Holy Crap, Trump Won
I wish I could claim to not have been surprised by the election of Donald J Trump. I was not as surprised as our professional mainstream media, some of whom this morning can only choke back spittle as they rail against the orange one:
The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency is nothing less than a tragedy for the American republic, a tragedy for the Constitution, and a triumph for the forces, at home and abroad, of nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny, and racism.
I have been reading predictions of Trump’s working class support for over a year, from history guru John Michael Greer, from cubicle cartoonist Scott Adams, from the occasional odd source like Peggy Noonan. I didn’t completely buy in to their predictions, but I did expect that Trump would stay a lot closer than pollsters like Nate Silver predicted. Watching on both NBC TV and The Young Turks internet feed, I was still surprised to see him winning in real time:
Donald Trump, the bombastic reality-TV-star-turned-politician, won by harnessing deep discontent with Washington and deep-seated loathing of his opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton.
In so doing, he upended every scrap of conventional wisdom. With zero political experience, Trump dismissed the trappings of a routine candidacy. He insulted people. He warred openly with his own Republican Party. And he eschewed politically safe talk for calls to “build the wall” and “drain the swamp,” tapping into a deep vein of American populism.
I don’t think the election was really about Trump, though, or primarily about racism, or sexism – though Trump certainly appealed to a racist, sexist sliver of society. The engine of this election was a repudiation of an establishment (of both major parties) that has prospered at the expense of the middle class. That engine almost put Bernie Sanders on the Democratic ticket, except that he was outmaneuvered by both the media and the DNC.
But a friendly media couldn’t ensure the election of Hillary Clinton, though they tried. At the Guardian, Thomas Frank writes, Donald Trump is moving to the White House, and liberals put him there, and asks:
How did the journalists’ crusade fail? The fourth estate came together in an unprecedented professional consensus. They chose insulting the other side over trying to understand what motivated them. They transformed opinion writing into a vehicle for high moral boasting. What could possibly have gone wrong with such an approach?
Put this question in slightly more general terms and you are confronting the single great mystery of 2016. The American white-collar class just spent the year rallying around a super-competent professional (who really wasn’t all that competent) and either insulting or silencing everyone who didn’t accept their assessment. And then they lost. Maybe it’s time to consider whether there’s something about shrill self-righteousness, shouted from a position of high social status, that turns people away.
The second paragraph strikes home. I’ve encountered enough self-righteous disdain that, as Chris Rock might say, “I’m not saying they should have voted for Trump, but I understand.”