Election 2016, Part 1: Trump Wins. How?
Folks have been asking for my thoughts on this election, probably anticipating thundering hammers of prosaic smack talk or “I told you so!” gloating. If that’s what you expect, you are going to be disappointed, so stop here and go chew happily on some caramel candy. If you expected fast reaction “insta-punditry” catering to ten-second attention spans, it already is obvious by the passed time of thoughtful reflection that your wish will not come true. However, I respect the intellect of my audience, and unlike some disturbingly melodramatic Hillary supporters I’ve seen, I have confidence you can cope with some temporal delay to process this mess in a more deliberate manner.
Issues this weighty don’t deserve an “insta-pundit”, and if you have read anything of the sort, flush it down the toilet, because no such elaboration can be delivered with credibility of analysis, nor careful consideration to the forces at work here. Hell, even after over a week, there is far too much to examine to do this situation justice. “Insta-punditry” is for shallow, simpleminded fools. Read this slowly: it takes time.
Now, some time has passed — probably still not enough. Here is what I have digested and processed so far, standing off to the side of the partisanship this cycle, and observing the foolishness foisted by both sides.
First, “President-elect Trump”. Damn, that sounds bizarre, even after over a week to get accustomed. I didn’t think it was possible. I believed that his awful campaigning and oratorical abilities, and the shameless selling out of most media for the Clintons, combined with the usual small but potentially meaningful number of voting improprieties, would ensure her victory, if by narrow margins. I was dead wrong. I take no pride in the other things I said that have come true, while also fully admitting I did not anticipate this result. As noted above, I thought the Clintons and their machine, combined with The Donald’s own disturbingly self-immolation tendencies, would halt his best effort to grab the working-class votes in key states, thereby inflicting upon us her brand of banana-republic rule.
Wrong. [Take note: when I am wrong, I damn-well admit it!] Instead we’ll get Trump’s own brand of banana-republic tomfoolery, which has begun in his highly disappointing selection of fringe nutjobs, Washington political insiders, and Wall Street oligarchs — the very people he seemed to oppose throughout the process. Trump is betraying you already, fellow conservatives who voted for him, and don’t say I did not warn you of this. He is not conservative, and has no integrity.
There was no self-interest on being right about him. I couldn’t stand the idea of a Clinton II presidency either, for reasons that I won’t elaborate more than briefly below, as they are now moot. The thought of Trump in the White House, while marginally better in some ways such as the higher probability of a conservative Supreme Court for many years beyond the coming presidential term, was (and remains) frightening for the sake of safety from both nuclear war and Big Brother intrusion into private lives. Plus, the guy has behaved in reprehensibly irresponsible and immoral ways.
As I’ve promised for months, and firmly held through the voting process, I voted third-party at the top of the ticket (for the first time in my life!), then true to form, the most conservative candidates at every position on down. In summary, I selected neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump due to:
- The Clintons’ inconsistency with issues, inattention to national debt and domestic spying, untrustworthiness, dishonesty, corruption, blind ambition, ruthlessness, cunning, cold-bloodedness, corporate globalism, audience-pandering, inauthenticity, greed, pretension, grossly insulting words toward segments of opponents (more below), willingness to stomp on whomever they could to gain power, and overall personal immorality and lack of professional ethics.
- Trump’s inconsistency with issues, inattention to national debt and domestic spying, untrustworthiness, dishonesty, corruption, blind ambition, ruthlessness, impulsiveness, carnival-barking idiocy, lack of even temperament, incoherence, impracticality, greed, pretension, grossly insulting words toward segments of society, willingness to stomp on whomever he could to gain power, and overall personal immorality and lack of professional ethics.
Wow, they really weren’t all that different after all, were they? No wonder they were the two most unpopular candidates in history in several polls. Personally, I found both candidates so repugnant, so loathsome, so bereft of personal and professional morals and integrity, that to pick either was thoroughly unconscionable.
Yet Trump somehow came across to just barely enough people, in just the right states to get Electoral College advantage, as being a little less evil than Hillary, a little more sympathetic to the commoner. That was important, or as he would say, “bigly” and “yuge”. What else happened?
I won’t waste time to explore a thousand speculative avenues here, because the answer logically is straightforward and should be clear to anyone paying attention. Bottom line: Trump won the Electoral College by flipping Rust Belt industrial states that went for Obama four years prior. In short, he somehow turned a lot of Obama voters into Trump voters.
Or did Obama himself turn his own voters into Trump voters through his own actions and failings? Valid question! Think about that.
This table from NPR reveals the game changer, in stark numbers:
THOSE WITHOUT A COLLEGE DEGREE IN INDUSTRIAL NORTH MINNESOTA 2012: 53% of electorate, 52-46 Obama 2016: 44% of electorate, 55-38 Trump (net gain: R+23) WISCONSIN 2012: 58% of electorate, 51-47 Obama 2016: 55% of electorate, 56-40 Trump (net gain: R+20) IOWA 2012: 57% of electorate, 52-46 Obama 2016: 57% of electorate, 54-40 Trump (net gain: R+20) MICHIGAN 2012: 54% of electorate, 56-43 Obama 2016: 58% of electorate, 49-45 Trump (net gain: R+17) OHIO 2012: 60% of electorate, 53-46 Obama 2016: 56% of electorate, 51-45 Trump (net gain: R+13) PENNSYLVANIA 2012: 52% of electorate, 57-42 Obama 2016: 52% of electorate, 52-45 Trump (net gain: R+12)
In more detail, NPR claims that Clinton effectively lost nearly 5 million votes that went to Obama and Trump effectively kept Romney’s. [This is numerical, in bulk, not the same individual voters of course!] Simply keeping Obama’s black-voter total from 2012 would have won her Michigan and Wisconsin. She obviously failed to inspire that level of support. This is squarely on her, though Obama’s festering disaster of a presidency did her no favors.
No, I declare firmly, it wasn’t just “bigots, racists and homophobes” that made the difference, as the left likes to claim with glib self-righteousness. Rather inconveniently for their arguments, a lot of the same blue-collar, ex-union (or even current union, if still employed) industrial workers who used to pull a rote vote for Democrats, as demanded by their labor leaders, have gotten laid off, denied economically the promise of the nation’s founding right to pursue happiness, and flipped Republican. Many of them voted for Obama; and one does not vote for a dark-skinned man with a middle name of Hussein if one is racist in America.
As a final nail in the coffin of the false narrative that bigotry was the reason for Trump’s success, please slowly and carefully consider this story of a left-wing, dark-skinned, Muslim, immigrant, woman voter who picked Trump. She was not an isolated instance either, even if her combination of typically Democrat-voting characteristics was rather unusual for a Trumpling.
Trump carried a higher share of minority and blue-collar votes than Romney. Had the latter not run such a squishy campaign, nor come across as a distant and detached rich oligarch, we would be entering the second term of President Mitt right now. Instead we have another rich oligarch who is pretending not to be distant and detached, but who will sell out to assimilate into the very same Borg he claimed to be fighting.
So much of this was a backlash to a backlash to a backlash too, as I have pointed out before regarding the last midterms. Thanks a lot, Mitt. Thanks a lot, Obama. Thanks a lot, W, a good man who was terribly misled. Thanks a lot, Slick Willie the sexual predator. Thanks a lot, President Read My (Lyin’) Lips, a good man who learned too late not to make promises he couldn’t keep.
Enough of the logistical, logical answer, let’s look at the emotional one, because (sadly) emotion plays a role in this too. Hillary truly lost this election the moment she callously referred to Trump voters as a “ basket of deplorables“. Never mind that she was talking about the (smaller than the 50% “half of” that she thinks) fraction of them who are racist or sexist, the perceptions was that she was insulting anyone even considering a Trump vote. That included a lot of women, as well as a surprisingly large minority of minorities. “Deplorables”, all — in a world where, too often, perception is reality.
This was her version of Romney’s “47% moment“, but worse. This is because she had the bulk of corporate mass media blatantly and unapologetically on her side, and still couldn’t overcome a great gaffe that (unlike Romney’s) her legions of fawning “journalistic” sycophants were trying to ignore or gloss over as trivial. It was the same short-fused, shortsighted, ignorant intemperance that led her to refer to Bernie Sanders supporters as “basement dwellers” — a needless insult which many of them did not forgive.
Collectively, bigger mistakes seldom have been made in electoral politics at this level, in one campaign. You do not, I repeat, DO NOT, insult both your opponent’s supporters and doubters on your side that you hope to bring into the fold! She paid the price. Because of how revolting her opponent was to so many people, and despite her own nearly-as-bad level of disapproval in polls, this election was hers to lose. In a close game, team Hillary’s quarterback then fumbled the ball to Team Trump inside the one-yard line with first down and seconds to go, no Trump timeouts, in a scenario where all she had to do was kneel down on the field and it’s game over. Team Trump returned it for a touchdown with no time left. Unfortunately, in a game between these two, we all lose, regardless of the winner.