I volunteered to be a poll monitor for the Democratic Party in Reno, Nevada. I signed up when the race was really close but my edge wore off as Election Day grew closer. Obviously, I was wrong. Many people were wrong. Here are some thoughts and queries.
1. My polling precinct was fine. The Hillary team sent me to a polling precinct in Sparks, Nevada. Sparks is a city/suburb of about 90,000 souls just outside of Reno. The poll workers at my precinct were fine and professional. If someone showed up to the wrong precinct, they looked up their correct polling place and encouraged them to go there. They got on the phone with central headquarters to try and get people ballots if there was a screw up in their registration. For what it’s worth, the polling monitors were a middle-aged white woman, a middle-aged African-American, three white people in their early to mid-70s (too old to be Boomers), and a guy in his 50s or 60s who was Fillipino.
2. What went wrong for Hillary? There were a lot of first-time voters at my polling place. Some were young people in their late teens to mid-20s. Others were middle-aged people who looked like “whites without a college education” to use the current phrase. As far as I can tell, Trump did much better among this group than many previous Republican candidates. Romney (and to a lesser extent McCain) were too patrician and proper to play this role. Trump is not. So you had people who never voted in decades or possibly ever come out for Trump and it saved the GOP. This is especially combined with a low-turnout election. Both Trump and HRC received fewer votes than Romney did in 2012. It looks like a lot of college-educated Republicans choose to sit out this election than vote for HRC. Matt Y seems to have called this the week before the election.
3. What’s next for the Left and/or the Democrats? An ideological blood bath of a civil war. You are going to have people argue that racism and sexism won the day. The die-hard Bernie Sanders supporters are also starting their “We Told You So” narrative. I suspect the answer for the Democratic Party is going to be tough. There are going to be a lot of sneers at “Social Justice Warriors” who cared too much about gendered bathrooms and niche culture issues. But to me the phrase Social Justice encompasses that stuff but it also encompasses Black Lives Matter, the fight for a decent living wage, access to the courts, open boarders, and other issues that libertarians profess to care about. At the hotel I stayed at in Reno, there was also a meeting for the California Association of Tactical Officers1 Many (but not all) of the officers were white guys. They were in love with the Trump victory and saw it as a push for law and order. This is why I am doubtful that Trump’s DOJ is going to ignore legalized weed. California voters did vote to legalize recreational marijuana but I wonder if these Tactical Officers are willing to side with Trump’s DOJ above their own administration.
4. The Democratic Party and the West. We don’t have a problem in the West largely. Our problem seems to be squaring the circle between appealing to whites without a college degree in the Rustbelt while also appealing to the current base of the Democratic Party. Look at the Democratic Senators who won election: Kamala Harris, Tammy Duckworth, Catherine Cortez Masto, and probably Maggie Hassan. All four are women. Three are people of color. Russ Feingold was closer to Sanders than Clinton and he lost. Jared “The Marine” Kandor lost in Missouri when Claire McCaskill easily won in 2012 (the same year Romney easily won in Missouri.)
5. The GOP has their own problems. Trump won the primary and later the Presidential election on some decidedly anti-GOP platforms. He opposed cuts to Social Security and Medicare. He was dismissive of free trade. The GOP in Congress is largely of the small government old guard but they mainly turned themselves into Trump’s lackeys. A lot of the GOP pundit class is now party-less unless they perform serious contrition. Presidents keep their campaign promises according to research. Now it could be that Donald Trump is really only in it for himself and will just rubber stamp whatever the GOP in Congress puts in front of him. But it seems to me that he needs to get tough on NAFTA, NATO, and immigration/The Wall, and oppose destroying Social Security and Medicare. I don’t know how the GOP in Congress deals with this.
6. The Free Trade factions (neo-liberal and libertarian) have the problem of potentially being right and also being wonderfully unable to convince the population that they are right. They could very well be political Cassandras. I’ve come to be doubtful that Sanders or Biden would have saved the day for the Democrats but the Vox brigade of incremental and “data driven” technocratic liberals have horrible rhetoric. They use overly academic language and seem to complain “why can’t you just listen to the experts?” Automation is killing more jobs than trade deals. But automation is a tough beast to deal with. The typical supporter of Universal Basic Income seems to be someone with a graduate degree. Most people want to work for their food and shelter. This is something that no side has an answer for and I think there will be hell to pay.
7. Who is going to pay that hell? I am not sure. Suppose Americans loss more jobs because of recession/depression, automation, and other factors during the first Trump term. I can see Trump’s base going further to the ultra-Nationalist and White Identity Right in rage when the jobs that they want don’t come back.
8. Libertarians should be concerned with Number 6 as well.
9. Race/Ethnic Identity seems to be more important than gender.
10. Is there any hope for the Democratic Party? Hillary Clinton did win the popular vote but just barely. I would also say that the anti-immigrant rhetoric can spell doom for the Republican Party. Pete Wilson won with Prop 187 in 1994. However, Prop 187 was eventually declared unconstitutional and the California Republican Party shows no hope of recovery even in the age of Trump. California legalized marijuana, raised income taxes on top earners, and passed gun control in 2016.
11. Sometimes things get worse before they get better. I don’t know how to get around this. Now might be one of those times.
Image by Alex Bellink
- Yes, that acronyms out to “CATO”.