Here are my scattered observations on the morning after the presidential win by Donald Trump:
• On Dec. 11, 2011, in the wake of reports that Donald Trump was interested in running for president, I published an article called “Taking Donald Trump seriously means ‘Idiocracy’ is already here.” Almost five years later, I stand by that bleak assessment.
• I consistently misjudged Trump’s chances. I believe even more strongly than ever than Trump is a crazy person who is very dangerous. (I honestly believe he suffers from narcissistic personality disorder. He lives in his own version of reality which is based on protecting his fragile ego.) But I thought Republicans would find a saner candidate in the primaries to rally around and stop him. I was wrong. Then I thought that any Democrat could beat him, even a horrible person such as Hillary Clinton. I was wrong again. It’s humbling and scary to see someone come along who reminds me so strongly how people can follow such a dangerous person when they’re angry and scared.
• A lot of frustrated, angry and disgusted people I know are happy to see a monkey wrench get thrown into the political system, even though they know Trump is crazy and scary. As returns came in Tuesday night and it became obvious that Trump might win, I got this message from a friend who I used to work with in GOP politics: “How horrible am I for a part of me hoping Trump wins tonight so I can kick back with some popcorn and watch the train jump the tracks?” That’s what reminded me of the graphic above from two years ago. Many people are ready to sit back and watch the world burn.
• If anybody doubts that politics is driven by culture rather than ideology, notice the reaction you’re seeing — and possibly feeling — about the election from people online. This is an emotional reaction, not a reasoned one. Many people who really can’t stand Trump or what he stands for are feeling giddy about his win. It’s not because they agree with him, but because they are so happy to see the smug establishment politicians and their supporters in agony. That isn’t about policy. That isn’t about reason. That’s about hating a culture they see as arrogant. They want to see certain people brought down a notch or two. The giddiness among a lot of people since last night isn’t love of Trump. It’s hatred for smug people who they have seen as condescending to people like them for too long.
• At least Democrats can get back to protesting against wars since it won’t be one of their own ordering the attacks. The anti-war left has pretty much disappeared for eight years, so it will be interesting to see if those hypocrites suddenly discover a concern for the innocent people being killed with U.S. bombs on the other side of the world now that Trump will be ordering the bombings.
• The people who voted for Trump are going to be horribly disappointed with what they get from him over the next four years. Trump can’t do what he has promised and he doesn’t have the political skills to compromise in the ways that are required. He’s surrounded himself with people who want all sorts of things, some of them reasonable and some of them crazy. The reasonable people will find out that he can’t magically fix the U.S. national debt. (A country can’t just declare bankruptcy and make it go away as he’s done in business. Others quit lending to the country when that happens.) The crazy people will find out that Trump can’t just round up millions and millions of people and throw them onto the other side of an impregnable wall. It can’t happen. Many people who voted for Trump are going to end up scratching their heads and saying, “Wait. This isn’t what I thought I was voting for.”
• Democrats are about to be reminded of why they should oppose executive power that they’ve cheered so loudly for the last eight years. They’ve begged Barack Obama to aggressively go outside of Congress to do what they want, but they’re going to scream about times when Trump tries the same. My friend Steve Smith pointed out that, “People who cheer executive power when it’s wielded by their heroes never seem to imagine the wheel turning one day and delivering that power into the hands of their worst enemies.”
• Democrats seem to be completely missing why they lost. They think Trump voters supported him because they are racists and xenophobes, nothing else. The truth is a lot more complicated. Yes, there are plenty of racists, bigots and crazies among Trump’s base, but most of his votes came from people who simply refused to vote for what Clinton and Co. represented. They were disgusted with what Clinton stood for — both ideologically and culturally — and they had given up all hope that the GOP establishment could do anything to fight against the progressive left. The Trump voters are mostly white people who believe they have seen their interests shoved aside politically and have seen themselves marginalized and belittled by a progressive left culture that blames racism and sexism for everything. Unless you take the time to understand them, things are going to get even worse.
• Although Republicans will control the Senate, they will have a razor-thin margin of control. Do you remember those Democrats who were railing not long ago about getting rid of the filibuster? I have a feeling they are suddenly going to find reason to decide it’s quite a fair tool after all. (They’re all hypocrites.)
• Polls can sometimes be wrong, but that doesn’t mean they are rigged. It’s ignorance to assume so. Good polls usually give us reasonable guesses about who’s going to win. When multiple polls mostly show the same thing, there’s a very good chance they’re right. In modern elections, polls have given remarkably good data and good predictions, but they’re not perfect. When they’re wrong — as they clearly were this time — there will be a reason based on sampling assumptions or something else. Professional numbers-crunchers will be working for months to figure out what went wrong. Many of them are very good at their jobs. The fact that an aberration made them miss things simply means they were wrong, not that they were “rigging” polls to fool you.
• One of the most bizarre things I see from some Trump fans right now is the assertion that “conservatives” are going to control the White House and both houses of Congress. Trump is not a conservative. He is an unpredictable populist. Of course, many who think they are conservatives are actually pro-control populists, too. The battles between the populists and the actual conservatives (both traditional and neo types) are going to be vicious.
• The fighting among defeated Democrats for control of 2020 is going to be fierce. Will the party swing back to the far left in the form of an outright socialist such as Bernie Sanders? Or will the more centrist group — which doesn’t actually differ that much from the neoconservatives on policy — simply find a better candidate? (I suspect almost any other Democrat could have beaten Trump and almost any other Republican could have beaten Clinton. Both sides picked their worst.) The fighting among Democrats for the soul and direction of their party will almost certainly get ugly. The next few months will be especially nasty as various factions start pointing fingers at one another.
• Do you remember the part of Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America” in which he recounts meeting Andrew Jackson at the White House? I can’t help but recall that passage as I envision the upcoming Trump presidency. Dig the passage up and see if you agree with me. (If you like Trump, you probably won’t.)
For me, the end of the campaign means it’s time to get back to intensely focusing on making art, making money and figuring out who will be important enough in my life to fight for — and with — against whatever troubles lie ahead. It’s time to get to work. There’s a lot to get done — and politics is the least important part of my world.