What so many thought unthinkable takes place at noon on Friday, Jan. 20, when Donald Trump is sworn in as the nation’s 45th president. How did it happen and why did every pollster and just about every legitimate news source get it wrong? What do we do now?
Are there that many ‘deplorable’ Americans or just so many who have lost all faith in government? So many who are scared of the future and how they fit into this new world? How did someone with so little experience convince voters he could be president and demolish 16 other candidates in the Republican primary? Then go on — despite losing the popular vote by three million — to win the Electoral College and defeat the most experienced candidate ever to run by about 80,000 votes in three crucial states?
Many pontificators suggest Hillary’s campaign should have sent her to Wisconsin and Michigan suggesting they took votes for granted. But the campaign had the same polls as everyone else and not even Donald Trump, on the morning of Nov. 8, thought he would win.
Trump won because of a series of events, actions, sexism, fear and economic reality conspiring to defeat Hillary. I don’t think extra visits to Wisconsin would have helped. Those voters made up their minds at the last minute and were willing to believe in Trump’s call for change and lies about Hillary and how he would do things while Hillary wouldn’t lie to them.
While President Obama is personally popular he was rarely able to transfer his popularity to anyone else. Case in point is Wisconsin, which has seen a sharp Democratic decline. The Obama years politically have seen “his party’s historic slide at other levels of government in Wisconsin. Democrats lost a U.S. Senate seat (Russ Feingold’s) and U.S. House seat (Dave Obey’s) in 2010. They also lost the governor’s office and both chambers of the Legislature that year. They failed twice to oust Gov. Scott Walker (in 2012 in a recall and 2014 re-election) and came out of the 2016 election with their fewest state Senate seats since the 1970s and their fewest state Assembly seats since the 1950s.”
Obama is unquestionably a great president but has overseen the decline of the Democratic Party across the nation. Many blame this on his lack of support for, and lack of interest in, the Democratic National Committee. Instead he formed his own organization, Obama for America.
There was Russian hacking with the intention of harming Hillary’s campaign, which we are only now hearing the extent of. FBI Director Comey’s outrageous handling of the Clinton email issue from his inappropriate remarks when announcing she didn’t do anything illegal to his reopening the discussion just days before the election with his letter to Congress only to announce days later there was nothing there. Now there will be an investigation into how he mishandled this.
There was the media’s fascination with Trump. They refused to hold him accountable for his lies until the very end of the campaign when they suddenly woke up to what was happening. But by the end of the campaign “Trump earned the equivalent of more than $5 billion in free advertising.”
Clinton was in a no-win situation. She could either fully embrace Obama or run against his administration of which she was a part. She did the right and smart thing and embraced it. That left no room to become a change candidate and after eight years of Obama enough people were looking for change to make a difference. The people who ended up voting for Trump in Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, and the middle of Pennsylvania wanted change. The great economic advances Obama oversaw hadn’t reached them. Hillary couldn’t embrace Obama’s economic gains and then attack him at the same time. The closest she came was saying, “Under Obama we learned to walk again, now we have to learn to run.”
Whatever the reasons, Trump will be president. A president who thinks nothing of attacking a civil rights icon and this generation’s most venerated actress. A president who has yet to figure out those attacks make him look petty and small.
We must stand together, be vigilant and willing to call out the administration whenever needed. First, we march on Saturday. Then we mobilize state-by-state, rebuild the Democratic Party, and as a unified force fight for our Democracy. We shall overcome!
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.