Looking back on the election

On election day, I flipped to facebook, and saw an event: “Laugh at Trump tower on November 9th”. A couple thousand people were going. I smiled to myself and tabbed over to 538. Nate Silver’s model gave Trump somewhere between 25% and 30% chance of victory.

Roughly the odds of two coin flips coming up heads, I thought. Not great, but not unthinkable either.  I knew that this was tempting fate– in fact, I said as much in a comment– but part of me didn’t want to feel left out.

I feel like I had been more prepared than most for Donald Trump winning. The day before the election, I read this piece by Scott Alexander, which I think brought home how small the margins of error were for both candidates. Just 1-2% would swing the election one way or another;. The day after the election, Nate Silver himself made basically he same point about how silly it is to radically change one’s thinking about the United States based on how 1-2% of the electorate cast their ballots. Basically, whatever could be said about a country where Trump won by a 1-2 point margin could also be said about a country where Clinton won by a 1-2 point margin. Either way, we would be a 45% pro-Trump country, give or take.

Of course, no matter how slight the victory, the spoils go to the victor, although the impact of the democratic loss was more resounding than any of us anticipated. Not only was the presidency lost; so were most of the tools the democrats could have used to restrain him.

The following morning, “Laugh at Trump Tower” had become “Protest at the Trump tower”. My thought at the time was something along the lines of well, it’ not like we have many other options. At 5:00 in the afternoon, it became clear that these protests weren’t only happening in Chicago; it was happening in most large cities.

I didn’t actually get to the protest until 9:00 in the evening, as things were winding down. At this point, people had been gathered since 5:00 in the afternoon, although still, several hundred remained assembled around the tower, milling about, waving signs. Some had climbed onto the cement platforms of the street lights. I heard that there had been counter-protesters there earlier in the day, but they had given up and gone home before I got there.

I was disappointed by that. I wanted a chance to see Trump’s more enthusiastic supporters first hand, get a sense of who they were, how they talked to each other…

I knew the Trump/Pence message was appealing in ways that most of my peers didn’t appreciate. I even said so on this blog after watching the vice-presidential debate, where I thought Mike Pence put on a much better show than Kaine, largely because he managed to look calm and sensible, while Kaine, “harped relentlessly on Trump’s gaffes (with a giant smirk on his face and obviously pre-prepared zingers), making himself look like the archetypal sanctimonious progressive.” All talk, no substance.

But of course, I had still concluded that the man’s campaign was doomed when, a few days later, the recording of Trump talking about grabbing women by the pussy came out and a quarter of his own party was calling for him leave the race.

I was also far from the only person to point out that many of the messages that liberals were selling absolutely stank of elitism. I read the Smug Style in american politics. I read Fredric DeBoer. I read Nixonland, which extensively catalogs the liberal consensus simply not getting it (Trump has even invoked Nixon’s “silent majority” in speeches). I grocked the backlash against the left’s overriding focus on the rhetoric of identity politics. I was surprised that the Trump campaign managed to pull it together, but I wasn’t shocked.

Of course, this isn’t saying much- it simply means that I have a slightly better intuition about the worldview of 47% of the electorate than some of my liberal peers. Sometime soon, I’ll write up a more detailed picture of what I think Trump represents…

In the past week, an enormous amount of virtual ink has been spilled talking about not only why the Democrats lost, but how they could have been so thoroughly blindsided by the loss, so thoroughly unable to stand upright as the ground moved beneath their feet.

At the protest, I was struck by how things seemed to happen on their own accord. Periodically, chants would emerge, fill the air for a few minutes, and re-emerge in a different form after they died down. At one point, a wave of sitting swept across the crowd. I sat with them, not sure exactly why. We may have been resisting an order to disperse from the police, which we were resisting, but it was hard to tell. After a few minutes of this, the crowd decided that it was going to disperse after all and began to walk en-masse down State Street.

The slogans kept coming.

“Fuck Trump! (What?) Fuck Trump! (What?)”

“We! Re-ject! The president elect!”

“No Trump! No KKK! No Racist USA!”

Sometimes I chanted along, but it was half-hearted. It seemed like more of the same. The same tired talking points, the same rage, the same push to frame everything in the terms of a narrative that had just been rejected, that had just failed in a spectacular way to unite the country.

But there was one chant that I found myself repeating with conviction. It went:

“No hate! No fear! Immigrants are welcome here!”

It was something that we could fight for, not against, captured in a couple of rhyming couplets.

There’s a vision of America, where the human spirit can flourish without the threat of persecution or violence, supported by the wise allocation of public resources. I do think a Donald Trump administration stands in the way of this vision, and could do more than any administration in recent history to prevent it from happening. And it’s in the service of the vision that he should be opposed.


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