Thursday, November 10, 2016
I went to bed late on election night, and then I lay in bed and couldn’t fall asleep. After a couple of fitful hours, I woke up in what felt like a different country than the one I had woken up in the day before.
I served my mission in 1975 in northern Germany. It had been thirty years since Germany had lost the war, but most of the people I knew still bore a burden of guilt, especially those who were old enough to have lived through the Third Reich. I often wondered how such a civilized and decent people had ever allowed someone like Adolf Hitler to come to power. After the past year and a half, though, and especially after Tuesday night, I have a better idea. It has been sobering to see people who are frustrated over the economic realities of a changing world embrace an utterly odious man who has cynically played on their fears, their ignorance, and their baser instincts. What amazes me is that so many convinced themselves that the lies he was telling were true. But, as Joseph Goebbels could tell us, propaganda is a powerful tool.
Donald Trump won the election for a variety of reasons. Sure, FBI Director Comey’s untimely and totally uncalled-for announcement played a role. But there are other more fundamental reasons. The CNN map showing voting patterns county by county revealed a country divided starkly between rural and urban voters. Rural areas voted heavily for Trump, while urban areas weighed in for Clinton. Rural areas are largely white. Urban areas tend to be more ethnically diverse. Exit polls revealed other dividing lines. White males without a college education voted overwhelmingly for Trump. Somewhat surprisingly, white women without a college education also voted for Trump, although not as lopsidedly as their male counterparts. Many of them were Evangelicals, who tend to live in a more authoritarian, male-dominated world than other women. Call this the last revolt of the undereducated class. The evolving modern economy has left them behind, and they are angry. They blame Washington, although it is not Washington that is primarily at fault. Trump came along and told them that their jobs had been stolen by Mexicans or Asians and promised to bring those jobs back. But this, like everything else Trump said, was a lie. Those jobs were not taken by foreigners. Manufacturing has actually grown in America under Obama, but manufacturing jobs have not. Why? Because of technology. And those jobs are not coming back, no matter what Trump does. I wouldn’t be surprised if, in five years, truckers start being replaced by self-driving semis. More and more of us are going to be replaced by machines.
The relentless economic evolution that has left white, blue-collar, undereducated Americans behind is something that neither Democrats nor Republicans were prepared to address in a meaningful or realistic way, except for Bernie Sanders. Clinton had no better answers than Trump. She won the popular vote. He won the electoral vote. But he won in states where the disenfranchised showed up to express their frustration.
But this is not why Hillary lost. In spite of his claims of growing the Republican Party, Donald Trump received fewer votes than either John McCain or Mitt Romney. Hillary lost because many of the voters who showed up for Barack Obama stayed home Tuesday. Maybe they really were, like Bernie, tired of hearing about her “damn emails.” But I don’t think so. I think they were not convinced that she had any answers for their circumstances. She was too tied to Wall Street, to special interests. Whatever the reason, they stayed home. They probably watched on TV as America selected the most flawed and unqualified candidate ever to represent a major political party.
So the Democrats have work to do. And they have already started. An editorial on CNN.com spelled out just why the Democratic Party needs to cleanse itself of the Clinton apparatus with all its ties and limitations and start afresh with the message that Bernie Sanders promoted. It was a message that rang true to millions of Americans, especially the young, and created a passionate wave of activism. He said things that needed to be said. And he stayed on message. Tonight, by chance, I received an email from Bernie, inviting me to sign a petition to support one of his young like-minded colleagues, Rep. Keith Ellison, as the new chair of the Democratic National Committee. I was happy to do so. I’m about 150 percent certain that if Bernie had indeed won the nomination, he would have easily won this election. But as we now know, the party was stacked against him with Clinton loyalists. I guess we don’t have to worry about that anymore.
The Republicans are claiming a massive victory, but they lost the popular vote, again. That’s six of the last seven elections. And the national demographics will continue to shift away from them. They have a rough road ahead. They actually have to govern now, but they lack a set of coherent policies that will work in the real 21st-century economy. They won’t be able to run again on hatred of government and demonizing minorities and offering vague policy statements. Their party is deeply divided. And worse, now not only do they have to own Donald Trump and all of his negatives (which are yuuuuge), but he owns them. The party is his. And it will bend to his will, whatever that might be, and it might be very distasteful to both pure conservative ideologues like Paul Ryan and longtime party power brokers like Orrin Hatch and Mitch McConnell. I don’t envy them this victory.
They will push through more supply-side tax cuts for the wealthy, accelerate the growing inequality, and plunge the country further into debt. They will repeal Obamacare, but they don’t have a credible plan to replace it with. In the end, they may have to embrace it, since they are too ideologically handcuffed to be able to do the right thing and implement a single-payer system. And Obamacare is, after all, the offspring of conservative think tanks. No, they will lose the health-care war they have doggedly fought for so long. They will talk about a market-based system, but they won’t be able to figure out the details without depriving millions of people the health care they need, because that’s what the market does. It creates winners and losers. It doesn’t create all winners. We know this. It’s where we were before Obamacare. And it’s where the Republicans will have to go if they remain true to their rigid ideology. And then they will face the inevitable results of reversing Obama’s efforts to combat global warming. The numbers will absolutely destroy the Republican Party.
Unless they come to their senses. But what are the chances of that happening? Especially with Trump at the helm and the right-wing media bubble screening out salient facts.
One final sad comment on this election. As the numbers came in, I was of course surprised at how wrong the pollsters were. But this was especially true in Utah. The polls totally missed the wide margin by which Trump won the state. When I checked the numbers in the Deseret News the next morning, Trump had 333,197 votes (46.7 percent), Clinton 204,613 (28.7 percent), McMullin only 151,755 (21.3 percent), and Johnson 23,156 (3.2 percent). When I saw the margin, I was ashamed of my church. It was obvious that it was the Mormon vote that gave Trump the huge margin in Utah. In Salt Lake County, where there are more non-LDS voters, the totals were: Clinton 105,753, Trump 71,933, and McMullin 40,018. The numbers were similar in Summit County, which is also less Mormon. It was in the more LDS counties where Trump scored his big victories. In my county, Utah County, which is overwhelmingly LDS, the totals were: Trump 84,863, McMullin 48,684, and Clinton 22,934. Davis County was very similar, on a smaller scale, as was Cache County. Trump won Weber County easily, although Clinton came in second there. Worst was Washington County (Utah’s Dixie), where Trump took a whopping 68.6 percent of the vote, with Clinton at 18.8 percent, and McMullin at a measly 10.4 percent. So, Utah Mormons overwhelmingly voted for a man who is a moral cesspool. So much for family values. I’ve said before that I think many Latter-day Saints are more Republican than they are Mormon. This election proves my point. I don’t know quite what to think about this, but I find it depressing. All I have to say to those who voted for Trump is that you’re getting what you deserve. Good luck.