7 days later

And so here we are in America, seven days on. Seven days since the closing of the polls and the changing of the nation.

The nerves are perhaps still too raw for us to dive deeply into the vast sea of communications insights this presidential election has provided -- which is why we're going to start close to shore and stay near the surface as we look, very narrowly, at how the election's outcome is being framed.

This framing follows two basic narratives, one positive and one negative, each posed as a question: "Why did Trump win?" and "Why did Clinton lose?" As we've mentioned before, "positive" and "negative" framing is intrinsically neutral and in no way synonymous with "good" and "bad", but what's rather remarkable in this case is that both narratives, as popularly presented over the past week, incorporate core elements that are negative but not neutral:

  • The FBI director's decision to re-raise the seemingly settled issue of Hillary Clinton's emails in the waning days of the campaign took the wind out of Clinton's sails;
  • The spread of "fake news" on Facebook and other social media platforms misled many Trump supporters, leading them to believe lies disguised as truths;
  • A certain percentage of Americans carry within them a core of sexism that made it inevitable that "the highest, hardest glass ceiling" in the country would remain unbroken;
  • Trump, like Conrad's Mr. Kurtz, walked with eyes wide open into the heart of darkness that beats inside every human being, but instead of being overwhelmed by it, like Kurtz was, Trump rode the hate and the racism and the xenophobia all the way to the White House.

Are each of these core elements of the two basic narratives factually correct? It seems to us that any unbiased observer of the election would have to answer "yes," to one degree or another.

But that's not the question that we, or you, or our hypothetical unbiased observer should be asking.

We want to point out, again, the intrinsically negative nature of these core elements, regardless of the frame being employed. And with this in mind, we want to ask the question that all of us should be asking:

Are these core elements, and the basic narratives they help form, telling stories that confuse symptoms with causes?

This is the question that moves us away from shore. This is the question that, when we wrestle with its implications and struggle to find its answer, leads to insights in the nebulous space where communications and public policy interweave. This is the question that attempts to find the outcasts, and gather the flock again.

This is the question we'll be returning to in the coming days.

We'll see you soon, in deeper water.