I had not planned to write this. Another blog, My Walk in the Woods, an Appalachian Trail Adventure is mostly finished, and will be next up in a week or so. But our emotions are seared into our minds. For sure this campaign, and the stunning results no matter if your team or the other team won, will result in numerous books and comments. This is one for the ages. Folks, we just witnessed history.
I think we can draw several conclusions right away. For one, both candidates were intensively disliked by the people who opposed them.
Ms. Clinton never really connected viscerally with most, even her supporters. I'm told she is gracious and effective in small groups, but in public it seemed she was scripted. She rarely, if ever, truly "wowed" her audiences for the most part, instead using logic and parsing her words carefully. Her long record of public service was marked by studious preparation and hard work: As FLOTUS; as senator from New York (even thought it was carefully planned with the right financial support and a move to the state near NYC), which was praised by nearly all her senate colleagues as outstanding; and finally as Secretary of State under President Obama. She was criticized for several developments in her term as Secretary of State, and the general deterioration in the overall situation in the Middle East was a huge blemish on the Obama administration, even though they did not start it all with the horribly strategic error of the invasion of Iraq. Her penchant, along with Bill's, for getting amazingly rich while using a private email server (don't we all know that someone could hack all our emails if they really wanted to ... remember this if you ever want to run for office) was a fatal error in judgement. And to top it off, her most trusted adviser was married to a total crumb-bum whose emails were hacked as well. Hillary, how can you be so smart and so clueless? Tell me please!
On the other hand, Mr. Trump literally broke every rule, at least every "tried and true" rule, of a presidential campaign. He did not use the professional class of advisers and handlers. He went through three teams of the people who were his closest advisers and relied on his adult children. He did work very, very hard and traveled in his large plane constantly, getting to three, four, or even five stops a day. His stamina was incredible, and he always looked like he walked out of a GQ photo shoot, even if he went through his "orange period," with the facial dye and two white circles around his protected eyes. He really has little interest in religion, and has been married over and over between affairs. He's a business mogul who has utilized bankruptcy multiple times, won't release his tax returns, and specializes on using other people's money for his deals. ("I'm smart.") But no one worked harder on the campaign trail. In the end his blunders were accepted as peccadilloes that didn't matter to his supporters.
Mr. Trump made statements, most definitive, that were extremely controversial, and of course these were replayed and used against him. It's fair to say that nearly all the late-night comedians, in addition to nearly every newspaper in the country, as well as the majority of the broadcast television and cable TV news punditry was negative on him. Yes, they used his own words, but it was no secret that most felt he was not the man they could support. Of course, nearly 100% of AM right-wing talk radio supported him and Fox News was his personal megaphone. In this election, it is a fact, and I think a worrisome fact, that many Americans, if not most, stuck to the news outlets and social media (including Facebook friends) that reinforced their beliefs, rather than accessed equally a spectrum of supporting and disagreeing viewpoints.
Mr. Trump is on record with a series of positions that made him virtually a Third Party candidate, even though he ran as a Republican and had the benefit of the RNC money and organization to an increasing extent after the Republican nominating convention. However his positions were in many ways, antithetical to traditional Republican beliefs on free trade and liberal immigration policy (both are good for business in general). He indicated a more cautious foreign policy with respect to military commitments than the neocon wing of the party has taken.
In the end, Trump pulled off a stunning upset (yes, it was an upset) based on the bread and butter, mainly small town and rural middle and lower-middle class white Americans believing that the government of the "haves" needed to be shaken up. These voters were unnerved with the rapid changes underway in the country: more secular thinking; more protection for the LGBT movement (more letters are sometimes added); more immigrants who have significant differences from the Anglo community in terms of color, religion, culture, and language; and the overriding fact that they are not doing well financially in general, especially in large swaths of the country.
I am very familiar with this group. I was raised and went to high school in the tri-state Appalachian region of eastern Kentucky (Paintsville), southwestern Virginia (Galax), and southern West Virginia (Princeton). These places, although separated by state lines, are no more that 150 miles apart in a triangle as the crow flies. The people are good, God-fearing folks who would return your wallet intact and watch your house while you were away. They feel dissed, and are dissed, in general. In these particular towns, the "downtowns" are boarded up, the population is half of what it used to be at worst, and the same at best, and their young people are staying and taking jobs that are difficult and financially mediocre, or leaving. In Princeton, where I went to high school, the "main stream" churches still are there, but have lost members both to relocation out of the area, as well as to more evangelical congregations, which feature "Praise Music" and more fundamental Christian ministries.
On election night, the country, outside the Northeast and the West Coast , was a Red blanket of counties with the exception of the college towns and the urban centers with more minorities and more high-tech and new information-age economies. That is a fact. The Red counties went for Trump and his message of "Making America Great Again."
If we look closely at Trump's positions, they are a series of dramatic commitments for change:
* Build a wall the entire border with Mexico. (And get Mexico to pay for it.)
* Ban Muslims (later modified to "extreme vetting to keep most out").
* Impose a tariff of 35% on Chinese goods.
* Deport eleven or twelve million Hispanics.
* Put the coal miners back to work, "tomorrow."
* Get Carrier to reopen the A/C factories in Indiana and bring those jobs back from Mexico.
* Cancel (or perhaps it was changed to renegotiate) NAFTA.
* Force our NATO allies to pay more or reconsider our treaty obligations to their defense.
There are more. The list would be long. He will need to slip out of all of these or nearly all. I doubt that his voters expected that he would do any of these. My sister in law in West Virginia told me "he won't do any of these" then I asked her why she was supporting him. It was then a bit hard to continue to discuss the reasons she has changed her registration to Republican, so the awkward discussion ended there. But he will bring a more tough immigration policy, and will probably cancel the TPP. I'm afraid that Russia might get adventurous in the Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, and even more in Ukraine. All in all, Trump's casual nature with the truth and his sloppy promises to "fix everything immediately" will hang over his head. It's going to be really interesting. He has both the Senate and the House.
I almost think the entire election was about the pain the Anglo population feels at the loss of their country, or in another way, their way of life. Trump basically ran on two planks:
* He heard their pain. He would put them first, not after all the other groups.
* The Supreme Court. That is considered the fire wall against cultural erosion by rural America. He will appoint Supreme Court justices, but I don't expect any of the present ones to retire while he's president, since they won't let him appoint their replacements. Of course he does get to appoint the Scalia replacement.
I am in shock, but the reality is the job is so big. He has to produce now. It will be interesting.
Please feel free to post a comment here on the blog, or mail me directly at <firstname.lastname@example.org> with any comments. Please do recommend “Contact Sport” or "Reunion" to your friends. Also, I would be happy to appear at any book club within two or so hours from Austin to discuss either book.