The American election, the morning after: American Brexit edition

I woke up at 6 am EST to find my fellow Americans had elected Donald Trump pre… presi – presid- … Damn.  It’s actually hard to say.  Saying or writing “Drumpf” isn’t quite as funny as it once was.

I have many reactions and thoughts, starting with this:

I also have many personal thoughts about my family and  business.  I might blog about those, too.

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 But for now, let me share some morning-after first reactions, before the data is in, with all the caveats that means.  I’m going to hold back on emotions and get the analysis out there.  Sometimes that’s how I process things.

  1. I call this “American Brexit” because of the many similarities: shocking polls, the revelation of previously understated divides, echoes of populism and nationalism.
  2. The long, long election deeply divided many Americans, who threw themselves into supporting candidates as heroes and also as symbols for major issues.  I suspect we’ll be even more deeply torn now.  Perhaps the next couple of years will see unrest at late 1960s levels, at least culturally, perhaps in terms of violence.
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  3. An example, perhaps a taste of things to come “Demonstrators set fire to a likeness of Trump, smashed store front windows and set garbage and tires on fire in downtown Oakland, across the bay from San Francisco… One protester in Oakland was struck by a vehicle after blocking a highway, local media reported.”  More, what happens to a militarized police culture with law and order man Trump as the chief executive?
  4. It looks like the Republicans took not only the White House but also both houses of Congress.  Also, some state level gains.   This gives the GOP a powerful opportunity to get things done.  What should we expect?  Expanded war against ISIS, beginning construction of the wall, deportations, a Scalia-like Supreme Court Justice, repeal the Affordable Care Act, anti-abortion bills, tax cuts: all possible.
  5. If the Dems lost the House *and* the Senate *and* the White House, this is one of the worst defeats that party has ever suffered.  Therefore now begins a brutal struggle for the Democratic party, filled with recrimination.
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     circular firing squad

  6. Some Democrats will view the defeat as caused by racism and sexism.  Others will see it as the result of not taking the white working class seriously.  This is the fault line that split Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton in the primaries; perhaps Dems will battle across that divide once more.
  7. On the economic side, cross-tabbed with region: the Rust Belt went for Trump in a big way.  That’s a major shift.  It’s one the Democrats have to think hard about, considering Scott Walker’s persistence, the gap between Democratic coastal stronghold and flyover country, trade deals, and the postindustrial economy.
  8. Another reading of the election is that a slim majority of Americans were dissatisfied or engaged, and wanted to revolt.  We need to tell the story of how, on the one hand, the Democrats became the party of establishment and conservativism, and how, on the other, the GOP, led by an old billionaire, became the party of insurgency.
  9. What is the role of different age groups?  For instance, did Millennials, disengaged since Bernie’s defeat, fail to turn out in droves; if so, what impact did that have?  Did the majority of the senior vote break for Trump, along the lines of Bruce Sterling’s famous formulation of “old people afraid of the sky” and Brexit’s demographics?
  10. Were there actually hidden or silent Trump voters, missed by polling?  If so, that tells us much about America in 2016.
  11. One of the primary arguments in favor of Clinton during the primaries was that she’d be a better opponent to Trump than Bernie Sanders would have been.  Yeah.
  12. Did Clinton outspend Trump?  If so, what does this tell us about campaign finance?
  13. Some will see the defeat, or the national divide, driven by educational differences.  I’m honestly not sure what follows from this – increased K12 funding seems unlikely across the country.  Growing post-secondary enrollment goes against current trends.  Perhaps a boom in nonprofits and public education?
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  14. TV conquered America.  As I said earlier, for all the power of new media this was an election driven hugely by tv “news”.  I’m not sure of the influence expressed by tv advertising; that did soak up a ton of money.
  15. That’s two political dynasties claimed by 2016, the Clintons and the Bushes.
  16. Another Brexit link: Obama’s campaigning for Remain and Clinton seems to have, at best, done nothing for those causes.  At worst it backfired.  This will do something to Obama’s reputation as he exits the White House, and has some implications for analysis.  Why didn’t this popular president have a greater impact?
  17. Liberals and leftists will, after years of Charlie Hebdo etc., rediscover their fondness for satire.
  18. From a futures perspective, the massive forecasting failure is something we need to work through.

PS: with this post I’m starting to accumulate writing on politics.  Should I keep doing this?

(cartoon via Chris Whiteside)

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27 Responses to The American election, the morning after: American Brexit edition

  1. edwebb says:

    Keep writing on politics, yes. We’re going to need all the clear thinking we can muster as we attempt to recover from all that 2016 has dumped on us.

    • I agree, keep writing no matter what. This blog post alone is calm meta-analyisis of current situation. Polling data seemed to have failed us. What was Nate Silver’s magical prediction with his use of “algorithms”?

      • bboessen says:

        Agreed. This fits right in with others I’m reading this morning: Ross Douthat, Conor Friedersdorf, Tyler Cowen, James Fallows. Actually, there’s a Cowen piece from two months ago that is strikingly similar to your post here, even in its unadorned, enumerated style: So yes: keep it up, please. 🙂

        As for Silver, my take of the FiveThirtyEight position as of ~3am this morning was the following: “while we also expected Clinton to win, we gave Trump a 28% chance of winning going into Tuesday, far higher than essentially everyone else. Also, we predicted that the race would be tight enough that even our own predictions were likely to be off by as many as 5-6 states” [which itself turns out to have been essentially accurate, it seems]. So his team seems to be saying, our model was wrong in that it predicted the wrong winner, but “right” in that it did include a lot of data that should have served as reasons to be cautious. As to whether you want to see that as a fair read of their coverage, or as a way to try to dial back some of the anti-data arguments, that’s harder to suss out.

      • Thanks.
        Silver’s statements last night and this morning are hesitant, self-defensive. The limits of polling, it seems.

  2. philkatz says:

    Another divide that still needs explanation: gender. Although I have not seen the final numbers, it seems pretty clear that more (white) Republican women voted for Trump than expected by mainstream observers. Perhaps this was the decisive component of #9 on your list (miscounted or hidden Trump voters). Time to reconsider some assumptions about group identity and American politics.

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  4. Craig says:

    As someone who is interested in topics like education, learning, innovation, media, technology, futurist topics and the intersection of all of these, I am also interested in your political reflections. You bring a unique point of view.

  5. Fiona Harvey says:

    See it as a cathartic exercise. You need to talk about it or those who don’t know any Americans will think that you all agree with the outcome, the same as the Brexit vote here in the UK. 🙁

  6. tj says:

    Why not talk about race? I tend to agree that a “white-wash” took place…there are a lot of folks that are scared/hate immigrants, people of color, and Obama. I KNOW some people did not vote, say, for economic reasons but for reasons that are racist. Of course, this assessment doesn’t even include other groups, like LBGT. I know you are not a fan of HRC but this outcome is not better. And I do not think Bernie would have fared better – plenty were not convinced of his ability to lead. Young people are not reliable voters and, to date, have never been. But we will never know and can’t even use data to predict/forecast a Bernie outcome bc it appears the data is useless. And now it no longer matters. The bottom line for me is that angry white people showed up. It will be interesting to see if Trump/GOP supporters actually get what they want…and they will certainly know who to blame/credit. Clinton was a candidate that voters could not get behind – and probably not for the reasons you disliked her bc those reasons might be more complex and policy-driven. I know part of the anger out there is Dems paternalistic attitude towards voters but voters have yet to convince me (or political scientists since the 1950s) that their vote choice actually aligns with politics/policy preferences. I am just so damn sad.

    • Sadness is the feeling of the day, tj.
      People are definitely talking about race. Check out, for example; it’s the lead story.

      If angry white people showed up, did that work because they remain a majority of American voters in 2016, or because other groups did not turn out enough to counter them?

      • edwebb says:

        It would appear that the answer is that the others – the cosmopolitan coalition, if you will – didn’t show up in sufficient numbers. Angry white people were not a particularly potent force this year, compared to 2012 or 2008. The disillusioned others caused this.

        On the other hand, angry white voters are now affirmed and empowered, so there’s that.

  7. Carl Rosenfield says:

    Trump winning the election is a direct result of the extreme hubris, and the resulting recklessness, of the DNC. The internal condescension and active disenfranchisement of Bernie Sanders and his supporters was just the tip of the iceberg. Democrats rode the waves of Obama so blindly that they failed to see, or respect, the glowing embers of resentment of the undereducated and under-employed who felt that their way of life was being compromised. Pure narcissism.

    As I told a coworker right before the GOP crashed and burned in 2008, the pendulum is always swinging. I think other politicians, Republican and Democrat, will soon understand that Trump is an uninformed and dangerous leader, and his status as POTUS will do little to prevent him from being compartmentalized and labeled as the con man that he is.

    If not, Trump will soon be the cause of enough monumental disasters that he will be impeached or simply ignored. Hopefully, these disasters won’t be too incredibly catastrophic before we figure out a way to work around the pile of hazardous waste that is Donald J. Trump.

  8. Nick says:

    Yes, please keep writing on politics.

  9. rgrunes says:

    I would add one point.  By adopting the ideological mantra of Sanders in the Democratic Party platform, Clinton helped to make Trumpism possible.  Don’t quite know what to make of all those white women who voted  for Trump.  Alas, David Duke is reborn (a Louisiana connection). Rodney

  10. Tim Lepczyk says:

    Keep writing.

  11. Chris Lott says:

    To answer your last question totally selfishly: no.

  12. Bridget Wetzel says:

    Hi Bryan,

    I like your analysis of the recent events, and it helps to put some things into perspective. I think you should continue to write on politics, and the more you can make the connection between politics and the future of higher ed (or education in general), the better in my opinion!

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