While in many ways the 2016 presidential contest was an uprising against the establishment, let’s face it, Republicans weren’t punished last night. And that’s not a new development. This will be the fourth consecutive election in which the GOP has won the Senate and House. Nearly every conventional conservative Senate candidate — the ones Donald Trump’s fans supposedly hate — all ran ahead of the GOP nominee. In Arizona, Florida, Wisconsin — nearly everywhere. This includes Republicans who were reticent supporters or outright critics of Trump.
A melodramatic Van Jones is free to claim that Trump’s victory is a “white-lash.” But ever since Barack Obama’s unprecedented passage of Obamacare, his party has lost more than a thousand seats nationally in three wave elections. From 2010, the electorate demanded Washington share power, but the president didn’t listen, relying on executive power, the bureaucracy, and judiciary to pass agenda items without consensus or compromise. A couple of weeks ago I asked, “When Will Liberals Answer For Obamacare’s Failures?” Today, apparently.
In all their vast coverage of agitated right-wingers, it may have escaped the attention of many in the media that over the past eight years the Democratic Party has moved dramatically to the left on an array of issues. It’s now a party of cultural imperialists and economic technocrats who want to rule through fiat. It is a party more comfortable coercing Americans who see the world differently than in convincing them. It is a movement propelled by a liberal punditry that’s stopped debating and resorted to smearing millions they disagree with.
Perhaps Obama might be capable of governing this way and remaining popular, but his political talents aren’t transferable. Not to congressional or Senate Democrats, who have been paying dearly for his policies. And certainly not to Hillary. Democrats nominated a corrupt candidate with abysmal political instincts, a decades’ long habit of mendacity, and a dearth of new ideas.
It’s worth remembering that every time a media figure or liberal grumbled about how terrible the 2016 presidential election was, they meant Trump was terrible. The Democratic Party establishment never entertained any other nominee seriously, and the liberal punditry never earnestly lamented Hillary’s inadequacies. There was never any question that all the money, power, and infrastructure of the Left would mobilize behind Hillary.
The media never treated Clinton as an atypical candidate, although she was in so many ways. No matter how often she lied or much we learned about her racketeering or her malleable positions on foreign policy and everything else, her defenders could claim that there was no moral equivalency between her and Trump.
There was. Democrats nominated one of the least trusted people to ever run for the presidency. According to the final Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll, Americans trusted Hillary six points less than they did Trump, whose absurdities and outright fabrications probably came off as straight talk to millions of Americans sick of hearing manicured talking points. An Associated Press-GfK poll also found that 92 percent of Americans thought Clinton’s email setup either broke the law or was in “poor judgment.” Only 6 percent believed she did nothing wrong. This poll was taken months before the freakout over the James Comey letter. Rather than dealing with this reality, Democrats and their allies attempted to normalize her corruption.
Trump might also have been the beneficiary of decades of vacuous liberal attacks on Republican candidates who, as you know, are always racist, homophobic, transphobic xenophobes because they have different ideas about society or policy. Voters might be becoming increasingly immune to these histrionics. Yet, as soon as it became apparent that Trump would win, liberal commentators began blaming bigotry again. The Left has become so saturated in identity politics, it can’t imagine that anything else might drive a voter.
As my colleague Sean Davis has noted, though, seven states that voted for Obama twice voted for Trump in 2016. Did all these Americans suddenly become racist in a few years time?
Beltway types, and I include myself in this objectionable group, take everything politicians say seriously and literally, because we sort of have to. There is value in parsing policy, ideology, and rhetoric, but it has limited significance in a non-political world. Voters don’t care if every utterance is factcheckable when they have intuition and experience to guide them. They are far less horrified by every gaffe than the average reporter is.
I recently visited my middle/working-class hometown in suburban New York. Not exactly Factoryville, Ohio, or rural Mississippi, it was still more typical of the average American life than many people realize. It’s a place where families aren’t destitute but often struggle with excessive property taxes, mortgage payments, subpar schools, and rising health-care bills.
None of the Trump voters who surrounded me — most of whom I’d consider moderate Republicans — argued that the GOP nominee was exemplary person or an optimal candidate for the presidency. Their support had nothing to do with white patriarchal supremacy or any of the ugly themes that preoccupy the progressive Left (and now the entire Democratic Party).
Certainly none of these voters cared for the reasons I was opposing a Trump presidency, either — which, broadly speaking, would be the preservation of constitutional process and the expansion of free trade. The consensus solidified around one thought: Hillary was worse. A lot worse. She was corrupt, power hungry, and a would-be dictator who needed to be kept out of the White House.
Because they were so convinced Trump was going to win, I sort of felt sorry when anticipating their disappointment. Not only because I personally disliked many of Trump’s positions and the thought of one-party rule, but because nothing I read or saw from the experts pointed to a GOP victory.
The joke, of course, was on me.