Thursday, November 10, 2016

Post-Election Post-Mortem: What I got wrong and what I got right

Well, here we are two days after the 2016 election and Donald J. Trump is going to be our next president and it turns out that I was wrong as wrong can be about a few things, so let's get them out of the way. And then maybe I can point to a couple of other items:

Let's look at a few things I said in Tuesday's post (Election Day: Paragraphs of angry vitriol deleted) to see where I got it wrong and then talk a bit about something that maybe I got right.

Self-flagellation department:

"Nominating Donald J. Trump for President of the United States is rock bottom."

I was wrong. Correction: Electing Donald J. Trump as President of the United States is rock bottom. I think we're in for a dark and grim four years. Or longer.

I hope I'm wrong about that, too.

I should say something else here. There's a lot to discuss about the role that race played in this election, but I don't think that most of the voters who voted for Trump did so because of the racist elements in his campaign. I truly believe that a lot of voters voted for Trump despite the racist elements in his campaign. I wish they had been more troubled by those elements.

Most of all, I believe a lot of people voted for Trump because they are mad at the system and wanted to tear it all down. And Donald J. Trump was the candidate likely to tear it all down.

I'm reminded strongly of the Detroit Lions and Matt Millen.

How did that turn out? For the non-football fans among you here's what happened.

After the Detroit Lions barely missed the playoffs with a 9-7 record in 2000, decades of frustration of their continued mediocrity led their owner and fans to think it was a good idea to hire former player and announcer Matt Millen to tear it all down and start again. So the Lions sacked the front office and coaching staff and gave Millen a five-year contract to be their new president and GM. Millen an unqualified choice who was charismatic and talked a good game. But he had no management experience, no front-office experience, and no idea how to actually do the things he said he would do.

Tearing it all down is seldom a good idea.

After Millen went 21-59 in his first five years -- the worst five-year stretch for a team in NFL history -- the Lions gave him another five-year contract. By the 2008 season the team had fallen so far that they finally had to fire Millen while they were on their way to becoming the first NFL team to ever go 0-16.

I kinda feel like we just elected Matt Millen as our new President.

But I will say this for Matt Millen. He did tear it all down.

"Right now the Republican Party is broken. Badly broken."

I was wrong. The GOP now controls the White House and both houses of Congress. After obstructing a Supreme Court nominee for a year they will now make an appointment that will probably give them control of the Supreme Court for the next decade or longer. The Republican Party is functioning as designed. Any apparent race baiting, sexism, jingoism, xenophobia, or anti-intellectualism is a feature, not a bug.

To the Republican Party: "You need to pull yourselves out of your fact-free media bubble and start dealing with the real world."

I was wrong. The fact-free media bubble is functioning as designed and I was the one who missed a few points about the real world.

The part where I was dead-on right:

"Let me take a moment here to add that my fellow Democrats also have some things to work on. ... A lot of people feel the Democratic Party has abandoned them. We need to listen."

... and we're going to get a couple of years to work on those things without the distraction of governing or wielding any appreciable power in Washington -- or Michigan, for that matter.

There's a lot to unpack in the quote above, and I'm not going to do it all in this post. But specifically, the Democratic Party of FDR was 100% on the side of the working class. That sense has been eroding for a long time, especially among rural Americans, religious Americans, and Americans who didn't go to college and get white-collar jobs. 

What's the phrase I'm looking for to describe those people? Oh, that's right: the working class.

So what went wrong? In part I think it's because people look at the Democratic Party leadership and see a bunch of politicians who are every bit as much in bed with Wall Street and corporate executives as the GOP. And in part, I see a party that requires complete linguistic purity in speaking about every iota of its hundreds of different constituencies, yet seems pretty damn happy to toss around words like "redneck" and "gun nut" in its messaging.

So, yeah. If you look around and you see:

1) The existing GOP leadership not helping you
2) The existing Democratic Party not helping you and placing you outside the party in its messaging

... then why not vote Trump in the primary, vote Trump in the general election, and burn it all to the ground?

Hillary Clinton never understood that as far as I can see. Bernie Sanders clearly understands that. I think Elizabeth Warren mostly understands that. I hope we find other Democratic leaders who understand that, and find them fast. 

What else?

There's a lot more to noodle on from Tuesday. More people voted for Clinton than for Trump, despite her general terribleness as a campaigner. I feel good about that, though it doesn't really matter in the big picture. And I could write blog post after blog post about Hillary Clinton's terribleness as a campaigner. Losing to a candidate as truly awful as Donald Trump makes her the Matt Millen of Presidential candidates. 

I could write about racism in this campaign and what I fear is coming for America. I'm deeply troubled and truly appalled.

I could complain about the media coverage -- oh, boy, could I complain about the media coverage! -- but that's like complaining about getting bad calls from a referee. The media and what passes for journalism in 2016 is what it is. Its only loyalty, its only duty, is to ratings points and Internet clicks. Expecting better is a fool's errand.

The ground genuinely shifted on Tuesday. I don't know where it will end up. I wish I did. 

But for now, R.I.P. the Republican Party of Ronald Reagan (1980-2016). We officially have the Republican Party of Donald Trump (2016-).

And maybe R.I.P. the Democratic Party of FDR (1932-2016). Or perhaps we should make that R.I.P. the Democratic Party of FDR (1932-1992) and R.I.P. the Democratic Party of Bill Clinton (1992-2016). I'm going to do a bit more mulling before I weigh in on what I think should be next for the Dems. But things need to change. Even if Hillary had won on Tuesday, that would be every bit as true.


  1. I've been unable to give Tuesday's election results much coherent thought yet. But, I see that you have, my dear.

    As usual, I find your clearly laid out thought on a difficult subject very helpful. This one is going to take a long time to process...

  2. I've been poking around and reading some stuff here and there, and thinking about what has happened. Here's a couple of thoughts.

    First of all, the blame for Hillary Clinton's loss lies squarely on the feet of Hillary Clinton, the DNC and the Democratic party leadership.

    There is no question that the DNC and the Democratic party rigged the primary to prevent Bernie Sanders from winning the nomination. On a level playing field, he would have won the primary solidly. Even with the DNC's fingers on the scales Clinton almost lost to a Democratic Socialist from Vermont. That shows how incredibly weak of a candidate she was, even within the Democratic party.

    All of the polls before the primary was done showed that if Bernie had been the candidate he was polling significantly higher than Clinton one on one against Trump.

    The purpose of a primary is to find the best candidate so that you are putting the best you have against the other party. In this case, by deciding that Clinton would be the candidate no matter what the DNC and the Democratic party leadership failed in that task and put a candidate whose like/dislike numbers were never positive with the American public and who would be running an uphill battle no matter who she faced.

    Trump was able to win with absolutely ZERO ground game while Clinton had what may have been the best ground game in American History. Why was that? In my opinion it was purely a result of an enthusiasm gap.

    Clinton was a horrible campaigner and an ethically challenged, legally challenged and morally challenged candidate that the vast majority of Americans, who if they voted for her were doing so while holding their noses and were really not voting for her, but voting against Trump. It had absolutely zero to do with people not wanting a woman president, but not wanting HER to be president. On the other hand, Trump had people who were so outraged by the fact that the government only works for those who have money that they would have been willing to walk across fire to vote for him. She only came as close as she did because of her ground game. If Trumps ground game was even in the same neighborhood it would have been a McGovernlike romp.

    Another point to consider in the enthusiasm gap. The most dedicated, enthusiastic members of the populace in this election cycle were Bernie Sanders voters. By rigging the primaries in so heavy handed a way and then afterwards saying both "We don't need them anyways" and "They'll vote for Clinton anyways, whatever we do." the DNC and the Democratic leadership threw the election out the window along with the baby, the bathtub and an entire wing of the house. If you want to be a viable political party you can't take the most excited voters and tell them to piss off. If you want them to vote for your candidate and not vote for a third party candidate you have to show them that you are offering something that is worth voting for. A jackboot to the face rarely accomplishes that.

  3. You are dead on the money with the fact that the Democratic party and Hillary Clinton made it perfectly clear that they were just like the Republicans and were all about protecting Wall Street and the wealthy regardless of the harm that it caused to the general populace. All you have to do is look at recent history with the Occupy Wall Street movement that was quashed by force by a government led by a Democratic President that didn't care about the concerns of the people, but instead were more interested in protecting their wealthy owners interests. Alligning so closely with Wall Street by deciding that Clinton would be the candidate come hell or high water abdicated the ability for the Democratic party to differentiate itself from the Republicans. Why vote Democratic when they will use the police to suppress the people in the exact same manner as the Republicans will.

    I also read an interesting piece today that agrees with your take on the language that the Democratic party has been using in regards to people that should be their base and their strength.
    Here is a quote that cuts to the heart of their argument.

    "Trump won because of a cultural issue that flies under the radar and remains stubbornly difficult to define, but is nevertheless hugely important to a great number of Americans: political correctness.

    More specifically, Trump won because he convinced a great number of Americans that he would destroy political correctness.

    I have tried to call attention to this issue for years. I have warned that political correctness actually is a problem on college campuses, where the far-left has gained institutional power and used it to punish people for saying or thinking the wrong thing. And ever since Donald Trump became a serious threat to win the GOP presidential primaries, I have warned that a lot of people, both on campus and off it, were furious about political-correctness-run-amok—so furious that they would give power to any man who stood in opposition to it."

    In the end both parties have shown that they don't care about the citizens, but only about the money that they can rake in. People were starving for sincerity from their leaders and absolutely zero people believed that Clinton was sincere about anything she said, even before her Wall Street speaches where she admitted to having public and private opinions came out. I have heard many people say that Bernie Sanders would have lost to Trump as well, but I think that is not only dead wrong but completely misses the point that the American electorate was screaming on Tuesday.

    If it had been Bernie v Trump it would have been political outsider against political outsider. One would have been the kind and gentle uncle who you may disagree with on some of his policy, but you knew that he was sincere and genuine, who you knew said what he believed, not what would align with today's polls and who would fight hard to improve the working people's daily life and on the other side would have been Trump. Having talked to several Republicans who would have voted for Bernie over Trump, but couldn't bring themselves to vote for Hillary for any reason I return to my statement at the top. The the blame for Hillary Clinton's loss lies squarely on the feet of Hillary Clinton, the DNC and the Democratic party leadership. If the Democrats ever want to rise again as a party they need to ditch the Wall Street wing of the party, stop talking down to ordinary Americans and work to improve their lives in tangible ways.

  4. Good thoughts. I'm still processing this and may disagree with your recommendation to reach out to rural white voters. I've lived among rural, southern white voters all my life and I can tell you that looks like a complete lost cause. I hope I'm wrong because they have just been sold a bill of goods. But just look at Kansas, and their governor got reelected!

    The Democrats need to do three things immediately. First, start a massive voter registration program IN DEMOCRATIC AREAS that under-performed. Had just 1 in 100 women voters switched from Trump to Hillary in just three states, Hillary would be President.

    Second, contest every single gerrymandered district to the last breath. It is unbelievable that more people vote for Democrats than Republicans and yet we are dozens of seats behind in Congress with little or no hope of catching up.

    Third, announce a "Contract with the Middle Class." EVERYTHING that they do in the next 2 to 4 years should be to help the middle class or help the less fortunate get into the middle class. The Democrats cannot win by being the party of the poor. They can win by being the party of the poor and the middle class. They already are, but the perception is that they aren't.

    In the meantime, hopefully I will be placed in a cell next to you in the inevitable internment camps that are on the way for liberals!

    1. Gerrymandered districts is probably at the top of my to-fix list. But, yeah, along with that comes the decision of various top-level Democratic campaign organizations to then abandon those districts altogether. Is it any wonder that folks in those districts don't think the Democrats care about them?

      As for the rural white vote, both Southern and Northern, a few things:

      1) I doubt I'll ever see any of those areas vote majority Democratic Party in my lifetime. But that doesn't mean that you abandon them. First of all, it's wrong. And secondly, it's dumb politics.

      2) That "rural white vote" isn't just folks who live in rural areas. It is a cultural block that includes a lot of exurbs, suburbs, etc.

      3) Yeah, to the actual deplorables who live in rural places, eff 'em. But that's not the vote the Democrats have lost. They haven't had that vote since George Wallace bolted the party. But it's hard to convince folks that those things are wrong when you haven't been there fighting against the other things that are wrong in their lives. I'm not saying that people who turn a blind eye to racism are right. But I am saying that it's pretty hard to engage them on that issue when you apparently haven't given a damn about anything else they care about.

      4) I'll probably write a blog post about race, the Democrats, and this campaign sometime soon. About all I can guarantee about that post is that it will undoubtedly fail to fix a damn thing.

    2. I certainly would not include the suburbs, exurbs. But I don't see wasting resources on rural rural areas, if that makes sense. Having said that, some sort of free college program MIGHT make minor inroads into the rural vote. Even they know that small towns aren't going to recover and there isn't anything there for their children. But unlike most liberals, I've spend a ton of time out there and I'm telling you, it's much worse than is even being portrayed. Much.