The movie Jurassic Park removed an intriguing side plot from Michael Crichton’s novel of the same name, that I think applies directly to the election. In the book, the island’s computer-controlled surveillance of dinosaurs failed to detect an unexpected increase in their population. That was because the computer knew (i.e., was told by its programmers) exactly how many dinosaurs to expect during the daily count. It simply stopped counting when it reached that number, even though there were more.
Applied to our current situation: we always try to see what we expect to see, what we want to see. That was what the pollsters, the networks, the pundits, and the voters all saw. And of course that includes corner-of-the-bar blowhards like me. Hillary was going to be the next president—that was a “known fact” long before she declared in April 2015.
One day I’ll write a country song titled, “Not All Facts are True.”
W’s Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld illustrated this concept perfectly when he explained to the press about Known Knowns, Known Unknowns, and Unknown Unknowns—by omitting the fourth element in that series: Unknown Knowns …those things that you think you know, and it turns out that you do not.
Venture capitalist Peter Theil described the wrong thinking that most of us practiced this time around as… the media took Trump literally but not seriously—while his supporters took him seriously but not literally. That sure sounds like wisdom, but it may not even be correct. I recall, for example, how seriously the press took Trump when he said “President Obama and Hillary Clinton Founded ISIS” and after he’d had gotten the desired headlines, Trump jerked the press’ chain again with “Can’t you recognize sarcasm?”
That stung. I’m curious how his supporters will feel when they learn that we will not be building a southern border wall or that we’ll be amending Obamacare, not killing it. Ironically, that stuff sounds like the Hillary Clinton presidency we spent so many foolish months expecting.
I’d love to tell you that Trump’s followers will hate it when he doesn’t do what he promised. But I’m probably wrong about that, too. Trumpism is not a movement, it’s a cult of personality. And apparently, sixty million Americans wanted a demagogue to lead them.
As a member of the new “Silenced Majority,” I already hate it. We went through this in 2000. Here we go again: Clinton won a million more votes. Literally. So the demagogue who won the Electoral college was right—our election was rigged. By our own Founding Fathers.
It didn’t take long for the Electoral College’s strongest proponent, Alexander Hamilton, to realize that it could be used to rig elections. As we’ve already seen, it’s true of any system that weights the results.
Now twice in the last five elections, the Electoral College that Hamilton helped design has thrown the presidency to the numeric loser. Republicans got fewer overall votes. They retained both the Senate and the House, but they lost seats in both. And yet, it isn’t the G.O.P. now accused of ignoring the electorate. With the nation’s voters divided almost exactly in two, the truth is that both parties are wearing a fairly large set of blinders.
Republicans won’t change, of course. Why would they? They did not change even after telling themselves that they must change following their 2012 loss. And now they have a demagogue who on Election Day can turn out the ugliest patches of their seamy underbelly. Ugly yes, but an electoral majority.
While we’re on the subject of faulty election predictions, I have two nagging questions:
1. What happened to the Latino surge that was going to overwhelm those old white men?
It did appear—in Nevada (a win) and Arizona (oh-so-close), but could not in Michigan and Wisconsin. The rust belt is unemployed white male territory, home of the collapsing Middle Class. But the question of why not in Florida remains a mystery to me.
2. What happened to Hillary’s massively superior ground game?
That answer may be akin to “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” Hillary did not offer a convincing message, and therefore the voters her ground game could have turned out simply weren’t interested.
Even Donald Trump rigged the election. He trailed Hillary the entire campaign, save for a few days immediately following the Republican Convention. But he had a not-so-secret weapon: as he had during the Republican primary season, he played the press like a cheap fiddle: the sound was often cacophonous, but it drowned out everything else. Every day.
Ratings are the lifeblood of Television, and an addictive drug. The free airtime that Trump won in exchange for ratings has been estimated at worth more than a $billion. Wait, there’s more. Daily, he also bypassed any network filters by using Twitter, inundating us with so much outrageousness that as with hot sauce, we became both numb and craving for more.
The FBI rigged the electorate. I think that James Comey was trying to beat some rogue agents to the public microphone when he announced fresh emails just eleven days before the election. It killed her momentum nonetheless. Then his seemingly well-intentioned announcement just two days before the election, that he had found nothing, only reminded voters once again that she was under FBI scrutiny.
And still. In the final days, Trump’s own campaign was certain he’d lose. Everyone knew it; fait accompli. Trump himself had apparently accepted it. Then boom! a win, now suddenly all his post-election plans are postponed at least four years. Or they should be.
We’ve established, Trump himself has demonstrated repeatedly and vividly, that he is unqualified in temperament and experience to hold the office. So what do we do now, what does he do now?
A month ago in Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi evaluated Trump’s presidential campaign as “adventure tourism for the idiot rich.” The truth of that was evident in Trump’s shell-shocked face as he sat with Obama for the press after their first meeting. As he spoke with respect, possibly for the first time ever, about our outgoing president.
Trump has never been good at disguising what’s going on in his tiny little mind. This time it was: Holy shit, this job is overwhelming! Early reports on how unprepared his campaign was for setting up a government would be amusing if they weren’t so unsettling.
You’ve probably read something about this little news nugget: last May, when there were just a few candidates left in the primaries, Donald Trump Jr.’s people called then-still-a-candidate John Kasich’s people. They offered to make Kasich “the most powerful vice president in history.”
The plan is not much different from the way many businesses run—a duo of front man and office manager. The vice president would run domestic and foreign policy. What would President Trump do? Kasich’s people wanted to know. Junior’s people explained that The Donald would spend his time making America great again. You can read that as anything from speechifying to selling crappy frozen steaks to grabbing a maid by the pussy in one of his luxury hotels.
I wonder if a similar offer was made to Mike Pence. But it doesn’t matter. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t believe Trump has the stamina, much less the attention span—or even the interest—to actually perform the full job of POTUS.
So it will fall to someone else …and likely several someone elses. If that happens, when that happens, expect lots of palace intrigue over who gets to do the actual work that Trump will credit to himself. He once suggested that after he won the presidency, he might abandon it because he always lost interest after winning the chase. I believe that 100%, although I don’t think he quits until after he tires of all the ceremonial requirements.
In a nutshell: others will do the detailing and deciding, and eventually the brainstorming as well. Trump will struggle just to keep up with the figurehead stuff—speeches, appearances, meetings and on and on.
Really, it’s more like the Queen’s job in Great Britain. And that sounds about right: The Donald always did want to be royalty.
Oddly enough, the Trump presidency and an all-Republican Congress will work together very much in the way that Barack Obama envisioned the All-Democratic government working in 2009. Congress will pass laws and the President will sign them.
There’s one nasty exception: Trump’s Congress could easily act on its own more often than the President has in mind. A case in point:
One day after his election victory, Trump called for a constitutional amendment imposing term limits on all members of Congress. He had as much political capital at that moment as he ever will. But later on that same day, GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters that term limits “will not be on the agenda in the Senate. I would say we have term limits now—they’re called elections.”
So Trump’s first lesson in The Three Branches of Government ran a bit like the Rolling Stones lyric that played during many of his rallies: “You can’t always get what you wa-ant”.
Here’s another case in point for the very near future: Obamacare. Trump may have forgotten that the House of Representatives has repealed Obamacare in its entirety more than 50 times since it became law. When the Democrats owned the Senate, they never even allowed that to come up for a vote. The GOP-controlled Senate finally passed a repeal in January 2016, but of course Obama vetoed it.
What happens when both branches of Congress repeal the law again next January or February, with absolutely nothing in place to replace it? Does Trump sign the law and kill coverage for some 20 million voters? What irony: a Trump veto is now the only thing that can save Obamacare, because Republicans are some 15 votes short of overriding a veto.
So tell me if you think that the first thing Trump would do in office is veto his own party’s first act. I don’t think so either. We can always hope that a few Republican Senators would restrain themselves from hurting that many voters, but I am not feeling optimistic.
It gets better. Trump has said that he favors keeping the good stuff from Obamacare, such as the “pre-existing conditions okay” section. But here’s Lawrence O’Donnell explaining why you cannot keep just “some” of Obamacare. If you’ve studied the law at all, you know what must accompany that coverage: the individual mandate.
1. The mandate was the tool that Republicans used most often to oppose Obamacare: how dare the government force you to purchase something!
2. But “pre-existing conditions allowed” forces you to spread the risk.
It won’t matter. Republicans have killed Obamacare so many times that it must feel as natural as taking a crap. So I’ll repeat what I said last time, with emphasis: say goodbye to Obamacare and do not expect anything to replace it. I can only hope that some of the 20 million about to lose their coverage are Trump voters.
And I’m still not done assigning blame for the election…
Pollsters rigged the election, by showing blue states that were actually red and thus affecting where the candidates campaigned. Hillary’s campaign ignored Wisconsin, in part because it was firmly blue for every poll until the election arrived. And shame on Nate Silver, for writing excuses that amount to: “We were less wrong than everyone else.” As the saying goes, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.
I would be remiss to place all that blame on pollsters. Clinton rigged the election too. Repeated massive polls did demonstrate the need for serious campaigning: all those primaries in rust belt states where Bernie Sanders cleaned her clock. Her campaign ignored that clear message. She should have visited every single state that Bernie won, multiple times. With Bernie.
Is there any good news? One unexpected casualty has been Smith & Wesson, which is changing its name to a blandly generic American Outdoor Brands. S&W’s stock dropped 20% on the news of Donald Trump’s election. Why? Gun-owners no longer perceive an immediate threat to the availability of guns, so they don’t need to buy another half-dozen to add to their apocalypse pile.
Smith & Wesson / American Outdoor Brands, cry me a river. Of blood.
And last, but far from least: the media rigged the election, cheating right along with the Republicans by applying false equivalencies and demonizing Clinton. Fawning over Trump. His long business record offers ample evidence that he lies as a matter of course to regulators, and cheats employees and contractors. This con man will now be our leader, and speak for all of us.
Want your heart broken a second time? Yes, you do—by Kate McKinon singing Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah as Hillary Clinton. I cried watching this, and not just for Hillary. For Leonard. For our nation.
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