A few More Election Observations

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.

Yep.

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!

 

Seizing the Cockpit of the Flight 93 Election

trump-victory

OK I was wrong.

Back in August I predicted that Trump would lose to Clinton, and even further back, in 2014, I predicted that Senate would go back to the Democrats. Instead, Trump smashed down the gates of the establishment, winning the Presidency with (as of this writing) 279 electoral votes.  I also predicted that Florida would go Democratic this year.  I was wrong about that too. Instead, this Black Swan Event totally disrupted the polls and the process. How sure was I that Hillary Clinton was going to win?  Last weekend I wrote a totally different draft version of this post, one that made the assumption that Clinton would win: one that would be ready to publish as soon as the networks called the election.  I didn’t even bother to prepare an alternate version.  After all, Clinton had been leading in the polls most of the year, and in that way it resembled 2012 or 1996.  The polls would have to have been totally wrong in order to get another result.

Well they were wrong.

This election truly was the Flight 93 election. While writing this I had thought for sure I had written about this article previously and apparently didn’t.  And for that, I apologize to my readers, since I regard it as the most important piece that’s come out this year in defining the stakes of this election for the right.  Well even though the election is over, it’s still worth reading in its entirety. But just a few excerpts to summarize the main thesis:

“2016 is the Flight 93 election: charge the cockpit or you die. You may die anyway. You—or the leader of your party—may make it into the cockpit and not know how to fly or land the plane. There are no guarantees.

Except one: if you don’t try, death is certain. To compound the metaphor: a Hillary Clinton presidency is Russian Roulette with a semi-auto. With Trump, at least you can spin the cylinder and take your chances.

To ordinary conservative ears, this sounds histrionic. The stakes can’t be that high because they are never that high—except perhaps in the pages of Gibbon. Conservative intellectuals will insist that there has been no “end of history” and that all human outcomes are still possible. They will even—as Charles Kesler does—admit that America is in “crisis.” But how great is the crisis? Can things really be so bad if eight years of Obama can be followed by eight more of Hillary, and yet Constitutionalist conservatives can still reasonably hope for a restoration of our cherished ideals?”

“Let’s be very blunt here: if you genuinely think things can go on with no fundamental change needed, then you have implicitly admitted that conservatism is wrong. Wrong philosophically, wrong on human nature, wrong on the nature of politics, and wrong in its policy prescriptions. Because, first, few of those prescriptions are in force today. Second, of the ones that are, the left is busy undoing them, often with conservative assistance. And, third, the whole trend of the West is ever-leftward, ever further away from what we all understand as conservatism.”

“One of the Journal of American Greatness’s deeper arguments was that only in a corrupt republic, in corrupt times, could a Trump rise. It is therefore puzzling that those most horrified by Trump are the least willing to consider the possibility that the republic is dying. “

Basically, the country is declining, which is an argument I’ve been making for years. I don’t believe any other Republican candidate could have won this year.  The Republican brand is trashed and only a Republican who has an identity of something other than a Republican, like Trump, could have fought through that.  That eliminates almost any other “normal” candidate.  Normal has not been working for a while.

So the question has to be asked, does this mean my basic thesis, that our politics is becoming more tribal and based on identity politics wrong?  I think it actually confirms it. I’ll be curious to look at more hard data on the demographic breakdown as it’s released in the days ahead, but winning Ohio and especially Pennsylvania, which last went Republican in 1988, shows that Trump did exceptionally well with the white working class.  Trumps version of the Sailer Strategy, which is that Republicans should go after the white vote in the same way that Democrats go after the Black or Hispanic vote, appeared successful.  Although I don’t think that was an intentional racial appeal on Trump’s part, when your platform reflects the concerns of the white working class, the results will be similar. As Lee Kwan Yew, the late former President of Singapore noted, “In multiracial societies, you don’t vote in accordance with your economic interests and social interests, you vote in accordance with your race and religion.”  That’s been the trend in the US for a generation; everyone is bunching up according to their identity group.  The last people to recognize that was happening were the Republicans.  I think at this point, they’ll have to learn to accept and deal with that reality.

So it looks like the passengers were able to rush the cockpit and grab the controls, but it’s not clear yet if they can land it.