Well, I would like to introduce my mouth to a crow because I need to eat some. Donald J. Trump, billionaire real estate mogul, reality TV star and political novice, in his first foray into politics, will be the President of the United States. For months Trump told us that the polls were wrong, that there was a silent pro-Trump vote and that America was ready to follow the lead of the United Kingdom, the citizens of whom decided to leave the European Union in the Brexit vote.
From the beginning Trump crafted a populist message, appealing to disaffected working class voters and millions of others who were fed up with business as usual in Washington. Trump defied all logic and all of the accumulated knowledge of pollsters and political insiders. He told us that the massive rallies that he had (compared to Hillary Clinton’s puny ones) meant more than her superior ground game. He was right. He won two states (Wisconsin and Pennsylvania) that had not been won by a Republican in decades.
One can only imagine a remake of the Back to the Future, possibly in a theater near you in 2 years, in which Biff Tannen (the bully turned casino owner of Part II) becomes the President.
I would like to congratulate all of my Republican friends who were passionately behind Trump from the begining and the many others who jumped on the Train when he became the nominee. You were enthusiastic and exuberant, you told all of us naysayers that he had the right stuff to win it and when it came down to brass tacks, he pulled it off. Trump needed an inside straight through the rust belt’s blue wall and he got it.
After a campaign filled with bluster and bombast in front of 20,000 person rallies, Trump’s victory speech early this morning (about 2:45a ET) was soft-stated and humble:
“Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division; have to get together. To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people. It’s time. I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans, and this is so important to me.”
— Donald Trump victory speech (early AM November 9, 2016)
I would also like to congratulate Hillary Clinton on a hard-fought battle and thank her for delivering an equally gracious and healing concession speech this morning.
“I still believe in America, and I always will. And if you do, then we must accept this result and then look to the future. Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead. Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power. We don’t just respect that. We cherish it.”
— Hillary Clinton concession speech (November 9, 2016)
What is hugely ironic is, with all of the talk about the Democratic party’s fundamental advantage in the Electoral College system, that the Democratic candidate has won the popular vote in four of the last five elections but the Electoral College vote only twice (with Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012). Just as Al Gore bested George W. Bush in the popular vote in 2000, Hillary narrowly topped Trump in the popular vote, 47.7% to 47.5% (about a 200,000 vote spread out of 125 million votes cast).
Why ironic? Check out this Tweet from 2012 when early returns looked like Mitt Romney might beat Obama in the popular vote while still losing the presidency:
I’m sure the President-elect no longer holds this view! The system was rigged by the Founding Fathers, to the Donald’s benefit!!
So, how did he do it? He did it exactly as he said he would, by making significant gains among the white working class. According to the exit polls (which sample people who actually voted, not people the pollsters think will vote before the election), he won the majority of the vote among voters without a college degree. Some other constituencies that helped him over the finish line with his razor-thin victory margin.
- Despite all of the charges of misogyny and the offensive Access Hollywood tape, Trump won with white women 53-to-43, which is almost as good as the 56-to-42 margin that Romney (the most inoffensive man you could imagine) won over Obama in 2012. The exit polls showed us that 50% of the electorate were bothered by Trump’s treatment of women “a lot” and that 50% went for Hillary 83-to-11. However, there was another 20% who said it bothered them “some” and those voters clearly didn’t care enough to change their vote: they went for Trump 75-to-19. Those who didn’t care at all were overwhelmingly Trump voters.
- The percentage of the African-American vote nationwide was 12% (compared to 13% in 2012) and Trump did 33% better with black voters than Romney did (from 6% to 8%). It’s not a huge difference but it was significant in two close races. In Pennsylvania (with its 20 electoral votes) in particular, the black vote was down from 13% to 10%. That decline cost Clinton about 165,000 votes in a state she lost by just 68,000.
- In Florida (with its 29 electoral votes), the African-American turnout was high (about 15% of the total); approximately 1.4 million black voters cast ballots. Clinton got 84% of their votes as opposed to Obama’s 95% in 2012. That’s 154,000 that she didn’t earn in a state where she lost by 120,000, Remember that if she gained those 120,000 votes that means Trump would have lost them. This was the difference in Florida.
- Finally, despite all of the pounding the Donald took about his immigration policies, he did better among Latino voters than Romney did in 2012. Clinton beat Trump 65-to-29 with Latinos, Obama bested Romney 71-to-27.
Give Donald Trump credit. Despite the enormous advantages that the Democrats have with the African-American community, he made the effort to win their votes. Besides the rather vague “what the hell do you have to lose” line, he also reminded black voters that the Democrats show up every four years for their vote and don’t do anything else to help them. In the two states he needed to win (Florida and Pennsylvania), that appeal was good enough to win him the presidency.
Also, we have to put this on Secretary Clinton. Forgetting about the email issue or the Foundation or the embarrassing Wiki-leaks revelations, she was an uninspiring candidate, utterly lacking in charisma, and would never have been the party’s nominee if her last name had not been Clinton. In a campaign in which Trump was vowing to “Make American Great Again” her entire campaign theme seemed to be about how awful he was and not about her positive vision.
As of this writing (with some votes still to count), Trump has about 59.6 million votes. That’s less than the 60.8 million tallies Romney received in 2012 and about the same that John McCain earned in 2008. Clinton currently has over 59.8 million votes, compared to the 65.5 million votes earned by Obama in his re-election bid and the 69.5 million he won in ’08. Trump made up for his deficiencies with an original message that inspired different voters but ultimately pulled about the same amount of votes as his Republican predecessors. This election was about the dramatically reduced vote tally for the Democratic nominee.
As my faithful readers know, I’ve been on the fence on this election, tortured by the choice of two unacceptable candidates. I have to admit that I wasn’t prepared mentally for a Trump victory. I considered it an impossibility and had made peace in my mind with Secretary Clinton being president, despite my deep-rooted feelings that she was inherently corrupt and dishonest.
As a lifelong Republican, I have decidedly mixed feelings about President Trump. From a policy perspective, his views are more closely aligned to mine but I fear that the precedent of his victory will have long-lasting negative repercussions on our democracy. Donald Trump has made dozens of promises that he can’t possibly keep. All politicians do this of course but the far-reaching scope of Trump’s pledges went far beyond anything that any candidate has ever made before, even Obama. He lied consistently during the campaign, more than even Clinton (which is a high bar).
Generally speaking, I am not a fan of rewarding deviant behavior when it comes to those aspiring to the highest office in the land. This is why I was so passionately against both Trump and Clinton. I felt to my deepest core that both candidates were fundamentally unworthy of the honor. To me, Hillary was corrupt. Donald was unprepared.
What does this mean for the future? In elections in the years to come, will another famous celebrity make outlandish promises and tell lies and be rewarded with the presidency? This is what I worry about. We have elected a man who won the Republican primaries and ultimately the presidency on the strength of a great deal of BS. It troubles me that the dozens of half-truths, misdirects or bald-faced lies will be seen as the template for future presidential candidates. In our current system, there is no punishment for making things up or making extraordinary pledges that can’t possibly be fulfilled.
By any traditional standard of intellectual preparedness, Trump is not qualified for the presidency but now he has the job. We can only hope that he will be awed and changed by the honor bestowed upon him by the people and show vastly greater humility than he did during the nominating process. He is going to need a lot of help and I hope that all of his bravado about being the smartest man in the room will prove to have been merely bluster, that he will be self-aware about what he does not know.
In the last two weeks of this campaign, Trump displayed a discipline that was lacking during most of the previous year. If he maintains that discipline and listens to those who know more than he does, he will have a chance. He will never be a president who dives into the details of policy initiatives. He will govern in broad strokes, outlining general principles and then delegating the details to those he hires as White House staffers and those appoints to his Cabinet. We can expect Vice-President elect Mike Pence to play a key role in the minutiae of his administration and be the key point man in negotiations with Congress (as Joe Biden has been for Obama).
I would now like to address comments to my Democratic friends and family who are depressed, disgusted or outright horrified by the outcome of this election. I’ll start by saying that I share your feelings, maybe not as acutely, but I share them. Although I’m a Republican, I’m not a happy camper right now either. I’m a bit nauseous actually. (Of course, I was one of those 20% who weren’t going to be nauseous either way).
We are a deeply divided nation, split almost exactly 50-50. Our division would have remained regardless of who won the White House. There is no doubt that Donald Trump has exploited this divide and rode the anger of a significant percentage of the population all the way to the Oval Office. We may have a nearly split House and Senate but we only get one president at a time. I ask you to remain calm and, and Hillary urged today, give the President Trump a chance. He might surprise you. He might not be the complete disaster you think he will be. He may put together a terrific Cabinet and the weight of his responsibility may bring him a level of modesty he hasn’t yet shown.
We can expect a heavy emphasis on crafting a bill for rebuilding our infrastructure, something that should engender bi-partisan support. Do not expect a monolithic conservative agenda to be passed through Congress. First of all, the Democrats will still have a filibuster option in the Senate so most bills will require a 60-40 consensus. Also, Trump at his core is a deal-maker. He achieved the presidency mostly on his own and is not beholden to party ideology or special interests (at least not that we know of). So if there’s legislation that is favored by a bi-partisan coalition but opposed by the most conservative wing of the GOP, he’s going to sign it.
There are some things that will happen that you, my Democratic friends, won’t like. You’re going to get at least one conservative Supreme Court justice to replace Antonin Scalia and, with three of the justices 78 years of age or older, Trump may get the opportunity to appoint more than just one. This will mean that there are some decisions that you don’t like. Please do not worry that the fundamental abortion right conferred by Roe v Wade will be snatched away. It will not happen. If you want to know why I’m so sure about it, read my article about it here. Although I’m not 100% certain about this, I would not expect marriage equality to be overturned either. The Court historically has almost never changed its course on a matter that affects citizens in such a fundamental way.
Regarding ObamaCare, it may well get repealed but it won’t be repealed without some kind of consideration for those who have insurance because of it. Trump’s line is “repeal and replace with something great.” I’m sure he really has no idea what that will be; it will be up to the Republican Congress to figure out what “something great” is. From the beginning of the primaries, Trump showed his heart by saying that he didn’t want people “dying in the streets.”
Now, with respect to immigration, you can expect a very different approach and if you are or know somebody in this community, there is legitimate reason to be nervous. He will almost certainly reverse Obama’s executive orders but there will not be a massive deportation of illegal immigrants. Trump has backed off mass deportations and only 25% of the voters support that position. There may be a wall along the border but it will more likely be strategically done in certain places and, no, Mexico is not going to pay for it. And, of course, there will not be a universal ban on Muslims.
And no, I would not expect Trump to make jailing Hillary Clinton a priority of any kind. In fact, in the unlikely development that an investigation by the FBI turned up a criminal referral regarding the Clinton Foundation, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a presidential pardon.
Let me also offer a note of reassurance to those who fear that we have elected a tyrant, a dictator in waiting. Our Founding Founders provided a system of checks and balances to stop an authoritarian from making himself a king. It’s called impeachment. You might recall that Bill Clinton was impeached in the late 1990’s simply for lying about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.
If Trump oversteps his constitutional authority in a way that endangers the nation, the Congress will impeach him quickly and without delay. Remember that Trump managed to win the presidency without building a loyal coalition of Republican lawmakers. He doesn’t have any loyalty to the GOP members of Congress and they don’t have true obedience to their president-elect either. If you asked every Republican member of Congress whether they’d rather have President Mike Pence or President Donald Trump, Pence would be the choice by a 5-to-1 margin.
As for the nuclear codes fear, I understand the nervousness. The President has an extraordinary level of power to end the world. But one of Trump’s greatest selling points throughout his run for the White House was the loyalty and love of his family. He has five children and multiple grandchildren who he loves. Worldwide Armageddon is probably not on his “Make America Great Again” agenda.
I feel compelled to finish with some thoughts about what will inevitably be a bitter blame game. I will expect a great deal of vitriol heaped upon FBI Director James Comey, who announced on October 28th that the Bureau was in essence re-opening the investigation into Secretary Clinton’s use of a primary email server. On Sunday, Comey followed up that bombshell with the news that his conclusions were unchanged, that she had not committed an offense worthy of prosecution. But there was a 9-day period of uncertainty, 9 days of innuendo and speculation that may have tilted the race into Trump’s favor.
Based on the polls, I’m not buying that. OK, stop laughing, I know it’s hard to put much stock in the polls since they projected a 3-point national win for Clinton, and that turned out to be wrong. But what was wrong about the polls was a universal miscalculation about the disposition and makeup of the voting electorate. The trend lines showed that the impact of the FBI announcement was nullified by Election Day. Hillary was up by 3 points before October 28th, still up by 2 points five days later and back up by 3 points on Monday.
The anger towards Comey is misplaced. If you’re a Democrat and you’re horrified by the outcome of this election, you can thank the party establishment, who boxed out any other possible credible candidate. The Democratic establishment, with Obama’s consent, anointed Mrs. Clinton with the nomination with hundreds of super-delegates long before the primary season began. The email server story broke in March 2015. At the time, I made the analogy that, if her name wasn’t Clinton, that Hillary would be stuck in political traffic with Chris Christie on the George Washington Bridge. The Clinton Foundation story was also out there. Mrs. Clinton was a risky bet but the party ignored those risks.
Let me, however, offer you, the Democrats, a potential silver lining for the future. If you believe that Trump will be a terrible president, that would mean that he will be a one-term president. So the odds of the Dems recovering the White House in 2020 are high. In addition, if there is a massive disapointment and dissatisifaction with Trump as president, the odds are better that the Dems’ can turn the Senate, House and multiple state legislatures to their column. And, since 2020 will be a Census year, that means re-districting for the House, which may enable your party to keep the chamber for a decade as the Republicans have done since gerrymandering the Congressional Districts to their benefit in 2010.
For my Republican friends who were pro-Trump, again I congratulate you on your victory but please remember that it was a narrow win. Be nice, considerate and understanding to your friends and family who are scared or disgusted. President-elect Trump may have a governing majority but he does not have a popular mandate.
As for we the American people who were not Trump fans, he will now be our President. We must hope and pray that he is the winner he claims to be and not the complete disaster we fear him to be.
If Trump defies the skeptics, turns out to be a great president, and wins re-election in 2020 then your deepest fears will not have been realized and it’s all going to be OK.
It’s been a long year and a half of this race so this may be my last post for awhile. I thank you all for reading. I continue to be humbled and flattered by the number of you who have told me you have enjoyed the blogs.