The earth is spinning backwards on its axis. Aliens have landed. Donald Trump has been elected the 45th President of the United States.
Until about 3 am Wednesday morning, most of the media nobility and political elites would have given you better odds on the first two scenarios. Mr. Trump, the real estate billionaire and reality TV host was someone who could never be allowed to occupy the Oval Office--especially if it denied the presidency to Hillary Clinton, acclaimed by the same elites to be the "best-qualified candidate of all time." Never mind that she is (arguably) the most corrupt individual ever to seek the nation's highest office, someone who has clearly committed serious crimes that would send an ordinary person to prison for decades.
Trump was also a flawed candidate, described at various turns as a misogynist, bigot, charlatan, liar and worse--an orange-haired carnival barker with no relevant who experience who offered a "dark vision" (to use a favored Democrat talking point) and appealed to our worst fears.
But a funny thing happened on the way to Mrs. Clinton's appointment with inevitability. Despite having huge advantages in organization, fund-raising and decades on the political stage, she was a terrible candidate. Clinton couldn't run on her record as a senator (she accomplished nothing) or secretary of state, where, in league with President Obama, she literally set the world aflame. And if that wasn't enough, she promised more of his policies; fixing Obama care, another bloated stimulus, higher taxes and more government regulation. Her legal and ethical issues were just rancid icing on a rotten cake.
That's why Trump is making plans for his inauguration while Clinton gave a concession speech that supposedly outlined a "way forward." You read that right. Is that a hint at another run in 2020? One shudders at the prospect of another Hillary campaign, but with the Clintons, you can never rule anything out. Our guess is that Mrs. Clinton and her husband may have some legal matters to work out between now and then, thanks to that little pay-for-play scheme they perfected during her tenure at State. A new FBI Director and a de-politicized DOJ may have something to say about that.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. There's still the post-election autopsy, complete with our list of those who succeeded beyond expectations and those who failed ignominiously.
Donald J. Trump. That may seem like a no-brainer, but the president-elect's road to the White House was anything but conventional--or easy. Despite his vast wealth, Trump was dismissed as a side-show candidate when he entered the race in 2015. The "experts" predicted he would fade quickly against the likes of political pros like Jeb (!) Bush. But Trump knows a little bit about staging, marketing and image-making, thanks to those years on The Apprentice and his successful real estate career. But more importantly, he championed the issues that resonated with ordinary Americans--illegal immigration; stagnant wages, the failure of Obamacare, the mass-exporting of U.S. jobs to locations overseas. At times, his effort looked like a dumpster fire (Trump went through three campaign managers) and could be his own worst enemy on the stump. But in the words of one pundit (more on them in a bit), Trump was the candidate who never quit; he hammered his opponent relentlessly and touted his vision relentlessly. It paid off last night, in spades. He not only won the presidency, he reshaped the Republican electoral map and re-ordered the adopted party. Quite a feat for someone who had never run for elected office.
Kellyanne Conway. Ms. Conway has been a fixture in Republican campaigns--and on the talking-head circuit--for years. When she was elevated to the post of campaign manager in early summer, she became the third person to hold that title in less than a year. While acknowledging her competence, most of the experts doubted that Conway and campaign chairman Steve Bannon could keep Trump on track. There were inevitable problems--and gaffes. Trump wasted time in dust-ups that could have been better spent touting his message. But Conway brought a discipline to the campaign that Trump previously lacked; stream-of-consciousness speeches were replaced with teleprompter addresses that helped eliminate unforced verbal errors. Ms. Conway is also one of the architects of Trump's "rust-belt strategy" that led him to narrow victories in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and (likely) Michigan that shattered the so-called "blue wall" and gave Trump his electoral win. Regardless of what happens in the White House, Conway's campaign management was a marvel. Honorable mentions to staffers like Jason Miller and Jessica Ditto, who played leading roles in Matt Bevin's election as Kentucky governor one year ago. The parallels between Bevin's triumph and Trumph's winning campaign are strikingly similar.
The Forgotten Man (and Woman). Many of the voters targeted by Team Trump were outside the demography of post-modern political coalitions. Mr. Trump aimed his appeal at individuals who had been cast aside in the rush towards a globalist, post-modern world, including thousands of factory workers who have watched their jobs move overseas since the 1980s. Or those still at work who haven't had an actual pay raise in 20 years; endured the erosion of their savings during last decade's financial collapse of 2008-2009, and now face skyrocketing healthcare costs under Obamacare. The forgotten men and women of America cast their lot with Trump and paid a price for their support. As Michael Goodwin wrote in the New York Post:
"...Trump’s voters often took great risks and were routinely insulted and demeaned for their passion.
But they wore those insults as badges of honor, proudly calling themselves the “deplorables” and the “irredeemables.”
The factory workers, the veterans, the cops, the kitchen help, people who plow the fields, make the trains run, pick up the trash and keep the country together and keep it moving — they are all now winners. As one, these cogs of our daily life rose up in a peaceful revolution, their only weapons the ballot box and their faith in the future.
Trump voters had the courage of their conviction to go against all their betters, all the poobahs and petty potentates of politics, industry and, above all, the fraudulent hucksters of the national liberal media."
And for once, their voice was heard.
Pat Caddell. While most members of the pollster and pundit class took a beating this cycle, Mr. Caddell was one of the exceptions. A veteran of presidential campaigns since the Jimmy Carter era, Caddell has been predicting a middle class uprising against the elites since at least 2012. In various appearances on talk radio and Fox News, Caddell noted the growing anger from working and middle class Americans over declining economic opportunities, including the loss of jobs, and perceptions that the system is "rigged" against them. Not sure if Donald Trump listened to Caddell or met with him at some point, but many of the arguments from the Democrat pollster made their way into this year's GOP platform, and netted millions of votes, particularly in the upper Mid-West.
The Homeless. This might seem like a strange choice until you remember that members of this group virtually disappear during a Democratic administration. That doesn't mean there are fewer homeless, it's simply that the media doesn't cover the story as often when a Democrat is in power. Beginning in January (if not sooner) any homeless person living Trump Tower stands a good chance of getting on the evening news, while the press speculates about the new president's sympathy for the downtrodden.
Roger Wicker. The Republican Senator from Mississippi had the herculean (some would say thankless) task of supporting re-election efforts for GOP incumbents in the upper chamber this year. Republicans had to defend 24 seats, and a number of those were considered vulnerable. Wicker and his team worked tirelessly to support GOP Senate candidates and their efforts were largely successful. Incumbents like Ron Johnson (Wisconsin); Roy Blunt (Missouri) and Pat Toomey (Pennsylvania) were considered all-but-dead just a few weeks ago. All won re-election. As of this writing, Republicans have lost only two Senate seats, Kelly Ayotte's in New Hampshire and Mark Kirk in Illinois. Senator Kirk was considered dead meat a year ago, and Ayotte lost by less than 1,00 votes. But along with the plaudits, Wicker also deserves some darts for missing opportunities. Darryl Glenn, the retired Air Force officer who took on Michael Bennett in Colorado, ran an underfunded campaign in a light-blue state and lost by only three points. Glenn didn't get a dime from the RSCC.
Trafalgar Research. The Atlanta-based polling firm was very accurate throughout the campaign and they did something no one else could--proved there was a reservoir of "hidden" Trump votes, which was completely missed by Trafalgar's competitors. Company CEO Robert Cahaly discovered a novel way to identify undetected or "under-developed" Trump voters. Realizing that many supporters didn't want to admit they were voting for the GOP nominee, Cahaly also quizzed voters on who their neighbors were voting for. When he found someone with two or more neighbors supporting Trump, he assessed the respondent was in the Trump camp as well. Mr. Cahaly estimates the hidden vote could have been worth up to three points for the Republican candidate and may have provided the margin of victory in the Rust Belt.
In fairness, we should also salute two surveys that also got it right, polls from the Los Angeles Times daily tracking and the Investors Business Daily. The LA Times used a different approach, surveying the same sample group throughout the campaign, and they showed a consistent Trump lead. IBD has had the most accurate poll for the last four election cycles. There are lessons to be learned from IBD's approach.
The Kremlin. It was obvious early on that V. Putin had a dog in this year's presidential fight, and his name was Donald Trump. The GOP nominee tirelessly advocated for closer relations with a Moscow regime that annexed Crimea; is actively supporting an insurgency in eastern Ukraine, and conducted an armed intervention in Syria, in support of the Assad regime (and did we mention that most of the Air Force bombing runs have been conducted against U.S.-backed rebels instead of ISIS). Better yet, a senior Putin aide admitted yesterday that Russian intelligence services "helped a bit" with the stream of Wikileaks revelations unleashed on Democrats over the past six months. It looks like Putin has his guy in the White House and the impact of U.S. national security policy could be dramatic.
Hillary Clinton. Difficult to underestimate the scope of Mrs. Clinton's defeat. As the Washington Post noted, the former senator and secretary of state looking like a "President-in-waiting" just two years ago, with vast advantages in fund-raising, party support and organization. Now, she's just another failed presidential candidate, with serious legal problems that will dog her in retirement. And she has no one but herself to blame. Following the time-honored Clinton tradition of flaunting rules, regulations and the law, Mrs. Clinton elected to create her own e-mail system, triggering the scandal that tainted her campaign, and amplified public perceptions that she is corrupt and untrustworthy. She offered little in the way of solutions for the nation's problems and by her campaign's own admission (via Wikileaks), Clinton was badly out of touch with middle class voters. People in places like Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennnsylvania already knew that and cast their ballots accordingly.
The Clinton Foundation. For decades, the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative were hailed as models of modern philanthropy, delivering financial support and needed services to poor communities arond the world. But that was a scam, first exposed by author Peter Schweitzer (Clinton Cash) and later by Wikileaks revelations. Both unearthed a trail of coruption, with Bill and Hill gladly selling access to the U.S. government in exchange for multi-million dollar donations to their charities. Financial records suggest the organizations were little more than slush funds for the Clintons and their friends. The list of current/former employees reads like a list of former administration and campaign officials. Meanwhile, other documents suggest the Clinton charities delivered only 6% of their proceeds to designated programs and there are new revelations that Chelsea Clinton used the foundation to help pay for her lavish $3 million wedding and funded her living expenses for a decade. While the Clintons touted the FBI's decision not to recommend prosecution for her illegal e-mail activities, they are also aware the agency's probe into the foundation is continuing, and potential indictments/prosecution could shutter the foundation for good.
Obama's Legacy. Voters chose Trump to repudiate the Obama agenda. Eliminating Obamacare, enacting a pro-growth economic plan and restoring America's military strength will go a long way towards reversing the Obama legacy and (rightfully) relegating him to the dustbin of failed presidents.
Democratic Party. While Democrats basked in the glory of Obama--and awaited the "third term" with Hillary--something was happening to their party outside of D.C. Republicans have redoubled efforts to take over more governorships and state legislatures since 2008, and they've been hugely successful. As Obama and Hillary exit the stage, the GOP controlls 33 governorships and both houses of the legislature in more than 30 states. Not only does that provide a tremendous advantage in enacting low-tax, low-regulation, pro-growth legislative agendas that are popular with voters, it also gives the GOP a leg up on re-districting and provides a tremendous incubator for rising talent. Losses at the state level have dramatically thinned the Democratic bench. As of today, the leading Democratic contenders to take on Trump in 2020 are Hillary Clinton (who will be 73); retiring Vice President Joe Biden (who turn 77) and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders who will be 79. The "kid" of the bunch is Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who celebrates her 71st birthday in 2020. To be fair, Trump will be 74 at the time of a re-election bid, but he presents a far more vigorous image than his Democratic challengers. And beyond Trump, there is a wide and deep pool of experienced Republican governors and senators who have their own oval office ambitions and many are only in their 40s and 50s.
Media, Pollsters and the Pundit Class. This is the post-mortem equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel, but there isn't a more deserving group. Over the past 36 hours, members of the political press; the number crunchers that drive their coverage and "analysts" of all stripes have been forced to admit they got campaign 2016 completely wrong. We'll begin with polling that offered up a steady diet of surveys based on 2012 turnout models that assumed members of the Obama coalition would turn out in similar numbers for Hillary Clinton. Even a Poly Sci 101 students would have a hard time buying that argument, but flawed turnout predictors gave us polls that (at varying points) told us the election was in the bag for Clinton. The LA Times and IDB were viewed at outliers, and could not be trusted. Making matters worse, virtually all pollsters missed the "hidden" Trump vote that carried him to victory.
As for the media, their coverage was blatantly slanted, at least when it came to Trump and his supporters. Since Election Night, there have been a fair number of mea culpas from more honest members of the press, confessing they missed the year's biggest electoral trend--the disaffected, working class voter--and didn't do much to look for it. To be fair, there were exceptions; Salena Zito of the New York Post drove more than 70,000 miles across battleground states and spoke with hundreds of residents who were angry and fed up with politics as usual. Back in August, she offered growing evidence of a rising Trump tide in places that usually go Democrat:
"..In interview after interview in all corners of the state, I’ve found
that Trump’s support across the ideological spectrum remains strong.
Democrats, Republicans, independents, people who have not voted in
presidential elections for years — they have not wavered in their
Two components of these voters’ answers and profiles remain
consistent: They are middle-class and they do not live in a big city.
They are suburban to rural and are not poor — an element I found
fascinating, until a Gallup survey last week confirmed that what I’ve
gathered in interviews is more than just freakishly anecdotal.
The study backs up what many of my interviews across the state have
found — that these people are more concerned about their children and
While Trump supporters here are overwhelmingly white, their support
has little to do with race (yes, you’ll always find one or two who make
race the issue), but has a lot to do with a perceived loss of power.
Not power in the way that Washington or Wall Street boardrooms view
power, but power in the sense that these people see a diminishing
respect for them and their ways of life, their work ethic, their
tendency to not be mobile. (Many live in the same eight square miles
that their father’s father’s father lived in.)
Thirty years ago, such people determined the country’s standards in
entertainment, music, food, clothing, politics, personal values. Today,
they are the people who are accused of creating every social injustice
imaginable; when anything in society fails, they get blamed.
Ms. Zito will testify that evidence of these trends was abundant and readily observable. So, why did so much of the media miss it? For starters, there's the inconvenient fact that virtually all of the national media was in the tank for Hillary. Remember this little happy snap from inside her campaign plane a few weeks ago?
Take a look; you may see some familiar faces, including NBC's Andrea Mitchell on the right. Most of the reporters are wearing looks of absolute adulation, affirming that Secretary Clinton was, indeed, their candidate. There were also surveys indicating that 86% of donations from reporters (and other members of the media) went to Democrat. It's more difficult to provide fair and honest coverage when you're already invested in one particular party.
The other problem stems from the media "bubble" that envelops the press contingent on the campaign plane. Many grew up aspiring to be one of the boys or girls on the bus, and having achieved that goal, they don't want to give it up such a plum assignment. So, they travel with the candidate from one stop to another, fed a constant diet of leaks, press releases and statements from the campaign. They arrive at the event site, gather their information, then it's on to the next stop. There is often minimal contact with the ordinary folks who show up to the candidate, though many reporters expressed "concern" after some Trump supporters yelled crude comments at members of the press, accusing them of being unfair (among other things). There wasn't much effort--at least, until after the election--to find out why those average Americans were also mad at the media.
Our guess is the introspection won't last very long. The media elites who live and work in places like New York, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles really don't have much appetite for dealing with the common folk, who are contemptuously viewed as Bible-thumping, ignorant hayseeds or worse. Much better to retreat to the comfortable suburbs that surround their urban bubble and start focusing on what a hash Donald Trump will make of things, and tell voters their 2016 insurrection was a mistake. After all, the folks who anchor and appear on cable news shows or write for Politico are so much smarter than the rest of us, and those rubes in Jesusland will never learn.
Just one more sign of how divided this country is between the elites and everyone else. And why members of the chattering class may have been the biggest losers on Tuesday.