One year ago today, the media's long predicted Hillary landslide came to pass, as Donald Trump was wiped out in the greatest electoral humiliation in decades. No, wait, that's the Newsweek Clinton commemorative presidential edition. Instead, Election Day went a little differently. Here's how I saw the day as it happened:
8am Eastern: I said on the radio in September that Trump will win, and I'm stuck with that prediction whatever happens. So feel free either to hoot and jeer or hail my prognosticatory genius in twelve hours' time.
And, in fact, it was almost exactly twelve hours later that it all went south for the American media:
9.45pm Eastern: Real Clear Politics' psephological expert Sean Trende a mere three hours ago:
'This is going to be a short night.'
Has he gone to bed yet?
Right now, Dems are all over TV saying, "We always knew it was going to be a squeaker."
Really? Maybe you did, but a few weeks ago the media and the center-right commentariat were assuring us that Trump was going down to the worst defeat since McGovern in '72. That scenario seems to be off the menu, as are more recent predictions of Hillary ramping up an electoral-college tally in the mid-300s a mere three weeks ago.
We are now moving into perilous territory for the Republican Party: If Trump out-performs Romney but still loses narrowly, GOP voters will blame the #NeverTrump pundit class (Bill Kristol, George Will, Rich Lowry, etc) and those party elders such as Lindsay Graham, who voted for McMullin, and the Bushes, who left their ballots blank.
And, as I've been saying for months now, it's easier for the base to get itself a new elite than for the elite to get itself a new base.
An hour later:
'My big prediction: I think she'll win FL quickly; will be clear in early numbers. Then cable news will do a huge 180 on "long night".'
Trump has just won Florida, along with Ohio and North Carolina. Four years ago, Mitt Romney won in total 206 electoral votes. Trump right now has 216.
If nothing else, he has done the republic a useful service by demonstrating you can wing an entire presidential campaign and still do better than Mitt and the entire consultant-industrial complex.
Here's what I wrote about Trump in July 2015, a month after he entered the race:
The Donald is not really a conservative, nor much of a Republican. He's given more or less evenhandedly to both parties over the decades, because, at Trump's level, that's just the price of doing business in a sclerotic and corrupt republic... Yet Trump, like other philosophically erratic politicians from Denmark to Greece, has tapped into a very basic strain of cultural conservatism...
And here's what I wrote last January, after seeing him live on stage in Vermont, a few weeks before the Iowa and New Hampshire votes:
For many conservative voters, 2014 was the GOP's last chance, and they blew it. For those conservative voters whose priority is immigration, 2016 is America's last chance, and Trump's the only reason anyone's even talking about that.
The "shy Trump voter", whose existence was denied by the pollsters, proved to be real. For those people, this was "America's last chance", and, in defiance of the polls and the media, they took it. As for the idiosyncratic campaign of their candidate:
Maybe Rove is right [about message discipline]. But as a practical matter it's led to the stilted robotic artificiality of the eternally on-message candidate - which is one of the things that normal people hate about politics. And Trump's messages are so clear that he doesn't have to "stay on" them. People get them instantly: On Thursday he did a little bit of audience participation. "Who's going to pay for the wall?" And everyone yelled back, "Mexico!" He may appear to be totally undisciplined, yet everyone's got the message.
On the morning after the election I took
So there will be no "Madam President" issue of Time magazine, although whether they'll be magnanimous enough to make Trump "Man of the Year" remains to be seen. Hillary at her convention claimed to be "shattering the glass ceiling" for women, and booked her victory party at the Jacob Javits Center, which has an actual glass ceiling. But she wasn't shattering anything. She was never Margaret Thatcher or Angela Merkel. She wasn't Theresa May in Britain, or Julia Gillard in Oz, or Jenny Shipley and Helen Clark in NZ, or even Kim Campbell up north. She was the previous guy's wife, which is classic banana-republic stuff and ought to be cringe-makingly embarrassing to any genuine "progressive" or "feminist".
But Trump really did shatter the glass ceiling. We're told that "anyone can grow up to be president", but in practice you have to be a politician or have won the Second World War. Trump is the first non-"public servant" to shatter the glass ceiling. He's proved you can win the presidency without being a Bush or a Clinton or a lifetime member of the political class. He's proved you can shatter the glass ceiling and win without the consultant class, without donors, without focus groups, without a gazillion-dollar ad budget, without your own party's office-holders and intellectuals, and without a "ground game" - without turnout models, without field offices, without three lame-o cardboard mailers poking out of your post-office box every day. In dispensing with all the rubbish that makes American politics as remote and ritual-bound as Chinese opera, he has performed a signal service to this republic.
Trump also proved you can shatter the glass ceiling and lead the biggest Republican Party victory (White House and Congress) since 1928 by saying every 20 minutes "outrageous" things that outrage no normal person and that, even if you're ever so mildly peeved by them, are never going to take priority over the economy or health care or foreign policy when it comes to determining your vote. Example: Me back in July 2015, a month after Trump entered the race and a couple of days after he'd supposedly insulted "all veterans" by dissing John McCain:
'A New Hampshire neighbor of mine, a Vietnam vet exposed to Agent Orange and thus given cancer as a war-losing bonus, just received the usual letter from the VA telling him his benefits were being cut. Oddly enough, he loathes McCain and is gung-ho for Trump. Do you want to bet he's in a minority down at the Legion? John McCain doesn't embody the grand variety and diversity of America's warriors; John McCain embodies John McCain: That's it. So, when the Republican establishment spends two news cycles huffing about the amour propre of a wealthy career politician, they're only reinforcing Trump's critique: that the GOP is a party of "losers" and "failures" obsessed with peripheral trivia nobody else cares about, while ignoring everything that's killing your future.'
And that's the most important sense in which Trump shattered the glass ceiling. As the Brexiteers did across the Atlantic, he bucked the bipartisan consensus, overwhelmingly supported by the media, the crony capitalists and the donor class, that remorseless mass unskilled immigration takes priority over the rights and lives of their own citizens. Trump turned the armies of the "culturally dispossessed" into just another aggrieved minority group, and the new minority came out in enough numbers to make them a majority. If both left and right regard Trump's victory as a horror show, well, you created the monster: The establishment of both parties spent the last year telling his supporters they no longer mattered - they're too old, too white, too male, too bluecollar, too rust-belt, too too tootsie, g'bye; they're old and fading and they'll be dead soon. This is, in fact, an over-broad generalization: Trump pulled more millennials than Romney, and more of the Latino vote, and he doubled Mitt's share of the black vote.
Even so, it was too much to expect this New America to wait for this old, irrelevant America actually to kick the bucket: they had to hasten 'em into the grave by endless taunting that everyone matters more than you. So that, in nothing flat, transgendered rights suddenly become a huge urgent public-policy priority requiring instant federal bathroom ordinances and congratulatory calls from the White House to Caitlyn Jenner. And you've never met a transgendered person or know anyone who's met one - and yet they matter, and you and millions like you don't. And both the left's social-justice warriors and the right's psephologists are insisting that you'll matter even less next time.
Yesterday, the dispossessed said they're tired of being told they don't count - and, in terms of the electoral arithmetic, demonstrated that in fact the experts can't count.
A final thought from a year ago that I wish Conservatism, Inc had acted on:
I want American conservatism to get back in the persuasion business, and in that respect it would behoove some of the mainstays of the "movement" to engage in a moment of reflection. Too many professional conservatives at the magazines and think-tanks have been talking to themselves for too long and don't even see the glass ceiling above their own heads. That's the one that needs shattering.
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