Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Now what?

Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States.

To the utter surprise of many.  I think that, deep down, Trump himself is surprised by this outcome.  Do I think that he believes himself to be the right person to lead?  Yes.  But did he think he would win?  I doubt it.

I'm no expert, but it seems to me that political convention has been turned on its head completely in the last couple of years.  Traditional political thinking had us believe that Hillary Clinton would face Jeb Bush in this presidential election, so "inevitable" were both candidates.  Easy to forget that Barack Obama upset similar logic in Democratic circles in the 2008 campaign, and it's forgotten largely because traditional Democratic power bases seemed to have aligned themselves with him as their best chance to retake and hold the White House.  Hillary Clinton got a very nice consolation prize, becoming Obama's Secretary of State and furthering her resume and qualifications to run.

And if you believed most of the media, the Republicans had little chance to win back the presidency this time, because, after all, a Republican-controlled Congress had pushed its obstructionist agenda so far that anyone with that "R" by their name in a national election was bound to go down in flames.

Trump changed all of that.

He was nowhere near anything that had happened politically, so it wasn't difficult for those who don't absorb media-based political thought to identify with him as a change agent.  His public statements that most of us found so disagreeable struck a chord with many who felt the political process had stopped caring about the issues they felt were important.  And his ongoing, open questioning of the legitimacy of Barack Obama's Presidency also resonated with many of his supporters and built him an air of credibility that fell so far outside of the political establishment that it could not have been expected or estimated or countered.

And no one in the polling business had this right, at least not that I know, and not in advance of last night.  Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams had said nearly a year ago that Trump had a legitimate shot at winning, and that was long before he dispatched so many primary challengers.  But none of the "experts" identified this as a likelihood, as the CONVENTIONAL thinking was that most people would compare Trump and Clinton and see a stark difference in experience and temperament and on and on and make the rational choice.

It turns out that, in that comparison, they saw was someone who apparently wasn't beholden to a power structure other than their own.  Someone who was not constrained by political tradition to limit their criticism of others and existing institutions.  Someone who seemed successful and who would bring others along on the road to more success.

This is all fine and good, but soon it will be time to move forward with the Trump Administration taking office and a new but still Republican-controlled Congress.  These are uncharted waters we're entering now, but there is something of a precedent for this.  Think back to 2008, when the Democratic Party controlled the White House and both houses of Congress.  If you'll recall, there were many things put into motion during the first two years of President Obama's first term, but there was also obstruction and challenge, mostly from then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of my home state of Kentucky.

I think we can safely expect something similar from whomever is the new Senate Minority Leader, most likely Chuck Schumer of New York.  I also think that our country's economic situation was so dire that large-scale initiative were necessary at that time, and those are not our current circumstances.

As I'm reminded by different cultural references, the sun came up tomorrow, despite the outcome of yesterday's election.  We all go on with our lives, though it's likely that those lives will be changed in some way by this outcome.

The holidays are coming, and that's a time when many are a little nicer, and a little more generous and and a little more forgiving.  Perhaps it's easier said than done but I sincerely feel that we need this more than anything else right now.

It sounds trite to say "good night, and good luck," but I'll close by simply saying "good luck to us all."


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