Thursday, November 24, 2016

Shock Election -- The Perfect Storm

Poor Hillary! She wanted it so much, for herself, and for women. Poor us! We wanted it so much for ourselves, for women, for not Trump. Poor us, into the morass, where we will need every ounce of determined optimism we can muster.

This is an election that takes some getting used to. They all do, but this one especially. A decent woman lost to a man who has said terrible things repeatedly, a man with heinous associates. I'm confident of the basic strength of our democratic institutions and our culture – Hitler rose because of German weakness, not necessarily because of the strength of his own thugs – but it is scary, no question. And who knows, maybe Trump will grow in office. It's possible, and believe it or not, I'm hopeful.

It's tempting to be mad at Hillary. She brought on so much of it on herself. But then, so do we all. It is hard to escape oneself. She waged a deficient campaign in 2008, and voilá! – here we were again, misreading, mishearing herself and others with a tin ear. For a pro, you have to wonder – missing the importance of the caucuses in 2008, and not foreseeing the fenestrations of her Blue Wall in 2016. Reproducing the Romney 47% phenomenon with her own Basket of Deplorables, thus cementing the impression of her bubble existence. But as I say, she clearly couldn't help herself. If she coulda, she woulda. Her effort was unrelenting, and she surely got better and better. She did, after all, win a strong plurality of the popular vote.

Of course the explanation for her loss is multifactorial, from misogyny to the Electoral College to Comey to poor messaging to fake news from Macedonian teenagers, etc. I think it could be called a Political Perfect Storm, with every break going the wrong way. And Trump in his way was surprisingly effective.

Now, two weeks out from the Shock Election, the interesting question for me is not not only why it broke for Trump, why the perfect storm happened, but why it got to be so close that it could break for him. I'm looking at two things here – technical analysis of our electoral process, and psychological analysis of the Democratic candidate.

Constitutional Minority Protections

One of the known evils of democracy that the Constitution was careful to avoid is the Tyranny of the Majority (TOM). While we worry currently about minority rights according to identity, the Founders worried about the size of states: Delaware and Rhode Island didn't want to be bullied by larger Virginia and Massachusetts. We are all familiar with the solution of two Senators from every state, the Electoral College, and voting by state if the Presidential election gets to the House of Representatives.

But there is another protection against TOM built into the Constitution which I don't think the Founders thought about. That protection derives from the fact that voting is voluntary and not compelled, as it is today in Australia, for instance. This protection works against a well recognized flaw in straight democracy, the Problem of Intensity. The POI is this: what if 51% of an electorate is kind of against something, but 49% is strongly for it? Wouldn't it be fair for the intense minority to prevail over the shrugging majority? With non-mandatory voting, enthusiasm and turnout is a partial answer to the Problem of Intensity.

Both these protections worked to Trump's advantage in this election; both minorities – small rural states and intense and aggrieved believers – exerted their protections fully. Without them, Trump would not have come close, for as we know, Hillary outpolled Trump by over 2 million, or 1.5% of the popular vote. Hillary piled up votes where they didn't make a difference, and just barely lost in swing states. Trump's combined margin of victory in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania appears to be about 107,000, giving him the Electoral College win. Vanity candidate Jill Stein received 131,000 votes in those same states. What a wonderful result for the virtuous ultra-left, delivering the election to Trump. As I say, it really was a perfect storm.

When the EC was formed, Virginia was 11 times as populous as Delaware. Today, California is 65 times as populous as Wyoming. Unfortunately, it was a couple of bridges too far for the framers to propose a sliding scale for the future, and now it is unrealistic to foresee small states voting themselves less power. If that were indeed possible, however, I would propose a rebalance by stealing a Republican idea for tax simplification and establishing three levels of states depending on population: one Senator, two Senators, or three Senators, which would reform the Senate. For the EC I'd propose a formula that would put a lid at 5 to 1 as the maximum difference allowable in population represented by an Elector. Yes, Wyoming would still be over-represented and California under-represented, but it would be closer. Nice idea. Let's move on.

Non-mandatory voting will also be with us forever. In political theory, voting is the final verdict on policy conflicts, and voting settles who gets what. In fact, though that might be the result, voters hardly think through their votes on that basis. Instead, they vote for visions, hopes, dreams, fears, resentments, delusions, and their own projections and hopes of being taken care of. Or you could say, they vote a feeling of “who gets you,” and “who do you get.”

Because of non-mandatory voting, the key to a Presidential election is turnout, and a key component of turnout is enthusiasm. There are other factors that weight the scales – political machines turn out votes, voter suppression laws are often judged to be legal and are effective, untrammeled political contributions favor the moneyed interests, and older and wealthier citizens are more reliable voters. In effect, non-mandatory voting also helps to protect the interests of the moneyed minority.

But it sure ain't simple. It is by now an American tradition to vote (or choose not to vote) against your economic interest – as in What's the Matter with Kansas (Thomas Frank), where socially conservative voters consistently deny themselves their economic interests in favor of some half-thought out ideology. On the other side, more educated voters vote in favor of raising their taxes (although a case can be made that this is in their enlightened interest.)

In this election, however, the difference of enthusiasm between supporters of each candidate was large, possibly decisive, and enthusiasm turns on the irrational factors cited above. Trump voters in key close states and some key counties decided to come out and vote this time because of the intensity of their feelings, largely that they were being systematically overlooked by the Establishment, and that Trump “got them.” Trump was a hot-button candidate, while Hillary, who would have governed well in prose, could not mount a campaign with sufficient poetry (and a smart enough economic message) to bring out her voters enough in key states and key counties.

Technically, then, this election went to Trump because of minority protections – for smaller states, and for more intense voters. If these minorities were not protected, Hillary would have won handily. Unfortunately, among other characteristics, the protected minority areas that elected Trump have a view of the rightful place for women that would be endorsed by Archie Bunker.

The Election and Hillary's Psychology

It might seem churlish to criticize the campaign of a candidate who won the popular vote handily. Achieving this was no mean task, given the difficulty of any party retaining the Presidency after two terms, and a problematic economy that was poorly explained by Obama – fireside chats would have helped a lot, and would have provided a platform for Hillary to expand on economic efforts, and pivot to rustbelt solutions.

On the other hand, a Democratic victory was there for the taking. Trump certainly seemed to be a weak candidate in so many respects – a boor with very bad manners and hateful things to say, uncivil, with awful taste, unread, self-obsessed, someone who would probably fail a test on basic American government. Who couldn't beat him??

Well, Hillary couldn't, apparently. Trump identified her core weakness and dubbed her “crooked Hillary.” She just didn't have it in her to make a good enough counter-case. Why she couldn't is very interesting to look at, I think.

Besides the Clinton team's obvious campaign malpractice – 2008 redux – I think two personal factors hold the key. The first one is congenital – her personality type. In Myers-Briggs typology, she would probably test out as ISTJ (introverted, sensation, thinking, judging – as opposed to extroverted, intuitive, feeling, perceptive.) The second personal factor is an acquired trait – her apparent cupidity. These long-standing factors were elements of the perfect storm.


Yes, she is not a natural politician, as Bill is, for instance. Natural politicians are generally extroverted feeling types rather than her introverted thinking type. That was probably Al Gore's downfall, too; he came home from parties exhausted from all the people and feelings, while Bill came home energized (and got on the horn to Monica, but that's another story.) Why was it that Hillary, at the exemplary Democratic Convention, gave the weakest speech? She couldn't do otherwise, it was her best effort, but unfortunately voters do not vote for teammates, they vote for the captain. Alas.

She did as well as she did because she is hella smart and works her butt off. In private they say she is nice, even warm, and has a refreshingly ribald sense of humor. But Carl Bernstein sketched cogently in Woman in Charge how she puts up the barricades and protects herself in Hillaryland, just as an introvert tends to do, even one who hadn't been attacked and vilified through the years, producing a protected territory where it seems Cheryl Mills advised her on the email server without outside advice. Insulation breeds trouble.

M-B element two is sensation – a preference for details, the trees – as opposed to intuition – the patterns, the forest. Hillary loves lists – it's just too bad she forgot to add “whites” to her list of the oppressed whom she would “fight for,” a terrible image for a President who needs to be comforting to everyone, by the way. But overall images don't emerge well from lists. Images come from topic sentences, and from feelings, too. But there she was with her “check my website” for her list of thought-through programs. She needed a quick two minute economic plan as well as the policy papers, but she could never trot one out. She needed forest rather than trees, or weeds.

She did her best, and improved steadily, but there is only so much anyone can do with oneself. I'm very impressed by her details and her lethally lawyerly skewering of Trump in the debates, which was delightful, but I don't think I'm typical. People look for image, the overall, and Trump did a better job of this to people who would come out for him, even if the image was at base a Potemkin Village.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but “Stronger Together,” in addition to be clunky, was such a misnomer. By listing all those who she thought were left out and pledging unending battle, she was inadvertently emphasizing divisions. “Fighting for” implies an opponent. Who was the excluded opponent, the inhabitants of Iowa, Ohio, Lakawanna County? It just didn't work. It would have been better to emphasize the better angels of our nature in everyone – and list some ways that white working class people could find some outdoor work, and not be retrained to sit behind a computer, and find some reason to believe in it this time. That's the pivot from the Obama economy she couldn't make.

Hillary is stronger with thinking than feeling. Since both extroversion and feelings are her inferior functions, she finds it hard to convey feelings to crowds. Her tendency is to shout and to urge on rather than to persuade. What she needed to convey to her listeners was,“She gets me.” If only she had read my blog! I suggested a Ron Burgundy strategy, where after or before she hung out with rich donors, she would have dropped in on local news anchors the way Stephen Colbert did in Minnesota. While Trump was tweeting – his feelings rather than his thoughts – she could have taken a new format to connect, and excited people in the process – where will she turn up next? Shoulda coulda woulda. 

Hillary and her crew never really got Trump. They saw crudeness and impudence, but Trump voters thought – I get him! He sounds like us, he's Queens, he's construction yard, he's borscht belt. Doesn't read? Neither do we. Makes stuff up? Creative! Marries a sexy lady? Why not? Grabs pussy – hey, someone in his place can do that. We women in Lakawanna County don't worry about that – if he grabbed my pussy, it wouldn't bother me so much. I know how to protect myself if I have to, and I know what men are like. I'm not highty-tighty like those fancy college ladies who think they're above all that and demand protection. Big shots. They want to compete, we just want to get along. Melania moves up from Slovenia and translates her good looks and big breasts into wealth? Well, I don't resent that – she uses what she's got. If I had what she's got, I'd do the same. I mean, look at her! We can't aspire to what Trump has, but we don't resent it, we are where we are, we just want not to lose ground and to do a little better, and not have those Ivy League tech twits and finance twits flit around and fuck us over. They are assholes; we want people who sound like us. We want our work back.

I wish Hillary had gone back to the Pennsylvania bars where she traded shots with locals during the 2008 campaign – probably would have done her a world of good. Maybe cooling down from that shot session with the local news anchor. Good press! Would have been fun. A little joie de vivre never hurt, did it?


Personality is something we're born with. We can work hard to improve, but we work with what we were born with. On the other hand, there are characteristics we acquire. What Hillary seems to have acquired, with Bill's help perhaps, is cupidity.

On a public policy basis, Hillary did not sell out. She was a reasonable politician seeking a reasonable way to achieve better equality and fairness, and she meant it. She wasn't really hypocritical, I don't think, although it's arguable, and certainly arguable about her supporting cast, all the hangers-on in DC and NYC. But you can't keep going back to what you did in your 20's to prove it. After all, when he was young Joe Lieberman went to Mississippi.

When I was in high school back in the 50's, I used to hang out after school with my friend John at his house and talk to him and his mother over the kitchen table. Née Anna Kleinfelder, his mom grew up in Pennsylvania Dutch country – which would now be Trump country. A nice lady, with the point of view that reflected her girlhood. She told me once that she thought was OK to be a Communist, but if you were one, then you ought to live like a Communist. I guess she meant to live modestly. My thought, although I was too young to express it properly, was that it's not really a moral issue, is it, but a conviction of a just form of government? But that's the way people think. From Anna's point of view, Hillary would have looked like a hypocrite. I always liked Anna.

It's hard to deny Hillary's cupidity, and I wouldn't be surprised to find out that some of it was connected to Slick Willy, the rascal too smart and too undisciplined for his own good, or ours. Or maybe not – I've read about her money worries in Arkansas, worries that he didn't seem to share. But wherever it comes from, people see it, and Republicans make sure that people see it. People understand if in the post-presidency period, they will want to make some money. Not a problem, make some money, make $10 or even $30 million from books and talks and some directorships, and no one will object. But we're talking hundreds of millions with the Clintons. We're talking “that's what they offered” as an excuse, a $17 million sinecure for Bill on some for-profit education company, grabbing money from the King of Morocco, and the Foundation's employing Doug Band the money man (who was a friend of my stepson Brian, who was a White House intern with Doug and Monica.) We're talking about a $650,000 salary for Chelsea at NBC, and a $9.5 million condo for her in New York City. Over the line, gang, over the line. Or if not over, right up there within a couple of millimeters. Hanging out with the like-minded gang in gilded New York charity balls, pictures of hanging out with Trump at his third wedding. And then for the campaign flying from fund raiser to fund raiser with rich people cordoned off from the public. C'mon, Man! Nothing says “You don't get me!” as much as these private actions. Pretty far away from the Obama standard.

To me, the trust issue is right there upfront with cupidity. I'm for the downtrodden, but don't ask me where my money is coming from. Who can trust that? What she could have done, what she should have done, was to head it all off, by taking my advice. She should have given a big speech on her and money, the way Kennedy did with Catholicism in Houston. Bob Reich on the Left thought it was a good idea, and Dan Henninger of the WSJ on the Right thought it was a good idea, but also that she couldn't do it. He was probably right, she is too self-protective. But she should have tried. It really beats me why she didn't read my blog and act on it.

When I bring this up, people object that “Trump is worse.” Of course he is, he is execrable. His business practices are exploitative, he wouldn't show his tax returns, etc. Couldn't be worse. But no one could say he was a hypocrite. He just said, I did it for me, and now I'll do it for you. People don't think deeper than that, many of them. It's the image. And don't forget, a lot of people are trying to decide not between them, but whether or not to vote at all.


In the end, it was very close, could have gone either way. Trump benefitted from enthusiasm, Hillary had trouble ginning it up. I was surprised that in the final days she continued to run the ads that were supposed to be embarrassing for Trump, rather than ads about her vision for the country – but then what was it? As a splitter rather than a lumper, she didn't have the message. She didn't have a two minute economic plan, only long position papers. And so many voters didn't see the Trump crudity as so embarrassing after all.

Maybe the arguably treasonous act of Comey was responsible for the last week, but her whole campaign had given up on much of her upside. I thought she was becoming more and more likable, but maybe that's just me. I always thought that although poetry escaped her, she would govern very well in prose.

I feel so bad for the women. I had dismissed so many women's pleas for Hillary in 2008, preferring Obama. But this year I got it more. My little granddaughter Lola cried on Wednesday morning when she heard. I urged my friend Lynn Sherr, news correspondent, author and long time women's advocate, to write a book called “Tomorrow Is Still Coming, It's Just Going To Be A Little Longer Than We Thought.” But she didn't think it would sell. It's too soon to reignite hope, I guess.

Where do we go from here? Well, let's hope the USA doesn't implode. Among other worries, I'm concerned that Trump's business background will work against him as W's did. If you take risks in business, you just move on, sometimes after declaring bankruptcy. Can't do that with the USA so easily. The experiment in Iraq has proved pretty hard to walk away from.

Other than that, it's goodbye, Clintons, goodbye. I for one will not miss you – too much rubbish with the goods. I hear that the Clintons suppressed the emergence of a viable bench for the Democrats, so the next people in line are still around the corner. All one can say, here's hoping. Maybe the new crop will make common cause with reasonable Republicans (or former Republicans) and form the long sought middle party of America.

So we plunge forward – time runs only one way. Let's hope it is kind to us, if we do our part - which is watching, defending, proposing, and most importantly, learning. Learn, people – don't complain about the lack of solemnity as he builds suspense by parading possibilities into Trump Tower – it's showbiz, people, learn. And new people who rise to the top, please, live nice, but let's keep it within reason. People Magazine will be watching. And so will we, the voters.

Budd Shenkin

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