November 8, 2016. Historians will remember that date as when Americans took back their country. Hyperbole? Perhaps, a little, but not much.
When the night began, the common theme was that Trump was the decided underdog. The conventional wisdom was that even though the gap in the popular vote was only a few points, and he had momentum, the demographics of the country worked against him in the Electoral College. He had a very narrow path to 270. He had to win all of the states that Romney had, plus he had to win Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio, all of which, according to the latest polls, were virtually even, plus he had to pick off a few states from the so-called “blue wall,” such as Pennsylvania, Michigan or Wisconsin. The attitude of most experts was that it was, at best, a long shot. It was just as likely that Trump could lose in an electoral landslide. To make matters worse, early returns from Florida indicated a very high turn-out among Hispanics.
Then, as the evening progressed, the tide turned. One by one, the dominoes began to fall, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin. Suddenly, it was Trump who had the clear path, and Clinton who had the narrow path. The tv analysts began to entertain the real possibility of a Trump victory. The odds published on betting websites began to shift in favor of Trump. The financial markets, which wanted Clinton to win, “tanked.” The tv pictures of the scenes in the candidates’ headquarters – joy and jubilation in Trump’s, stunned shock in Clinton’s – told the story. Finally, in the wee hours off the morning Pennsylvania put him over the top.
As is often the case, we can see things clearly in retrospect. For example:
- Throughout the campaign, all the polls showed time and again that a majority of Americans, as many as 75%, did not approve of the direction in which the country was going. A clear majority of them felt like the character in the movie, Network, who famously declared he was “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.” Clearly, voters wanted “change.”
- The late Vice President Spiro Agnew, was right in that there is a “silent majority” in the electorate. These are normal, everyday people, like you and me. They don’t attend protests; they don’t appear on the news with signs spouting slogans; they’re too busy working, earning a living, providing for their families, doing what needs to be done to survive on a daily basis. They just want government to leave them alone, and let them live their lives as they see fit.
- Voters, or at least a majority of them, are not as stupid as those in the government and the media apparently believe. In the end, they rejected the feds telling them how to act, what to eat or drink, what to do, how to live their lives. Political correctness is running amok. Men can use women’s rest rooms. (Would you want your daughter to share a restroom with some creepy guy? Really?) The absurdity of the “common core” curricula. The abject failure of “Obamacare.” Excessive regulations and red tape that inhibit business development. The list of intrusions goes on and on.
- For the most part, Republicans “came home” and supported Trump.
- A good portion of Sanders’ supporters, realizing the primary process had been “rigged” by the Clinton campaign and the Dem insiders, either supported Trump or stayed home.
- Voters want a real country, with real borders. They don’t want a border that is a sieve through which drugs, criminals, terrorists and other “deplorables” can enter at will. (If you doubt the stupidity of an open border, just take a look at France, the UK and the rest of Europe. All of those countries have open borders, and all of them are suffering through a myriad of social and economic problems as a result. This is not racist; it is fact.) As Trump has said, “either you have a country, or you don’t.”
- We realize the existential threat that ISIS and other Muslim terrorists represent. Not only do we want to call them what they are, we actually do want to do whatever it takes to defeat them. We are tired of living in fear and uncertainty. When a loved one leaves home for school, work or shopping we want to know they will return safe and sound.
- The level of corruption had reached its tipping point. Clinton’s nefarious activities go back over 20 years, and I need not recount them all here. Nothing seemed to “stick” to her, but I believe the recent actions of the FBI and Justice Department with respect to her emails and Clinton Foundation finally convinced voters that enough was enough.
- The pollsters and media analysts must re-assess their methodologies. They failed miserably. This was much worse than their failure to predict Harry Truman’s famous upset victory over Thomas Dewey in 1948, because polling is supposedly more sophisticated now. Moreover, polling is now conducted right up to and including Election Day, including the use of “exit polls,” which was not the case in 1948. How did they not see the truth?
- Perhaps, most of all, the voters did not buy into the fiction that the economy is improving. Everybody knows a middle aged person who was laid off, cast aside by his employer, or a college graduate who is forced to wait on tables or make sandwiches at the local deli while living in his parents’ house because he cannot find a job that befits his level of education. Workers know that their “real” wages are the same or worse than they were four years ago.
- This election will be analyzed and re-analyzed for years to come, but those are my initial thoughts.
Now comes the hard part for Donald Trump. He must bring a sharply divided country together. He must realize what President Obama did not, that he is the president of all the people, not just those who supported him. He must tone down his rhetoric, be gracious and inclusive, not harsh and divisive. He must develop a working relationship with Congress. Can he do it? Time will tell, but we all better hope that he can.