The Election hottakes nobody else will give you

First, we all have to remember how close this election result truly was. Even before Election Night, aggregate polling data favored Hillary Clinton, but it was, crucially, within the margin of error. So, there’s no “I told you so”; there’s no superior strategy or tactic that clinched this race; there’s no repeatable process from either campaign that’s guaranteed to yield these same results; and there’s no Monday-morning-quarterbacking… there are only lessons to be learned.

Now, I’ll withhold any BGOs and offer these few, quick thoughts…


I. Our society over-indexed to objectivity

TLDR: “analysis paralysis.”

The rise of big data and statistics has been a net benefit to society. No doubt. Sabermetrics, quantitative analysis, curation algorithms, etc… all true achievements in terms of progress and self-improvement; all altruistic aspirations for more objective, more repeatable processes. Each one of these occupies — and dominates — a niche. But, when something’s working as well as these strategies originally had, people tend to notice, and that begins a process of proliferation and saturation that ruins the strategy’s competitive advantages by commoditizing it. It becomes the generally accepted practice, and there’s nothing advantageous or differentiating for those who stick with such conventional wisdom.

For example, in baseball the Moneyball philosophy originally championed by Billy Beane’s Oakland A’s has by now infused every MLB front office. Managers and General Managers are all taking the same approach. Knowing that, Theo Epstein realized how big the incentive was to differentiate his approach with the Chicago Cubs. Theo, a former Sabermetrician, reverted back to old school strategies, like scouting, and the Cubs won the World Series.

The Cubs example is low-hanging fruit, I know. How about another example: even Facebook succumbed to this. While the code itself is not laid bare for public purview, the KPIs of Facebook’s News Feed algorithm are well-known — namely that it’s optimized for engagement. Knowing the desired effect, fake news and clickbaiters can easily reverse engineer the algo’s Pavlovian triggers to gain primacy in our News Feeds.

These growth hackers’ exploitation of Facebook is analogous to Trump’s of the Election process. It doesn’t matter if Trump was a baseless speculator with unsubstantiated solutions, he earned attention and mindshare by hacking a predictable system. He was the variable among constants. He was the dragon king that shattered the serenity of Mediocristan. He was different, and that’s exactly what most people wanted, because it’s easy to pick the ugly duckling among a brood of sameness when you’re mired in a sub-par status quo.

There are still benefits of subjectivity, of gut feelings, instincts. On a debate stage with 17 other candidates, the ability to shoot-from-the-cuff differentiates you from everyone else who’s reciting the same stats from the same talking points.

II. A platform of progress repels those who are already left behind

Talking about new, high tech jobs just further alienates white guys who have/had been working on the assembly line in Rust Belt states. If you’re a politician who champions #2MA, then you have to explain to everyone how they’re going to get their share – especially the masses whose livelihoods are dependent on yesterday. That means you need to explain to that white guy on the assembly line in the Rust Belt why that high tech future is good for him and how you’ll get him there… I’m pretty curious myself, actually.

I’ve said it a million times: technological progress is an uneven net benefit in the short run and a huge net benefit in the long run; the trick is the time lag in reallocating obsoleted resources like labor & capital. There are massive swaths of voters who have gone backwards due to technology so far to date, therefore more tech intuitively suggests more regression for them.

III. This Election was a referendum on bigotry

Even before Election Night, a lot of Americans said they would have voted for John Kasich, Marco Rubio, and a host of others had any of them won the GOP nomination. Policy-wise, those candidates didn’t differ too wildly from Trump. All offered your garden-variety GOP platform.

However, if you put them all side-by-side and play “one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-others,” Trump’s broadcast bigotry is what distinguished him. Racism, misogyny, xenophobia. These were the ingredients in Trump’s special sauce. You can debate whether or not they’re part of his own fabric; you can credit them as the vehicle of his differentiation; but you cannot now claim they’re not part of the American fabric — both past and present.

The millions of Americans who voted for Trump on Election Night were not all bigots. In contrast, many of those who nominated Trump in the Republican Primary were. That’s incontrovertible, because Trump was plucked from a huge Republican Primary field in which all the candidates were otherwise substantially substitutable — save Trump’s socially-charged rhetoric.

Trump probably could have survived into the later rounds of the Primaries on the back of bombast and showmanship alone (for reasons mentioned above), but there were other, bombastic candidates in that field. Funrthermore, he couldn’t have defeated Kasich & Cruz in the narrower field without voters explicitly endorsing the only thing that differentiated him: his bigotry.

IV. Our reaction to this outcome says as much about us as the outcome itself

There’s a lot of uncivil disobedience being exercised in the wake of Hillary’s concession; a lot of preemptive divisiveness. What happened to “Love Trumps Hate,” “When They Go Low We Go High,” etc? All of the riots and some of the rhetoric is hypocritical Cassandras biting off their noses to spite their faces. They’re trying to manifest the apocalypse that they swore would transpire were Trump elected. It’s a twisted way to assure a self-soothing “I told you so.”

See also