WRAPPING UP THE ELECTION: A PERSONAL POST-MORTEM

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?

Election day 2012

Election day 2012

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.

Election Day 2012 - Marilyn Armstrong

Election Day 2012

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.

VOTING

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.

Election Day 2012

Election Day 2012

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.”

joh-oliver-11-14-2016People 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.

25 thoughts on “WRAPPING UP THE ELECTION: A PERSONAL POST-MORTEM

  1. This is an excellent analysis of what has happened, and it hits home on a number of levels. I’ve been doing a lot of reading, and have a couple of comments.

    First, an interesting thing about polls — there was ONE that got it right. The USC_Dornsife poll consistently said Trump would win. They explained that the others simply called a large number of voters and asked them the questions –and a week later they called a different sample. The USC poll followed the same people through the campaigns, asking new questions. By watching the responses and the changes, they were able more closely to predict the end results. Perhaps the methodology needs a serious review.

    I think we also need serious review of our education process. I’ve felt for some time that we have not been training our leaders — maybe this is the year when that came home to roost. There were many choices for candidates — but none of them were true leaders as we’ve had in the past.

    And as far as jobs are concerned, the world has changed. There was great fear when everything was computerized that job would disappear as the machines took over. In reality, the opposite has been true. However, the jobs that are available are not those that our workers were trained to fulfill. Where we used to need unskilled labor, we now need skilled labor; where we used to need both blue- and white-collar workers to run a company, we need fewer of each, and we need more service people — plumbers, auto mechanics (who are now computer technicians), programmers — people with specific, trained skills that keep everything running as it is supposed to run. The “higher” white collar jobs are disappearing in favor of the maintenance jobs. And those who have lost upper-echelon jobs are having a harder time finding appropriate work, and therefore screaming loudest of all.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I agree. I say it in jest, but it’s true: we should have all trained to be plumbers and electricians. Or appliance repair people. Too many people looking for “management” jobs and too few people who can really DO stuff. The world has changed and the job market has changed and will continue to change. It’s changing really FAST, too. By the time my son finished training as a computer tech, there was no longer a call for them. It was just a couple of years, but what a difference. Young people are going to have to be very professionally agile to stay relevant. I’m so glad I’m retired!

    Bernie Sanders was on Colbert tonight. He said what Garry and I have been saying to each other: the Democratic party needs to get its act together. They need to recognize that it isn’t the white collar middle class that’s their core demographic anymore. The country has changed, too. When Garry and I were kids, we we stood out from the crowd as “different.” We aren’t different anymore.

    We are living in interesting times. It may be difficult, but I don’t think it will be dull.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Good, thoughtful piece.
      It really is time to move on. The circus has left town. Back to grim reality and a hope that the President-elect (Still hard to say his name in this context) realizes he has the hardest job in the world and it’s not hosting a reality show. He’s already shown signs of that reality but seems unsure of what he must do.
      Bernie Sanders had some cogent comments on the Colbert show last night about why Hilliary lost and what we must do now to rebuild our system and country.
      Enough of the rants and demos from people who I suspect didn’t vote.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Speaking as a Brit isolated in the middle of Europe all I can say at the moment is that Trump is trumping all the news shows on radio and TV, so much so that I do not even bother to listen any more, Mr. Swiss does. I think every American political reporter that speaks German has been a guest on a TV chat show but nothing changes, he is here to stay for 4 years at least. I just get the idea that he is now lost in a world that he does not know. Running a country is not a business enterprise where you have a board meeting once a week, it does not involve just statistics, but people.

    Liked by 3 people

    • We’ve got lots of talking heads on TV. They are talking and talking and talking. But no one really knows anything more than we do. Not yet. We are seeing the beginnings of possible trends, but they are still “seeds” and haven’t yet sprouted. I don’t think it’s going to be as tragic as many people think, but I don’t think we are going to like it, either. We really ARE living in interesting times, like the famous “Chinese” saying. It’s going to be quite a challenge to stay sane.

      Liked by 1 person

      • My youngest son called this evening as he was taking his elder brother to a pop concert in Basel. Had a few words with him and he said he has the feeling that DT never actually thought he would get the job, or even wanted it. He just wanted to make an impression on people and now he has the job and does not really know what to do with it.

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        • Many people thought and still think that. I don’t know. The thought has certainly crossed my mind and there’s been a fair bit of speculation about it. It doesn’t matter now. He has the job, so we are stuck with each other.

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  4. my feelings as well, Anglo. He is about to learn some very hard truths, and laying about himself with a big ugly mallet won’t improve things. Governments are slow trains, and you can’t hammer and shout and expect them to move one whit faster than they do.
    I think what people forget, is that Hillary did win the popular election. By a handy margin. What she did not win is the electoral college vote, which has been invoked more than once in this century. I think of it as a heartbreaker, every time.
    In a way it’s like a basketball game. you play your hearts out, you score, you pull ahead, you’ve even won, according to the scoreboard, by a hefty margin–and then the referees get together and decide that because of this and due to that, they are awarding the game–and the championship–to the other guys.

    And you wonder why people are angry? And sad?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Another follower (an historian) pointed out that although many Americans don’t understand how the electoral college works, the candidates do. They know it intimately. The parties know it. Considering how many time in our history this has happened …. now twice in less than 20 years … good grief. DEAL with it. Roll it into your strategy. Or start a genuine movement to change the constitution and eliminate it (not likely under the GOP who seem to be the party that benefits from it most often).

      I think if the Republicans lost to the electoral college a couple of times, they might be more amenable to changing the system.

      Like

  5. “One of the things that’s wrong with our system is we elect candidates, not leaders.” Absolutely true.

    I strongly disliked both candidates, though, through the debates, I saw the virtues in HRC. I still think she was running mostly for the prize of being the first woman president. Her eyes seemed always to be on something other than the voters; I never felt she was “present.”

    I also thought The Donald would win.

    I thought that the campaign was one unconscionable smear after another, that the 2005 tape of The Donald talking like a 13 year old fat kid with acne out to impress people was irrelevant as was every single mention of Willie. It was awful, insulted the American people and reflected poorly on our country. The 40% percent of the people who didn’t vote does not, I believe, reflect voter apathy. I think it reflects disengagement which is worse. So when that douche bag (if he ever does) looks up and sees a “divided country” it’s divided three ways and the largest section has just, it seems, given up.

    Many people did not want to “vote against” a candidate. They wanted (and I think deserved) a positive choice. They also (probably) were young voters who don’t realize that the candidate is not the big deal here, but the system he will put into play once he’s in office, the cabinet, advisers, etc. and that a vote “against” is against that more than it is against an individual. Understanding this, I could vote for HRC, a positive vote, for the people she would pull around her in government and the direction I would expect the government to take — basically I was voting for a liberal branch to balance the strongly conservative house and senate.

    One solution to that is to offer the alternative to people of voting “no confidence” and responding to that (which is, I think, the majority vote this time) with a shakedown of the system and a re-evaluation of the candidates presented in an election. Other countries do it. With so much of the voting in this country done early, by mail and electronically, it doesn’t seem to me that the size of the country is an argument against direct democracy or, at the very least, providing more options in an election.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ‘I strongly disliked both candidates, though, through the debates, I saw the virtues in HRC. I still think she was running mostly for the prize of being the first woman president. Her eyes seemed always to be on something other than the voters; I never felt she was “present.” ”

      I agree. That’s pretty much what I felt. When I said “lackluster,” *distant*. *detached*, or *uninvolved* would also have said it. Trump has no principles. It’s a bad thing, but it’s a hopeful thing, too. He could be swayed to a better path because I swear what he REALLY wants is that the country should love him and see him as a hero. Daddy problems?

      But he is surrounding himself with the same assholes that have kept the GOP up to their ears in the sucking mud for the past … 30? 40? years. If those are the only voices he hears, we are screwed.

      As for direct democracy, I’m a pragmatist. Sure we should have it like Canada and so many other countries, but will we? I’m not in a howling at the moon stage in life. I am not going to waste my energy on the stuff that hasn’t any chance of happening. I don’t have enough time or mental energy to deal with unwinnable battles.

      I’ll do that in my next life.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. In Canada, when we have a big over-throw like that there usually is a big sigh of relief. It isn’t quite the same in the US. But there were enough people feeling on the outs to move the procedure forward.
    Leslie

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    • Let’s hope this has a happy ending. The problem is a bit weird. Because Trump is NOT an idealogue, he can be “turned” to the less dark side … depending on who has his ear. The problem is that the people with whom he is surrounding himself don’t give any of us a feeling of optimism. They are all entrenched old-school conservatives — the exact same people he said he would oust.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Let us hope that the is keeping the enemy near so he knows what they’re up to. The world is just going to have to hound the guy to keep him on track.
        Leslie

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