favorable opinion of either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, according to Gregg’s reading of Edison Research exit poll data.

“This 1-in-5 voter is the demographic that broke strongly for Trump, 49 percent to 29 percent,” she tells us.

In fact  they broke considerably more so in several key swing states.


States           “Neithers “       Trump          Clinton

Wisconsin      22%                  60%               23%

PA                 17%                  56%               31%

Michigan      20%                  50%               29%

Florida           14%                  61%               24%

NC                 15%                  63%               28%

If someone is not motivated to vote for either candidate, but stays with the process until they do make a decision, this is civic engagement on a high level, not apathy.

And to attribute Trump’s victory to “apathetic” voters is both demonstrably misleading and biased to the hilt.

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