Thoughts on the Election

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 <> 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.

12 Responses

  1. Thanks as always Jim for your thoughtful analysis. The universal media belittlement of Trump may have actually worked against Clinton. Academic research has documented a phenomenon called “psychological reactance,” when we feel that someone is directing us to think or feel a certain way, we react in the opposite of what we perceive as the direction. This should be a lesson that is absorbed for future political discourse. As blogger Ken White wrote yesterday morning: "Claiming that Donald Trump won because 40% of the country is made up of irredeemable racist misogynists is not a sustainable path towards recovering political power or governing. It's not even a good way to endure the next 4-8 years." I didn't support Trump because of what I viewed as his intolerance as a candidate. My sincere hope is that Trump as President will drop the inflammatory rhetoric and bring more of the country together. There are some reasons to think he will. We will see. My hope is that we will all take a breath, listen more to each other, with mutual respect, and give Trump a chance to exceed our expectations.
  2. Nice piece of writing. From my view, we did not really have much of a choice in candidates. Sort of, "go into the polling booth, hold your nose and close you eyes, and select one." Based on the picture painted by the media, the choice was "do you vote for the crook, or the creep?" I feel like Hillary's penchant for corruption and not telling the truth was one of her big negatives. Somehow, that really added to the stereotypical view of how far Washington, DC has slipped down the ethics scale. Then there was the Donald...who seemed to have some sort of demon locked up inside that periodically came out in a "Tourette Syndrome" style delivery. It is pretty much a moot point now. We have to hope that the president elect surrounds himself with the best and brightest and actually listens to what they say. We do have problems. We are a seriously divided nation. We pay more per student than any other nation in the world and the result is a person who can't write cursive nor pour piss out of a boot with the directions on the heel. There are still a lot of folks out there that have quit looking for work. Others are ill prepared for any meaningful job. We seem to accommodate any minority demand under the banner of being politically correct, no matter how illogical the demand might be. One thing for sure. The majority, whatever the make up is, has made their choice, and now the onus is on the guy in the oval office to deliver the miracle. We should all take a few deep breaths and let it play out. Then we can decided if it was good or bad.
  3. tom
    Michael Moore was right. DJT is a giant FU to the establishment. I am an independent voter who has voted about half and half Dem and Rep. And I did vote Rep this time. After all the surprises that DJT has pulled off, there's no way I would speculate on his future success rate. So far a high percentage of his alleged "lies" have turned out to be true. Regarding Judge Curiel, Stefan Molyneax has an excellent investigative piece on that, but its 44M long.But after viewing that, in conjunction with other sources, it makes me wonder whether or not DJT knows beforehand how the news media is going to react to what he says, and is ready to disprove them when the time comes. Lets give him a chance.
  4. Super analysis, kinda made me feel a little better.
  5. Well-balanced and well-written! I wrote Trump off at every stage of his campaign. His crushing victories from the primaries through the general election has made me rethink everything about him. Remarkably, Trump's media coverage was 9:1 negative vs. positive, yet he somehow persevered and actually turned many voters against the media in the process. He didn't have even half of the estimated $1B war chest of Hillary, but won very efficiently, spending less than half the $ per vote that Hillary spent. He had almost constant upheaval with his advisers, but the resulting strategy (which probably had a heavy Trump thumbprint) achieved many narrow victories that produced an EC blowout. He was crude, bad-mannered and thin-skinned, but I believe he demonstrated incredible political instincts in his overall strategy. He found his audience and became the voice of the neglected, unemployed and underemployed. He rented huge venues, and often drew crowds that were 150% of capacity. Hillary rented smaller venues and usually failed to fill them. Note to Democrats: Before investing political capital into throngs of immigrant votes to achieve perpetuity, refocus efforts on the exact electorate that Trump won. They are the constituency that my father's Democratic Party would have fought to protect. Today's party is too elite, too arrogant and too self-centered to look first among our existing citizenry for the future of the party. There is genius in the coal country of West Virginia, just like there is in my mill town in Wisconsin. They are not uneducated hicks or rednecks. In many ways, they are smarter than those who purport to have the competence to govern them. Treat them accordingly. Finally, I stumbled across a very interesting article about what Trump's body language said about him. The analyst (a Brit as I remember) said that there remarkable consistency in his body language, indicating that he truly believed in what he was saying. Perhaps unlike any politician today, he may have found the secret to success. Those who write him off, do so at their own risk.
  6. Hi Jim, I appreciate your comments on Trumps's victory as well as the other two writers who responded. I have hope that If more people can be that open to Trump and his presidency, it will help. Apparently, Trump had already contacted Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to ask them to work with him. That is a positive sign. You might think I voted for him but I went to the polls with no excitement for either Hillary or Trump, but felt I should vote for Hillary for my daughter and nine year old grandchild. I did feel at peace after weeks of conflict and anxiety. I still feel joyful that we can vote here in America, and America has voted overwhelmingly for Trump. Let's give Donald Trump a chance and see what he accomplishes. Honestly, I'm ready for change.
  7. JK James George
    Here are some comments sent to me via email. The names of the senders are not included. 1. Nice piece. Thanks for sharing. About politics, sure, people are frustrated with things. So am I. In a nutshell, this is one of my big frustrations with our political world: (paraphrasing) * "I am sorry I lost, but I wish Donald Trump the best as our new president." -- H Clinton * "I will do my utmost during the transition to make Donald Trump succeed as my successor." B Obama * "My #1 agenda item to ensure that Barack Obama is a one term president." --Mitch McConnell I am not ok with the last one. :-( ********************************************** 2. You have the best political analysis that I have seen on the election. Well done!! I became worried that too many people were being stressed out by this campaign - and I was right. I was on call Tuesday night - I was shocked no one came in with a heart attack. I expected several! If I were to co-author it with you, I would have expanded a bit on HRC and talked about how she and Bill always seem to slip past the reach of the Law with their behaviors that skirt what is legal vs not (moral vs not is an entirely different issue) and the perception by many Americans that the Clintons are "better than us". I agree with you though that Trump figured out an electorate that no one else conceived on how to solidify and unite. He did sound a better. humbler person with his 3:30 AM acceptance speech. I have (this part is paraphrased) dabbled in politics somewhat seriously. But in the end, I don't have the stomach for the vitriol and am too much of a thinker to fit my party's base. It has been a dream of mine to serve in Congress - likely one that I may not achieve as the process eats people alive! Keep writing and thinking - America needs you! ******************************************************************* #3 Jim: I don't spend enough time reading blogs (after all there is a whole lot more to read than can be properly devoted to it), but I do read yours from time to time and particularly was interested to hear your thoughts about the election. Thanks for posting them. They were quite measured, scrubbed from any Munch-eqsue "Screams" or venom (which most people, it seems, have not yet been able to do). Just in case you are pining for more things to read, here is a bit, and much of it is not mine. A few observations from exit poll data (which at least Edison says is reliable— and I suspect that it's better than the Swiss cheese polling that led to the assumptions that populated the programs that gave us something odd for prognostications). Lastly, and considerably least interesting, a few of my observations—which intersect (but don't entirely overlay) with yours. (I would be very worried indeed if I ever agreed totally with anyone.) On Dodd Frank, the plan (at least in Congress is) to repeal the entirety of Dodd Frank (which is really remarkable-- and I don't mean that in an admiring sense). I certainly hope that there is no energy devoted to seeking a special prosecutor re. Sec. Clinton. So when I look at the splits in the groupings and in their contribution to the overall electorate, I can no longer believe that the Trump election is due to lesser educated, older white males. It is a very broad and very remarkable, (yes that word again) swath across the electorate. That tells me that the message that may seem to appeal to the shibboleth group (the "lesser educated older white males"—which, I'm sure is referred to differently in different contexts) was the message that appealed to so many other elements of the population that it was the breadth of the appeal that made the election possible. I also think that the Democratic (or maybe campaign) judgment to consider Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota, "safe" was the definitive Achilles heel of Secretary Clinton's campaign. That to me is astounding. And I don't think that the antipathy that fuels the skirmishes between this pretty widely identified group and the "elites" is new or was it created by Mr. Trump or his message. Nor, had he not won the election, would it have gone away. The fact that the Republican party as a party now claims two of the three branches of government means that it is more likely that some of Mr. Trump's messages will come into actual policy or law, but I certainly hope (with some reason) that there will be some stickiness on the most outlandish points. (And I will stick fast to my position that neither party now or has ever been able to claim the judiciary. For that we should be deeply grateful. That, and a robust press (which , I certainly hope will have learned a lesson that "entertaining" press coverage leaves uncovered some really difficult problems) are the real firewalls against some dramatic mistakes. ) I'm not afraid of some element of danger in some action having been taken or in taking action—because there is always danger in everything—but the balance of danger (which is a percentage of a negative outcome) to promise (which is a percentage of a positive outcome) must be kept. I don't think that the majority in Congress will be interested in assessing that balance. Now to my real fluff: First, I suspect that Mr. Trump will soon discover that he will have to do some real work. This is not CEO-dom. Dealing with countries and political subdivisions is not like negotiating or managing a commercial or development contract (regardless of its size). I suspect that when the realization of the real nature of the job comes to him, he will want to quit. Secondly, I also don't know why Sec. Clinton has such baggage. It seems to me that there is a perception that she is a latter day Lady Macbeth (even though I suspect that the allusion would be lost on many who believe that). Her personal email server is actually a reflection of the issues that happen with many other groups of very sensitive information, so anyone who deals with sensitive data is probably not shocked by a desire to have rapid access to information at home-- but I'm sure that Sec. Clinton had additional reasons for having had that server. It seems to me that the winning campaign was more of a con than most supporters could know. Many of the grand promises (whether considered to be promises of good or evil) cannot be delivered (Example 1: coal for domestic use is not coming back-- sorry: too many plants are too far along in conversion to gas for the companies to put in the funds necessary to reconvert them to coal; the companies that control the resources are so badly beat up that they cannot now get good access to additional capital to revitalize their operations) (Example 2: when they blow up the Affordable Care Act, if that results in an increasing number of uninsured (which seems to be the most likely result), the cost of medical treatment for that group will fall back the public fisc, at a time when states and localities can't afford it.) (Example 3: The wall may be started but the US will be paying for it. And I suspect it can never be built -- at least it cannot serve its advertised purpose.) (Example 4: even if Pres. Trump can appoint 3 or even 4 new justices of the SCOTUS, that is 3 or 4 of 9, and there is a long history that will continue, I believe, that once you appoint a judge for life, you lose control of their politics. CJ Roberts and J Kennedy are a minor cases in that respect; CJ Warren was a major case in that respect. And if those judges can pass muster (even if it is a light muster) the process of legal change is so slow and the commitment to stare decisis is so much a matter of the conservative view of law that epic changes by rollbacks of the decisions of the last 5 or 10 or 30 years cannot happen in the next generation. ) It seems that the coming period will be dark days for civil rights-- not that they will be intentionally trampled by the officials in administration, but because they will be irrelevant to those officials. The dangers of mayhem visited on dissenters are not balanced by any promise of good. And, last, if we are looking at a time of demagoguery, its effects will be damaging. If the protesters of the last few days are protesting the election of Mr. Trump, shame on them for not understanding an election and shame on them for undermining the role of opposition. If their point was expressing a displeasure at policies, well, work at thwarting the implementation of the policies. I fear that most of the energy in these protests is just some sort of social masturbation that will sap the credibility of the opposition and that is deeply sad. One last note-- I suspect that by this time in 2018, we will be in a real recession. ******************************************************************************** #4 Jim Great insight. So well written. **************************************************************************** #5 This is an excellent, thoughtful analysis of "what happened" . . . well worth the time! ****************************************************************** #6 Maybe I am biased but wonder if the email of Clinton has jeopardized your country's security? I am afraid this election campaign was really extraordinary and might leave some profound cleavage or division among the people in the society. It seems the biggest problem this election left. *************************************************************** #7 Well written with constructive insights. Whatever your vote was, this is worth the read. ***************************************************************************
  8. Excellent and, in my view, a very accurate analysis!
  9. As with all the other Democratic pundits, you have no idea what really happen. Everyone talks about how flawed DJT is and nothing about HRC, who is the most corrupt individual walking the face of this earth alive. America had to take down the Clinton machine. That fact that everyone of the political class, especially the Republicans, tried to take down Trump should be a clue as to what is going on in this country. When have we ever had a president beholding to no one? But even with scandals of emails, Benghazi, Haiti, and especially the pay for play with the Clinton Foundation, this election was not about the candidates, but about the principals on which this country is to be governed. So which did the American people want? * Government health care with $10,000 deductibles they no one can afford or private run health care? * A Supreme Court that will social engineer this country or one that will stand with the Constitution. * A ton more regulations that will continue to constrain business or dropping the regulations that will allow business to grow. * An America beholding to other countries for its energy or one that is energy independent. * Trade agreements that continue to kill manufacturing in this country or a change in policy that has a good chance of bringing manufacturing back to this country. * Continued alienating of Russia and China or trying to work with them. Why does NATO have some many troops on Russia's border? What are we afraid of? * Continued funding of ISIS both directly or through Iran so that Assad can be removed from power or leave Assad along and work with Russia to expel ISIS. * Continued support to countries that hate our guts or cut the funding off. * Continue to allow illegal convicted felons to roam our streets and kill our children or lock them up and deport them. * Continued race bating or trying to repair the divide that has been created during the last 8 years. America give the answer Tues. And by the way in case you missed it, the Republican party is now the party of the working class while the Democratic party has become the party of the "give me" class. I was as surprised as you that Trump won, but finally enough of the American people have seen through the lies not only from the political leaders but also the media.
  10. Jim, excellent analysis, and most of the comments are interesting, too. Three points: First, I am willing to give Trump 1 year to see what happens. Let's see what he delivers, and does not deliver. I am optimistic. For example, let's keep the good parts of Obamacare, and fix at least some of the problems. Second, regarding the Rust Belt ... from Pennsylvania to Minnesota ... all those good paying jobs that involved mining coal and manufacturing steel and cars ... are they ever going to come back and generate enough jobs to satisfy those populations? I think not. A major funding of Infrastructure building will certainly help. Third, what about the Electoral College? There are a lot of people in California, New York, and elsewhere who feel disenfranchised. How does that problem get fixed? What is a fair way to elect presidents?
  11. HC simply failed to inspire Democrats. I voted for her, just as many Republicans voted for Trump, purely out of party loyalty. DT victory was no surprise to me: Michael Moore's anti-Trump blog in early summer cautioned Democrats to look in the mirror each morning and repeat the phrase: "President Trump" three times. [or something like that -- recalling: "Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore" said multiple times by Dorothy in W. of Oz."] So, unlike Dorothy, we're left in Oz with the man behind the curtain pulling strings for four years. Hillary dug holes for herself. Huma Abedin worships HC: the apparent flawed advice to stick with Weiner-man in the first incident set up the second catastrophic one, allowing Comey to clobber her a 2nd time. And can't believe she made the same mistake as Mr. Romney's 47% statement: branding DT's followers as "deplorables." My Denver relatives may be misguided, but they are certainly not deplorables! I am insulted by her comment. My model for women's rights is Maria Schriver, not HC:
    • Bill wrote: >My model for women's rights is Maria Schriver, not HC My wife Barbara is also a model for career women, having completed a significant stint at UC Berkeley in the grad fellowships office, plus, with me, raising three children, one of whom has achieved prominence in setting the country's North Korean nuclear response strategy; see and Adam's bio at: Mr. Trump, in debate #2 acknowledged Adam's task forces' recommendation to more strongly include China in negotiations with the problematic North Korea. HC had a good, but less specific, response to the question. While Adam is a staunch Democrat, it will be interesting to see if Trump taps his N Korea nuclear response expertise. While Adam was a member of HC's advisory group and canvassed for her in N Carolina, ultimately he has to serve his own interests and devote his best effort to the volatile and dangerous N Korea situation (he has a PhD from Georgetown Univ, with a thesis on an aspect of Nuclear Deterrence and Disarmament).

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