There are several lessons that can be learned from the recent election and our reaction to it. While some of my points will focus on Mr. Trump and Ms. Clinton, I will also make a few points about President Obama.
Whenever an incumbent president leaves office because of term limits, his party’s nominee to succeed him partakes of the credit for the predecessor’s accomplishments; however, that nominee is also held accountable for his predecessor’s mistakes. I am not suggesting that this “rule” makes sense, but it is simply what happens in election campaigns. Additionally, prior to this election, the president was campaigning for Clinton. He suggested that people should vote for Clinton to preserve his legacy. Therefore, his baggage became her baggage. So I will address some of the president's actions which had an impact on this election.
1. Too much, too fast
The United States is not a left leaning country. Of course there are segments of the population that embrace socialism and communism or less extreme leftist ideologies, but those segments do not represent a majority of Americans. It is possible for a charismatic leader to convince the masses to change their political course but it must be done slowly and incrementally. Most people simply do not embrace change if it occurs too quickly.
That is one of the mistakes of the Obama administration. Because he was limited to a maximum of 8 years in office, he wanted to leave a “legacy” of “progressive” change, so he pushed the country in the direction where he thought it should go, but he pushed too hard, too fast, and there were too many people that resisted.
The backlash that occurred was not a "white-lash" of white voters being angry at Obama because he was black. It was a backlash of voters who were tired of a progressive, liberal agenda that was pushed on us repeatedly. Yes, the backlash of voters were primarily white, because black voters traditionally vote en masse for the Democrat candidate. That does not mean that the backlash was racially motivated.
2. Promises that were not delivered
“Premiums will go down by an average of $2,500 per year. If you like your plan, you can keep your plan. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.” Weren’t those some of the selling points for Obamacare? Obviously, those promises were not delivered; in fact, what we were given failed miserably. Premiums went up on an average of $4,100 per family. People lost their prior insurance plans and they had to find new primary care doctors.
President Obama is not the first president to make promises that were unfulfilled.
While campaigning in 1988, then Vice-President George H. Bush (president from 1989 to 1993) promised that there would be no new taxes during his administration. When he enacted a new tax during his first term, the Democrat candidate in the next election (Bill Clinton) crammed that promise down his throat, and President Bush lost his re-election bid in 1992.
If those promises about Obamacare had been kept, it may have been Trump acting gracious in defeat.
3. Establishment media is losing its power
Media power in politics probably got its biggest boost with the 1960 election. John F. Kennedy was a handsome young man, a war hero, and an educated Ivy League product. Richard Nixon was uncomfortable, not media savvy, and had already experienced a scandal (Google “Nixon Checkers Speech.”) Kennedy challenged Nixon to four debates and Kennedy knew how to play to the audience. He was generally regarded as the winner of the debates. The election was very close and many viewed the debates as the difference. The power of the media in presidential politics was born with this election.
For the next 50 years, CBS, NBC, and ABC (plus CNN and MSNBC when cable TV became commonplace) enjoyed a growing power to not just report on the campaigns but to influence them. While the Democrat party has never openly confessed to possessing a distinct advantage with the media, the recent revelations about CNN giving Clinton debate questions in advance of the debates, and asking for questions to pose in an anticipated interview with Trump, certainly suggest that the relationship between the media and the Democrat party is cozier than it should be.
However, the proliferation of alternative news sources, such as online sources, combined with the popularity of talk radio hosts such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Neal Boortz, and Herman Cain, has started to dilute that influence. Additionally, the power of WikiLeaks to reveal information that the mainstream media would never report/never investigate cannot be overestimated.
In future campaigns, reliance on the traditional media influence would be very ill advised.
4. Polls are simply wrong
When I was a young man, I frequently heard my father say, “Liars figure and figures lie!” Of course, it is a rather pedestrian platitude, but it is often quite apropos. In this election, the polls told us that Clinton was leading Trump. Her supporters thought that the outcome was as certain as if it has been pre-determined. Many of the pundits told us that Trump would lose by a very large margin, perhaps even in a landslide favoring Clinton.
They were wrong . . . but you already know that.
Why were they wrong? At times during the election, I entertained the possibility that the poll results intentionally were being engineered to favor Clinton. “Convince his supporters that he is losing and they will lose some of their motivation. Some voters will even stay home on the assumption that their vote has no chance of making a difference. I really don’t know if CNN, CBS, etc. conducted biased polls but, if they did, that does not explain all of the poll results. FoxNews polls showed Clinton leading. If FoxNews had any reason to bias their poll, it would have been in favor of Trump, not against him.
During the election, the media was quite tolerant and even promoted the liberal bashing of Trump supporters. People who publicly endorsed Trump were often held to ridicule and scorn (as if that is acceptable behavior.) Perhaps Trump supporters simply learned to keep their opinions to themselves . . . except when they went to the polls.
Whatever the explanation is, the polls failed miserably. While they promote themselves as being conducted according to “scientific” standards, there is very little science in polling.
5. Failure to take your opponent seriously is a big mistake
Many people thought that Trump was such an obvious buffoon that he could not possible be elected president, so . . . relax, have another beer, don’t worry, everything will be okay. Underestimating your opponent is always a mistake.
In 1776, Great Britain sent an army to America to quell a rebellion of the disorganized, unsophisticated colonists. How did that work out?
In 1861, troops marched out of Washington, D.C. heading south to put the kibosh on an insurrection. Popular sentiment was that the war would be over in 30-60 days. Actually, what happened was the bloodiest conflict in American history.
Simply dismissing your opponent and his supporters by calling them names - believing that is part of a successful strategy - did not work out so well for Clinton and the Democrats.
6. Black Americans still vote in a monolithic block
Based on exit polling data (and, obviously, I am not a fan of polling data), Clinton won 88% of the black vote while Trump only won 8% among that group. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/11/09/behind-trumps-victory-divisions-by-race-gender-education/
Why? In an election year in which conventional wisdom was shredded and historical patterns were not followed, the black population stayed true to its tradition of block voting for the Democrat candidate. Clinton pandered to the black voters in a quite obvious and condescending fashion:
and it did not matter. I don’t think that black block voting is explained by the suggestion that Democrats actually do more favorable things for blacks but I am certain that is the prevailing belief in the black community. I don’t think that the Republican Party or Donald Trump are racist but they both need to work against the misperception that is advanced by others.
7. Divisiveness will not go away soon
In 2008, we were told that Obama was uniquely qualified to help us unify as one United States of America. Instead, over the past 8 years, race relations have gotten worse. Whenever the media have focused on a police shooting or other incident and advanced the notion that it occurred as a result of racial bias, Obama has often joined in with those efforts – even though he did not have all of the facts necessary to understand the incident. Racially, we are more divided after 8 years of Obama than we were after 8 years of George H.W. Bush.
Politically, we are sharply divided. It has become increasingly acceptable to call people names and disparage them because you disagree with their political views. One of my young Facebook friends posted this yesterday: “If you're not a straight, white, man and you voted for Trump you're an idiot, if you are and you voted for Trump you're just an asshole.”
This FB friend is a college graduate who professes to be a Christian. How can anyone think of themselves as being motivated by love, how can they think of themselves as tolerant . . . and post something that hateful?
Conflicts are not resolved by name calling and bullying. No one is convinced to change their opinion, or their vote, because of “spontaneous riots” organized by backers of the opposing political candidate. We must move beyond the hypocrisy of criticizing divisiveness while ourselves perpetuating it. But I don’t expect this to happen any time soon.
8. Cry babies and not cry babies
Parents who were born in the 1970’s thought that competition and not winning were destructive to the ego development of children. Therefore, they believed it would boost the ego of children to structure activities so that all participants were winners. Everyone got blue ribbons and no one ever lost. How did that work out?
So, do I want to scream?
No, because not all young people are like this. In fact, I suspect most aren’t . . . but those who are seem to be getting the attention. Another of my young FB friends posted this message: “I can confirm. I received multiple emails from school faculty, and heard of ‘free hugs’ and counseling being offered. I think it's quite ridiculous and embarrassing. Not all millenials are like this though. There are crybabies in every generation.”
I still have hope for my America!