There’s much still to be learned about the roots of our national disaster as the data are gathered and analyzed. For example, early indications seem to be that Trump pretty much matched Romney’s popular vote but Clinton underperformed Obama by enough to lose. If this turns out to hold up then that will tell us something important.
But even before all the data arrive we’re forced to ask ourselves, How could this have happened?
First of all, of course, it’s now looking like polls are a 20th-century artifact that no longer works in the 21st century. In this regard the upcoming French and German elections are perhaps even a bit more momentous. The betting markets were wrong too, but they’re heavily poll-based in terms of the raw data they consider, so if the polls are badly off the markets will be out of kilter. They’re not, as they’re sometimes considered, two separate views on the same situation, but rather two different ways of looking at and processing information from a single view.
Democratic partisans will no doubt blame James Comey, who clearly influenced the election with his October surprise nothingburger. Fortunately for his career Trump won. But if such a nothingburger of implication is sufficient to turn a winning campaign into a losing one, considerations beyond the momentary call out for consideration.
The problem with Clinton wasn’t her peculiarity but her typicality. It was characteristic of this Democratic Party that the power players in Washington decided on the nominee — with overwhelming endorsements — many months before a single ballot was cast.
They made a fateful choice for all of us by stacking the deck, decisively, against the kind of politics that could win: a working-class politics.
Seventy-two percent of Americans who voted last night believed that “the economy is rigged to the advantage of the rich and powerful.” Sixty-eight percent agreed that “traditional parties and politicians don’t care about people like me.”
Surprisingly, these folks didn’t see Clinton as their avatar. Whether it was her craven vote for the most recent war on Iraq, her latecomer status to many of the party’s identity-politics positions, or perhaps her longstanding integration into the Borg of Wall Street, somehow Hillary didn’t embody the anger and frustration of those who feel the system is rigged against them.
In the long term, the Democratic party will either follow the Republican party in moving to where its base lives, or it will continue to diminish in national influence outside of the Presidential election cycle every four years. The Democratic party elites’ belief that the professional class would be preferable partners to the working class has cost the party dearly in terms of offices and power, but even more dearly in terms of legitimacy.