An article in this morning’s New York Times argues that Democrats lost the 2016 presidential election because of turnout — theirs, not the Republicans’. In fact, they acknowledge that Trump and Republicans generally benefited from the enthusiasm of their base and political sympathizers. Democrats on the other hand suffered from a turnout gap from their base and sympathizers. I think this is true though it isn’t explained by the Trump phenomenon, The Donald didn’t cause the GOP turnout but was a symptom of it, a symptom, admittedly, whose role was not merely to express but to galvanize the outpouring of mad-as-hell Republicans and those who felt as they did.
Democrats in power overplayed their hand with a series of forced legislative “wins,” including the early “infrastructure” blowout spending package and Obamacare, both of which depended on Democratic super majorities in Congress. Instead of reaching out to the other side Democrats rolled it. Then, when they lost their super majorities in subsequent elections, President Obama, champion of progressives par excellence, simply decided to use the powers of the presidency to do what he could no longer do through the legislature and act without either Congressional agreement or support, even when, under the Constitution, such agreement and support was required. After all, as President Obama was wont to say, elections matter and he had won his — twice.
Being president, he decided — with the agreement of his political colleagues and supporters on the left — was enough. Thus emboldened and insulated by a mainstream media largely in his camp, our most left leaning president in American history simply plowed ahead by executive order to do what a now Republican Congress would not, and to use agency regulatory mandates, insulated from public scrutiny or congressional oversight, even when they effectively altered the legislation they were created to implement, to rule rather than govern.
The result, as many who were not leftwing ideologues could see, was growing disaffection from government, driven by frustration and anger as the sense of political impotence in the face of Obama’s blatant disregard of the Constitution spread across the nation’s hinterlands. Trump, in all his coarse and garish glory, was the result, not the cause of what followed.
Yet Democrats still feign surprise, even shock, that this could have happened, that their candidate promising Obama 2.0 could have been beaten, even if only in the electoral college. Many have yet to consider the possibility that running a democracy by executive fiat, even when you are convinced of your own absolute moral rightness, might not always be the best prescription for winning elections and continuing to call the shots. Now the Democratic dream of remaking the Supreme Court for a generation or more, to enshrine Democratic principles in national law and our cultural norms, looks to be shattered, at least for the moment.
Meanwhile, Republicans’ prospects for achieving a national course correction and governing successfully for the next few years hinge on the mercurial Mr. Trump, now president-elect and waiting to take his oath of office. Will he settle down at last and prove an effective national chief executive and unify a badly divided nation, or will he continue to be the divisive, angry, channeler of resentment and frustration inspired by the left’s political overreach that won him the GOP nomination and the presidency? Will he lose sight of the essential elements a president needs to lead this country successfully as he reverts to twitter type and digs in at Trump Tower where the powerful and would-be powerful of this land now come in steady, deferential pilgrimage to pay homage to the leader-elect of the “Free World”?
Here’s NY Times columnist David Leonhardt on how a man of no little excess and bombast like Donald Trump, could have trumped the hopes of the left and trounced their own anointed candidate Hillary Clinton in an election that surprised nearly everyone and changed the calculus of the two major national political parties. Trump made himself THE avatar of the large segment of the American voting population that found itself reeling from the sense of disempowerment which unfettered leftwing rule by decree from the Oval Office, had produced: