Observations on an Election

Published: November 10, 2016

By Jim Lichtman
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While the results of Tuesday night’s stunning upset – by a man who has never served an elected office – will be analyzed and parsed for months and years to come, here are some observations, both general and ethical.


– The vast majority of pollsters and media, armed with the latest technology, did not come close to getting it right.

“Several months of polls,” USA Today writes (Nov. 9), “pegged Hillary Clinton as the leader in the polarizing race and as the leader in many key battleground states.

“But Trump’s surge crushed the conventional wisdom among pollsters. Early Wednesday, he was far outpacing projections across the board.

“The results suggest pollsters may have wildly underestimated the number of hidden Trump voters — people who stampeded to the ballot box on Election Day but never showed up on the radar of surveyors.

“There was one notable exception among pollsters.

“The Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California tracking poll consistently pegged Trump as the leader throughout the final months of the campaign — and to much derision from political pundits.”

– While many traits of Hillary Clinton have worked successfully for her in the past, the biggest piece of baggage she could not overcome was her own hubris, as Cultural Studies Analyst Jamie O’Boyle emphatically reminded me the next day. And he’s right.

Former pollster and founder of Zogby Analytics John Zogby writes (Nov. 9), “Mrs. Clinton was not done in by Benghazi, by her emails, or by FBI Director James Comey. She made them all possible. There would have been no Comey had there not been questions. And there would not have been questions if she wasn’t always trying to bend the rules in her own favor. They were the result of her own actions.

“Donald Trump won,” Zogby continues, “because he was the first serious candidate in the past 25 years to address the rage felt by a white middle class that feels it has lost ground. Financially, they are troubled not only by lost jobs but by lower buying power, a fear of losing their status as middle class, and a growing sense that their children are no longer an outlet for their hopes. In fact, they see that their kids may even do worse.

“Trump’s bombast was demagogic and he clearly positioned himself as someone who could game the machine while at the same time exposing how easy it has been for a billionaire to use the corrupt ‘system’ to his advantage. His red baseball cap said it all to a willing and jaded group of constituents – ‘Make America Great Again’ – meaning he was ready to address wages, jobs overseas, battle immigration that was threatening the very existence of white America, and talk tough to our adversaries overseas.”

– Civility took the worst political and social beating of perhaps the last 50 or 60 years.

From an ethical standpoint, Donald Trump didn’t just cross the line, he obliterated it over and over again from speeches he gave to hungry supporters who regularly chanted, “Lock her up!” to angry and flippant tweets he sent out at 3:00 am.

While there undoubtedly is white working-class outrage throughout the country toward politicians who are more interested in being re-elected than in helping the people they were sent to Washington to help, their rage was just as clearly stoked by an individual who is not only a member of the billionaire class, but was willing to say and promise anything to get their attention.

Clearly, Trump demonstrated little responsibility for the consequences of his words or respect in choosing those words. At most every turn in this campaign, Trump demonstrated a total disregard for basic ethical values.

Honesty – Trump maintained the highest level of factually incorrect statements, according to several different fact-checkers, than any candidate in recent history. Even when informed of an error, Trump continued to lie.

Promise-keeping, Fairness – This remains to be seen. However, his promises to build a wall and have Mexico pay for it, and to temporarily bar Muslims from entering the country not only encourages intolerance to those with different religious beliefs, but the ban also cuts to the heart of procedural fairness from a constitutional standpoint.

Responsibility – Trump never apologizes for anything (Correction: He did apologize, in a late-night video, for the words he used in the Access Hollywood video). Trump maintains that the 11 women who came forward and validated his predatory behavior toward them, after the release of an Access Hollywood video that had Trump’s own voice bragging about it, were all lies created by the media.

While Trump pulled off “the most incredible political feat I have seen in my lifetime,” as Paul Ryan said, that achievement came at a deep price not only to the state of future political dialogue but ordinary daily conversation.

How are parents going to explain to their kids that it’s wrong to use dismissive, derisive, humiliating language when Trump got away with it time and time again?

“Well, it worked for Donald Trump!” I can hear some kid respond to a parent.

Nonetheless, I am willing give Mr. Trump the opportunity to turn the page and show us some of that compassion and simple, human kindness that Mike Pence and others have so often said he demonstrates.

While I echo Hillary Clinton’s sentiment that we owe Mr. Trump “an open mind and the chance to lead,” Matt Osubor, in a letter to The New York Times, carries the most direct and hopeful appeal of all.

“To say the least, this election cycle has not been the most ideal introduction for a first-time voter like me. Nevertheless, as a proud young American, I have complete faith in our nation’s ability to move forward — regardless of the bleak outcome on Tuesday.

I implore Donald Trump to restore a sense of unity to our polarized and vitriolic political and social realms. I implore Mr. Trump to act in a way that fosters pride in the political system of our country, especially for the sake of my generation. And, lastly, I implore Mr. Trump to keep the promise that he made to the American public at the G.O.P. convention in July to be a compassionate head of state for all citizens. Godspeed!”

Let’s hope you’re listening, Mr. President-Elect.


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