A Mixture of Musings

: Politics, Trump, USA

How Did Donald Do it?

So America’s racist then

Not quite. I think it’s more likely that Americans decided to vote for the guy who promised to make them richer, over the woman who promised to inspire them.

But the poor voted for Hillary

If you look at absolute numbers, yes. However if you look at the trends, you’ll see that 16% percent of voters earning less than $30,000 swapped from Democrat to Republican this election.

But Donald’s plans would make them poorer

This is true. It’s also irrelevant in an environment where even mainstream news prefer to report on the frivolities of the race than the detail of the policies.

What matters is narrative. Donald had a simple proposal: he’d block all imports from abroad, raise tariffs if anyone tried to outsource jobs, and so protect jobs at home.

Then he’d throw out all the immigrants working for nothing, creating more jobs in turn for proper Americans.

But it’s all nonsense

It’s simple and it sounds right, and that’s all that matters.

In particular, this is why people with jobs, particularly union workers in places like Michigan, voted for Trump. It also explains why almost 1-in-3 “Hispanics” voted for Trump as well.

Union workers and legal-immigrants weren’t going to vote for the woman who secretly told Goldman Sachs she wanted free trade and unlimited immigration.

Incidentally, this also explains why Bernie, who also favoured trade-restrictions, tended to better against Trump in national polls than Hillary.

So there’s no room for honesty in politics?

There is, it’s just hard.

The thing is, Hillary never came out and said “this is how I’ll make you richer”. She had no simple stump speech. She focused on how awful Donald and his voters were, and how inspirational and right she was.

Meanwhile Donald said vote for me and I’ll protect your job and make you richer.

This should have been obvious. Bill Clinton always knew it was “the economy stupid”. The example of Mitt Romney is instructive too, he was nearly blown away by Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan. It was a terrible plan1, but Herman was the only one who presented Americans with a simple plan to get them rich, quick. It almost won him the GOP nomination.

But still, who could possibly vote for someone so awful?

Here’s a few numbers about America in 2016

America is quite a diverse place, and its inhabitants are very different to the staff of most mainstream media.

But more than these “deplorables”, there’s people who just don’t care about racism. These are the really dangerous ones, as Edmund Burke eloquently pointed out, and they have always been the majority. Inspiration & justice just don’t feed families the way cash does.

And now we’ve got the world’s most awful president

As bad as Trump is, he’s still much more liberal than the rest of the Republican contenders. For example while he clearly doesn’t respect women, he doesn’t appear to actively resent them: he was the only primary candidate to support Planned Parenthood. Equally while he’s egotistical, he doesn’t believe he’s God’s chosen candidate on earth, like Ted Cruz. And as daft as his economic plan is, so too were many of the other Republicans plans (consider for example Cruz, and Rubio, or what Brownback and Jindal did to Kansas and Louisiana).

Even his support for extremists has precedent: in 2000 George W Bush visited the the Bob Jones University for an endorsement while it still had a ban on interracial relationships on campus, refused to admit gay students and called the Pope an antichrist. It reluctantly dropped the ban shortly after, but replaced overt hostility with covert dog-whistling, and was still visited (and so implicitly endorsed) by John McCain and Mitt Romney subsequently.

In short, Donald Trump comes from the liberal wing of the Republican party, and his views are very much in tune with a good chunk of those of the US electorate.

So I should be reassured?

If anything no: it means the senate, congress and the states – all of which are under GOP control – are unlikely to check Donald’s worst instincts.

Gee, thanks

Yeah, I feel great too…

So let me get this right, you’re saying it’s poor people’s fault

Not quite. Donald did win the far (“alt”) right, gamer-gate vote too.

Trump won voters earning more than $100,000, Hillary won those under $50,000 (the median salary in the US is $55,000). Proper analysis of his primary successes and campaign in the run-up to the election showed that Donald Trump consistently won the vote of prosperous white people, not the working or unemployed poor. Generally the more negative their view of women and minorities, the more voters preferred Trump.

So it’s the fault of union workers and rich racists?

Also people who didn’t bother to vote, roughly 50% of American voters.

So it’s the fault of poor people, racists, and layabouts?

It’s Hillary’s fault too.

Hillary?! But everything she planned would have made people richer!

True, but politics isn’t about being right; neither is it about convincing other people you’re right; politics is about convincing other people that the right thing is worth doing.

As good as she is at policy, Hillary is terrible at politics. It was no accident she trailed not only Barack Obama, but John Edwards, in the 2008 primaries.

She absolutely failed to mobilise votes: if you look at the figures, the number of GOP voters has stayed constant the last three elections, all that happened this election is the number of Democrat voters fell. Voters either stayed at home or voted for third parties.

Hillary could easily have rectified this by putting Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders on the ticket beside her: instead she chose an unthreatening, uninspirational nonentity.

What’s more, like Mitt Romney, she was two-faced. She got caught admitting to it in her Goldman Sachs speech, with her discourse on the need for public and private personas. Her speeches to Goldman Sachs didn’t match her speeches on the stump, and were as fatal to her as Romney’s 47-percent speech was to him.

People thought she was two-faced?

They thought a lot worse. During a trip through Nevada, one of the Economist’s reporters found that Trump supporters believed absolutely in things that were absolutely false (Cached version).

In the modern world the gatekeepers of news have been overwhelmed by a huge number of retailers selling news on demand. Consumers have the opportunity to shop around until they find the news that feels right, in short that confirms their biases. The Economist reporter found most Trump voters were finding their preferred “news” on Facebook.

The state of modern journalism is dire. Good reporters who do the research simply don’t generate content fast enough to get ad-clicks: the money is in being first, not correct. In the modern world the audience forgives errors: worse, it forgets them.

Accusations stick in a way exonerations can never clean away.

The result is an electorate that has never been more misinformed.

So what do we learn from all this?

The lesson of Herman Cain, of Mitt Romney, of Brexit and of Donald Trump, is three-fold.

First the majority of voters don’t care about inspiration: they will vote for the person who most plausibly promises to make them richer.

Secondly many, if not most, people believe that opposing globablisation is a surefire way to get rich.

Thirdly, everyone believes politicians are corrupt and duplicitous, and the longer one stays in politics, the worse one is.

Left-wingers therefore need to find a way of convincing voters that they can make people richer, and present it in a positive way2. Bernie’s approach seemed to resonate, and so provides a good template.

They also need to find a way to sell the electorate on globalisation, which is a hard one, as the negatives (your job is going to China) seem more obvious than the positives (but look how cheap my iPhone is!).

Finally, counterintuitively, they need to choose candidates with minimal experience for leadership. People prefer fresh faces.

Hillary should just have said that if you earn less than $80,000 a year, I’ll make you richer and Donald will make you poorer. So see how much you earn and vote accordingly. Everything else – racism, anti-semitism, feminism – was meaningless to the majority of voters.

So what’s going to happen

It’s going to be a bad four years. Americans will end up poorer. Russian and China will probably win some geopolitical battles as America deliberately enfeebles itself abroad. Trade will worsen, and so will the US deficit.

In Europe, Trumpism is already well underway. Poland and Hungary are led by increasingly autocratic governments robbing their citizens’ rights and oppressing women, gays and minorities. Marine Le Pen will win a substantial vote in France, and Angela Merkel is under risk from the Pergida movement in Germany. Britain is fatally wounded by the Brexit vote, and in the race between political expediency and national prosperity, it appears politics is winning (I’m a UK resident).

The world in four years will be a smaller, poorer, and more vulnerable place.

And then people will see what’s wrong?

In Britain left-wing politics are lost in the wilderness. Meanwhile right-wing parties are well organised. The same is true in the USA.

Even if people see what’s wrong, there may not be any good alternatives.

Um, so, give up then?

For the last 25 years governments have been dominated by career politicians, people with no normal life experience, whose parties and careers have been funded by minorities of people with an excess of free-time and extreme views, both on the right and the left (the latter concentrated in unions).

The only way to change that is for “ordinary” people with ordinary careers to get more involved in politics than ever they would want.

Basically, we all need to join a political party and change it.

  1. By lowering taxes and entitlements, it would have reduced the amount of money in the pockets of the poorer half of America, and increased borrowing, to pay for a tax break for the richer half of America, who already have a greater share of the nation’s wealth than at any time in the last fifty years

  2. People’s reaction to being called a deplorable isn’t to consider their life-choices, it’s to shout got-to-hell at the judgmental asshole who made the accusation. You can only change someone’s mind once you’ve befriended them.