|© 2016 A. F. Branco, Liberty Alliance.|
As I watched ABC’s George Stephanopoulos and his crew of talking heads begin the autopsy on the election late Tuesday night, I felt some dark satisfaction. I hadn’t been the only self-appointed expert caught flat-footed by Donald Trump’s and the Republicans’ victory. Most of the elite, the Only People Whose Opinions Count, were humiliated by an over-glorified carnival huckster who (in our wise estimation) did just about everything wrong that could be done wrong and still pulled the upset of the century.
Andrew Sullivan Throws a Nutty
And the funny thing is, having been so spectacularly wrong about this election, we, the chatterati of America who have been polluting your television screens and social media feeds for months with our hive-mind wisdom, still think you should take our social forecasts seriously. Case in point: Andrew Sullivan, who threw a classic spittle-flecked nutty on the Daily Intelligencer.
This is now Trump’s America. He controls everything from here on forward. He has won this campaign in such a decisive fashion that he owes no one anything. He has destroyed the GOP and remade it in his image. He has humiliated the elites and the elite media. He has embarrassed every pollster and naysayer. He has avenged Obama. And in the coming weeks, Trump will not likely be content to bask in vindication. He will seek unforgiving revenge on those who dared to oppose him. The party apparatus will be remade in his image. The House and Senate will fail to resist anything he proposes — and those who speak up will be primaried into oblivion. The Supreme Court may well be shifted to the far right for more than a generation to come — with this massive victory, he can pick a new Supreme Court justice who will make Antonin Scalia seem like a milquetoast. He will have a docile, fawning Congress for at least four years. We will not have an administration so much as a court.
You should read it. Sullivan is so hysterical over Trump’s forthcoming fascist state that he didn’t pay attention to what he himself wrote: Trump can’t keep all his promises. In fact, we ought to be wondering which promises, if any, he really meant. For instance, his website’s policies page doesn’t have a link to pro-life policies. Various press releases had mentioned his pro-life position; but hey! those press releases are gone now. And frankly, I don’t trust the GOP to hold his feet to the fire on the matter.
David Remnick’s Faulty Crystal Ball
David Remnick’s piece in the New Yorker is in some of the same vein:
There are, inevitably, miseries to come: an increasingly reactionary Supreme Court; an emboldened right-wing Congress; a President whose disdain for women and minorities, civil liberties and scientific fact, to say nothing of simple decency, has been repeatedly demonstrated. Trump is vulgarity unbounded, a knowledge-free national leader who will not only set markets tumbling but will strike fear into the hearts of the vulnerable, the weak, and, above all, the many varieties of Other whom he has so deeply insulted. The African-American Other. The Hispanic Other. The female Other. The Jewish and Muslim Other. The most hopeful way to look at this grievous event — and it’s a stretch — is that this election and the years to follow will be a test of the strength, or the fragility, of American institutions. It will be a test of our seriousness and resolve.
Remnick doesn’t quite give us Sullivan’s tin-soldiers-and-Nixon-coming hyperventilation. However, like Sullivan, he hasn’t quite twigged to the fact that his crystal ball has already been proven defective. Don’t get me wrong — I still think Trump was a horrible choice, one we all will come to regret in the next four years. But don’t count your dystopian nightmares until they hatch. We were wrong about Clinton’s likelihood of election; what else are we wrong about?
American Policy a “Fetid Morass”
Probably more than you’d care to process just now. For instance, our Middle East policy. Just prior to the election, Asia Times’ “Spengler” (economist David P. Goldman) argued that Trump should be elected because “America’s policy elites are sleepwalkers, in the way that historian Christopher Clark described Europe’s leaders in August 1914 on the eve of the First World War.”
American policy has become a fetid morass in which ideology and influence-peddling jointly serve to insulate its leaders from the real world. It is not simply that America’s leaders are out of touch, but that they are in continuous touch with a fictitious construct of the world that excludes the possibility of policy course correction.
... Five years and 500,000 corpses after the disastrous “Arab Spring” and the Libyan coup of 2011, the American elite still does not understand that today’s chaos in the Middle East is borne [sic] of American meddling. President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, and the McCain mainstream of the Republican Party passionately believed that the Arab world had broken free of its tyrannical past and was en route to democracy. By destroying the old dictatorships, the United States simply opened the field to ethnic and sectarian war. Syria is in civil war, Iraq is close to it, and even Turkey is at risk.
“The Insufferably Smug Hatred From the Elite”
But it’s not just that the Only People Whose Opinions Matter have likely been wrong about a lot of things. It’s also that they’ve been so damned arrogant, so proud of their superior knowledge, that they’ve yet to recognize how wrong they’ve been.
For instance, Roxane Gay, an associate professor at Purdue and the author of Bad Feminist, wrote in the New York Times, “I was confident [about Hillary Clinton’s likelihood of election] because I thought there were more Americans who believe in progress and equality than there were Americans who were racist, xenophobic, misogynistic and homophobic.” Noted Wonderful Things’ Thomas L. McDonald on Facebook, “[Gay] compresses into one sentence the insufferably smug hatred from the self-styled elite that led to Trump. ... This attitude towards ordinary Americans is what created this moment.”
Writing in the left-leaning Vox, Dylan Mathews gives us a perfect example of what Emmet Rensin (ironically, writing in the same venue) called “the smug style in American liberalism”:
But the call for Trump is painful, too, because we were supposed to be past this — and for the last eight years we were past it.
... [Little] by little, some great inequities were being chipped away at. Hell, economic inequality even started to fall as Obama raised taxes on the rich and, through Obamacare, launched a major new redistribution program for the lower and lower middle classes.
Moreover, the demographic future of America held the promise of keeping this momentum going. The coalition that elected Obama, underpinned by massive support from black and Latino communities, was only going to keep growing. Even as the white share of the population fell, college attainment would continue to rise, so more Democratic-leaning college grads would be around.
This wouldn’t guarantee endless wins, but it would, many hoped, force the Republican party to seriously compete for Hispanic and black votes so that the parties could again reach equilibrium with roughly equal bases. If they didn’t do that, their white base would continue to fade and the party would be obsolete.
The Low-Information Deplorables
The only possible explanation for this misread is that Mathews, like the rest of The Only People Whose Opinions Matter, discounted the “White Christian America” that the Washington Post proclaimed was dying (but apparently not dying fast enough). Racists, misogynists, homophobes, and xenophobes — every one of us low-information deplorables who really don’t deserve representation or consideration and who are slowly being marginalized by the Forward March of Progress. Somewhere Mathews got it into his head that, having been beaten twice by Barack Obama’s votership, white Christians would no longer play a significant role in American politics; we’d simply crawl back into our caves and die, unnoticed and unlamented.
“Oh, the irony of observers denouncing Middle America as a seething hotbed of hatred even as they hatefully libel it a dumb and ugly mob,” chortles Brendan O’Neill in The Spectator. “Having turned America’s ‘left behind’ into the butt of every clever East Coast joke, and the target of every handwringing newspaper article about America’s dark heart and its strange, Bible-toting inhabitants, the political and cultural establishment can’t now be surprised that so many of those people have turned around and said … well, it begins with F and ends with U.”
Or, to paraphrase the Trump clip repeated endlessly in Clinton commercials, they said, “Go stuff yourselves.”
Anyone But Hillary
Of course, the assumption that Clinton would walk all over Trump with cleats was itself a telling clue that The Only People Whose Opinion Matters were too complacent in their superior knowledge and wisdom. For the last year and a half, the elite of both parties treated Clinton’s bid as not so much a democratic election campaign as the anointment and crowning of the heir apparent. This was despite evidence of resistance from the hoi polloi, such as Bernie Sanders’ unexpectedly successful campaign.
One matter that came up in Stephanopoulos’ panel was that Trump had decided on his slogan, “Make America Great Again”, as far back as 2013; Clinton’s campaign did nothing to “brand” itself, simply assuming that Hillary’s name was enough. As much attention as people paid to the #NeverTrump faction much less was given to the #NeverHillary crowd — again, we all assumed women and Hispanics would flock to the polls to usher her into the Oval Office. The Clinton-haters didn’t matter … because, of course, they were all white male Christian homophobes.
And when Hillary lost, of course, feminists wasted no time in blaming it on “misogyny”. They couldn’t even process the possibility that a woman other than Hillary Clinton might have won. It wasn’t because Hillary was a woman; it was because the woman was Hillary.
Summary: “The Government Belongs to Us”
The election of Donald Trump, in the final analysis, wasn’t a victory of hate over love, or bigotry over tolerance, or fear over compassion. It was a message from the hoi polloi to the elite, The Only People Whose Opinions Matter: “You’re running the country wrong.” The slogan “Make America Great Again” caught the voters’ imaginations because, from their perspective, America isn’t great now — it’s in bad shape and getting worse. Yes, there was a lot of anti-Hispanic and anti-Muslim sentiment there. Yes, many of the regular people sided with Clinton because they believe their interests are best served by the Establishment, while others simply voted against Trump despite Clinton’s personal and political baggage. But for many people, Hillary Clinton was just one more example of the elite trying to impose their will on a reluctant population, just one more Establishment robot whose superior wisdom would keep us on the path to destruction.
In writing this post, I remembered a point in the third debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney where the president said over and over, “You belong to a government that ….” On November 8, four years later, the people finally replied, “No, we don’t belong to the government; the government belongs to us.” The demographic trends are in place, so the elite will be able to resume the Forward March to Systemic Cascade Failure in four to eight years. But for at least a little while, government of the people, by the people, and for the people hasn’t yet perished from the earth.