As I write this, in order to win the presidency of the United States, Hillary Clinton needs to win both Wisconsin and Michigan in the electoral college; and counted votes indicate that she will lose one or both. The next President of the United States appears to be Donald Trump – a sexual predator, a foul mouthed bigot, a reality TV star with no interest in policy, intent on using the White House to leverage his business interests.
How did various pundits and pollsters (including myself) get this all wrong?
1. We underestimated the anger and hatred of the Right of the electorate, which energized them more than any ‘ground game’ campaigning could the other side.
2. We overestimated the will of Black voters to participate in this election, the supposed support they felt for Clinton.
3. We forgot that much of the Latino population of Florida is made up of conservative Cubans who long dreamt that US sanctions against Havana would ultimately lead to an anti-Castro revolution in Cuba, and who felt betrayed by Obama’s relaxing those sanctions.
4. We underestimated the capacity for Right wing women to ‘stand by their man’ and forgive Trump’s many sins, in the same way that they frequently forgive their husbands’.
5. We blinkered out Clinton’s failure to appeal to the working class.
6. Most importantly, we failed to recognize the power of a seemingly irrelevant meme voiced by Trump supporters: “Change.” Change at any cost, change at any price – leaping into the unknown, after years of stagnant gridlock in Washington. In fact the American people don’t really care, right now, what happens next – just so it isn’t what came before.
7. So, finally, we didn’t comprehend how irrational, and how ignorant, the American people really are. I mean, how do we explain an urge among literally tens of millions to jump off a cliff, hoping that there’s a mattress at the bottom that will soften their fall?
8. As with all fascists, we forgot that they rise to power, because people fall in love with them – people want to give elected dictators what they want; it makes them feel less uncertain about the world, less needing to make decisions. They forget this loses them the right, the power to make decisions, when the beloved leader proves unworthy.
Republican pundits are still re-assuring people that President Trump will surround himself with mainstream Republicans, that Mike Pence is the power behind the thrown. They are delusional. Trump has already surrounded himself with the main players and spokespeople of his White House – fringe Right conspiracy theorists and sycophants. He will not divest himself from his business interests; he will press for the building of a wall with Mexico; he will press for injunctions against Muslims; he will appoint a radical riht winger to the Supreme Court, intending to overturn Roe V. Wade; he will press for repeal of the ACA (Obamacare); he will demand ‘reform’ of libel laws allowing him to sue journalists; he will attempt renegotiation of treaties with allies across the globe, to their great consternation. He doesn’t actually believe in any of this – he doesn’t believe in anything – but he has said he would do these things, and he will follow through, because now he can. He will bully the Republicans in Congress to get these things, and they will have to give him at least half of it, and it will cost Americans billions, while reducing world esteem for the US. And none of this will redress the economic or social problems that plague his voters; because he doesn’t recognize them as a constituency. They are merely the suckers he sold the used car to. They forgot that ‘the art of the deal’ is fucking over the buyer and getting away with it.
Michael Moore, who perhaps understood the dynamics of this election better than any of us, said that the vote for Trump would constitute the biggest ‘fuck you’ from the working class in America. He appears to have been right. But the problem with lifting the middle finger is that you may end up sitting on it; the problem with jumping off a cliff, is that magical mattresses are rarely found below.