Post-election America (2)

Now that I am back in London, it is assumed that I will have some special insight into what went wrong in the elections.   The only thing that I’ve realised is that although every single person we met – Democrats all – mourned and lamented the fact that Trump had won, not one single person was sorry that Hillary had lost.   Without exception, she was regarded as too right of centre, too corporate and wholly out of touch with the wider electorate, not even bothering to campaign in Wisconsin, which was automatically assumed would vote for her and didn’t.   So, my presumption is not that Trump won, but that Hillary lost.

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7 thoughts on “Post-election America (2)

  1. Bruce Ericson says:

    Charles, I think there is some truth to what you say, but it is an incomplete analysis. Consider this:

    1. Clinton won the popular vote by a million or so votes.
    2. A fifth or so of that popular vote margin, adroitly redistributed among Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and she would have won the electoral college.
    3. Thus, for want of roughly 200,000 votes in the ‘right’ places, out of 120 million, she lost. What’s that, 0.16%?
    4. There are probably a dozen or more explanations, each of which independently can explain that margin; a search for a single cause is, I think, fallacious. There is no single cause; there are many causes, none necessary, each sufficient.
    5. To provide just one example, I have little doubt but that but for FBI director Comey’s conduct, Clinton would have won.
    6. Perhaps your American acquaintances regard Clinton as “as too right of centre, too corporate and wholly out of touch with the wider electorate” but I doubt that is a commonly held view, outside of Bernie supporters residing in states that Clinton won handily. There likely is a much larger contingent of voters in red states who think Clinton is only slightly to the right of Lenin. That’s nonsense, of course, but people expressing such views showed up frequently in “man on the street” interviews during the campaign (and they weren’t always men).
    7. Some people share the distaste your acquaintances express for Clinton, but many people really were enthusiastic about her (and particularly the notion of a woman being elected president). Of course, many (perhaps more) took a misogynist view of her candidacy.
    8. Many Americans have a pronounced taste for novelty that is not always wise (to put it mildly). Clinton is (the Clintons are) very old news; Trump, at least as a politician, represents novelty. As did Obama in 2008.
    9. Trump drew very large and enthusiastic crowds; he evidently tapped into sentiments that many of us (in our economically segregated coastal communities) scarcely realized were out there. In the Bay Area the economic recovery is extremely real, almost overwhelming; in blue collar communities in Michigan or Ohio or Pennsylvania, probably not. There, real wages having stagnated (or worse) for a generation or more, when people have jobs. Look at the decline in the labor force participation rate of white males of prime working age. Look at what meth and opioids have done to rural communities. E.g., Nick Reding, Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town (2009).
    10. While I agree that Clinton lost (and failed to turn supporters out in the numbers that Obama did — not surprising), I am afraid I cannot agree with the notion that Trump did not win. (False dichotomy?) I wish it were so, but l I am afraid it is not. The man received over 60 million votes.

    • Dear Bruce, Very good and shrewd analysis. The people I met will all have voted for Hillary and were not Saunders supporters – just that I realise that they will have done so without real enthusiasm (and not, I trust, because of any misogyny).

  2. Mr Ericson’s shrewd and fair analysis omits one factor : Hillary’s and Trump’s ability to communicate. Trump, idiotic, even dangerous, though much of his rhetoric was, ENGAGED with his audiences. It appeared that Hillary, superbly prepared and experienced though she was, FAILED to do that. It’s charisma / charm, and I suspect it was crucial.

  3. Leslie Bacon says:

    I have read with great interest both your and Mr. Ericson’s postings. As an American, I have lived the last of 20 years here in London. To have done so has given me a perspective on BOTH cultures I would not have imaged. At best, I am able to impress Americans with my deep-ish (well, as an American, I still like to make up words, or verbise, as I like to say) knowledge of the very different, sometimes arcane British form of governement, and add to it my personal analysis and understanding of the social structure. As for my home country — I was a coastal person — Hollywood West Coast. But I have in my life traveled extensively in the middle of America — for work– and so I feel I have always known of the ‘other’ out there, Let me say here that I appreciate your comments from the very limited circle of people with whom you spoke. America is so large — and so diverse– that you are actually fooled by the fact that ALL speak English (let us not debate this… it is English). I spent a week this September in Missouri and Chicago and came away shaken, believing then that Trump would win. It isn’t so much what was said, but the unwarvering sense of tiredness and wanting for change… and TRUMP signs everywhere in Mo. In Chicago where there are a lot of tourists from the MidWest and there was already an almost sense of triumphalism — which I sadly see has turned in to an unleashing of pent up angers, frustrations, and worse: racism, sexism, hate, bitterness and ugliness.
    My last comment would be that I feel that much of the blame falls on my hometown–Hollywood. For the past decade or so, they have elevated bad behaviour, ugly talk, miserable values, personal abuse to the realm of heros. From the Jerry Springer Show to the Kardashians, to The Apprentice, Hollywood enthroned these vapid, mean people into heros of the working class. Donald Trump is the ultimate hero they created for the “fly over people”. And now, he is president for all of us.

    • Dear Leslie, I should probably have said that en route to Fallingwater, I drove through rural western Pennsylvania. I found, as you did in Missouri, never-ending signs for Trump, and it was unimaginable that there might be any for Clinton. It reminded me of driving through Derbyshire before the referendum. Rock solid hostile to the élite. Charles

  4. Bruce Ericson says:

    I do think Mark Fisher made a good point about Trump’s ability to engage his audience. While complete sentences scarcely ever pass his lips (no doubt a carping elitist criticism on my part), he displayed an uncanny ability to connect with people, and he drew larger crowds than Clinton drew, even with her cavalcade of celebrities.

    Trump’s successful campaign seems a bit like 1948, when all the polls said Dewey was going to win, but Truman kept stumping and drawing large crowds to whom he hammered home his simple message about the [Republican-controlled] “Do-Nothing 80th Congress.” Truman won the electoral vote handily but small changes in the popular vote in Ohio, Illinois and California would have given Dewey an electoral victory. So sure were the pollsters of a Dewey victory that early editions of the Chicago Tribune were headlined “Dewey Defeats Truman,” leading to the famous photo of a smiling Truman holding up the erroneous headline. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dewey_Defeats_Truman

    The other comparison one hears is to Andrew Jackson’s election in 1828. At least Trump’s supporters did not invade the White House and trash it, as Jackson’s supporters did upon hearing the election results. President John Quincy Adams had to escape through a back door, and the mob was lured back outside only by the promise of free alcohol on the White House lawn.

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