Just a couple of observations:
The Return of the War on Women: It wasn’t really called that this year, but in the pearl clutching, fainting couch department, it was 2012 all over again. Where Romney was portrayed as insensitive and clueless when it comes to women, Trump has been portrayed as a sexual predator. The failure of the typical War-on-Women attacks in 2014 lead many Republican “thinkers” to believe that it was an expired tactic, but that’s really just a reflection of the difference in the electorate that shows up in Presidential year elections and non Presidential ones. I predict that in 2018 Republicans will once again declare the War-on-Women tactics dead, and then be surprised when they work like a charm in 2020.
Power over Principles: Ideology barely made a single campaign stop in probably one of the most ideology free Presidential campaigns in my lifetime. The Democrats have long espoused a policy, modeled off of Samuel Gompers’s famous quote, of “more.” The Democratic coalition has long been a “more” party, rather than an ideological party; as long as that “More” comes from the other guys. That’s been Democratic Policy for decades, but the shift of some #nevertrump holdouts as the election neared showed that no matter how you want to slice it ideologically, there are two broad coalitions in American politics, a generally left leaning extraction coalition, and a generally right leaning production coalition. How else to explain that the same anti war crowd that voted for Obama based on his promise to leave Iraq now voted for the candidate that promised to confront Russia, militarily if necessary, to establish a no fly zone in Syria?
It’s the Identity stupid: The economy barely showed up as an issue in the campaign. In fact, it was probably less of a factor in any election in my lifetime, and that includes economic high points hit during the Reagan and Clinton administrations. The Obama economy has been no high point, but, as I observed in 2012:
“Even if Romney had won, it would have been the last gasp of an archaic idea in US politics; political parties that are more or less based on policy decisions and ideas and to a lesser degree, ideology and the left/right continuum Eventually, I suspect that we will be voting according to our ethnic, gender, and sexual preferences. In other words, our politics will become more tribal.”
I’m quite the prophet! So the economy and public policy proposals (except on the Trump side) were minor accessories to this year’s election, not the central focus as they had been in the past. But we’re a different country now so tribe is more important than policy. Meanwhile, Trump won about 60% of the white vote although I think these numbers understate that. Hopefully there will be better data in a few weeks and I’m betting it will show a much higher percentage of the white vote. That’s the only way I can figure that Trump won such a large victory and won so many previously out of reach states when the percentage of the white vote dropped 2% from 72% in 2012 to 70% in 2016. Although Trump won a higher percentage of both the Black vote and Hispanic vote than Romney did, that just doesn’t give you the margin of victory that Trump managed. As an aside, that 2% drop in the White electorate every four years seems like a good rule of thumb to calculate how much more of the white vote Republicans will need to win in the future to be competitive. Some liberal wag on twitter made the comment last night that the white working class finally started voting like a minority.
That’s the future, love it or hate it (I hate it personally, but I didn’t bake this cake).
Policy loses to Persuasion: Dilbert writer Scott Adams has distinguished himself as the preeminent political prognosticator of this election. Adams predicted a Trump landslide in 2015 and has been following up on the campaign at his blog, which has turned out to be the most accurate site on Trump for the duration of the campaign. Adam’s experience in the techniques of persuasion gave invaluable insight into why stupid things that Trump said weren’t stupid at all, they were deliberate attempts to create an imagery and mood and how to feel about something. Once he had tagged Jeb Bush as “low energy Jeb” you couldn’t help but analyze his speech and the way he physically handled himself to see if he was “low energy.” Brilliant! All of Jeb’s 100 million dollars couldn’t save him after that.
I’m sure I’ll have other observations about the election and I’ll post them as they come, but the Trump victory is really making me look forward to Thanksgiving Day dinner conversation. I intend to make Thanksgiving great again!