How did they get it so wrong? The polls, the press, the pundits. All so very wrong. How come? What happened? Even the usually reliable Las Vegas bookies were wrong. How come they were all sure Hillary Clinton was going to win and I had the strongest feeling she would not?
I was looking at the world around me, not at poll data. Seeing the absence of signs signaling victory. No lawn signs. Not for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. No party workers handing out leaflets and chatting up passersby. However people were voting, they were keeping themselves to themselves. More than that, the lack of enthusiasm was palpable. This was an election that despite high stakes, was not generating excitement. By the closing weeks, people were exhausted. Weary of politics, scandals, and lurid headlines. Mentally numb and more than a little disgusted with the process.
I had not responded to a single poll. I was firmly in Hillary’s camp, but I suspected a lot more non-responders were in Trump’s camp. Who were pollsters counting?
You can usually sniff a victory in the air. There’s a buzz. Energy. People are eager to tell you about their candidate. Even more eager to “own” that candidate. Identify with their party and its policies. This year, there was no buzz, no excitement, no lively conversation. Not even any arguments. A deafening silence.
When we finally went to the polls, it wasn’t crowded. Just the number of folks you’d expect to turn out for local elections. I did not see a single bumper sticker. There was only one sign holder on the street leading to the old high school where we vote. In the two previous elections, the street had been lined with signs, and men and women holding them.
Lawns were empty of signs. No groups of supporters were there to talk up their candidates and hand out pamphlets. I’ve never seen so little election-related activity on a presidential year. People went in, voted, and left. The liveliest conversation of the day was had by me with two other dog enthusiasts by the meat counter at Hannaford.
I DON’T TRUST POLLS
Polls are like IQ tests. The saying goes that “IQ tests test what IQ tests test.” Which may or may not have anything to do with intelligence. Polls collect data, but what the data means is subject to a lots of variables. Like who asked the questions and how they were asked. How questions were worded. The exact words that comprised the responses which were reduced to a check mark. One of the big reasons I don’t respond to poll surveys is that they require I answer complicated questions with a single, inaccurate answer. To me “the closest answer” isn’t an answer,
NOT A GREAT YEAR FOR THE DEMS
When all was said and done, I felt Hillary, much as I personally like her, ran a lackluster campaign. Even without the email nonsense and the “trust issue,” I doubt she would have won. She didn’t generate enthusiasm. People said they didn’t like her, but I think they didn’t like her enough to vote for her. She would, I think, have made an excellent president, but she was a dull, stiff, uninspiring candidate lacking even a hint of spontaneity.
One of the things that’s wrong with our system is we elect candidates, not leaders. The requirements for a great candidate have little to do with the requirements of governing.
We should consider what we require from our president. Decide if flash and dash on the campaign trail signifies someone who can lead. Not that I think anything is going to really change. We have become addicted to the drama and have forgotten that, at the end of the trail, we pick a president. There’s no “redo” if we make a bad choice.
ABOUT THOSE JOBS
Neither Donald Trump nor anyone else is going to bring back those lost jobs. Some were, it’s true, lost to trade deals, but many more were lost to changing technology.
The U.S. is never going to regain its position as the foremost manufacturing nation. The rust belt will continue to rust. The coal mines will not reopen. Oh, maybe a few here and there, but the employment market is calling for trained people with skills. The need isn’t for mechanics and drill press operators, or people to work on the production line.
Corporations are international. No trade agreement is going to force them to make stuff here if they can make the same items at a fraction of the cost elsewhere. Those left-behind workers are never getting their jobs back. What they need is to acquire new skills and funds to send their sons and daughters to school so they can have a brighter future. Promising them things no one can give them is a cruel joke. Trump promised these people he’d fix it. It’s an empty promise. He can’t fix it. No one can. I’m not even sure it’s broken. It’s just different. That’s the way the world turns.
And that’s why I’ve been a bit less shell-shocked than many others. I’ve backed a lot of losers and winners over the years. It has taught me to recognize which is which. You can smell what’s coming. Just … sniff the air.
A FINAL NOTE
Watching Trump on “60 Minutes” tonight was both reassuring and bizarre. Almost funny, in a weird way. How many times in my life have I watched candidate X make a sharp u-turn as soon as the election is over? As far as that goes, this was classic political “business as usual.” He acted exactly like every other incoming president-elect of my lifetime.
Although I think that this will turn out to be a relatively traditional Republican presidency (which is quite bad enough), the campaign was horrible. I strongly object to a scorched earth policy for presidential politics. It’s not okay to tear the nation to shreds, then say “Oh I didn’t really mean it.”
People are raw, fearful, hurting. Damaged. This campaign went way beyond mere rhetoric and mud-slinging. It was a lot worse than divisive. It was ugly and dirty, displaying to the entire world the absolutely worst of our political process.
Regardless of what he does as president, candidate Trump has a lot to answer for. He won the presidency, but destroyed a lot of people’s faith in America in the process. It’s going to take a lot of fixing to make that right. If, indeed, it can be fixed … or made right.