Well, the election is over, the dust has sort of settled, and the most obvious post-mortem on it is that political pundits didn’t have a clue as to how it would turn out.
During the primaries Trump was dead meat. How could he win against all those qualified Republican candidates? OK, he won that primary, but if he continues to say outlandish things people will get wise to him and his support will plummet. OK, he won the nomination, but he can’t possibly win the election. OK, he won the election, but he can’t possibly…
Interestingly, the political columnists I read, both liberal and conservative, became increasingly aware that their track record was awful—they even said so in their columns—but kept on making the same predictions. One of my favorites was that this was the end of the Republican Party, which now, of course, controls the House, the Senate, the presidency, and soon, the Supreme Court.
The big question is why did it happen, and the big answer is anger. The Tea Party was angry that their chosen candidates couldn’t deliver on their campaign promises to make big changes. For working white males the anger was against the Democrats who had shipped their jobs overseas. To populists it was Clinton’s cozy ties to Wall Street.
There was plenty of anger to go around, and most of it was directed at “The Establishment” which I interpret to stand for “the people who won’t let me have my way.” I view it as kind of a non-denominational Establishment—all things to all people.
Trump, to put it mildly, was not tactful. Trump said things the other candidates couldn’t, wouldn’t, and shouldn’t say, and the people loved it because he said the things that were on their minds that polite people didn’t say.
“Finally,” one woman said, “Someone who thinks like me.” God help us all, I thought.
It is the natural inclination of politicians to be cautious, to stand for something that won’t offend many people, even if it is something that not all people agree on. Especially if it is something that not all people agree on, because the political promises that are made are couched so that those who agree think the politician is making a strong statement on their behalf, and those who don’t agree think that it is something they could live with.
But Trump found something everybody could agree with; that they were tired of the status quo, sick of “The Establishment,” sick of political correctness, and just in general angry. Did he say things he believed in? Part of the time. Did he say things just to pander to the electorate? Part of the time. Did he misstate the truth? A lot of the time, but to be fair, he wasn’t alone in all that.
He avoided paying taxes, mocked the disabled, was a philanderer, a sort of serial monagonmist, a part-time misogynist, and a full-time showman. He could have said, as did a comedian of years back, “Is there anyone here I haven’t offended yet?” and gotten a standing ovation,
He didn’t do it all himself, of course. He had a big-time assist from FBI Director Comey, who must be working for Putin. He didn’t want to release the information that it had been Russia that hacked the DNC computers because it might be seen as influencing the election, but he did release the information that he was reopening the Clinton investigation even though it was obvious that it would have a huge influence on the election. Surely there is a place in Trump Heaven for this man.
And Trump will build his Heaven, and it will be in Washington, D.C., and it will be beautiful and “yuge,” and he will see that it was good.
I only hope that the rest of us will see that, too.
Jim Elliott is a former chairman of the Montana Democratic Party and a former state senator from Trout Creek.