You walk into the room with your pencil in your hand
You see somebody naked and you say, “Who is that man?”
You try so hard but you don’t understand
Just what you will say when you get home
Because something is happening here but you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mr. Jones?
— Bob Dylan
You can definitely say that again.
It probably is as much a fool’s game to try to find logic in the incredible illogic of last week’s U.S. election results by reading the leavings in the exit polls as it is to try to make sense of nonsensical future American policies by reading Donald Trump’s crazy-making, against-what-I-was-for, for-what-I-was-against first week of post-election pivots and pirouettes.
But then again, in light of last week’s historically fool-making results, it’s hard not to want to play the game too.
Get it out of the way early.
Elections never make sense in the neat-boxes ways in which pollsters (and columnists) like to squeeze them.
Women — as just one for instance — are not only women, but also rich, poor, white, black, Latino, aboriginal, conservative, progressive, religious, atheist, feminist, pro-choice, anti-abortion, Harley-riders and soccer moms, and their votes will reflect their tangle of backgrounds, lifestyles and beliefs at least as much as their gender.
Anyone attempting to untangle all the disparate threads to come up with a one-size-fits-all explanation for what happened last Tuesday is bound to be wrong.
That said, there do appear to be a number of clear takeaways from last week’s results.
The first — a fascinating, freakishly frightening takeaway — is the bottom-plumbing depths of inchoate rage so many American voters feel. They are against elites, urbanites, sodomites, unions, moral decay, globalism, feminism, environmentalism, Muslims, immigrants, Obamacare, crime in the streets, gun control, blacks, Latinos, free trade, Congress, the courts, economic inequality and… well, everything.
At the same time, it is fascinating to realize just how much of their anger — as well as their own explanations for it — is contradictory.
The notion that this was some sort of revolt against elites, for example, flies in the face of the reality Washington insider Hillary Clinton won the support — in a 52-to-41-per-cent walk — of voters with incomes under $50,000, while supposed populist outsider Donald Trump was the clear choice of elitists with incomes of $200,000 or more.
Moral decay? Three-times-married, philandering, grab-them-by-the-pussy Donald Trump was the candidate of choice for 58 per cent of Christians and 81 per cent of evangelicals. By contrast, apparently genuine Methodist Hillary Clinton did much better — winning 68 to 26 per cent — among those who answered “none” for religious affiliation.
There is also this: Clinton won 71 per cent of Jewish voters too, even though it was Trump who cozied up to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the country’s most powerful lobby group, and to Israel’s hate-Obama-hate-Clinton prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Women? Faced with the choice of a flawed but clearly feminist Hillary Clinton poised to become the first female president or a flawed, flawed and more flawed misogynist Donald Trump poised to become the groper in chief, barely 54 per cent of women could force themselves to check Hillary instead of Donald. But even that modest majority turns out to be slightly smaller than the percentage of women — 55 per cent — who voted for Barack Obama in 2012, and for Hillary’s husband Bill in 1996. Despite the opportunity to smash through that so-called “last” glass ceiling, women definitely did not show up in droves to vote for Hillary in 2016.
Neither did more Latinos or African Americans, both of whom had good reason to fear a Trump presidency, come out to cast ballots against Trump. Among Latinos and blacks who did vote, Trump, incredibly, did slightly better than Romney in 2012.
The second big takeaway is that Americans did not vote for Donald Trump, or for anything specific he stood for, so much as they voted for “change,” whatever that means.
Consider. When asked about qualities of leadership mattered most to them:
- 58 per cent of American voters responded that Hillary Clinton “cares about people like me” (versus 35 per cent for Trump);
- 66 per cent believed she had “good judgement” (only 26 per cent said the same about Trump);
- and 90 per cent considered Clinton had the “right experience” to be president (only eight per cent thought Trump did).
And yet… Largely, it seems, because of their answer to another exit poll question, the question in which Trump scored 83 per cent compared to Clinton’s 14 per cent — Which leader can bring “needed change”? — Donald J. Trump will be the next president of the United States.
Which brings us to the third takeaway, which follows logically from the first two. Donald Trump will bring change, but since there is no consensus on what that change should be, he will end up satisfying almost no one. It may take a year, or a month, or a day, but there will come a time when Trump’s voters wake up with buyers’ remorse and the rest of us say, I told you so.
By then, of course, it will already be far too late. America’s future is the real fool’s game.