A week ago, as the Cubs and Indians were heading down the stretch of the final game of this year’s World Series I tweeted this:
If you’re the kind of person who believes in karma or other such things, there’s an explanation you can consider. Alternately, maybe the gods just decided to stick a metaphorical fork in Nate Silver’s eye.
I, myself, do not believe in such things – I was making a joke since I was rooting for the Indians. So my topics today are: What happened, and what happens next?
I have a pretty simple – even reductionist – view of how Presidential politics works: That the largest single factor is how the electorate views the state of the economy at the time of the election. There are a lot of voters who are “locked in” to one party, and among those who aren’t, the state of the economy is the biggest determining factor in whether they turn out to vote, and who they vote for. In particular, I believe that if they perceive the economy to be bad – especially in their region (“all politics is local”) – then they will tend vote for the major party candidate who is not from the party of the sitting President. Regardless of what’s going on elsewhere in government, in a Presidential election, the party of the sitting President gets the blame.
I also feel that incumbency is a significant factor, so even if the economy is bad, the incumbent has a built-in edge which a non-incumbent candidate of the same party of the sitting President does not have.
There are some other nuances, but fundamentally I think Bill Clinton’s campaign got it right in 1992: “It’s the economy, stupid.”
So, I think that the Republican Congress has been engineering the recovery from the last recession to be weak, so that large swaths of the electorate felt that the economy basically sucks, even though it doesn’t suck for a lot of people. Yeah yeah, lots of job growth, but it’s been not so much tepid job growth as growth of tepid jobs. So the marginal voters who turned out to vote – i.e., the ones that matter – came out and held the Democrats responsible, because the sitting President is a Democrat. I think this has been a deliberate strategy on the part of the Republican leadership, and while Trump displacing their establishment candidates isn’t what they’d planned (primary politics is a very different kettle of fish from the general election), they’re probably pretty happy with the outcome overall.
Would Bernie Sanders have won where Hillary Clinton lost? I doubt it. And I think polls showing otherwise are no better than wishful thinking for his supporters. (I voted for Sanders in the primary.)
Why did the polls and analysts get it wrong before the election? Heck if I know. But the economic news over the last 2 years made me think that the Republican nominee – whoever it was – would have a better chance of winning this election than a lot of people gave them credit for.
Anyway, here we are: President-Elect Trump.
What happens next?
As usual John Scalzi said a lot and said it better than I can. But I have a few more things to say:
First, I think people who voted for Trump for economic reasons are – ironically, tragically – the least likely citizens to be helped by his programs. Trump doesn’t care about the little guy, and I think his talk about bringing back jobs was just rhetoric; he’s interested in helping himself and his fellow tycoons to make money off of everyone else, legitimately or not. Trump isn’t an “outsider”, people like Trump are the reason government has insiders – they exist for people like Trump. If you’re not like Trump (white, male, rich), then don’t expect to see a whole lot of help from the government in the next four years.
Second, while the Supreme Court and the repeal of Obamacare are getting a lot of the press, what really scares me is that in the next 4 years the Republicans might turn their attention to repealing Social Security and Medicare, two of the greatest and most successful government programs in the history of humanity. Certainly I’m not counting on them being around when I retire, at this point. And after helping care for my mother these last few years, I really cannot stress enough just how wonderful a program Medicare is.
(A friend said that Trump has pledged not to abolish Social Security and Medicare. Even if he said this, I bet he doesn’t care enough to stick to that. And the Congressional Republicans definitely want to get rid of them.)
Every Presidential election I’ve voted in has been tremendously stressful to watch the night of the returns. When Clinton and Obama won each of their two terms, it was a big relief because, although I found them each far from perfect, they were better than the alternative. When George W. Bush won each of his two terms, it was difficult to see how I was going to get up in the morning. Last night was like those two Bush elections times ten.
It’s prosaic to say, “we have to go on, because what else can we do?” I was able to get up this morning and mostly do my usual routine. But I fear that a lot of people are going to decide they can’t keep going. I bet we’ll see rising suicide rates among minorities, LGBT folks, and maybe even women.
I have no comforting words. My mental-compartmentalization skills are working overtime to help me adjust to this, and they’re doing pretty well – but I feel guilty because it makes me feel emotionally detached from how I think many people are feelineg.
The next few years are going to be brutal for many people whose wealth is counted in less than 8 figures. I hope we all survive them.