Donald Trump elected


in Politics

I watched the U.S. election unfold at Massey College, where the mood grew progressively more grim with each new batch of results.

It’s still shocking that the U.S. has made such a self-destructive choice.

U.S. presidential elections: 2008, 2012, 2016

This outcome seems to have had a strong emotional effect on almost everyone I know, and with good reason. It’s a capstone on America’s decline as a world power, and of the growing dysfunction of the American political system. With both houses of congress and the presidency held by a party driven by harmful (often hateful) emotions and determined to disregard evidence, it’s scary to think what will happen in America during the next four years and what it will mean for humanity as a whole and nature.

The most optimistic plausible interpretation seems to be that this is the last gasp of an America that is deeply sexist and racist, threatened by every aspect of modernity and — able on this occasion to win by exploiting popular anger, but doomed in the longer term by demographics and their ineptitude.

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

. November 12, 2016 at 12:44 am

Mr Trump was carried to office on a tide of popular rage (see article). This is powered partly by the fact that ordinary Americans have not shared in their country’s prosperity. In real terms median male earnings are still lower than they were in the 1970s. In the past 50 years, barring the expansion of the 1990s, middle-ranking households have taken longer to claw back lost income with each recession. Social mobility is too low to hold out the promise of something better. The resulting loss of self-respect is not neutralised by a few quarters of rising wages.

. November 12, 2016 at 12:50 am

“The genius of America’s constitution is to limit the harm one president can do. We hope Mr Trump proves our doubts groundless or that, if he fails, a better president will be along in four years. The danger with popular anger, though, is that disillusion with Mr Trump will only add to the discontent that put him there in the first place. If so, his failure would pave the way for someone even more bent on breaking the system.”

. November 16, 2016 at 11:48 am

Clinton owed it to her supporters to warn them of this impending collapse of the norms fundamental to a liberal democracy. Instead, she acted as though the election of Trump was business as usual. It wasn’t, and it’s perilous to pretend otherwise. Yes, Trump is “our president,” in the sense that he won the election. But recognizing that fact does not require us to buy into the fantasy that his inevitable lawlessness will be legitimate. We should steel ourselves for a ghastly new era of violence and repression, ushered in by the consolidation of power around an autocratic maniac and his pathetic enablers. As Gessen admits, this may sound hysterical. Maybe it is. I’d like to think I’m wrong. I do not think I am.

. November 16, 2016 at 2:30 pm
. November 21, 2016 at 3:54 pm

At the national level, the Democratic Party has been wiped out. Trump won five states that voted for Obama twice — Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida — pushing Democrats even further toward the coastal peripheries. As a result, Republicans now control the House, the Senate, the White House, and (after President Trump picks a new justice to replace Antonin Scalia) there will be a restored conservative majority on the Supreme Court.

But that is nothing compared with the utter devastation Democrats have suffered in the states. On President Obama’s watch, Democrats have lost a net grand total of 939 state legislative seats, 30 state legislative chambers and a dozen governorships. When Obama first took office, Republicans held just 3,223 state legislative seats. After Tuesday’s vote, the number stands at 4,162. There are now more Republican state legislators than at any time since 1920. And if Gov. Pat McCrory holds on in North Carolina, Republicans will match their all-time high of 34 GOP governors last seen in the 1920s.

Or consider this: Today, Democrats control both the governor’s office and the legislature in just five states — Oregon, California, Hawaii, Connecticut and Rhode Island. By contrast, Republicans have total control of state government in 25 states — half the country.

Milan November 23, 2016 at 3:19 pm

From this week’s Economist:


Really, it should be depicting all the human suffering that a pro-fossil fuel Trump presidency would cause.

. November 25, 2016 at 3:40 pm
. November 30, 2016 at 11:36 pm

These numbers indicate that the story of the election was not primarily about turnout, as many exit poll–based hot takes claimed in the days after. Overall turnout is up 4.4 percent (so far) over 2012.

But shifts within that turnout were significant.

If Clinton’s 65 million votes had been properly distributed according to the ageless geographical wisdom of America’s Electoral College, she would have won.

But they were not (more on that later). Clinton lost the Electoral College, mainly due to whisker-thin losses in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. As John McCormack points out, the cumulative difference in those states was 107,330 votes.

. December 1, 2016 at 12:37 am

“Many people assumed that certain norms and standards still transcend the partisan divide. Surely being accused of, and admitting on tape to, serial sexual assault. Surely swindling poor people with a fake university. Surely crude racial stereotypes. Surely running a charitable foundation as a slush fund. Surely encouraging violence at rallies or threatening to reject unwelcome election results. Surely celebrating torture or vowing war crimes.

Clinton bet most of her chips on there being some floor, some violation of norms too low even for today’s radicalized Republican Party. She thought responsible Republican officeholders would rally. She thought at least well-off, well-educated Republican women would recoil in horror.

She was wrong. There is no floor. Partisanship has been revealed as the strongest force in US public life — stronger than any norms, independent of any facts.”

. December 22, 2016 at 8:03 pm

If Mr Trump fails to master his resentments, his presidency will soon become bogged down in a morass of petty conflicts.

The genius of America’s constitution is to limit the harm one president can do. We hope Mr Trump proves our doubts groundless or that, if he fails, a better president will be along in four years. The danger with popular anger, though, is that disillusion with Mr Trump will only add to the discontent that put him there in the first place. If so, his failure would pave the way for someone even more bent on breaking the system.

. January 2, 2017 at 7:04 pm

Whoever becomes his new secretary of the interior and his energy secretary, the incoming officials are expected to be strong advocates of further opening federal lands to oil, gas and coal production. Mr Trump has also suggested that TransCanada, an Alberta-based firm, renew an application to build the fourth phase of the Keystone XL pipeline project bringing Canadian crude across the border, which was blocked by Mr Obama last year.

Though Mr Trump can unwind many domestic environmental regulations, analysts say he may find his hands tied by market forces, by the limits to federal power and by the fact that energy investments can take decades to pay, making it unwise for owners of power plants, oil-and-gas fields, and pipelines in America to dismiss the clean-energy revolution. First, his desire to open up what he says may be $50 trillion-worth of oil and gas reserves under federal lands will depend on oil prices. Even with lower regulatory costs, oil prices still need to rise well above $50 a barrel to make most drilling in America economic. Now, there is too much oil, not too little.

Low oil prices may also make the Keystone pipeline a non-starter for commercial reasons, because crude from Canada’s tar sands is fiendishly expensive to extract. Moreover, were Mr Trump to succeed in stimulating shale-gas production, his task of rescuing the coal industry would become harder. Utilities may find it cheaper to burn gas rather than coal.

. January 9, 2017 at 12:48 am

Registered Democrats (mostly young and/or racialised) who didn’t vote cost Hillary the election

Fivethirtyeight’s analysis of a Surveymonkey data-set shows that Hillary Clinton would have won the 2016 election if registered Democrats had turned out and voted in larger numbers — in other words, Hillary’s failure to convince registered Democrats to vote, rather than abstain, lost her the election.

This echoes the message from the Democratic Party’s left wing, represented by Sanders supporters, who argued that Hillary Clinton represented a finance-friendly, militarized, neoliberal continuation of the Obama administration, which failed to jail a single banker responsible for the 2008 crisis (preferring to lavish billions on the sector and largely allow it to continue its reckless and greedy speculation); deported more people than any other administration in history; engaged in a secret, unilateral assassination program in countries where the US was not at war; massively increased domestic surveillance; and charged more whistleblowers with espionage than all other administrations in US history combined.

. January 9, 2017 at 12:53 am

“Simply put, Trump got more of his voters to turn out than Clinton did. That’s quite a turnaround from the pre-election conventional wisdom that the Clinton campaign had the better turnout machine. Of course, Clinton’s turnout operation may well have nudged many reluctant voters to the polls, but either way, it wasn’t enough. The polling numbers from SurveyMonkey indicate that Clinton was hurt dearly by the voters who decided not to vote.”

. January 26, 2017 at 6:33 pm

The leaks coming out of the Trump White House cast the president as a clueless child

All White Houses leak. Sometimes the leaks are big, sometimes small. But there are always people willing to talk to reporters about the “real” story or about why the chief executive made a mistake in regards to some decision he made.

That said, I’ve never seen so much leaking so quickly — and with such disdain for the president — as I have in the first six days of Donald Trump’s presidency.

. January 26, 2017 at 6:37 pm

Perhaps if Trump had a national security adviser with White House experience and negotiating skills, or if his nominee for secretary of state had an hour’s worth of diplomatic experience, they could have warned him about using Twitter to insult our neighbor.

Then again, perhaps they tried and Trump — thin-skinned, arrogant and ignorant — cannot be reasoned with. He insists on personalizing every encounter and bullying those who resist his demands. That might work in the real-estate business but not in the White House. Former U.S. ambassador to Turkey Eric Edelman observes that this is “proof, if it was really needed, that doing business deals and doing diplomacy are not the same thing.” And by the way, how is Trump going to get Mexico to pay for the wall now?

. January 31, 2017 at 9:56 am

Weak and Incompetent Leaders act like Strong Leaders

An essay by Yonatan Zunger entitled “Trial Balloon for a Coup?” is making the rounds. Such essays are frightening to many. And yet they must be read critically. I am equally taken by the argument that everything that Zunger identifies is evidence not of a deliberate planning by an aspiring authoritarian, but of the exact opposite: the weakness and incoherence of administration by a narcissist.

One of the many things that studying authoritarian politics has taught me is that from the perspective of the outsider, weak leaders often act like strong leaders, and strong leaders often act like they are indifferent. Weak leaders have every incentive to portray themselves as stronger than they are in order to get their way. They gamble on splashy policies. They escalate crises. This is just as true for democrats as for dictators. (Note the parallels with Jessica Weeks on constraints on authoritarian rulers and their foreign policy behavior.)

. February 3, 2017 at 6:40 pm
. April 13, 2017 at 3:17 pm

US climate and energy policies repealed

A swathe of energy policies and regulations introduced by the Obama administration was deleted yesterday with the signing of an Energy Independence Policy Executive Order by US President Donald Trump. Among other things, the order repeals the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) 2015 Clean Power Plan.

. April 18, 2017 at 3:35 pm

Trump aides abruptly postpone meeting on whether to stay in Paris climate deal

Unlikely coalition of fossil fuel firms, environmental groups and Republicans are calling on president to stay despite his pledge to ‘cancel’ agreement

. April 24, 2017 at 3:51 pm

The idea running through Mr Trump’s diplomacy is that relations between states follow the art of the deal. Mr Trump acts as if he can get what he wants from sovereign states by picking fights that he is then willing to settle—at a price, naturally. His mistake is to think that countries are like businesses. In fact, America cannot walk away from China in search of another superpower to deal with over the South China Sea. Doubts that have been sown cannot be uprooted, as if the game had all along been a harmless exercise in price discovery. Alliances that take decades to build can be weakened in months.

Dealings between sovereign states tend towards anarchy—because, ultimately, there is no global government to impose order and no means of coercion but war. For as long as Mr Trump is unravelling the order that America created, and from which it gains so much, he is getting his country a terrible deal.

. May 1, 2017 at 6:45 pm

As the Democratic Party rebuilds itself for the 2018 and 2020 elections, Democratic strategists have been preoccupied with a pressing question: Why did so many voters who backed Barack Obama in 2012 switch to Donald Trump four years later, and what can be done to win them back?

Top Democratic pollsters have conducted private focus groups and polling in an effort to answer that question, and they shared the results with me.

One finding from the polling stands out: A shockingly large percentage of these Obama-Trump voters said Democrats’ economic policies will favor the wealthy — twice the percentage that said the same about Trump. I was also permitted to view video of some focus group activity, which showed Obama-Trump voters offering sharp criticism of Democrats on the economy.

“[Hillary] Clinton and Democrats’ economic message did not break through to drop-off or Obama-Trump voters, even though drop-off voters are decidedly anti-Trump,” Priorities USA concluded in a presentation of its polling data and focus group findings, which has been shown to party officials in recent days.

The poll found that Obama-Trump voters, many of whom are working-class whites and were pivotal to Trump’s victory, are economically losing ground and are skeptical of Democratic solutions to their problems.

. May 4, 2017 at 10:46 pm

America’s healthcare is being driven off a cliff by nihilists
Ross Barkan

In a rational society with a quasi-thoughtful legislative body, lawmakers would come together to repair Obamacare. But we’re in this dystopia, not that world

. May 4, 2017 at 11:49 pm

What is most alarming (and mortifying to the University of Pennsylvania, from which he graduated) is not that Trump has entered his eighth decade unscathed by even elementary knowledge about the nation’s history. As this column has said before, the problem isn’t that he does not know this or that, or that he does not know that he does not know this or that. Rather, the dangerous thing is that he does not know what it is to know something.

. May 16, 2017 at 10:02 pm

Meanwhile, every Trump Cabinet official has to think long and hard about continuing to serve in the administration. Vice President Pence needs to be fully cognizant of the position the president put him in. He can no longer echo White House talking points, which may well be seen as part of the attempt to obstruct justice. With a now not insignificant chance the president will not fill out his term, Pence needs to remember he works for the people and not for Trump.

. May 30, 2017 at 12:26 am

One mark of a successful democracy is the willingness of the losers to accept election results without questioning the system’s moral foundations. Their allegiance to the system — their belief in its essential fairness and desirability — exceeds their unhappiness with the immediate election results. Among both parties, this sense of self-restraint is weakening. There’s a growing tendency to want to replay elections by transforming ordinary political disagreements into impeachable offenses. This is a new norm.

We should be wary, because if the power to impeach is abused, it threatens to weaken or shatter the bipartisan loyalty that now exists toward the larger political system. To overturn the results of an election is bound to alienate most, if not all, of the voters whose winner was repudiated — and perhaps many on the other side who recognize that, under different circumstances, the same might happen to them.

. June 18, 2017 at 5:09 pm

Some political scientists sound more like anthropologists than theologians when they dissect Mr Trump’s success with whites who call themselves evangelical Protestants and attend church regularly—fully 80% of whom told a recent survey by the Pew Research Centre that they approve of his job performance. Those scholars note that for many whites, notably in small towns and rural areas, adhering to traditional Bible values and embracing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ—to use one common definition of evangelical faith—is another way of saying “I am an upstanding citizen”. Seen that way, piety is hard to untangle from other markers of conservative identity, from gun ownership to feeling the country is going to the dogs.

Still, it is a mistake to seek purely secular explanations for Mr Trump’s bond with religious conservatives. For one thing, the president’s rhetoric is steeped in time-worn stories about a Christian nation under siege. He is the latest in a long line of politicians to cast believers as a faithful remnant, under attack from the sneering forces of modernity. More specifically, Mr Trump’s language is filled with echoes of a much-mocked but potent American religious movement with millions of followers, known by such labels as “positive thinking” or the “prosperity gospel”.

. June 21, 2017 at 8:57 pm

Whether or not they identified with a party, most people who voted in the 2016 election were partisans. “Approximately 83 percent of voters were ‘consistent partisans,’ ” writes Sides. In other words, they voted for the same major party in both 2012 and 2016. This is the typical case. But about 9 percent of Donald Trump’s voters had backed Obama in the previous election, equivalent to roughly 4 percent of the electorate. Why?

What changed was the importance of identity. Attitudes toward immigration, toward black Americans, and toward Muslims were more correlated with voting Republican in 2016 than in 2012. Put a little differently, Barack Obama won re-election with the support of voters who held negative views toward blacks, Muslims, and immigrants. Sides notes that “37 percent of white Obama voters had a less favorable attitude toward Muslims” while 33 percent said “illegal immigrants” were “mostly a drain.” A separate analysis made late last year by political scientist Michael Tesler (and unrelated to the Voter Study Group) finds that 20 to 25 percent of white Obama voters opposed interracial dating, a decent enough proxy for racial prejudice. Not all of this occurred during the 2016 campaign—a number of white Obama voters shifted to the GOP in the years following his re-election. Nonetheless, writes Sides, “the political consequences in 2016 were the same: a segment of white Democrats with less favorable attitudes toward these ethnic and religious minorities were potential or actual Trump voters.”

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