Perhaps no one was more surprised about the election outcome than Donald Trump. But it’s not because of so-called “fake” polls. The polls were showing the race to be very close, with a big swing to Trump after the James Comey-FBI announcement. All year, when the news has been about Trump, he sank, and when the news was about Hillary, she tanked. Hillary had the bad luck of being the last news subject.
The polls were actually right (within the margin of error). In fact, the LA Times/USC tracking poll consistently said that Trump was ahead. However, the poll had serious flaws, such as an unintended Republican bias. Even so, the poll showed the swings in popular sentiment.
Even rightwing websites—all except Breitbart—were forecasting a Trump loss. And there are reports that Trump was as surprised as anybody that he won. Politico pulled together some of his biographers to see what they had to say.
I think he stumbled onto this national stage without a lot of long-term plans about what he was going to do when he began running. I think he was surprised as anyone else that he got as much pull with the voters as he did. And I think even if you look at some of the photos from him as the vote tallies came in, some of the photos of him he looks a little surprised and stunned himself that all of this is suddenly upon him. It’s like Robert Redford at the end of The Candidate, “Now what do we do?”
They also offered an explanation of why the public voted as it did.
He came across as sincere and authentic, I think. The rambling, the incomplete sentences, all those things that seemed proof of incompetence and inability to deal with the complicated, sophisticated issues that were going to come up for a president—not to mention all of the negative, disparaging, crude and vulgar remarks— were reframed as sincerity, authenticity, what he’s really thinking, versus thoughtfulness. On her part, being focus-grouped, being careful with what she said, saying she was careful with what she said, I think we’ve all commented on it at various points, but didn’t really grasp how strong that is. Especially in a world where reality TV has played such a role … the usual metrics of reality like actual truth just don’t matter. It’s how it makes you feel when you’re listening. And that’s what he really was very, very strong at.
There were signs that the Hillary Clinton campaign knew what was happening. They had applied for a fireworks permit for election night, but then, on Monday, the day before the election, they cancelled plans for the fireworks. Hillary had the superior organization, in all respects. They knew what was going on.
The real surprise was the low turnout. The betting site, PredictIt, had a market in popular vote, and many were betting on a total vote of over $145,000,000. As it turns out, only about 120,000,000 people voted. That’s despite a 50 million increase in voter registration since the last election.
In unofficial totals, Trump actually received fewer votes than Mitt Romney in 2012, or John McCain in 2008. As we knew all along, this year’s two presidential candidates had the highest unfavorable ratings in history. By far.
In addition to low turnout, there was the closeness of the race in so many states:
New Hampshire 47-47
That’s hardly a mandate. Especially since Democrats won the popular vote for the sixth time, out of the last seven elections.
But above all, Trump is a negotiator. He will compromise on some issues, in order to get approval on others. He is not an ideologue. In fact, Trump’s real problem may be with Republicans. The GOP controls all branches of government—Presidency, Senate, House, Supreme Court—for only the second time since Herbert Hoover.
Free trade will be one problem for him. It’s a Republican issue. NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) was really Ronald Reagan’s idea. It took until the Clinton presidency to get it passed, and Clinton had to beg for extra Republican support, since Democrats wanted nothing to do with it.
In 1993, for example, the highly controversial North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) passed the House with far more Republican than Democratic support, despite the energetic advocacy of then-President Bill Clinton. While Democrats voted 102-156 against the agreement, Republicans voted 132-43 in favor. Republican members likewise turned out en masse to support the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), which gained just 15 Democratic “yes” votes in the House, and, more recently, the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement, which only 21 Republicans opposed.
Likewise, TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) is more popular with traditional Republicans than Democrats, because they see it as a way to compete with—and contain—China’s economic power (China would not be part of the partnership).
If he wants to pass the TPP, President Obama, like President Clinton in 2000, will also have to rely on Republican votes. In fact, he pretty much has to rely on Republican votes because the TPP wouldn’t stand a chance in a Democratic-controlled Congress. What makes this even more screwed-up than it already is the fact that Democrats actually have a very good chance of retaking the Senate this November.
Another point of contention is Trump’s trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. Even though the last big plan came under Republican Dwight Eisenhower (the interstate highway system), most Republicans don’t want to spend money on anything.
One of Donald Trump’s top campaign promises — a trillion-dollar program to rebuild highways, tunnels, bridges and airports — is already meeting resistance from conservatives.
The president-elect has vowed that his infrastructure proposal will create “millions” of jobs, likening it to Dwight Eisenhower’s creation of the interstate highway system. It’s one piece of his agenda that’s drawing support from Democrats, who love public works programs just as much as Trump loves to brag about his experience building golf courses and skyscrapers. . .
Trump’s proposal even got flak from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative group that his transition team has turned to for advice on his environmental policies. “There is little evidence that these public works projects promote long-run economic growth,” CEI fellow Marc Scribner wrote Thursday in a blog post on “The Great Infrastructure Myth.”
It’s unclear whether these critiques presage major problems for Trump’s plan, which he has yet to put forth in more than skeletal form. . .
Trump initially floated a much different version last summer, telling the Fox Business Network the government would spend as much as $550 billion. . .”Donald Trump Proposes $550 Billion in New Government Debt,” the resulting Wall Street Journal headline read, suggesting the difficulties such a plan could face in a Republican Congress that has spent eight years lambasting Obama over deficit spending. The conservative site Newsmax called his idea “a steaming pile of hogwash.”
How about how Trump will govern?
Barrett: Well, you know, there’s too much day-to-day work for that. He doesn’t have the attention span for that.
Blair: He has said that he’s going to delegate stuff that’s boring.
On a personal note, apologies for my absence this week. I’ve had a debilitating case of bronchitis.