Reactions and Reflections

Lefty bubbles. Insulated warm, fuzzy cocoons. Walled gardens. Epistemic closure beguiled by positive feedback loops. The pleasant echos lulled half a country and its "elite" into a false sense of authority.

And then it all came tumbling down. Crashing. I think it was a surprise for nearly everyone. Good for some, bad for others.

I'm not sure I have much to say given what's already been said. So what follows is a roundup of reactions to the election, a bit of the more poignant commentary, and my thoughts on each. Some of which I don't quite understand, but am trying to. Some of it I agree with wholeheartedly and think needs a bit more sunlight, and then some I disagree with.

When bubbles burst, it's usually a shock to those inside. Their thoughts and behavior during the aftermath can be illuminating.

The Left

I'll start with J. D. Vance at the NYT, who like so many others after the election, acknowledge the bubbles they've been living in:
Failed political prognostication is hardly a grievous sin, but it raises difficult questions about the other bubbles I live in. Few would accuse me of lacking compassion for the Trump voter, but the same can hardly be said for many other coastal elites.

Meanwhile, our country has other groups deserving of compassion. Shortly after Mr. Trump’s victory became clear, a black friend told me that his kid brother had been subjected to racial taunts at school. I wonder now whether I’m empathetic enough to my friend and his family, and I worry whether those who cast their ballots for Mr. Trump have much understanding for why so many fear a Trump presidency. The benefits and prejudices of a life lived within a bubble are hardly limited to urban progressive professionals.
You will see this narrative over and over. "Out of touch," "living in a bubble," "we have some reflecting to do," but also the usually subtle implication that the racists have taken over, and super-racist Nazi America is but a shoe drop away.

How do they know? Because Trump once said he wants to ban Muslim immigration. Trump then walked back that stance. Also something about building a wall. I'll admit Trump is brash and far from eloquent, but wanting tighter, more secure immigration and the occasional verbalization of stereotypes does not a Hitler make. And of course, the only kind of person willing to vote for that kind of a man, is a racist.

But people are scared now apparently. I get that for some, relatively very few, discrimination is a real and ugly thing they have to deal with and I want to help them. But for most in modern America? Call me skeptical, but I'm going to have to ask for proof.

Still, for a lot of people, this election is proof enough for them. From Reddit:

click image to enlarge

"I'm a Muslim living in the States. Trump doesn't scare me as much as his supporters do."

"I'm Jewish and I'm right there with you in fearing his supporters..."

Am I in my own bubble? I've never personally witnessed racial or political violence, or threats thereof. Such reports I see are from the same news sources (mostly) "coastal elites" use. I don't see large-scale racial violence or discrimination happening, or even medium-scale. It's generally the occasional something-bad-happened-to-one-person story. Like police going too far, but even then it's not always so clear.

Are they afraid, like we're living in Europe, or the third world hellholes many leftists fetishize?

I want to say I did some looking around for this fear, but no. Just skimming the various newzy and social sites it became abundantly clear. Trump really is the next Hitler to them. The following images are screenshots I took in the hours following the election results:

There was even a "homophobia" in there! Despite Trump being the first Republican presidential nominee to embrace marriage equality, and prominently supported by Peter Thiel. Fucking come on, the Republicans are, and will continue to get, on board the LGBTQ train--so long as it's compatible with individual and religious liberty.

No matter, frequently fallible Paul Krugman will set things straight:
What we do know is that people like me, and probably like most readers of The New York Times, truly didn’t understand the country we live in. We thought that our fellow citizens would not, in the end, vote for a candidate so manifestly unqualified for high office, so temperamentally unsound, so scary yet ludicrous. ...

There turn out to be a huge number of people — white people, living mainly in rural areas — who don’t share at all our idea of what America is about. For them, it is about blood and soil, about traditional patriarchy and racial hierarchy.
He says he truly didn't understand the country, then in the very next paragraph, half a day after the election, he now claims to know: and its name is backwardness. Jesus Christ; and they wonder why half of America collectively gave them the fucking finger. Arrogant condescending pricks, the whole lot of them.

Might as well get it all out. What insulting buzzwords are America you say?

Way to be civil. Want some grace from the winners? Maybe try not spitting on them.

Trump wasn't my preferred candidate, but the racist labeling only made me want to support him more. Why? It was unfair. If he said the N-word in the last several years, and/or displayed any other overtly racist behavior I would be calling him that myself. But now, in many circles, merely opposing lax immigration is 100% straight-up racist.

But it doesn't even matter. If he's a scumbag then he's a scumbag. What matters is what he'll do as president. What policies he'll bring. What judges he'll appoint. Scumbagerry doesn't translate well into policy, although there are exceptions.

Reagan, Bush Sr., Bush Jr., and a Republican congress didn't overturn Roe v. Wade. There was some pushback on gay marriage, but look where we are now. We're even legalizing drugs!

After all the hysterics, I feel it's time to Voxplain a thing or two.

Oh my. Vox can't even keep a cool head. People sure aren't taking this well:

So there's the reactions. Fear, sadness, anger, resentment, disgust, combinations of denial and acceptance. But what does it all mean? What brought about this Trump victory?

The Democrats

To paraphrase President Obama, we need to spread the blame around. Hillary's campaign miscalculated. Badly:
“They are saying they did nothing wrong, which is ridiculous,” said one Clinton surrogate. “She was the wrong messenger and everyone misjudged how pissed working class people were.” ...

In interviews with close to a dozen top Clinton allies and former operatives, who did not want to publicly criticize the losing campaign or candidate, many expressed a deep frustration that the party had pinned its hopes on a divisive establishment candidate. ...

The issues were crystal clear as early as January 2015, but the campaign thought it could overcome it.
“Make a virtue of her longevity,” Palmieri advised in an email that month to Podesta, released by WikiLeaks. “Embrace all the Clinton-ness — the forty years in politics, the decades on the national stage...”

A lot of commentators are saying Trump won because Hillary and the Democrats colossally fucked up. All that nastiness you see above, well Trump supporters were experiencing that every time they opened their mouths prior to the election. Not the best persuasive technique. The left in general and Democrats in particular really didn't do much to dissuade that strategy. There's more to it than that--which I'll get to later--but Jonathan Pie nails it:

The Media

Lets not forget the media. For a long time the left and the media would mock the right for complaining about bias. What a time we live in when they openly admit it, and try to justify it. Of course, it was the wrong thing to do. Not because it was unethical, you see, but because it backfired:

From Jim Rutenberg at the NYT:
John King of CNN proclaimed to his huge election night audience that during the previous couple of weeks, “We were not having a reality-based conversation” given the map he had before him, showing Mr. Trump with a clear opportunity to reach the White House.

That was an extraordinary admission; if the news media failed to present a reality-based political scenario, then it failed in performing its most fundamental function. ...

They think something is so wrong that all the fact-checking of Mr. Trump this year, the countless reports of his lies — which he uttered more than Mrs. Clinton did — and the vigorous investigation of his business and personal transgressions, bothered them far less than the perceived national ills Mr. Trump was pointing to and promising to fix.

In their view the government was broken, the economic system was broken, and, we heard so often, the news media was broken, too. Well, something surely is broken.
Ya think? That's the end of the article. The time for coyness has long passed. Why don't you grow a pair and just say what you think is broke. It hit you square in the nose and you still don't say it. Ah but then you might have to risk appearing to agree with those racist cavemen. 

I think I know why. Because the same Jim Rutenberg rationalized away the disparate treatment of Trump, by the media, a mere 3 months ago:
If you view a Trump presidency as something that’s potentially dangerous, then your reporting is going to reflect that. You would move closer than you’ve ever been to being oppositional. That’s uncomfortable and uncharted territory for every mainstream, nonopinion journalist I’ve ever known, and by normal standards, untenable.
Whoops! I don't want to say I accidentally helped elect Trump, but I accidentally helped elect Trump.

And even a few days before Rutenberg's August piece, Justin Raimondo writes prophetic:
Any objective observer of the news media’s treatment of Trump can certainly conclude that reporters are taking a side in this election — and they don’t have to be wearing a button that says “I’m with her” for this to be readily apparent. The irony is that the media’s Trump bashing may wind up having the exact opposite of its intended effect.

Polls shows that journalism is one of the least respected professions in the country, and with Trump calling out media organizations for their bias, widespread slanted reporting is bound to reinforce this point — and to backfire. Trump’s campaign is throwing down the gauntlet to the political class. If journalists are seen as the mouthpiece of that class, they may soon find themselves covering Trump’s inauguration.
The schadenfreude never ends. I hope Trump's presidency brings about positive change, and is otherwise uneventful, but the dark twisted part of me is cheering on for more entertainment.

The Trump Voters

If you want to know what was in the minds of the people that voted for Trump, you should ask them, but Matt Flegenheimer and Michael Barbaro at the NYT aren't far off:
The triumph for Mr. Trump, 70, a real estate developer-turned-reality television star with no government experience, was a powerful rejection of the establishment forces that had assembled against him, from the world of business to government, and the consensus they had forged on everything from trade to immigration.

The results amounted to a repudiation, not only of Mrs. Clinton, but of President Obama, whose legacy is suddenly imperiled. And it was a decisive demonstration of power by a largely overlooked coalition of mostly blue-collar white and working-class voters who felt that the promise of the United States had slipped their grasp amid decades of globalization and multiculturalism.
Ah yes, the establishment. The establishment Republicans didn't want him, nor the Democrats, nor Wall Street. I couldn't think of a better endorsement.

Sarah Baker at the Liberty Papers is even more to the point:
5. Listen when they say the jobs have left their areas. That they can’t afford their health insurance premiums or the penalties for not having it. They can’t afford their tax rates. They can’t afford to take their kids to see the doctor, can’t afford to take vacations with their families, live in fear one-paycheck-to-the-next of missing their mortgage payment. Listen when they say they are afraid of losing jobs to overseas and to immigration. Listen when they say they are afraid of terrorism inside the U.S. Listen, and don’t reflexively dismiss their concerns as closet racism.

6. Listen when they say how seriously they take their right to own and bear arms. Don’t reflexively dismiss them as redneck fetishists. Don’t sneer on social media about how they must have some anatomical shortcoming for which to compensate. Listen when they say they will die on the hill of the Second Amendment because they are afraid of an authoritarian leader taking control of the country.

That burning?
That’s irony.

7. Listen, as well, to why they didn’t like the other candidate. How they feel about entrenched political dynasties who sell access to make millions, who conspire to rig the economy for their friends in the 1%, and do nothing while the poor and middle class fall further behind.
Is Trump authoritarian? I don't know. I hope not, but he's displayed a mildly alarming tendency to favor an authoritarian style. Will that, if it's his thing, translate into authoritarian policies? Maybe, thankfully he's not a religious zealot, nor a drug warrior, nor a hawkish warmonger. At least he wasn't more often than he was, while campaigning.

He's not a very consistent politician. He's just not a politician. He's a blank slate with a few stains.

Trump might be easily compared to a comic book villain, but that doesn't make his supporters one-dimensional minions. Ken White (Popehat), bless his heart, insultingly explains that Trump supporters aren't racist, they just have a little attention deficit problem:
... attributing a Trump victory to racism and misogyny is a quick, cheap, easy way out. People aren't that simple. Americans didn't conclusively reject racism by electing President Obama, and didn't conclusively embrace it by electing President Trump. Trial lawyers know this: people don't make decisions like computers. People don't tend to weigh all the evidence or consider all the factors or evaluate every counter-argument to every argument. People tend, in small decisions and big ones, to latch on to a few main ideas, come to a conclusion, and then stop considering contrary evidence. A man sees what he wants to see, and disregards the rest. Obama's election didn't mean Americans were free of racism; it meant that Obama effectively communicated big ideas that connected and shut down the other voices whispering in our ears. Certainly some Trump supporters are avowedly racist, but some of them latched on to big ideas and stopped listening to the rest — like his troubling flirtation with evil.
I get what Ken is saying; it's a lot like confirmation bias, and perhaps a little laziness. But for an eloquent lawyer, that paragraph is damning with faint psychological process explanation.

And the "Troubling flirtation with evil!" Did I miss some evil Trump speech or something? Did he say he likes to kill puppies?

I have some disagreements with protectionism, nationalism, strict immigration, and "locker-room talk," but I wouldn't go so far to call them flirtations with evil.

I honestly don't get this Trump-is-evil stuff. Everybody says it, but damn if I can find direct evidence of it. I guess I'm supposed to "latch on to [those] ideas, come to a conclusion, and then stop considering contrary evidence" regarding Trump's evilness.

A loudmouth politically incorrect dirty old man, sure. An evil man, I don't see it. Popehat continues:
Hillary Clinton won an epic, historic struggle to be the worst Presidential candidate ever. Ultimately she won that struggle — and thus lost the Presidency — because she did not persuade. She did not articulate her core ideas effectively enough, and so not enough people latched onto them and disregarded the bad things about her. Trump dallied with racism — hell, Trump nailed racism in the coat closet and walked out smirking — but Clinton still did worse with Latinos, African-Americans, and Asians than Obama did. It may be that she was doomed from the start — too much baggage, too many vulnerabilities. Or it could be that she lacked Obama's power to persuade. She couldn't get them to accept her simple pitch and shut everything else out. Trump could.

It falls to realistic Trump opponents not to crush the people who voted for him, but to persuade them. In this election the GOP showed that it could fight back against demographic change — not just by marshaling high percentages of white voters, but by persuading higher-than-expected percentages of minorities. The Democrats can't respond to that by writing 40% of the country off as irredeemable.

Hubris and Entitlement: The catastrophic polling failures of 2016 reflect the fatal pride of Clinton's team and what I'll call "the establishment."

Americans are stubborn and proud. They'll be persuaded, but they won't be told who to vote for like you'd tell a recalcitrant child to eat his vegetables. The media, childishly obsessed with Donald Trump (and frankly unenthused with Hillary Clinton) promoted a us-versus-them mentality. It was far more class-based than race-based — it was the message "isn't it unbelievable and hilarious that those people support Trump." The message was "of COURSE vote Clinton, you idiot" or "you're pretty dim but at least you can see how to vote on THIS one." Generally people can't be expected to embrace stories that demean them.

There was another way, but hardly anybody took it. There was the way of "let me earn your vote by persuading you why these policies are right," conveyed as part of an effective set of ideas. There were far too few forceful and effective advocates of how free trade makes us richer and freer. There were too few people willing to risk a genuine discussion of the costs of frequent military intervention. Everyone was too busy arguing what immigration policies they didn't support to debate specific policies that they did support.

The anti-Trump message was based too strongly on entitlement — based on who you are, we are entitled to your vote, by right. You can see that in the frothing rage at third-party voters after Clinton's defeat. You'll see it in the ugly backlashes coming at the minority voters who didn't vote "correctly." But voting isn't a matter of entitlement. "Vote for me because the other guy's horrific" is not an effective method to persuade or get out the vote. It's an idea that focuses on the other guy, not you. You've got to deserve victory. Clinton didn't. Clinton stank of entitlement to rule, the media conveyed that message, and that message fatally amplified Clinton's scandals, conveying that Clinton was entitled to follow the rules differently, to act differently, to be treated preferentially.
This is what a lot of Hillary voters don't get. Just because Trump was a terrible candidate, doesn't automatically translate to the alternative being a saint. Especially when accompanied by name-calling, silencing, and plain old bullying. I was an undecided voter right up until the last day. I didn't want to vote for Trump, nor Clinton. But everyday on my GAMING twitter feed, there was some insult lobbed toward Trump supporters, liked and retweeted several times. If they weren't racist, misogynist, homophobic, or xenophobic, then they were called idiots. Who wants to join a bunch of assholes? Keep your circlejerk of political hate.

I wanted to vote for Trump just to stick it to those guys. I ended up voting for Johnson, but it was a difficult decision. Even in a safe state where my vote didn't matter.

Before I ramble further, I really want to quote at length from John Michael Greer at Archdruid Report, hardly a Trump supporter, who wrote this a week before the election:
The talking heads insisted that handing over tax dollars to various corporate welfare queens would bring jobs back to American communities; the corporations in question pocketed the tax dollars and walked away. The talking heads insisted that if working class people went to college at their own expense and got retrained in new skills, that would bring jobs back to American communities; the academic industry profited mightily but the jobs never showed up, leaving tens of millions of people buried so deeply under student loan debt that most of them will never recover financially. The talking heads insisted that this or that or the other political candidate would bring jobs back to American communities by pursuing exactly the same policies that got rid of the jobs in the first place—essentially the same claim that the Clinton campaign is making now—and we know how that turned out. ...

We’ve got the news articles insisting, in tones by turns glowing and shrill, that things have never been better in the United States and anyone who says otherwise is just plain wrong; we’ve got the economic pronouncements predicated on continuing growth at a time when the only things growing in the US economy are its total debt load and the number of people who are permanently unemployed; we’ve got the overblown displays of military might and technological prowess, reminiscent of nothing so much as the macho posturing of balding middle-aged former athletes who are trying to pretend that they haven’t lost it; we’ve got the tame intellectuals comfortably situated in the more affluent suburban districts around Boston, New York, Washington, and San Francisco, looking forward to their next vacation in whatever the currently fashionable spot might happen to be, babbling on the internet about the good life under predatory cybercapitalism.

Meanwhile millions of Americans trudge through a bleak round of layoffs, wage cuts, part-time jobs at minimal pay, and system-wide dysfunction. The crisis hasn’t hit yet, but those members of the political class who think that the people who used to be rock-solid American patriots will turn out en masse to keep today’s apparatchiks secure in their comfortable lifestyles have, as the saying goes, another think coming. ...

Thus the grassroots movement that propelled Trump ... might best be understood as the last gasp of the American dream.
Maybe it's true people are voting for memberberries. Things were nice for them back in the day. Now everything seems to be going to shit. And it is for them. It is for me. Health insurance prices go way up every year. Roads and bridges are falling apart, jobs haven't really come back, there doesn't appear to be an end to terrorism or the war against it. And now the American dream that nearly every adult prior to 2008 could reasonably expect, is absurdly out of reach for millions. Even if you're college educated. Stick to a tiny apartment, ramen noodles, and in 40 years you too could own your own small house! Or retire. Pick one.

So some guy comes up to you and says, "I feel you. I will bring the jobs back. I will make America great again." And then this lady you know, but aren't so sure about says, "What's he talking about, America is already great. Don't be a racist."

The election was in the bag. Only fringe racists supported Trump. Who cares about some email thing, you racist!

The Future

I have to admit, I am a little bit glad to see the hubris explode in their faces. And now I feel icky. That's another thing. The level of vitriol and hate toward the opposition is worse than during the Bush years, worse than either Obama election. 

Greer hits on this as well, and after the election writes:
I’d like to suggest, furthermore, that the fixation on personalities—or, again, malicious parodies of personalities—has played a huge role in making politics in the United States so savage, so divisive, and so intractably deadlocked on so many of the things that matter just now. The issues I mentioned a few paragraphs back—US foreign policy toward a resurgent Russia, on the one hand, and US economic policy regarding the offshoring of jobs and the importation of foreign workers—are not only important, they’re issues about which reasonable disagreement is possible. What’s more, they’re issues on which negotiation, compromise, and the working out of a mutually satisfactory modus vivendi between competing interests are also possible, at least in theory.
In practice? Not while each side is insisting at the top of its lungs that the other side is led by a monster of depravity and supported only by people who hate everything good in the world. I’d like to suggest that it’s exactly this replacement of reasoned politics with a pretty close equivalent of the Two Minutes Hate from Orwell’s 1984 that’s among the most important forces keeping this country from solving any of its problems or doing anything to brace itself for the looming crises ahead. ...
I’m not sure how many people have noticed, though, that the election of Donald Trump was not merely a rebuke to the liberal left; it was also a defeat for the religious right. It’s worth recalling that the evangelical wing of the Republican Party had its own favorites in the race for the GOP nomination, and Trump was emphatically not one of them. It has not been a propitious autumn for the movements of left and right whose stock in trade is trying to force their own notion of virtue down the throats of the American people—and maybe, just maybe, that points to the way ahead.
It’s time to consider, I suggest, a renewal of the traditions of American federalism: a systematic devolution of power from the overinflated federal government to the states, and from the states to the people. It’s time for people in Massachusetts to accept that they’re never going to be able to force people in Oklahoma to conform to their notions of moral goodness, and for the people of Oklahoma to accept the same thing about the people of Massachusetts; furthermore, it’s time for government at all levels to give up trying to impose cultural uniformity on the lively diversity of our republic’s many nations, and settle for their proper role of ensuring equal protection under the laws, and those other benefits that governments, by their nature, are best suited to provide for their citizens.
It's hard for me to disagree with Greer. The "coastal elite," the liberal bubbles, all the people who don't understand flyover country--you've seen them, you know many of them have difficulty accepting political loss. When you've sufficiently defined your opponents as bigoted, then summarily dismiss them (as civility demands), your brain interprets losing to such people as totally unacceptable, virtually unconscionable, as if the Joker killed Batman, as if the world is suddenly just wrong. "This wasn't supposed to happen!"

There's a good chance they won't understand. A good chance they won't listen. A good chance they will crawl back into their bubbles and ignore and/or dismiss us. Decentralizing the federal government might well be a good idea for both sides, but power is addicting. And I doubt the "coastal elite" will willingly trade in their heroin for some weed.

Besides, it's back to business as usual, according to Kos:
If Trump wants to pass a new Voting Rights Act, or renominate Merrick Garland, then we can work with him. Anything else, he can go fuck himself. Infrastructure spending? Let him get the votes from his own caucus. Anything else he might propose, even if we might agree with it? Let him get the votes from his own caucus while we hurl metaphorical molotov cocktails from the sideline.

They broke it, they own it.
Soon the president will no longer be black; it'll be okay to oppose him guys. Remember when we used the nuclear option to overcome vote hurdles and filibusters? Remember when we used executive orders to bypass congress? Well, times change and it's not cool anymore.

Seriously guys, it's NOT COOL:
via Instapundit

We will witness their withdrawal symptoms shortly. It won't be pretty, but it's necessary.


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