I will be the first to concede that I was wrong about this election, and not just me, but so were the professional statisticians that I was paying attention to. Donald Trump won the 2016 election in a political upset that will be studied by the political science community for decades to come. He broke the rules, did things that had never been done before, and yanked the election away from the Clinton political dynasty which was all but anointed.
Hillary Clinton was a deeply troubling political candidate with highly questionable ethics and a terrible track record. With the neo-conservative base aligned behind her, Hillary would have continued misguided wars in the Middle East devoid of any coherent strategy. From her “legacy” in Libya as Secretary of State to her naive Russia “reset” America would have been in trouble with President Hillary Clinton. My main concern was that she would plunge America into war in Syria, and then set her eyes on a even bigger prize in the Middle East.
Donald Trump was also deeply disturbing as a Presidential candidate. His campaign rhetoric included a bizarre mishmash of unrealistic and unAmerican ideas that only a simpleton could take seriously. These included getting Mexico to pay for a wall along our border, forcing companies to do business in the United States (advocating a centrally planned economy, ie: socialism), halting immigration based on a person’s religion, and withdrawing from NATO obligations.
In the end, Hillary was the establishment candidate and I underestimated the election on two counts. First, Trump appealed to people who have fallen out of the global economic system and feel ignored by the political elite. This is a legitimate issue as America’s industrial base has hollowed out, Americans have not seen a pay raise as their money becomes worth less via inflation. In the past, the father of the family supported his wife and kids by working a blue collar job. Today, both husband and wife need advanced levels of education and full time employment just to keep their heads above water.
Second, I misjudged how many people would come out and vote simply as a repudiation to Hillary Clinton. I said many times that Hillary could never win unless she was running against someone like Trump. Well, the reverse is also true. Trump could never have won except for the fact that he was running against Hillary.
For those who are still interested in my meager predications, I foresee the coming months and the first six months of Trump’s presidency as being a time of chaos. Trump was seen as favorable because he was a political outsider, but that also makes him a political novice with an unsophisticated view of the realpolitik of international relations and domestic US politics. In other words, he doesn’t know where the levers of power are. I believe things will smooth out as Trump dials down his rhetoric and makes public and private assurances, but it will be a bumpy ride.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I highly disliked both Hillary and Trump. With the election over I will take the same view towards Trump as I did with Obama. Rather than play partisan games and escalate counter-productive hyperbole, I will praise Trump where he does good and point my finger where I feel he does bad. As with the Obama administration, people on both the left and the right will probably hate me for this but that’s the job.
While we all try to wrap our heads around this election and come to grips with what it means, let’s end on a lighter note. Who else got a kick out of the extremely awkward silences on the set of MSNBC last night as the states started reporting in their ballots? Someone messaged me saying that Rachel Maddow needs to be put on suicide watch right now.