by Ken Root
I was fooled by the rhetoric and assumed Hillary Clinton would handily win the electoral votes to become President of the United States. I was wrong. My reaction is realization that committed voters make more difference than vocal influence groups. It also shows how many people were quietly displeased with the social, regulatory and economic programs of the past eight years and cast their ballots against the status quo. We now begin a multi-year process of economic and social realignment. In those categories, it is still not determined who won and who lost.
I cover a lot of miles over the course of a year and observe the roadsides in many states. In Iowa, the heat of this election started two years ago. The first signs I saw said: “Hillary go home.” I was shocked to see they were followed by: “Hillary for prison.” On the republican side, even with fifteen candidates, support for Donald Trump began at the first debate and did not subside until election day.
President-elect Trump should have been difficult for hard working, God fearing folks to justify as their candidate. His demeanor and ferocity did the job. Trump found their anger and amplified it. Those who normally vote for the Christian right were attracted to the economic and social backlash (called “Whitelash” by some) that Trump played like a violin. He kept identifying issues that rural people found important and openly rejected the social change imposed by the current administration.
The amazing part of this race was the number of traditional democrat voters who moved to Trump’s camp. Steelworkers and labor union members from the industrial states of Pennsylvania and Michigan effectively crossed the picket line and voted for him.
Agricultural interests were already pro-republican in their leanings even though the Obama administration was more supportive of biofuels and other renewable energy than a republican administration would have been. Oppressive regulation seemed to be the key. The EPA was moving ahead, in spite of actions by Congress, and only the federal courts were slowing them down.
The people who received government food and housing support in the recession of 2009-2012 were my biggest blind spot. I assumed they would logically gravitate to the party most likely to assist them the next time there is a downtrend and vote accordingly. They did not vote in numbers that were large enough to offset the conservative, rural and industrial supporters of Donald Trump. Neither did millennials. This touted sector either thought Hillary would win without their help or the polls weren’t open during their waking hours. We may have to admit they are no different than young voters of past generations who just don’t have any passion for government.
This election season was not short on entertainment. Donald Trump tried to offend everyone. He broke every rule of protocol and politeness, yet he resonated with the masses of ordinary working people. I feared his “twitter finger” more than his “trigger finger”. When he said he might not accept the results of the election, people were outraged. Yet, when he won, those who had condemned his words marched in the streets to protest his victory.
Democracy is an amazing system. It can lay bare a carefully crafted landscape in one day. The view of the people prevails, even when told by media that their candidate has no chance. For politicians, this is a lesson that has to be relearned over and over.
Donald Trump has yet to take the oath of office and make a single decision as president, but he is already vilified by some and idolized by others. He seems to be a gracious winner and President Obama has been proper in his comments and consultation with his successor. That too is a mark of America. We have to put the past behind us and look toward our future. So much is uncertain that government has to draw itself up and march as the voters have directed, at least until they start campaigning for the next election.
What happens to Hillary Clinton? This may be the hardest part of the process for those who opposed her so strongly. She and Bill will live well if they never get another contribution, which they may not. She should not be a role model for future candidates as arrogance is ugly no matter its gender. There will be a woman president but it won’t be her. Bill Clinton will likely be remembered as a bright and capable president with questionable morals. He probably won’t emulate Jimmy Carter in his later years.
I don’t think I can endure another campaign like this one! The negative energy debilitated me more than they stage fighting enlivened me. I feel we cheapened the office of President by the actions of the candidates and the political parties. It is now a time to heal. There are major wounds on both sides and a lot of political machines that are broken. One thing is clear to me: In this election, no matter who was elected, the people won.