[Note: parts of this column first appeared in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Also note that this will be the first of several posts relative to the election. Emotions are all high and this will be top of mind to millions around the world so it is a good portal to discuss what is ahead and what this all might mean on a larger scale than the current discourse]
Well, it is finally over. The longest, most over covered, negative presidential campaign in our lifetimes is done. At last!
In a time of transformational change we have an election that creates a lot of uncertainty. This brings a collapse of legacy thinking as what was no longer is. Here is what is clear:
-In a year of change the change candidate beat the establishment candidate.
– One of the few things the pundits got right was that the next president would have to win the “battleground states” to win the electoral vote. Trump swept them. Hillary lost all of them. Trump significantly over performed Romney, Clinton significantly under performed Obama in every critical state.
– The Democratic Party is no longer what it was or is. The party clearly had a change candidate but those pulling the levers favored the status quo candidate. Eyes open only to the past and not able to see the present, let alone the future. All those folks were wrong and will be gone. When did the Democratic Party decide that it didn’t need white working class Americans?
-The Republican Party is no longer what it was or thinks it is. The other 16 more or less establishment candidates didn’t see or understand the change. Many didn’t even vote for their own party’s candidate. How does that feel Governor Kasich that Ohio went for Trump and you voted for McCain? Wrong year. Out of touch from its own “base”. Wandering in the post-Trump wilderness with delusions of party unity and dominance.
-Mainstream media proved beyond a shadow of doubt that they were clueless about what was going on. Every major paper and all networks were wrong. How can it not be said that they live in their own bubble of self-filtered “reality” As the current Nobel Laureate for Literature famously wrote:” something is going on, but you don’t know what it is, do you Mr. Jones”.
-polling has lost all credibility. Every single one was wrong. That means that there was some inherent legacy bias or the methodology was flawed. Let us not speak about polls as true or factually correct, until they become so again.
-All the accepted, traditional wisdom about modern political campaigns in America proved wrong. So it wasn’t wisdom, it was just traditional. Tradition obviously doesn’t work when the world is about change. The candidate who spends the most on TV ads wins. Wrong! The candidate who has the best ground game wins. Wrong! The candidate with the most endorsements and editorials will win. Wrong! The person with the most experience and the best resume will win. Wrong!
-Americans wanted change in 2008 so they voted for Obama. Americans wanted change in 2016 so they voted for Trump.
So across the board we have the collapse of legacy thinking, a concept I first wrote about in “Entering the Shift Age” in 2012. Ever since then I have consistently stated that 2010-2020 would be the decade when Legacy Thinking collapsed. In many realms, and certainly in politics it has.
The Character Assassination Election
The primary objective of both campaigns was to serve up character assassinations of the opponent. It became clear in early fall that no matter what the outcome, the winner – even if the winner had won both houses of Congress- would have difficulty. Now that Trump has won, some of the fear and loathing half the country feels must be laid at the doorstep of the Clinton Campaign for spending hundreds of millions of dollars saying Trump was unfit for the presidency. If Hillary has won, the other half of the country would not believe anything she said – because she was “crooked” and a lier- which would have been the fault of the Trump campaign.
I have never seen such a negative campaign where character assassination was the primary goal of both campaigns. They must be held responsible for the disturbing and upsetting aftermath. Both campaigns.
So, going forward, what can we expect?
The first thing to state strongly is that the coming reality is to be written and it would very dangerous to assume one knows what it will be. Trump is the first president since Eisenhower in 1952 to become president with no past governmental experience. He has no track record. Just because he said something to get elected doesn’t mean he will follow through. Just because he won the Republican nomination and now the presidency does not mean he will toe the party line, or his campaign rhetoric.
I don’t think many readers will strongly push back when I say that politicians will say almost anything to get elected. Or that politicians running for office will rarely do what they say. So Trump might not as well. I was strongly in favor of Obama in 2008 because he was the self-declared anti-war candidate. I thought that meant he would get us out of the Middle East catastrophe we had been in. Well, today, eight years later I am still reading about American soldiers getting killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
So we have to wait and see. Sure, Trump will throw some red meat to his base out of the gate. That means a needed recalibration on trade, and some significant immigration changes. Maybe even winding down our military involvement in the Middle East. Everything else, to some degree is what we are projecting onto him. As an American, I want to see the humbling reality of being president make him realize that while he had an incredible winning election strategy, a different one is necessary to govern.
In my last post here I forecast three things that I think will be true. First, whoever won the election would be a one-term president. Second, that 2016 was the last year of a two party system. Third, that the division in this country, in a time of almost unprecedented change would create massive movements, demonstrations, riots and civil disobedience.
The first and third points are pretty clear. The second, that 2016 is the last year of the two party system, needs some explanation. Basically the duopoly of the two party system completely failed in 2016. When a duopoly serves up two ‘products’ that are the least liked, least respected and least trusted in history, it is a system that has failed.
America is the longest running major democracy in the world and the only one with only two parties. That will change.
Some of what I see going on here is the creative destruction that always accompanies significant change. The status quo is the opposite of change. The status quo was soundly defeated.
As to the other significant event of November, the Cubs will win another World Series during the next four years. There is hope somewhere.