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If you want to get a proper sense of the significance of what happened yesterday, just look at the vote in Washington DC. In our nation’s capital, according to Real Clear Politics, Hillary Clinton won 92.8% of the vote and Donald Trump, 4.1%. Sure, DC is a heavily African-American city, and black Americans are loyal Democratic voters. But there are plenty of non-black Americans in the town, and they now form a majority. What this means is that our political class and their minions were united against the man — and this was, in fact, the stance of our business elite as well. None of the CEOs of the top 100 corporations gave his campaign a dime, and no major newspaper endorsed the man.
I can remember back in 1980 when Ronald Reagan came to DC. His arrival and the formation of a new administration was like the arrival in a country of a foreign army. The Donald’s takeover will be an even more dramatic event. It will be as if William Jennings Bryan had won in 1896. The only analogue that I can think of is the inauguration of Andrew Jackson. But he had already had a long career in public life — most notably, as the general victorious at the Battle of New Orleans and as a United States Senator. Trump has no such pedigree — though, like Jackson, he is a hero to the excluded.
When I wrote a blog post entitled Likelihoods on the eve of the election, I echoed the common wisdom, pointing to Mrs. Clinton’s lead in the polls, but I also noted the IBD/TIPP polls — the most accurate in 2012 — which had her up 1% in a two-way race and Trump up 2% in a four-way race, and I pointed to a number of intangibles — some favoring her, and one, having to do with “shame,” possibly favoring him: “Ronald Reagan, throughout his career, outperformed the polls by ca. 5%. There were lots of people who would not admit that they supported him who nonetheless voted for him in the end.”
It was this last imponderable that decided the election. Here, in Michigan, Barack Obama beat John McCain by 16% in 2008, and he beat native Michigander Mitt Romney by 9% in 2012. This year, if The Detroit News can be trusted, Trump won a plurality, beating out Clinton by 13,255 votes (.3% of the total). There was, as everyone expected, a drop-off in the African-American vote, but there was also a dramatic shift, like that of the so-called Reagan Democrats in 1980, on the part of working stiffs all over the state. Something similar happened in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Although Trump may be wealthier than Romney, there is a warmth to the man and a down-to-earth quality that his predecessor lacked. Trump reminded these people of the folks with whom they worked. Romney reminded them of the snob in the central office who has no sympathy for their concerns. Although technically not a WASP, he exemplified the emotional reticence for which that tribe is infamous. It is a shame because Romney is a thoroughly decent man and would have been a good president.
Some good will almost certainly come out of this election. It does not matter whether Rudy Giuliani or Chris Christie is made Attorney General. There will be a move to clean up that cesspool of irresponsible partisanship. I am confident that there will also be a purge at the Internal Revenue Service and that whoever takes over the State Department will see to the elimination of those who averted their gaze while Hillary Clinton broke the law.
Under Barack Obama, the federal appeals courts have become partisan tools — denying states the right to outlaw party-line voting and to require that voters present photo IDs. Under Donald Trump, I am confident that the courts will be reined in and that a great deal will be done to restore the rule of law. The integrity of the voting process should now be made a major concern.
I am hopeful also that whoever is appointed Secretary of Education will see to it that the practice of running kangaroo courts on our campuses, pressed on our colleges and universities by the Obama administration, will be brought to an end. Rape charges should be referred to the civil authorities, and those accused of lesser forms of sexual misconduct should receive fair hearings and be given due process.
In other spheres, Trump is apt to be a wild card. If he really is an anti-free trade zealot, he will do us some harm — though I suspect that Congress will get in the way if he is intent on abrogating existing agreements. The Chamber of Commerce has not lost its leverage on the Republicans in Congress.
On immigration, all that Trump really has to do is to enforce the existing laws, to beef up the border patrol, and to put pressure on Mexico to stop aiding and abetting the subversion of its neighbor. In effect, that country has been at war with us for some time, and we have the means for making things exceedingly uncomfortable for Mexico. They accept no illegal immigrants, and it is in their power to block transit.
The one area where I think there are real grounds for fear is foreign policy. Trump knows next to nothing about that field, and he is — to say the least — historically ill-informed. The isolationism of the post-World War I period was purchased at a terrible cost, and a turn away from our alliance system now would only strengthen those who would like to see to our decline. Thanks to the deliberate negligence of Barack Obama, the NATO alliance is unraveling, and our system of alliances in the Pacific is similarly coming apart — as the Russians and Chinese become ever more belligerent. If Trump picks John Bolton as Secretary of State, he will put us on the right path. If he picks Newt Gingrich or Bob Corker, as some suppose he may, I do not know where we will end up.
In general, if the speculation linked above is at all correct, Trump seems inclined to hand out posts to loyal supporters. If that is the principle criterion, his administration is almost certain to flounder. People unfamiliar with the Washington bureaucracies often fall captive to the civil servants on their staffs. Ronald Reagan arrived in Washington with a cadre of experienced people who thought as he did. Donald Trump is a far less thoughtful man, and his buddies may turn out to be cut from the same cloth. If one wants to get things done in a city profoundly hostile to one’s Presidency, one will need a troop of like-minded subordinates intent on reorienting the government.