Why Trump Won
Donald Trump was elected President of the United States last night in what can only be called an electoral college landslide. He won states that Republicans haven’t won since the Reagan years and his coattails were wide enough to save the GOP in the House and Senate against all odds.
The pundits are going to spend a lot of time analyzing data and trying to put together some kind of rational analysis, but this election has taught us that this kind of election analysis is a waste of time. Ignore it.
Why did Trump win? Because he got more votes than Hillary did in more states that mattered. It’s not a secret how you win elections.
We all know, though, that nobody is going to be content with that answer. We need more, so here’s my take.
Trump connected with the American people in a basic, fundamental way that Clinton didn’t. He gave a voice to people who felt they were being attacked and vilified every day. He spoke in the voice of the average voter, and they rewarded him for it. People wanted change, but they also wanted to send a signal to the establishment, and Trump was the biggest signal of them all. That, more than anything, is why he won.
There were probably plenty of turning points in this campaign, but the one that sticks out the most to me was the “deplorables” moment. That moment, more than any, defined what I believe is the fundamental reason why Donald Trump was elected president. The average American GOP voter has been talked down to, vilified by, and ignored by elites in the media and Washington, elites in both parties. These voters have been called names over and over again – racist, sexist, misogynist, stupid, redneck, among other names. Yes, some of the folks who voted for Donald Trump fit those definitions. But the vast majority didn’t, but they felt like they were the ones being attacked. And it made them angry. Most people get angry when they’re dismissed, condescended to, or mocked for what they believe. They get tired of being accused of things they are not simply because they have different opinions.
I’ve gotten accused of being elitist and condescending – even though I still consider myself a poor, dumb, lucky kid from Baltimore who tries his hardest not to be – and folks have gotten angry when Shaun and I have talked about nativism because they felt we were talking about them, even when we weren’t. That, more than anything, demonstrated to me what was fundamentally happening in this campaign. Your average white middle class voter was tired of being blamed for everything that was wrong with America, labeled a bad person and dismissed. If guys like Shaun and I could bear the brunt of that anger when we weren’t talking about most GOP voters, you can imagine what those voters wanted to do to the people who actually were calling all of them those names. The left has been saying this stuff for years. Did they just expect folks to accept it and agree that they were evil? Come on, now.
The other thing that strikes me is how absurd it was for Democrats to label every Republican candidate over the years as horrible people who weren’t fit to lead a garbage detail, let alone serve in public office. What they did to Mitt Romney in 2012 looks absurd now, as Bill Maher admitted the other day. If Mitt Romney, who is straight off a Boy Scout recruiting poster, was vilified and treated like a horrible human being, no Republican could expect a fair shake from the media and the left. So when they tried to pull the same routine on Trump, whether justified or not, it fell flat. They couldn’t keep crying wolf and expecting it to work.
Bottom line – you can’t keep attacking people, blaming them for everything, and making them feel small and expect no reaction. We’re Americans. We can take a lot of abuse, but once the straw has broken the camel’s back, we fight. For many, this election was a fight they felt they absolutely had to win, and they did. They felt as if the America they grew up in and loved was slipping away. You can agree with that feeling or you can disagree with it, but that’s how folks felt and that’s how they voted. It’s neither right nor wrong. It’s how people feel.
The middle class felt left behind. It doesn’t matter whether that is true or not – it doesn’t matter what the unemployment rate is, or whether wages are going up, or taxes going down. If people perceive that things are bad, then that’s how they are going to behave. That’s the perception, and in politics, as the old trope goes, perception is reality. People make decisions today based on feelings and emotions – that’s reality. On an emotional level, many voters were sick and tired of what they perceive is going on in Washington – the “rigged system” and “drain the swamp” talk – and they wanted massive change. That’s what they voted for. Clinton was not going to deliver that change and Trump was, and that was good enough for them, Trump’s warts and all.
Make no mistake – Trump won this election, far more than Hillary lost it. He deserves credit for doing what most people felt was impossible, even many who were supporting him. It does him a disservice to act like Hillary blew a sure thing. It was never a sure thing.
Regardless of where you stand, there are a few silver linings that should be clear to everyone this morning. For one thing, the concern that the elections would be rife with fraud and tampering were found to be baseless, as many of us with election administration experience said would be the case. Even in Virginia, the Clinton margin of victory was more than three times higher than the number of felons who had their voting rights restored by Governor McAuliffe. As for machine problems across the country, they happened – but they happen every election. In the end, the outcome wasn’t affected at all. All of the conspiracy theories were disproven, and hopefully in the future Republicans won’t be so quick to claim cheating when there’s no evidence.
The other silver lining is that the polling business has finally proven what a lot of us have been thinking but haven’t flat out said yet – they have no idea what the hell is going on. Why we still think that you can take what is inherently an illogical and irrational thing – politics – and boil it down into an algorithm or a neat spreadsheet is beyond me. These folks call people out of the blue and expect them to be honest about a highly personal and private decision like who they’re voting for? It’s absurd. It’s the same reason why I think most economists are full of it, too – trying to use math to explain why people do what they do is just dumb. People aren’t rational. They do things for the most absurd reasons and they don’t care what people think. Public polling should be thrown into the same pile as astrology and phrenology.
Finally, to my friends on the left who are despondent today, don’t be. As I wrote in February 2016, when I said Trump would win the GOP nomination and would likely win the White House, the framers designed our system of government to constrain the power of the presidency. It’s a pretty good system, and it’s worked for the last couple hundred years. I have faith that it will keep working, no matter who is living in the Executive mansion. Put your faith there, and in God, that our country will survive the next four years just like we’ve survived plenty of other good and bad presidents in our history.
At the same time, the left has got to stop attacking Trump, at least for a while. Give him a chance to govern, and stop calling him names and lamenting how so many people could vote for him. It’s pointless and counterproductive now. As Hillary Clinton herself said today “we owe him an open mind and a chance to lead.”
Enough analysis. There will be far more in the coming weeks, but I’m done for now.
The campaign is over and now it is time for the GOP to govern.
The American people have handed us all of the reins of government – control of the House, Senate and White House – for the first time since 2006. While we still don’t have a supermajority in the Senate, the Democrats didn’t have that in 2009-2010, either, and they were able to get much of the policy agenda adopted. No one, not even me, will be able to defend a GOP that doesn’t accomplish many of the promises that have been made by President-Elect Trump and candidates up and down the tickets. Failing to act on immigration, tax reform, Obamacare, spending and the like will destroy any chance of the GOP ever being taken seriously by the American people in the future. No more excuses.
As for the Supreme Court, we have to pray that President-Elect Trump has better luck than previous Republican presidents in choosing solid conservative choices for the Supreme Court. Reagan gave us Rehnquist and Scalia, but he also gave us O’Connor and Kennedy. As long as whomever the choice (and perhaps choices) are can be relied upon to be conservative in their jurisprudence, the greatest fear of many GOPers will be averted.
As I’ve consistently said for months now, I had no dog in this fight. I couldn’t vote for Trump or Clinton, so I was willing to accept whatever the American people decided, and they’ve decided. But I am still a Republican, and we have been given great power by the American people. And as Stan Lee has taught us all, with great power comes great responsibility. It is up to the Republican party to deliver on the promises we’ve made the American people this election.
Time to get to work.