The revolution was televised after all


Well, that was a long night. The surprise of the result has still not worn off for me and I am still trying to digest the news and the future implications. One issue that will be of interest is why the polls were so wrong, with the one exception of the Los Angeles Times that was the only one that predicted a Donald Trump lead in the final days. Another topic of discussion will be how Trump ignored much of the conventional wisdom of campaigning and won anyway. But those are issues of interest mostly to academics and the media. The questions that concern me are what drove the Trump win and where the country goes now.

It is clear that this was a major anti-establishment vote. Trump was opposed by most of the major players in the political, media, and business establishments, even those that traditionally supported Republicans. Hillary Clinton could not shake off being seen as part of the establishment even within the Democratic party, not that she tried that hard, and suffered for it.

But what do the Trump voters want from the person they elected and how much can he give them? Trump’s message on domestic issues was inchoate and often contradictory. But there are some things that he repeated that stick out in my mind: building the wall with Mexico, deporting all the 12 million or so undocumented immigrants, jailing Hillary Clinton, cutting the deficit, repealing Obamacare, stopping (or at last drastically reducing) the numbers of Muslims entering the country, halting the refugee resettlement program, renegotiating the TPP and other trade agreements, and bringing manufacturing jobs that were shipped overseas back into the country.

His foreign policy goals were vague. Loosening the alliances with other nations and getting NATO allies to pay more was the main one. He may succeed there. He says that he will defeat ISIS but since they were already on the decline, that may happen over time anyway even if he does nothing. What he will do with the Iran deal could be the sticking point. It is also unclear what he plans to do to extricate the US from the general mess that it helped create in the Middle East. His audiences did not seem to much care about foreign policy issues and he seemed to bring them up mainly as examples of the incompetence of American negotiators, so even if he does nothing in that area, his supporters may shrug it off. On the other hand, his vision of making America great that so appealed to his voters was premised on dominating other nations and he cannot afford to look too weak.

It is on the domestic promises that his voters will expect him to deliver and the question is what they expect him to do, what they will settle for, and how long they will wait to get it. He appealed to them using the ‘strong man’ trope, as someone who by sheer force can sweep aside all obstacles to achieving his will. He promised them big things and they clearly expect him to deliver. Given that Republicans also control the US Senate and House of Representatives, he will have little excuse for not delivering on his promises. Given his penchant for saying what appeals to his audience at any time and then making up stuff to justify it, we can expect more extravagant promises in the future.

While I am a generally optimistic person, I see dark days ahead. What is of concern to me is that Trump campaigned with a strong streak of misogyny, nativism, xenophobia, xenophobia, bigotry, and racism. This does not mean that all the people who voted for him share those values but many undoubtedly were willing to at least give him a pass on them and some were undoubtedly attracted by that undercurrent. That latter group will feel validated by the results and this will likely lead to considerable ugliness especially in the near future, the way that immigrant groups were openly harassed in the UK following the Brexit vote by those who felt that winning the vote gave them the license to do so. In the US, the ugliness will extend well beyond immigrant groups and include anyone who was seen as opposing Trump, and the most easily identifiable ones are the people of color.

Comments

  1. sonofrojblake says

    why the polls were so wrong

    Four words: conservatives lie to pollsters. It need not be any more complicated than that. Conservatives are, on some level, conscious that their views are something to be ashamed of – so they lie about them. Then they get into a polling place, where they can vote in secret, and they say what they really mean. You want more accurate polls? Stop insulting and shaming conservatives. I won’t hold my breath.

    how Trump ignored much of the conventional wisdom of campaigning and won anyway

    Four more words: the conventional wisdom is wrong. It pretends policies matter. It pretends people vote rationally. It pretends people care about other people and abstractions more than they care about themselves and their families. And it pretends that certain groups of people can be relied upon a certain way regardless of what you say to or about them, and regardless of whether you actually do anything for them.

    Today is the 27th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It’s not unreasonable to point to that day as the day communism died. It kicked a bit, but from that moment it was over.

    Today is the day neoliberalism dies. Making out you’re on the left while cosying up to banks, appealing to working people while signing free trade agreements that export their jobs, making all the right noises about being progressive while perpetuating unwinnable foreign wars that cost the lives and health of lower-class Americans – all that hypocritical stuff has been rejected. I just hope the Democrats get the memo, and don’t field another neo-liberal candidate (or Bod forbid Hillary again) in four years. By all accounts, they could have nominated literally anyone else to oppose Trump and walked the election. Instead they ignored the grassroots, insisted it was Hillary’s turn, and here we are.

  2. Dunc says

    Four words: conservatives lie to pollsters. It need not be any more complicated than that.

    They don’t even need to lie, they just need to decline to answer at higher rates.

  3. says

    By all accounts, they could have nominated literally anyone else to oppose Trump and walked the election.

    I think you’re wrong. The people who voted for Trump did so because they wanted to. They like him. That’s their preferred candidate. Clinton even won the popular vote, so it’s not as if she had a poor turnout.

    We all need to get to grips with the simple fact that a large portion of the population are bigoted, totalitarian shitheads. It’s not a mistake. They’re not ignorant. They’re voting for what they want.

  4. mnb0 says

    “But what do the Trump voters want from the person they elected and how much can he give them?”
    What they want is The Donald keeping up his appearance of being anti-establishment. If he can will the interesting issue – it’s a lot harder when you’re in the White House.

    “his vision of making America great ”
    This is an essential part of his image. So he will ignore problems his voters do not care for and act violently if he (they) perceive direct threats.

    “he will have little excuse for not delivering on his promises”
    You’re mistaken here. You forget that The Donald is not the party candidate. Given the rows and scandals he will always be able to frame the Senators and Representatives as part of the establishment, who do everything to thwart him.
    One group that will suffer next four years is the blacks. The Donald will need them as a scapegoat.

  5. brucegee1962 says

    Reposted from a comment in Affinity:

    Trump obviously has neither the imagination to come up with solutions to the problems that afflict his followers, nor the savvy to enact any solutions he did come up with, nor the executive ability to administer them, nor the basic compassion to care whether their lives get better or not.
    But there is one ability that he really does have in spades, and that’s the ability to point his finger. As things keep getting worse and worse in this country due to his epic mismanagement, that is what he will bend all of his talents on doing, just as he has done throughout the campaign. All of your problems are the Mexicans’ fault. The blacks’ fault. The media’s fault. Womens’ fault. Environmentalists’ fault. Democrats’ fault. And if his followers couldn’t see through that BS during the campaign, I worry that they’ll fall even deeper under his control as the country spirals down.

    Basically, he won the election by whipping up a mob and then getting in front of it. But mobs need to be aimed at something, if you’re their leader and you don’t want them to turn against you.

  6. Holms says

    Four words: conservatives lie to pollsters. It need not be any more complicated than that. Conservatives are, on some level, conscious that their views are something to be ashamed of – so they lie about them. Then they get into a polling place, where they can vote in secret, and they say what they really mean.

    Your theory is undone by the fact that virtually all polls are conducted anonymously.

    You want more accurate polls? Stop insulting and shaming conservatives. I won’t hold my breath.

    Describing someone entirely accurately – e.g. by pointing out that they espouse discriminatory shit – is not ‘insulting and shaming,’ regardless of whether they feel insulted by it. Also I’ll note that many feel pride rather than shame.

  7. says

    sonofrojblake@#1 has called it, I think. Conservatives are embarrassed so they lie. It’s related to why I don’t take polls about goddiness seriously: there are loads of faithful who are “spiritual” when you shine a light on them but when they’re alone they believe in the bearded lightning god in the chair.

    Holms@#6:
    I think we all know polls are conducted anonymously. Have you ever lied to a pollster? I do it all the time, for fun, because they’ve called me at home and annoyed me but I had the free time to give them bogus answers.

  8. Leslie Lane says

    Trump’s win was driven by people who dislike government. They presume that someone outside government will do a better job. It’s similar to disliking doctors and therefore getting medical care from someone who’s not a doctor.

  9. Siobhan says

    Describing someone entirely accurately – e.g. by pointing out that they espouse discriminatory shit – is not ‘insulting and shaming,’ regardless of whether they feel insulted by it. Also I’ll note that many feel pride rather than shame.

    Holms raises a fair point. Conservatives took up the rallying cry of “persecution” when the rest of us looked at those policies and pointed out that they’ve been tried before and they did a lot of harm. You can’t criticize anything without marginalizing it to some extent. Will it make a difference to those of us about to have our necks stomped on whether that harm is a feature or a bug?

  10. Rob says

    Also, the polls were not in fact all that wrong. Clinton’s share of the national vote is well inside the first standard deviation, as are the results in the swing states, particularly the critical ones that Donald won. Polls are not precise. People place far too much reliance on statistics without understanding error, accuracy, precision etc. that said – terrible result.

  11. KG says

    What Rob@10 says. Clinton actually marginally won the popular vote, so the Los Angeles Times poll was wrong in suggesting Trump would win it a few points.

  12. KG says

    What is of concern to me is that Trump campaigned with a strong streak of misogyny, nativism, xenophobia, xenophobia, bigotry, and racism. This does not mean that all the people who voted for him share those values but many undoubtedly were willing to at least give him a pass on them and some were undoubtedly attracted by that undercurrent.

    It wasn’t an undercurrent; it was his main theme and selling point. All those who voted for him at least found it acceptable. Many of them also have valid economic grievances, but those do not excuse their willingness – in many case, eagerness – to see others trampled down.

  13. busterggi says

    If there is any consolation it will be when Trump’s biggest supporters turn on him for not magically instantly fulfilling all his promises. You can gather a pack of mad dogs to lead but as they tend to attack what’s in front of them…

  14. says

    anat@#13:
    One more reason to get rid of the Electoral College.

    I bet Clinton really wishes she had followed through on her 2000 promise to try to reform/do away with the electoral college.

  15. deepak shetty says

    The questions that concern me are what drove the Trump win

    Flippantly i’d say its because America is more sexist than anything else. The amount of criticism directed Hillary’s way for things that almost all politicians do and have done is astounding. For e.g. Oh No She peddles influence for money – as if all the various lobbies do not exist in America. She voted for the Iraq WAR! (which if I remember correctly a majority of Americans supported , not just the politicians). The fact remains that people looked at a serial , self admitted sexual harrasser and shrugged their shoulders and went ahead and voted for him. The sexual harassment issue is different from say the Anti-Hispanic , Anti-Muslim issues because atleast there you can find the Trump supporters willing to say they agree in principle with what he is trying to do .

    As far as the anti-establishment theory goes , why did so many senators and reps remain in their seats ? If people truly wanted change they’d have voted out everyone, no ?

  16. dano says

    My options were a liar or a criminal not yet put to justice. I choose the liar. I can only guess that some of the pollsters talked to dems who were lying as well. I know of at least one dem who could not tolerate voting for Hilldog. His acceptance speech was on par with others. My only concern is that he continues down this same path of justice for all.

    Cheers!

  17. says

    I think this Cracked blog post has some insight that may be critical for liberals to understand if we are to win another election. What struck me the most was this part:

    “The truth is, most of Trump’s voters voted for him despite the fact that he said/believes awful things, not because of it. That in no way excuses it, but I have to admit I’ve spent eight years quietly tuning out news stories about drone strikes blowing up weddings in Afghanistan. I still couldn’t point to Yemen on a map. We form blind spots for our side, because there’s something larger at stake. In their case, it’s a belief that the system is fundamentally broken and that Hillary Clinton would have been more of the same. Trump rode a wave of support from people who’ve spent the last eight years watching terrifying nightly news reports about ISIS and mass shootings and riots. They look out their front door and see painkiller addicts and closed factories. They believe that nobody in Washington gives a shit about them, mainly because that’s 100-percent correct.”

    http://www.cracked.com/blog/dont-panic/

  18. Crimson Clupeidae says

    Trump rode a wave of support from people who’ve spent the last eight years watching terrifying nightly news reports about ISIS and mass shootings and riots.

    May or may not be true. The sad part is if this is what’s driving them, then the propaganda works, because most mass shootings in the US are perpetrated by white xian men. But the propaganda machine points to the others and blames it on them.
    People are stupid. Some individuals are reasonably smart, but not enough.

  19. raven says

    Who knows how much Trump said he would do, actually happens?
    Even Donald Trump doesn’t know, changing his mind every hour or so.

    !. The Great Mexican Wall is out. It was a really dumb idea that won’t work.
    Which is too bad, it was his one idea that I liked. It would have been like the pyramids, totally useless, very expensive, but cool anyway.

    2. Goon squads rounding up undocumenteds. ???? I don’t know. Maybe, but I doubt they will do much except make some headlines.

    3. Tariffs and trade protection? Maybe.

    4. Repealing the ACA. I’m guessing this will happen and they will replace it with something similar but nowhere near as good.

    5. Blocking Moslem refugees and immigrants. Probably.
    He does have to throw some red meat to his xenophobic supporters.

  20. keithb says

    I think that the non-college whites want what their parents had. They want the same standard of living without working two jobs, they want to send their kids to college, they want to be able to afford nice vacations like cruises when they retire. What they don’t know is that the Unions got their parents that stuff, and Trump promised them hot air.

  21. sonofrojblake says

    @Holms, 6:

    Describing someone entirely accurately – e.g. by pointing out that they espouse discriminatory shit – is not ‘insulting and shaming,’ regardless of whether they feel insulted by it.

    Nice idea. Tell it to the proud, morbidly obese “healthy at any size” crew, see how that goes for you.

  22. John Morales says

    peterbollwerk quoting another bloviator:

    They believe that nobody in Washington gives a shit about them, mainly because that’s 100-percent correct.

    Still stupid. Even granting that, it doesn’t follow that therefore someone who is not from Washington gives a shit about them; particularly egregious since Trump is one of the rich elite who has a known history of not giving a fuck about lesser people (rather, the opposite).

    (That stupid people are stupid is a given, but that article doesn’t actually give any prescription to remedy that)

  23. says

    @23 John Morales

    “That stupid people are stupid is a given”
    Jesus Christ. Imagine a Sanders supporter saying that about black people voting for Hillary and maybe consider the fact that others don’t enjoy condescension either.

    “,but that article doesn’t actually give any prescription to remedy that.”
    Maybe try to give a shit about their situation? One would have thought that that underlying message was a bit obvious.
    I mean, Trump got elected by pretending to give a shit. Hillary didn’t even bother to pretend. It is clear that you don’t give a fuck about them or their issues, and you are not above mocking those less privileged than you (provided they are white), but reality-check: They vote too, and for the foreseeable future, they are most of the electorate.

    It’s sad, actually. The only silver lining to this situation would be learning how to avoid this in the future. But I’m already seeing Hillary supporters running in droves blaming whoever their favorite scapegoat is “It was Comey”, “It was Putin”, “It was the millenials”, “It was Bernie”, “It was daWhiteMenzzzzz”. Some idiots are even putting forth the argument that she was “too liberal”. No lessons will be learned, what a waste.

  24. John Morales says

    A Lurker:

    “That stupid people are stupid is a given”
    Jesus Christ. Imagine a Sanders supporter saying that about black people voting for Hillary and maybe consider the fact that others don’t enjoy condescension either.

    Whyever would that be relevant?

    “stupid people are stupid” is a proposition, but more importantly it’s a tautology.

    “black people are stupid” is also a proposition, but more importantly it’s a most certainly not a tautology.

    “,but that article doesn’t actually give any prescription to remedy that.”
    Maybe try to give a shit about their situation? One would have thought that that underlying message was a bit obvious.

    Under what conditions would one have thought that? Whether or not one would have thought (or even did think) that, no prescription is evident, apart from your purported underlying message, the which you do not articulate.

    (You’re funny)

    I mean, Trump got elected by pretending to give a shit. Hillary didn’t even bother to pretend.

    In what way is that claim disputing that “stupid people are stupid”?

    It is clear that you don’t give a fuck about them or their issues, and you are not above mocking those less privileged than you (provided they are white), but reality-check: They vote too, and for the foreseeable future, they are most of the electorate.

    Before I whale on you, who is “them” in that sentence?

    (In passing, I see no basis for your clarity on this matter)

    It’s sad, actually.

    Their situation (that of “them”) saddens you. You obviously give at least one fuck.

  25. John Morales says

    A Lurker, BTW, I notice you’ve remained anti-Clinton, just as you have been in the last few months, but not pro-Trump, as such.

    (kudos for your steadfastness, if not for your attitide)

  26. says

    @25 John Morales
    Sorry if my writing can be a bit confusing, I’m not a native english speaker.

    No, dude. People like you make me sad. This generalized attitude of dismissiveness and condescension brought you President Trump, and you won’t learn. I’m seeing it everywhere, democrats are blaming everybody else for their fuck up. You can’t learn from your mistakes if you don’t admit it was yours. This will keep happening.

    I’m glad I amused you, though. Even the idiot that keeps running head-first into a wall needs to mock someone from time to time, I guess. Glad I could help you with that.

  27. Owlmirror says

    @A Lurker from mexico:

    I am sure that John Morales can answer for himself, but just to be helpful, I thought I’d mention that he is not a citizen of the United States of America. I’m not sure if he’s even ever visited.

  28. says

    @28
    I really don’t believe it matters where he’s from. This things are not exclusive to the United States. Brexit happened because similar people got a similar derision “Your economical concerns are racism and I don’t care”.

    I understand that France is about to run into a similar dilemma soon. I expect parallel situations popping up in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, my own country. The left has fallen into the trappings of viewing the world only through the lens of identity politics and mistaking the individual for the group.

    How many times can a person read the endless “Dear White People”, “Dear Men”, “Dear cis-people” manifestos before feeling that they are not wanted there? Why stick with a group that makes their prejudice against you so abundantly clear?

    Liberal policies, things I believe in, will never lift off the ground and (as happened this tuesday) will even be set-back by this unwillingness to understand that maybe the people on the other side have also been hurt and that maybe adding their concerns to your list of priorities will get them to fight along side you instead of against you.

    I’m willing to bet that most Trump voters (and similar groups around the world) will stop giving a fuck about who’s gay, who’s trans, who’s mexican, who’s not christian, the minute they get a good job with a living wage. Because at the end of the day this was never hatred for the sake of hatred. They were fucked by an uncaring system that proceeded to use “the others” as scapegoats. Dismissing their pain as “white privilege” only feeds to the narrative that puts minorities and “the city elite” as the culprits.

    This shit is standard procedure. Sometimes the hated religion is islam, sometimes it’s judaism. Sometimes the evil boogieman is a “thug”, sometimes it’s a “moslem rapist”, sometimes it’s “student anarchists” or “commies”, “shias”, “immigrants”, “white males”, “armenians”, “the russians”, nobody’s safe from being cast as the culprit of someone else’s pain.

    The only path I see to getting real change done is to dump all of this false narrative and actually trying to listen to those who are hurting, not just the ones who belong to your pet causes.

    But that’s not gonna happen and we’re fucked. Trapped in the inertia of righteous anger, driving people away from worthy causes because venting feels soo good.

  29. says

    @A Lurker from mexico
    But why are they willing to abandon a worthy cause over a bit of bullshit? I put it to you that anyone who’s willing to vote for Trump was never really all that dedicated to equal rights in the first place.

    Frankly, I’m sick of being told I have to be extra super nice to people to get them to act with a minimum of human decency.

  30. says

    @30 LykeX
    “But why are they willing to abandon a worthy cause over a bit of bullshit? ”
    Maybe because the “bit of bullshit” is exactly the part that affects them personally.

    Like, let’s say you are gay and I showed you candidate A and candidate B.

    A is virulently homophobic but otherwise a lovely person to literally everyone else.
    B is racist, xenophobic, authoritarian, misogynistic, etc… but is okay with gay people and promised to uphold your rights.

    I wouldn’t expect a gay person to vote for A “for the greater good”, and accusing that person of being a selfish asshole would make me, ironically, a bit of a selfish asshole. Who’s life or death problems are worth solving? Who’s can be ignored? You have a moral responsibility to jump into the flames to save my ass but it’s okay if I let you burn?

    The biggest problem in their lives is the loss of jobs. Hillary Clinton is inextricably tied to that. You can say that others were involved, that it wasn’t her fault, that those jobs were lost anyway, that her opponent would be just as bad as her at helping them. It wouldn’t work any better than me telling a black person that Donald Trump didn’t invent racism so vote for him maybe?

    The sad part is that there was an option where you didn’t have to chose “pro-worker” OR “pro-minorities”. But that ship was sunk by the Democratic establishment. If Bernie Sanders had been the nominee, the blue collar workers in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin would have voted for him, like they voted for Obama.

    Instead, they were given the choice between “the asshole who caused your misery” or “the asshole who may or may not help you get out of it”.

    “Frankly, I’m sick of being told I have to be extra super nice to people to get them to act with a minimum of human decency.”

    Unfortunately, this is where failing to do so gets you. It’s fucked up. It’s unfair. It’s downright fucking evil. But that’s the way the world is right now and changing it requires working within those limits. The Clinton Campaign and her supporters were living in this fantasy land where white people are a negligible minority and you could alienate independents, blue collar workers, millenials, men, basically everyone living between the east of Nevada and the west of New York, and still win. They were wrong.

    And until 2061, when no single demographic group gobbles the majority of american population, liberals (even faux ones like Clinton) will need to appeal to the hated “White Male” in some capacity in order to win.

  31. sonofrojblake says

    @LykeX, 30:

    why are they willing to abandon a worthy cause over a bit of bullshit?

    Because the worthy cause is someone else’s cause, not theirs, and it does precisely jack for them apart from lecture them when they don’t use the right fucking pronoun or something, and what you condescendingly dismiss as “a bit of bullshit” is the loss of their job, their home, their dignity and self-respect, you thoughtless fuck.

    I’m sick of being told I have to be extra super nice to people to get them to act with a minimum of human decency

    The evidence suggests they’re pretty sick of hearing from you, too. How’s that “not being extra super nice” to them working out for you now?

  32. John Morales says

    A Lurker from mexico @27, as noted, I am an Australian living in Australia. Blaming me for the person the USA elected is silly.

    More to the point, I was not the one who kept Hillary-bashing throughout the campaign — that was you.

    You can’t learn from your mistakes if you don’t admit it was yours. This will keep happening.

    Sure. Next time there’s a bad choice and a worse one, keep railing against the merely bad. Then blame others.

    (You sure did more than your bit to discourage people from voting for Hillary)

    Owlmirror, indeed I have not been to the USA, nor do I have the slightest inclination of going there.

    Amongst other things, I look Spanish, I sound Spanish. My aunt and uncle (also Spanish) visited me very recently, and went through the USA en route. They were detained at the airport and kept incommunicado for several hours, were not given any reason for it until after the fact*, and had to wait for an interpreter though they are fluent English speakers. No apology was issued, but they were released.

    * Turns out there was also a Ramón Gomez who was on the terrorist list, though the name was the only commonality — none of the history or biometrics were even close.

  33. KG says

    Further to my #11, it appears Clinton may have won the popular vote by as much as 2%. Currently she’s 1.7% (1.8 million votes) up, with most uncounted votes coming from states that voted for her. If that’s accurate, the polls were no more than about 2% out overall, although they may have been worse in the mid-west states that put Trump ahead in the electoral college vote (assuming the electors vote for their state winner). Speculation about why Trump “won”, and why the polls “got it wrong” at least need to take Clinton’s popular vote lead into account.

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