A Tale of Two Americas
I am a #NeverTrump Republican.
I voted for President Bush, for John McCain, and for Mitt Romney.
One year ago, I would have scoffed at anyone who suggested that I would cast a vote for Hillary Clinton.
And yet, here we are.
I cast my vote for Hillary Clinton- despite considering her a particularly objectionable Democrat- for all the reasons you already know should have disqualified Donald Trump ; The lack of experience, the lack of temperament, the bankruptcies, the pussy grabbing, the refusal to disavow the support of antisemitic, racist, xenophobic, misogynists, and the willingness to wink at them in his campaign marketing, among many, many more.
I am not a Democrat. And that positions me perfectly to tell you where we, the Trump opposition, went wrong.
To discuss what Trump is, we need to discuss what he isn’t.
Trump’s election does not signify a change in American values:
Elections have consequences. Donald Trump is now the President-Elect. The media narrative would have you believe that this is some sort of sweeping mandate for xenophobia.
If roughly 58,000 votes in Florida and 34,000 votes in Ohio swung to Hillary Clinton (0.00074% of the 121 million votes cast), she would be the President Elect. If that infinitesimal swing made Hillary Clinton the President-Elect, a similarly misleading media narrative would proclaim an era of urban liberalism in America.
Both narratives are false.
In truth, America is divided. We were divided when we re-elected President Obama with 51.1% of the votes cast. We were divided when we re-elected President Bush with 50.7%. This election doesn’t change that.
Donald Trump was not elected by Third Party candidates:
There is no Red State where Donald Trump’s margin of victory is smaller than the number of votes cast for Jill Stein. While it is true that there are a few states where the total of Clinton, Stein, Johnson, and McMullin votes is greater than the number of Trump votes, there is robust evidence that Johnsons and McMullin votes would have not have swung to Clinton in a true two-way race.
Trump voters are not racists:
It’s almost certain that all racists voted for Donald Trump. It’s equally certain the not all people who voted for Donald Trump are racists.
It turns out that many people who voted for President Obama twice voted Donald Trump. It’s inconceivable that it took 8 years for these “racists” who came out to elect the first black President to remember that they hate black people.
Something else must be going on.
Trump voters are not misogynists:
Certainly, all misogynists voted for Donald Trump, but not everyone who voted for Donald Trump is a misogynist.
53% of white women voted for a man who was videoed confessing to a sexual assault.
Something else must be going on.
Trump voters are not monolithic:
Anyone who tells you there is one reason for this outcome is being lazy or dishonest. There are roughly 60 million reasons why voters decided that Trump’s empty policy promises were more meaningful than his personal shortcomings and the policy proposals they chose to see as purely rhetorical.
There are, however, a few broad trends. So, what exactly DID happen?
Elections are a referendum on the party in power.
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. This election was A Tale of Two Americas. As Governor William Jefferson Clinton said during his successful 1992 bid to unseat an incumbent, “It’s the economy, stupid.”
Paul Krugman points out, 14 million new jobs were created during the Obama Presidency, the stock market more than doubled in value, and real incomes rose faster than inflation.
Even at the national level, this is only a partial picture. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the Workforce Participation Rate dropping steadily throughout the Obama administration (a trend that started during George HW Bush’s term) to its lowest point since 1978.
The 14 million jobs that President Obama created didn’t even keep pace with population growth, and were skilled positions, often filled with H1-B workers.
At the regional level, the picture is far worse.
In Urban America educated workers found near zero unemployment, wage competition, low inflation, cheap imports, and a thriving stock market.
Rural America saw manufacturing jobs disappear, rising unemployment, and bleak economic prospects for the future.
From our social media ivory towers, this election was a referendum on intolerance. Those willing to vote for Trump were immoral bigots, partisan hacks, or dupes.
In reality, eight years of liberal economics did very little for working class Americans. Jobs growth was weak. The ACA was increasing health care costs by more than middle class tax savings, and no, you can’t keep your doctor. Providers are abandoning the ACA exchanges. Islamic terror is spreading. The President refused to call Islamic terror by its name or back up his redlines in Syria. He also promised to increase the number of refugees by 550%.
The administration took a premature victory lap, allowing Ben Rhodes to brag about knowingly misleading Americans when he promised they could keep their doctors. They bragged about jobs growth that didn’t reach rural America, and the ACA which didn’t help rural America, all while spending time legislating transsexual bathroom (and locker room) use, and recognizing new gender identity pronouns. And as the cherry on top, liberals and the Black Lives Matter movement told these struggling white people that they are privileged.
In this environment, Americans stepped into voting booths to choose between a candidate who promised more of the same, and a candidate who promised change. They chose the candidate who recognized their problems — likely knowing that he had no solutions to offer beyond populist platitudes- over the candidate who denied there was any problem to begin with.
As Elizabeth Warren said (God help me, I’m quoting Elizabeth Warrren — Next the Chicago Cubs will win the World Series or something…):
“There are millions of people who did not vote for Donald Trump because of the bigotry and hate that fueled his campaign rallies. They voted for him despite hate. They voted for him out of frustration and anger — and also out of hope that he would bring change.”
So, What Now?
The Republican Party was always a big tent of competing interests. Libertarians and the Religious Right don’t share a philosophy of government.
Donald Trump, who is no conservative, ran under the banner of change. He gave everyone in the “we want change” camp ten word answers that promised he intended to make changes for their identity group, even if he had to give rhetorical lip-service to a competing interest group. He managed the neat trick of wooing the American Zionist and KKK votes at the same time, promising each that he would be “not Obama.”
Donald Trump has correctly identified several real problems in America. But whatever your problem is, Donald Trump has no plan to solve it. His tax cuts won’t help urban Americans, nor will a ballooning national debt. The Laffer curve won’t make up for the lost tax revenue at the scale he proposes. If Obama seemed weak compared to Putin, how will the foreign policy of a man who admired Putin’s authoritarianism be more hawkish and not end in nuclear war? Securing our borders is a real national interest. Deporting illegal migrant workers won’t address it, nor will it create jobs for urban Americans.
In four years, America will once again be ready to embrace change- in any form. But this time Trump will play the role of the incumbent.
Moderate Republicans should embrace the Libertarian party. No Gary Johnson was not the answer in 2016. He was no more qualified than Trump (Aleppo anyone?) and without congressional support the Presidency is impossible to attain. A viable third party begins with a serious run at open seats in the mid-term elections, so a Libertarian candidate is viable in 2020.
Democrats need to stop telling the people who voted for President Obama twice that they are racists for voting for President-Elect Trump. They must listen, and acknowledge that they have real and reasonable concerns about the economy, about border security, about healthcare, and about safe spaces and trigger warnings. And they must provide a comprehensive plan for addressing the problems that they pretended didn’t exist in 2016.
We all must stand united against bigotry in any form, and, together with law enforcement, insure that all Americans have personal safety and freedom of religion.
And we should pray that our President-Elect is successful. Whether we voted for him or not, he is now our President-Elect, and his success is our success.