It’s E-Day plus two weeks. The world is upside down, but we’re still on it.
All season long (and I do mean long), the main argument for choosing one major party candidate over the other was “lesser of evils.”
Predictably, we got an evil, although a million or so more than half the voters think we got the greater one. So works the Electoral College, that peculiar stabilizing mechanism which caps a candidate’s ability to win the presidency by running up a supermajority in a minority of places (Hillary’s 3 million vote margin in California, in this round) and write off the rest of the nation. Realizing the need to balance the influence of large states and small states, the Founders invented the Electoral College (like the Senate). It worked. It’s nonetheless surprising that it worked for the benefit of the likes of Trump.
We could not have been more wrong in this space.
Although Trump did offend the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments and, bizarrely, invoked the Second . . . enough voters didn’t base their decision on that. Although he did offend Mexicans, Hispanics, blacks, women, Muslims, gays, veterans, Gold Star families and posthumously-decorated soldiers . . . enough voters looked past all that, too.
Trump’s victory, if nothing else, is a repudiation of political correctness and politics pandering to identity groups targeted by zip code. Our imagination failed to conceive that a candidate so politically-incorrect could amass a following, let alone 60 million of them. Who imagined that 42% of women, despite all of Trump’s crude and offensive blather, would still vote for him and against The Woman? (Hint: Not the New York Times.)
The hindsight insight is that his voters took him seriously, but didn’t take him literally, whereas everybody else, including the media, took him literally and, therefore, couldn’t take him seriously.
The Trumpeters knew all along, it’s argued, that he’s not really about to build The Wall or really deport 12 million people, or really exclude Muslims on account of their religion; that those were only icons for stricter enforcement of immigration laws and more targeted homeland security.
Before too long we will know if they are right.
Stress-testing checks and balances
Meanwhile, we will have President Trump (unless the die-hard Hillarians can induce enough Electors to breach their pledges for the sake of Hillary’s principles).
We recoiled at his ethnic/racist instincts, his obsession over race, ethnicity, and religion. We thought then, and still do, that the Hitler comparison is extreme but that “his diatribes, equal parts vague and bellicose, about becoming ‘great again’” – cause one to wonder.
Hitler came to power legally. His tipping point was when President von Hindenburg, the heaviest heavyweight of his time, fell in line, thought he could “keep him in check,” and appointed him Chancellor. The heavyweights of our time are leading Republicans, Paul Ryan and Reince Preibus. Others are lining up for appointments, some are forming a cordon around him to educate him on the limits on presidential power (including a phlegmatic bureaucracy), and some basic constitutional precepts.
We hope that latter group is persuasive. To his credit, Trump’s statements since his election have been conciliatory and moderate (although a few proposed appointments appear less so).
Our stabilizing institutions are incalculably stronger, more deeply rooted than Germany’s in the 1930’s. Even appointing a Supreme Court justice more “originalist,” more intellectually powerful, and more persuasive than Scalia – assuming one exists, and it isn’t Ted Cruz – would affect but one vote Although the liberal wing laments the lost opportunity to tilt the Court more in their direction, that appointment will merely maintain the balance of a Court which defended abortion, sanctified gay marriage and resuscitated Obamacare. This is not a return to Dred Scott.
Were Trump to have a second or third appointment, the Schumer-led Senate Democrats will filibuster, as the “no-to-anything-Obama” morphs into “no-to-anything-Trump.” Such passes for principles in Congress.
This column does not meet the Trump Administration with “resistance” – with hope that breaking the stranglehold of ever-more intrusive, coercive government will expand personal liberty. But we will apply “vigilance.”
Tragic Hillary. Her last campaign speech – if it is the last, but see grooming Chelsea for Congress – anyway, her concession speech – was her best. It was the finale of a Greek tragedy, complete with the downfall born of hubris, of which there was plenty: from the long prelude of inevitability/coronation to the prematurely-billed victory party, ostentatiously sited under the Javits Center’s actual glass ceiling – a heavy-handed prop for Hillary symbolically to “smash.” All assumed it would go to plan. A low-life like Trump couldn’t possibly deny Hillary her destiny. Mothers (and presumably some fathers, too) brought their daughters to bear witness to history. In the end, Hillary’s candidacy really was that she’s a woman.
She brought herself down, her character flawed with a Nixonian paranoia driving her to circumvent the Freedom of Information Act by using a private server. Then the denials, the dissembling, the unpersuasive “admission” of “mistake.” The FBI’s clumsy on again/off again investigation. But even after all that, all the world (meaning media) still thought she had it.
Then, in the final hours of the last day, it was snatched away, suddenly, without warning, with the perfection that drove the Greeks to believe in gods.
A wave of grief drowned the anticipating cheer under that glass ceiling – worse than even Casey’s Mudville – which, like real grief, started in denial, moved quickly to anger, and a week later hasn’t yet reached acceptance.
Harry Reid’s valedictory was a tantrum.
“Resist” and “Not MY President” are the rallying cries, ironic (even hypocritical) from those who would never, ever question the legitimacy of an election – they were sure they’d win.
Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, in a bizarre groping for vindication (or at least meaning), vow to hold Trump’s feet to the fire in redeeming his promise to repair the damage to the “working class.” He may well accomplish that, but not in their way, by disassembling the financial system and abolishing private property. For a year or more Sanders railed against the “millionaires and billionaires.” The country then elected a billionaire. A more profound, more direct repudiation of Sandersism is hard to conjure.
Hillary could not resist one last conceit of posturing to having led her People to the threshold of the Promised Land, unable to join them there. She won’t be the First Woman President, but she can try for First Woman Moses.
Still, on the whole, to their credit, both Hillary, through tears, and Obama, through gritted teeth, spoke the right words.
Gary Johnson could not catch on.
We were not for Trump. We were not for Hillary. We were among that majority of voters who voted against Trump and against Hillary.
We were for Gary Johnson and not as a lesser evil. He offered the “change” from Hillary’s communal governing philosophy, continuing Obama’s, without having to travel Trump’s low road to get there. Less of government parceling out redistributed shares to favored ethnic or gender groups, more individual freedom of choice. A less ethically challenged chief executive than both Trump and Hillary.
Nationwide, Gary polled under 4 percent, twice his tally in 2012 but less than the 5% needed to qualify the Libertarian Party for federal matching funds in 2020.
He was probably prescient that he had little chance without getting in the debates (notwithstanding the Catch-22 of being excluded from the debates because he couldn’t score 15% in the polls, because his name wasn’t even included in the polls).
Then he couldn’t live down stumbling over Aleppo. Gary had plodded through several televised town halls and talk shows, trying to break into public awareness, with scant results, but then he exploded into the national awareness over Aleppo – proving that there is such a thing as bad publicity.
This Republic, 229 of age, and its embodiment of freedom with equality, will survive four more years, and possibly even thrive.
Ron Litchman is Chair of The Manhattan Libertarian Party. ManhattanLP.org. He expresses his own views, not necessarily those of the Manhattan, New York State or National Libertarian Party, nor of any other individual.