Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Congratulations to Donald Trump

Congratulations to the next president of the United States, Donald Trump.  His unconventional campaign, his reluctance to ignore the advice of seasoned political advisers, his speeches in which the normal filter for political correctness, and perhaps even basic politeness and civility, and virtually every part of his overall strategy, all of which he orchestrated on his own terms, proved successful.  I have tried not to read too much analysis, summary and postmortem articles about the results, so if you have already read this next comment, I apologize for repeating it, but, as Frank Sinatra so beautifully sang, Trump can now proclaim that "I did it my way".

I tuned in to the election results around 9:30 last night.  At that point, Trump had already been declared the winner in numerous states across the south and middle parts of the country and was leading in the electoral college.  Despite this, the commentators on the PBS channel I was watching, still spoke of Hillary Clinton's path to electoral victory.  Slowly, as the night progressed and the races in the pivotal rust belt states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin began moving towards Trump, preceded by his declared victories in Florida and North Carolina, it was easy to sense that the mood of the moderators was shifting.  Surprise, shock, disbelief, while not overly obvious, certainly began to seep into their words and expressions.  Despite the temporary lead that Clinton gained around 11:00 when polls closed on the west coast and she was declared the winner in California and Washington, it wasn't long before the numbers in those states detailed above began to turn towards Trump.  Between midnight and 1:00 AM, there was a clear path for Trump to win, while Clinton had to sweep the remaining states that had not been called, a prospect not likely.  In the meantime, the belief that the Senate may turn to the DEMS, was squashed as key races were won by incumbent GOP candidates.   I don't remember what time it was precisely, but by 2:00 AM, a Trump victory was inevitable, the Clinton campaign announced to her supporters that they should go home from the hotel where they had gathered to celebrate the election of the first woman president, and the commentators began discussing how the polls could have been so wrong.

I stayed awake for Trump's victory speech.  It was well done.  He thanked his family and supporters, acknowledged the concession phone call from Hillary Clinton, thanked her a hard fought campaign and her decades of service in government, and spoke very clearly of reaching out to all Americans, those who voted for him as well as those who did not, so as to unify our great country.  He was gracious in his acceptance of the victory, the nature of the historical nature of his election, and perhaps even the gravity of what he had accomplished, and what the American people now expected him to do to prove to them that they made the right choice.

So, as will be analyzed to death for the next few months, why did Trump win?  And, more importantly, how did the GOP, a party as fractured as there ever was, not only secure the White House, but maintained its historic advantage in the House and hold on to its majority in the Senate?

I wonder if the polls, perhaps biased as Trump and his supporters have claimed, actually helped Trump and hurt Clinton.  While his remained energized, able to rally around the thought that they weren't being represented properly by the elite media, hers may have become complacent in the thought that she was going to win, that she couldn't possible lose to Trump.  The numbers I heard during the evening's coverage suggested that both candidates won the demographics they were expected to win, but not necessarily by margins expected.  In the end, and perhaps, despite winning the popular vote (she is currently ahead as of this writing), Clinton did not connect with the Obama coalition that propelled him to the presidency in 2008.

What surprises me the most, was not that white male voters chose Trump overwhelmingly, or that Clinton won virtually all minority and women demographics, but that, as of this post, neither garnered as many votes as Romney did in losing the 2012 election.  Based on the intensity of this election, I was hoping that we might surpass the turnout of the past two presidential elections, but instead we will fall far short of the 130 million and 125 million votes cast in the 2008 and 2012 elections respectively.  We may just surpass a 50% turnout rate, a far cry from the 58+% in 2008.  In essence, Trump will be our next president having been chosen by half of those voting who are themselves, half of those eligible to vote, who are themselves about 68% of the population.  In other words, the roughly 60 million people who voted for Trump represent the views of 17% of our country's 350 million people population.  This is not to belittle his accomplishment, the same would have been true if Clinton had won.  It seems more an indictment of our electorate, and its reluctance to participate in such an important election and the overall complacency of the voting public.  Not since 1968 has even 60% of eligible voters made their way to the polls although we have at least surpassed our all recent history all time low of 49% in the 1996 election.  

If not enough people participating may have led to Clinton's loss, perhaps the presence of the protest vote for the Green and Libertarian candidates also contributed.  While one may argue that some of the Libertarian vote may have been cast by disaffected Republicans, it seems more likely that, since Trump represented the change or protest vote so dramatically, a larger portion of the Libertarian vote, as well as the vast majority of the Green party vote were Democrats who did not connect with Clinton.  Looking at the breakdown of votes for Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, the math suggest that these protest votes, had they gone to Clinton, would have shifted 46 electoral college votes to her resulting in a 274 to 244 win, that is how close the popular vote was in those 3 states.

As I mentioned in a few previous posts, there may also have been some gender bias at work.  At one point, I heard that male African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians, while supporting Clinton in the majority, did not do so as significantly as they did for Obama.  Perhaps there were enough males of those backgrounds that were able to more easily overlook Trump's shortcomings, perhaps chalking them up to a locker room mentality or the boys will be boys excuse, simply because they were uncomfortable with being led by a woman.

It will take me a while to wrap my head around the phrase President Donald Trump.  But I hope that in the name of unity and for the good of America, those of us who did not vote for him will be able to give him the benefit of the doubt.  His demeanor last night was certainly more presidential than I have seen in the past.  And there are a number of areas of agreement that can be addressed right away before our differences are explored.  I hope his supporters can also put aside our differences, forget about the vengeful talk of continued criminal investigations into the Clintons, and work together to rebuild our infrastructure, address the physical and mental needs of our veterans, encourage corporations to honor America as opposed to their profit margin, and reduce or remove the vast amounts of money that have been allowed to influence our election process.  

In the meantime, I stay, as always, hopeful that humanity in general, and Americans in particular, will continue to evolve spiritually, continue to strive for goodness, to treat others as they wish to be treated, and to forgive rather than to seek vengeance.   

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