Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Resentment, The Real "R Word"

"If you looked only at the exit polls, you might conclude that 2016 was a "change election,'" Vox's Lee Drutman wrote Tuesday.

Those would be the polls and, at least to some extent President Obama, who on the same day claimed "last I checked, a pretty healthy majority of the American people agree with my worldview on a bunch of things." He suggested that Donald Trump was elected because American voters wanted to "shake things up" much as those in the United Kingdom did by opting for the British to exit the European Union.

Emphasis on polls has spread, even to this Washington Post reporter, who actually believes that the 17% of Trump voters who said they approve of the President were being truthful. He probably believes that a full 56% of the American people approve of the job Obama is doing.

Let's review.  It is now widely and legitimately speculated that there was a significant "silent vote" for Trump, in which voters were afraid to admit to pollsters they were going to vote for him.  Pre-election surveys indicated Hillary Clinton would win a majority of the electoral vote and probably out-poll the Republican by 3-4 points. And that was without including the vaunted Clinton voter turnout operation, which could be expected to add approximately one point to her net advantage.

Clinton fell approximately two-and-a-half points behind what should have been expected, implying that not all likely voters were truthful with pollsters. And yet we are to assume that 55-60% like what President Obama is doing and that a large number of  individuals opting for Trump really are quite satisfied with Obama's job performance.  And it is actually less difficult to fib about supporting the President than it is about one's upcoming vote, because in the latter instance the voter would in fact be acting contrary to  her stated wishes.

Maybe, nonetheless, it was primarily a change election.  Drutman notes,  however, that roughly 50 percent of voters in any election will want change because they want the in party to be thrown out. Moreover

Considerable political science evidence shows that voters pick the candidates they like and then decide on the issues that are important to them based on what the candidate prioritizes. The survey might as well have substituted "Can bring needed change" with "Make America Great Again." It would tell us about as much about what voters actually wanted.

"But," he continues, "there's an even larger problem with the 'change election' narrative," which is

that these same voters who allegedly wanted "change" overwhelmingly sent their career politicians a strong "change" message by reelecting them to Washington. That'll teach them!

Of 393 House incumbents who sought reelection, only five lost in the primaries, and only eight lost in the general election. For those of you keeping score at home, that's 97 percent of incumbents reelected. Only two incumbent senators, Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), lost. And Kirk, a Republican in a deep blue state, was always a long shot to win reelection.

Of 466 seats up in both the House and the Senate, 445 stayed in the same party. Again, for those of you keeping score at home, that's 96 percent of congressional seats staying in the same party.

And once all the votes are counted, Hillary Clinton will have won the national popular vote by only a little less than Barack Obama won it in 2012.

For a so-called "change" election, this is a whole lot of status quo.

There are powerful forces which  want us to believe that Hillary Clinton was rejected by an American electorate which is quite happy with the first black President.  It falls to Henry Louis Gates to explain that the President's

54 percent approval rating was completely undermined by the result of the election. Hillary hitched her wagon to him; she clearly identified herself with Obama. But it didn’t work. There was a shocking amount of resentment that a black family had been in the White House for two terms.

I think it would be naive to overlook it — the irony that one of the legacies of Obama’s presidency was an enormous amount of resentment. And not his fault at all. I don’t think a Donald Trump could have emerged without a black president. Donald Trump tapped into and fueled and stoked an enormous amount of racial resentment. And Obama symbolized it.

As Gates understands, this is only part of the explanation for Trump's victory. However, it is largely ignored because if we were generally to acknowledge it, we would be forced to look inside the American psyche and find things considerably disqueting. As one of Albert Camus' characters put it, "For the plague-stricken their peace of mind is more important than a human life. Decent folks must be allowed to sleep easy o' nights, mustn't they? Really it would be in shockingly bad taste to linger on such details."

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