2016-12-06 © 2016 Barnet Wagman

Fortuna's Choice

Nearly everyone I know has an explanation for Trump's victory: sexism, the media, racism, Comey, Clinton's own considerable flaws and failures, our perverse election system, the GOP's twenty year campaign of Clinton vilification … the list goes on and on. Every one of these explanations is valid.  There are easily twenty reasons why Trump won and if there had been only eighteen, he probably wouldn't have made it. The technical term for this is 'luck'.

This is not to say that Trump's election was a random event. It reflects a whole host of problems with American politics, institutions, and culture.  But the conjunction of so many was<.i> a coincidence.It does not prove that Trump is some sort of rough hewn political genius.

However, 'luck' has no place in our political or social discourse.  Most Americans, including members of the news media, still hold to the quaint notion that all success is earned, one way or another.  Since Trump won the election, it is presumed that he did something right: that he sensed the mood of the country, understood how to use the media, etc.  But this is nonsense.  The well documented limits of his attention span preclude such abstractions as tactics or strategy.  It's probably wrong to imagine Trump really thinking through anything - his campaign appears to have been driven by his self-touted 'intuition' and his uncontrolled mouth and tweets, and not much else.   As it happened, his outbursts meshed with the prejudices, fears, and illusions of a critical number of voters in some critical states.  In another year, with another opponent, at a different point in the business cycle, with a slightly more critical news media, etc., the outcome could easily have been different.  Despite all his luck, the election really was quite close.

Of course, in a well functioning democracy, elections shouldn't be a matter of luck.  But a well functioning democracy is what we have.  Both our methods of nominating and electing a president are a mess, and as it happens, both were at their worst this year.  The convoluted, insanely expensive, and painfully protracted primary process yielded a choice between two historically unpopular candidates.  Thanks to the electoral college (a vestige of concessions to eighteenth century slave owners), a minority of voters were able to impose a Trump on the rest of us.

None of the factors that led to Trump's victory are new.  Over the years, we've been warned about many of them.  But, in the past, they didn't all come into play simultaneously - Fortuna was mostly on the side of sanity.  This year was different.  To use a tired but appropriate metaphor, the 2016 election was a perfect storm. Fortuna smiled on a reality show hack and voila a buffoon becomes the 45th president of the U.S.

Comments?     home     © 2016 Barnet Wagman