|President-elect Donald J. Trump declaring victory this morning (LA Times)|
There are many words that can describe my feelings this morning. But I think ‘stunned’ is the best among them. I am stunned – right along with the rest of the world that Donald Trump won the Presidency. Some sadly so. And some ecstatically so. But stunned nonetheless.
Yes. It’s true. Donald J. Trump will be the 45th President of the United States. He will be the Commander-in Chief. He will in effect be the next leader of the free world.
No one predicted this. As much as Trump and company said they did, I don’t think they really believed it. All the polls favored Clinton. Trump’s path to victory which all conceded was unlikely but possible ended up happening. He won over states like Wisconsin that have voted Democrat since the 80s.
Actually it is not entirely accurate that no one predicted it. I did way back in May of this year:
There is something in the air. That is the only way to explain the Donald J. Trump phenomenon. It is a phenomenon that I now believe will put him in office come January of 2017. And by office I mean President of the United States. Making him the leader of the free world. I hope I’m wrong. But I don’t think I am. Donald Trump has defied conventional wisdom. He has done the impossible. He has received an overwhelming endorsement from Republican primary voters.
Some very smart people at the time said that it would never happen. That Trump won his Republican base because they are a bunch of Neanderthals. In the general election the saner voter would clearly reject this demagogue. The American electorate is much smarter than the hard core, ignorant, uneducated Republican base that nominated him.
Trumps gaffes, his lack of experience lack of temperament, his bombast, his disparaging attitudes and insults against his opponents, his misogyny, accusations of sexual harassment, his anti immigrant, and anti Muslim comments; and his poor performance in all of the debates would surely sink any chance he had.
Not to mention his ignorance on all the issues and lack of any experience in any kind of public office. And let’s not forget his penchant for ridiculing his opponents. Add to that the fact that he has been the butt of every joke by comedians who have savagely ridiculed him; the fact that important members of his own party (like House Speaker Paul Ryan) have rejected him, that former Republican Presidents and candidates announced they would not vote for him, and a relentless media whose political pundits (even many Republican ones) expressed horror at the very idea that this man could ever be President.
What sane person would vote for a man like that – who would have his finger on a hair-trigger nuclear button?
Certainly not me. So even though I predicted his victory months ago, I fell into the trap that everyone else did believing that someone like this would never be elected.
Were we ever wrong. I believe that this was the biggest political upset in American electoral history!
Questions remain. What happened and Why? How could everybody be so wrong? What now?
There has been a lot of speculation already about why this happened. Most of it surrounding the fact that voters in America of all stripes are fed up with the government. They wanted change. And they didn’t care about anything else. To put it the way Trump himself did during the primaries when he started winning them, he could have shot someone in the middle of Times Square and it wouldn’t matter. People would vote for him anyway. This is what happened.
The American electorate could not care less about his qualifications; lack of experience, disgusting rhetoric or insults. They liked his message of change. And disliked his opponent a lot more than anyone imagined.
This was not about bigotry winning over tolerance. Although a lot of bigots supported Trump on both sides of the political aisle (like David Duke and Louis Farrakhan) they and their fringe groups are not the ones that got him elected. It was the American voter who is clearly not racist or bigoted – having elected the first black man to be President of the United States. Putting him in there twice.
How could everyone be so wrong? Obviously because polls are not foolproof and don’t count. Only one poll counts. The one we had yesterday.
As for the last question, I am reminded of the closing scene of the 1972 movie ‘The Candidate’ starring Robert Redford. After his unlikely election to high political office, Redford’s character escapes a victory party, goes into a closed room with his top political adviser and asks ... ‘What do we do now?’
As upsetting as this was to me, (I could not go to sleep last night!) I have had a few hours to think about this. I have concluded that the American people are not stupid. They apparently believe that Trump is not the evil person everyone thought he is. What we saw is not what we are going to get. What we saw was a man that found an election strategy that worked. So he did not change it. That he appealed to racists does not make him a racist anymore than his appeal to antisemites makes him an antisemite.
In my view we have to wipe everything off the table. His bombast ‘know-it-all’ messages and insulting ways were a strategy that everyone may have ridiculed - but I don’t think it is the real Trump. I believe he knows his own limitations. Which are enormous! He is going to have to rely on experts in all the things he is deficient in that a President must execute. He will therefore employ the best people he can find that share his political philosophy and put them in place. They will advise him on how to execute his agenda in affairs both foreign and domestic. The real Trump is probably a nice guy that actually cares about people. The people that work for him and know him personally have been saying that all along. And there is evidence of it in personal kindnesses he has done for people in need (which he did not advertise.)
What about some of his more outrageous promises? I doubt he will be able to keep all of them. But it would be nice if he was able to keep some of them. Like his clear support for Israel promising to move the US embassy to Jerusalem - declaring it as Israel’s capital; his promise to dismantle the nuclear deal with Iran and resurrect the full sanctions regime; his promise to destroy ISIS; his promise to restore jobs to Americans who lost them because of globalization; his promise to dismantle Obamacare which is proving to be an underfunded disaster; his promise to keep Islamist terrorists out of the country; and restore the military to its former glory.
He also has a Republican majority in the house and senate that can help him. The Republican Party - dead? Hardly. Predictions about its demise with Trump as its standard bearer were – shall we say - premature. On the other hand the Democratic Party will have to do some real soul searching now.
Let us all step back, take a deep breath, and give this man and his team a chance. Staying angry and divided serves no purpose. Nor is the kind of fear mongering I am starting to hear comparing what happened now to what happened in Germany in the 30s. America of today is not the Germany of the 30s. No one will be interred into concentration camps. There will be no gas chambers. ‘Jewish bankers’ will not be blamed if the economy tanks. (On that score, my prediction of a stock market crash if Trump won – has not happened.) The American people are not bigots and racists.They are a kind and glorious people.
It remains to be seen who he will put in his cabinet, who his national security adviser will be. And who his economic advisers will be. But if his pick for Vice-President is any kind of indication, we may all just pull out of this with a real win for the American people and the world. Time will tell. Let us pray for the welfare of this country and that God gives its leaders the wisdom to lead. There is no more important time to do this than now.