Well, we went and did it

Obviously I see the results of this election as a tragic mistake, one that we’ll be feeling for a long time.  It’s hard not to see this as a victory for fear, hatred, and bigotry.  The man who came to political prominence by calling into question the citizenship and legitimacy of the first black president will be the one to succeed that president.  (That he may do so while actually losing the popular vote will be salt in the wound.)

There’s obviously going to be a lot of soul searching on the left, but one thing I’m pretty sure of is that the inevitable articles touting Trump as some kind of political genius and Clinton as an incompetent campaigner will be utter and contemptible bullshit.  Whatever happened here was seismic and far larger than either of them.

Many people this morning are talking about the economic anxieties of the working class whites who voted for Trump.  I do think there’s something to that, but I think it would be a mistake to think that those economic anxieties were the only factor.

The much more difficult issue is the strong streak of nativism and racism that exists in this group, and the overall angst about the cultural and demographic changes that are happening in the country.  I’m not sure what anyone can necessarily do about that.  (Not that I think anything should be done about it.)  As this graph from a Pew Research article shows, the changes are happening and aren’t something amenable to being addressed by government policy, at least other than (hopefully) unthinkably draconian ones.

Source: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/03/31/10-demographic-trends-that-are-shaping-the-u-s-and-the-world/
Source: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/03/31/10-demographic-trends-that-are-shaping-the-u-s-and-the-world/

One thing that is glaringly obvious is that the polling industry has some serious issues.  That their methodologies didn’t see any significant whiff of this coming means they’ll have to thoroughly reassess those methodologies.  It’s one thing to talk about results within the margin of error, but when every poll was wrong in the same direction, something’s definitely broken.

For better or worse, the Republicans now hold all the keys to government.  Whatever happens in the next couple of years, they own it.  We can only hope they can find the wisdom not to run the country into the ground.  I wish I could say I was optimistic, but I desperately fear that the coming years will not be good ones for the economy, science, climate change, or for anyone who isn’t white, Christian, and male (and it’s not even at all clear to me it will be good for that group).

21 thoughts on “Well, we went and did it

  1. It’s much bigger than Trump vs Clinton. Everything you wrote applies equally to the UK’s Brexit vote (if you exchange Hispanic ethnicity for the indian sub-continent). Even the faulty poll predictions were the same.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I fear you’re right. I had a spike of fear when the Brexit vote happened, but took heart from the demographic differences between the UK and US. In other words, I rationalized. I suspect a lot of us were doing that. But it turned out that these nativist and racial sentiments were far wider and deeper among American whites than anyone realized, or perhaps than we wanted to see. Well, now reality has smacked us hard.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Both Trump and the UK Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage have a natural charisma and straightforwardness that conventional politicians lack. But ultimately was it just that the people were angry and wanted to hit back at someone, and that someone turned out to be foreigners?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I think charisma is a very relative thing. If you’re telling people what they want to hear, they’re a lot more likely to find you charismatic. And I know in my country, the election of a black president created an enormous and angry backlash movement. Playing to that movement’s biases came off as “telling it like it is”, at least to them.


  2. As a Brit, I’m not in the least surprised (though dismayed, natch), Mike, and prior to the leaked tapes had commented on blogs that I suspected he’d win. Everyone thought I was nuts. But pollsters are too clever by half, and invariably fail to ask the simple question: how would you vote right now? They’re modelling overly on political attitudes and predispositions, projecting those (incorrectly) into voting intentions, and are getting it spectacularly wrong on the ambiguity of human nature. The Tory landslide here in Britain last year was not predicted by a single pollster apart from GCHQ’s (our NSA) internal analysis, which wasn’t released at the time. The pollsters had it on a knife-edge. Totally wrong. GCHQ got it spot on. Same story with Brexit this year, and again, same story last night. Predictable? Not by pollsters, it would seem.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I remember you saying it, and you were right. I think the people you were talking with (including me) just didn’t want to believe it. Truth be told I still don’t want to believe it. But it’s in front of me and I have to accept it.

      I’m not sure what the issue with the polls are. I know I’ve been a bit disturbed in recent years that their results come from people willing to answer a call from an unknown number. That’s doesn’t necessarily seem like a representative attitude of the general population.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Yes, the telephone surveying is problematical. 56% of poor U.S. households have no landline service, and well over 40% of all households have no landline. Pollsters can’t legally autodial cellphones, and it’s too expensive and time-consuming to contact their owners. Accordingly, the biasing for non-responders has to be pretty watertight. Typical response rates are now in single digits; in the thirties it was over 90%.

        P.S. I forgot last years’ Israeli national election and the Scottish referendum – both pollster fails, and both way off the mark.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I got a poll call for the local election (I assume) and ended up answering the questions, but I hit the wrong button for one of the candidates…literally, my finger slipped. There was no way to change what I’d done. How stupid is that?

    I didn’t quite trust the polls, but I had hope anyways. I guess I just had to have that hope. Which makes this outcome all the more painful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sounds like it was an automated poll. From what I understand, those don’t have a great reputation.

      One of the things the pollsters are pointing out today is that the national polls weren’t actually off by that much. After all, Clinton did win the popular vote. Lamentably, that’s not what gets a President elected. The state by state polls seem like a different story.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Unless one is a partisan there is no good reason for being so glum. Politics is a cyclical business with ideas and attitudes being recycled over many years. Possibly related to the fact that the younger generation of voters don’t really remember what happened before and so the same mistakes are made over and over again. Our system of checks and balances is supposed to function no matter which scoundrels are in office. So relax!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Elections have consequences, and I fear the consequences of this one will be bad for a lot of people. I also fear that many who are thinking right now that it will be good for them are headed for their own reality broadsides. As for faith in the checks and balances, well, we can always hope, but even assuming they hold, there’s still a lot of room for catastrophic incompetence.

      I hope I’m wrong.


  5. I voted only once in my life, for Jimmy Carter. I don’t truly give a damn about the politics at that level.
    I of course did not vote this time too. But if I did, it will definitely not be for Hillary. Even if we 100X Trump’s shortcomings, it will still be a peanut in comparison to Hillary’s dishonesty. Under her hallmark sweet smile, it is full of the dishonesty. How can anyone (including you) not pick it up?
    No, the difference between policies is not truly an issue, but the honesty is. I am glad that at least half of Americans are voting against the total evil of dishonesty.

    I am writing a new book {Nature’s Manifesto — Nature vs Bullcraps}.
    “Bullcrap” is not about right or wrong. Bullcrap = {dishonesty, intentional lying to one’s self, and uneducable ignorance}. It has four volumes:
    Physics-bullcrap: example, How can 137.0359… not equal to {137.0359…}?
    Darwinianism-bullcrap, see https://tienzengong.wordpress.com/2014/10/11/intelligent-evolution/
    I am very proud of those who voted against the dishonesty.


    1. I think we should assess someone’s honesty or dishonesty on the available evidence. I can’t see that the available evidence for Clinton supports your view, but arguing about her is now pointless. As for Trump, there are mountains of evidence for his dishonesty and overall ethical depravity, and I suspect we’re going to see a lot more of it.

      We all lie to ourselves. We all rationalize. It’s trivial to see it in others, but extremely difficult to find it in ourselves. In my experience, we’re most wrong when we can’t or won’t look for it in ourselves.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Okay we’re all quite disappointed right now. Still under such circumstances there does seem to be an emotional tendency to overreact. Perhaps I can offer just a bit of hope?

    Trump is a standard populist rather than republican — as a media figure with money the man essentially “stole” the nomination from them. When have there ever so many respected and distinguished party leaders, that couldn’t stand their representative? So will he be able to institute enough legislation to cause a recession, or massive increases in budget deficits? I doubt it.

    Yes international relations should take a hit with him, but I at least can’t imagine that he’ll display the same bellicosity that we saw during his populist campaign.

    I suspect that American society is continuing to become more rather than less accepting of blacks and latinos. Sure there are still disturbing incidents with cops and such, but each new decade does seem to bring improvements. Furthermore things seem to also be improving for women, and then consider at how much better it is to now be homosexual!

    I think of England as an extraordinary country which could never have achieved what it has, without the development of its extraordinary democracy. And as for America? The same.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do think there is some hope that Trump’s populism will prevent the Republicans from implementing some of their more loathsome ideas, such as privatizing social security. But that’s a double edged sword. It may also lead him to instigate catastrophic trade wars, interfere with the Fed’s operations, or engage in other destructive endeavors that responsible presidents from both parties have previously refrained from.

      And I fear you’re probably going to be dismayed by just how much the Republicans are going to try to work with Trump. We should mentally prepare ourselves that a lot of his agenda is going to happen, or at least be attempted.

      As I noted in the post, I expect the next few years to be bad for the economy, immigrants, minorities, science, climate change, and many other areas. I hope I’m wrong. But even if I’m not, we’ll survive it. Life will go on, at least for most of us.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Yes good points all around Mike. Even though I try not to let natural optimism skew my perspective (for this is no more healthy than natural pessimism), I must admit that I also tend to be so afflicted. Thus it may be particularly helpful for me to keep your concerns in mind. Furthermore we’ve each based our arguments upon separate timelines — yours being shorter (“a few years”), with mine being longer (“decades”). I suppose that I’ve always tended to go “big picture” when I’m less than happy with what I see on smaller screens. To be honest however, there’s really nothing I enjoy more than big picture speculation!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m with you on big picture speculation. And I do agree that the broad sweeps of history are moving in the right direction. But we have to be careful not to regard that as inevitable. Those trend lines are the results of individual human decisions, and I can’t see that there’s any divine will or other universal principle that will save us from ourselves if we make destructive choices.

        Given the trend lines I referenced in the post, and the fact that Clinton actually won the popular vote, I think there’s reasonable ground to see this as more of a setback for those trends than a complete reversal. Still, it’s an appalling setback, both for us and the world.

        Liked by 1 person

    3. Yes Mike, this is a setback, but then how could we have elected a black man twice in 8 years, and then a Donald Trump? Did the people who voted for Obama as well as Trump, suddenly become hateful? Or could it be that we’re in more of a “post race society,” as I think I recall Obama hoping for? Perhaps many of the people who wanted the change that Obama represented, do still yearn for more of this with Trump? I’ve heard that there were a great number of turncoat Republicans (fortunately and for obvious reasons), though still far more registered Democrats that voted for Trump. Thus perhaps race and misogyny had nothing to do with much of Trump’s popularity? Beyond your encouragement that Clinton did win the popular vote, perhaps things aren’t so bad?

      My wife happens to be an immigrant — she comes from a traditional and reasonably well educated English family. But they’re Brexiters all! Apparently her mum was thrilled by the election of Trump, and though this did make me pause for a moment, it does make sense. They feel that their country is being stolen from them — that their traditional values are being eroded through the immigration of people who defy assimilation. We’re all products of our circumstances, so perhaps I do at least comprehend why they feel as they do.

      I also wanted to quickly mention how happy I am with your response to tienzengong above. Here you concluded with:

      We all lie to ourselves. We all rationalize. It’s trivial to see it in others, but extremely difficult to find it in ourselves. In my experience, we’re most wrong when we can’t or won’t look for it in ourselves.

      Oh man that’s good! Furthermore by overcoming belief in the supernatural you seem to have practiced this very skill. I mention this because in the end I hope to convince you of the falsity of a far more entrenched modern dogma. It’s that the softness found in our mental and behavioral sciences, exist naturally and therefore cannot be overcome. I instead believe that these fields have not yet developed solid enough foundations from which to properly advance. I mean to help them gain such founding, though this should only be possible through the skill that you’ve noted above, both in myself and in those who consider such ideas.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Eric, on the point about voters and racism, you might want to read my post from this morning. You’ll probably find that I’m closer to your position than my wailing Wednesday post implies. In particular, I highlighted Michael Moore’s noting that this election was more about economics, at least for the voters who swung from Obama to Trump, than it was about bigotry, or more precisely, bigotry wasn’t what motivated these swing voters.

        I do understand people’s anxieties about how our societies are changing. Unfortunately, I’m not sure what can be done about that anxiety, at least aside from brutally draconian measures that are hopefully impossible in a liberal democracy. But it probably means that conservative politicians and parties that speak to those anxieties, even if they can’t actually do anything about them, will get support from people with those anxieties. It’s almost certainly why we seem the differences in voting between age groups.

        I appreciate your kind words on my reply to Tienzen. On the softness of the social science, I think the best strategy to change people’s minds is to produce scientific research that demonstrates what you’re asserting. If you can provide results using the methods you advocate that have the reliability of the natural sciences, people will take notice.

        Liked by 1 person

    4. Thanks Mike. For the record I did squeeze in my above response moments before the notification came through of your following post. So it’s conformity once again? Then regarding my own grand ambitions, right now my quest is merely to help others comprehend the nature of my ideas. I find this difficult since these ideas do seem to contain various repugnant elements. Thus providing sufficient “big picture” understandings, has been challenging. But that’s for other occasions…

      Liked by 1 person

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