We should have seen it coming!
Perceptions by Gerry Warner
Now that Homer Simpson is president, what are we going to do? I guess we better hope that Trump is lovable, if not a bit stupid like Homeromer, rather than the devil incarnate.
And speaking of “stupid,” oh boy, where do I begin? Let’s start with the pollsters. They blew it with the Alberta election. They blew it with the Brexit referendum and now they’ve blown it with the biggest political prediction fiasco of them all, Trump’s stunning victory. Frankly, I find it reassuring to see Big Data can get it wrong too and that there’s still a place for human intuition. Mind you, this human also got it wrong, something I’ve been doing a lot of lately in politics.
Despite this, I take more than a small measure of schadenfreude – that wonderful German word for taking pleasure in the distress of others – watching the TV political pundits twist themselves into pretzels trying to explain Trump’s unexpected victory and their own failure to see it coming. The entire, miserable lot of them should be ordered to stand in a dark corner wearing dunce caps, myself included.
OK, enough self-flagellation. Yes, I got it wrong, but I think I can make a point or two why so many others got it wrong too. Obviously, the overwhelming, visceral hatred of Hillary – both as a person and as a politician – played a huge role in the Democrats’ debacle. What isn’t so obvious, and it wasn’t taken up by the punditry, is that a large chunk of the American electorate also hate Hillary’s lying, cheating and philandering husband Bill even more than they hate her and projected that hatred on poor Hillary’s shoulders. Holier-than-thou evangelicals and Tea Party types are hugely powerful in the rabid, Republican right wing and they never forgave Bill Clinton for his dalliance with Monica Lewinsky. Nor did they forgive Hillary for not dumping Bill when she found out. Too far out, you say? Well let me tell you something. If the polls can occasionally be trusted they showed the highest personal popularity Hillary ever achieved was in the middle of the Lewinsky affair when Bill was turning himself inside out denying his adultery. Women universally felt sympathy for Hillary and revulsion for Bill and they have long memories, especially the hypocritical, evangelical types.
What this all means, of course, is Democrats ran the wrong candidate for president and I don’t need to tell you who the right, or maybe that should be the left, candidate was. It was Bernie Sanders, of course, who wanted to lead a “revolution” against the establishment just as Trump successfully did. I’m even willing to bet that some of the Sanders supporters, bitter that their candidate wasn’t the Democrat nominee, ended up voting for Trump or not voting at all. And in an election as razor close as this one that’s all it would take to change victory into defeat.
So right off the top, the Democrats chose the wrong candidate and then compounded this mistake by the hardly-subtle distain they displayed for Trump and his supporters. They openly questioned their intelligence, their anger and their pain as they were pushed down the economic ladder by forces they couldn’t control like automation and immigration, both legal and illegal, that has taken away their jobs. And when people, especially men, even more especially, older white men lose their jobs they get angry, frustrated and open to radical solutions. It’s at times like this that authoritarian, strong men become very appealing. In this context, Hitler is often mentioned not without justification. But you could also say, Stalin, Mao or Margaret Thatcher for that matter.
So the groundwork was well laid. The soil was well tilled and the conditions were ripe except few could see it coming. Now, we’ve seen it in technicolor and all we can do is wait for the next chapter. And how ironic can it get when the man that introduced many of us to realty TV and “you’re fired” is now “The Apprentice” himself and trying to learn how to be a world leader.
There’s a Chinese saying about being condemned to live in interesting times. The times coming up couldn’t be more interesting.
Gerry Warner is a retired journalist, who will be taking a hiatus shortly while he explores new opportunities in Trump’s world.