I am not prepared to make portentous pronouncements about the election results, as I’m not a political analyst, and other people have already begun masticating the results to death. The consensus about why there was an outcome that so many (including me) see as disastrous for the U.S. seems to be that the strength and feelings of the disaffected white middle class weren’t appreciated by either the Left or by the press, and weren’t picked up by the polls. Those people who predicted a Trump victory, like Michael Moore or Andrew Sullivan, now look prescient. If you want to feel really gloomy, read what Sullivan says now, viz.:
This is now Trump’s America. He controls everything from here on forward. He has won this campaign in such a decisive fashion that he owes no one anything. He has destroyed the GOP and remade it in his image. He has humiliated the elites and the elite media. He has embarrassed every pollster and naysayer. He has avenged Obama. And in the coming weeks, Trump will not likely be content to bask in vindication. He will seek unforgiving revenge on those who dared to oppose him. The party apparatus will be remade in his image. The House and Senate will fail to resist anything he proposes — and those who speak up will be primaried into oblivion. The Supreme Court may well be shifted to the far right for more than a generation to come — with this massive victory, he can pick a new Supreme Court justice who will make Antonin Scalia seem like a milquetoast. He will have a docile, fawning Congress for at least four years. We will not have an administration so much as a court.
But hope fades in turn when you realize how absolute and total his support clearly is. His support is not like that of a democratic leader but of a cult leader fused with the idea of the nation. If he fails, as he will, he will blame others, as he always does. And his cult followers will take their cue from him and no one else. “In Trump We Trust,” as his acolyte Ann Coulter titled her new book. And so there will have to be scapegoats — media institutions, the Fed, the “global conspiracy” of bankers and Davos muckety-mucks he previewed in his rankly anti-Semitic closing ad, rival politicians whom he will demolish by new names of abuse, foreign countries and leaders who do not cooperate, and doubtless civilians who will be targeted by his ranks of followers and demonized from the bully pulpit itself. The man has no impulse control and massive reserves of vengeance and hatred. In time, as his failures mount, the campaigns of vilification will therefore intensify. They will have to.
Personally, I am of course shocked and immensely saddened. I trusted the polls and confidently predicted a Clinton victory, and bet money that she’d win. I was wrong. What bothers me almost as much as Trump’s victory is the vitriol I’m getting in both comments (the really nasty ones don’t go up) and personal emails, excoriating me for being responsible for Trump’s victory. I am told that by calling attention to Hillary’s flaws, I helped pave the path to a Trump win, as if somehow we should not point out the weaknesses of our candidates. On the other hand, I’m told that because I voted for a flawed candidate in the primary and final election, I also helped enable the Trump victory. (No matter that I voted for Bernie Sanders in the Illinois primary election.)
It’s as if people, like a bull in a corrida wounded by a picador, are casting about looking for someone to attack as retribution for their pain, and everybody has their favorite scapegoat. But me? Seriously? I am one individual among millions, and one who voted for Clinton. Spewing venom at your friendly host, however satisfying it may be for you, is both rude and misguided. But to those with whom I confidently bet that Clinton would win, I was wrong, I will pay off, and perhaps I should have taken more seriously your fears of a Trump victory.
But who could have known? As many did, I trusted the polls. The polls were wrong. Why? I don’t know. Some analysts say that people weren’t willing to admit they were for Trump. Others say that the working class electorate wasn’t properly polled because they had unlisted cellphones. But is that really the case for working class people?
Others, like the New York Times‘s Jim Rutenberg, blame the press, saying they missed the Big Story because they relied too much on either the polls or their liberal bias, and didn’t exercise due diligence:
In an earlier column, I quoted the conservative writer Rod Dreher as saying that most journalists were blind to their own “bigotry against conservative religion, bigotry against rural folks, and bigotry against working class and poor white people.”
Whatever the election result, you’re going to hear a lot from news executives about how they need to send their reporters out into the heart of the country, to better understand its citizenry.
But sending reporters out into the heart of the country produces anecdotes, not data showing national sentiment about the candidates. For that you need some kind of accurate polling about how people intended to vote. And maybe that’s not possible, especially if people lie. But listening to someone rant about immigrants in a Detroit diner isn’t taking “the pulse of the nation.”
Other people blame liberals for Trump’s loss—and on several grounds. We are told that we ran a flawed candidate who was too “establishment” and couldn’t begin to address the woes of working-class whites. That might indeed be the case: I remember when early polls—polls again!—said that Sanders had a better chance of beating Trump than did Clinton. But when I called attention to the problematic nature of Clinton, I was told in so many words to shut up—that she was a great and experienced candidate, and that criticizing her played into the hands of Trump.
Who knows? What I do know is that this election was not a referendum on or a rejection of the status quo. The status quo is the Obama Administration; and that was doing as well as it could despite Republican opposition. Obama’s approval rating was high, and he was hardly a “career politician” or a “Washington insider.”. If there was a “status quo” that people opposed, it was not Obama but Hillary Clinton and the thought of a Clinton dynasty.
One thing that does ring true is that the demonization of the Other Side by the Left (prime example: the Huffington Post) was not only divisive, but promoted a Trump victory. As Grania observed in her last post, demonizing the opponent doesn’t win elections. Understanding your opponents, and confecting a rational response to their flaws, seems a better strategy:
“You know,” Clinton said to a friendly crowd of wealthy donors this weekend, “to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it.”
. . . she likely drove people right into the Trump camp. As Grania noted, many of those who voted for Trump did so not because they were themselves xenophobes or misogynists, but in spite of Trump’s xenophobia and misogyny. The continuing clam that this election shows that misogynists and racists won will only continue the divisions in our country.
But do we really want to heal those divisions, as Trump—probably disingenuously—claimed in his victory speech? No, I don’t. I deplore the ideology of the Republicans and their agenda for this country. I don’t want to make common cause with Republicans. No, I don’t want to call the right-wingers and Trump-ites names, but I am prepared to battle their ideology in a way I haven’t done since the Sixties, up to and including civil disobedience. Back then, demonstrating in favor of civil rights and against war (issues likely to arise again), I was arrested, chased off campus by state police, and active in the streets. I think that, as this country begins to come apart, we may once again have to man the barricades.
As Andrew Sullivan said:
I see no way to stop this at first, but some of us will have to try. And what we must seek to preserve are the core institutions that he may threaten — the courts, first of all, even if he shifts the Supreme Court to an unprecedentedly authoritarian-friendly one. Then the laws governing the rules of war, so that war crimes do not define America as their disavowal once did. Then the free press, which he will do all he can to intimidate and, if possible, bankrupt. Then the institutions he will have to destroy to achieve what he wants — an independent Department of Justice as one critical bulwark, what’s left of the FBI that will not be an instrument of his reign of revenge, our scientific institutions, and what’s left of free thought in our colleges and universities. We will need to march peacefully on the streets to face down the massive intimidation he will at times present to a truly free and open society. We have to hold our heads up high as we defend the values of the old republic, even as it crumbles into authoritarian dust. We must be prepared for nonviolent civil disobedience. We must transcend racial and religious division in a movement of resistance that is as diverse and as open as the new president’s will be uniform and closed.
Amen. May Ceiling Cat preserve our Republic.
Lagniappe: A German newspaper, which appears to be real, hedged its bets above and below the fold: