Now What? (Electoral Afterthoughts)

I can’t say it was my favorite birthday ever, or even a particularly good one, but it was an interesting evening. And long.

If you prefer to skip my due diligence — my recap of the races on my ballot and my predictions for them — and scroll down to the heading “Now What?” below, I won’t be hurt. Actually, I won’t even know.

Presidential Race

As I write this, it’s unclear what the final electoral vote totals will be in the presidential race. They say a few races are still too close to call: New Hampshire (probably Clinton), Michigan (probably Trump), Minnesota (probably Clinton), and Arizona (probably Trump). The present totals without these states are 279 for Mr. Trump and 218 for Mrs. Clinton. A win is 270 or better, a majority. If the four states I named go as I indicated, he’ll finish with 306, and she with 232. It’s a resounding victory for Mr. Trump, even though the popular vote totals at the moment seem to have him up by only one-fifth of a percentage point. (See my notes on the Electoral College.)

I predicted a Trump victory, but I’m surprised to see Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and Michigan (if it goes that way) all behind him. I probably shouldn’t be, given that much of his appeal is to people in Rust Belt states. I anticipated a lower African-American turnout for Mrs. Clinton than for President Obama in the past two elections; how could it not be lower? And I expected a lot of new voters and otherwise-unlikely voters, whom the polls simply miss, to turn out for Mr. Trump. That happened too.

I’ll blog about Evan McMullin later; he didn’t win Utah — which would have been interesting.

What does the presidential result mean? Probably not the end of history. I take it, combined with the House and Senate results, as a repudiation of President Obama’s policies and their effects.

Other Races

In what has to be one of the least significant metrics in any election, I did quite well in my predictions.

Mike Lee kept his US Senate seat by a wide margin. Better still, the Republicans lost only a seat or two, maintaining a small majority. That was my key result for the evening, no matter who won the White House. It’s not a veto-proof or filibuster-proof majority, so we’ll see some gridlock, most of which will probably be a good thing. I’m hoping Mr. Trump’s protectionism and xenophobia will mostly be filtered out by the Senate.

Jason Chaffetz kept his House seat by a mile or so; as I predicted, his opponent, Stephen Tryon, got a lower percentage of the vote (25%) than Mike Lee’s opponent, Misty Snow (27%). Governor Gary Herbert kept his job, and the other Utah state offices went Republican too, as did Utah Senate and Legislature races on my ballot and the lone Utah County Commission race. No surprises here at all.

Utah Constitutional Amendments A and B passed, as I predicted. So did the $387 million Alpine School District bond issue. I predicted it would get 70% of the vote, but it only got 68%.

My only miss was Utah Constitutional Amendment C. It failed; I predicted it would pass.

Now What?

Mr. Trump’s acceptance speech was more devoted to thanks than to policy, which was gracious and refreshingly unselfish. He congratulated Mrs. Clinton on a hard-fought race and praised her outsized tenacity (my words) and long years of service to the country. He talked about the nation coming together, and of meaning to be president for all the people, not just the ones who voted for him. I particularly liked his expressions of gratitude for the Secret Service and for the NYPD, who were out in force to facilitate both candidates’ “victory” parties in Manhattan.

In the wee hours of the morning, we still didn’t have a clear result and didn’t know when we would, so the Clinton campaign said they’d have nothing official to say until morning. An hour or so later, as soon as the result was clear, Mrs. Clinton did call Mr. Trump to concede and to congratulate him. Her concession speech came this morning, and that’s fine.

Home from work with a cold, I was able to watch her entire speech live this morning, just before 10 a.m. Mountain Time. It was more formal than Mr. Trump’s, and she’s better at that than the victor is.

In fact, you need to watch this speech or read it, or both. I have worked as a speech writer, and despite the dramatic political differences between me and her, I would have been proud to write every word of that speech — and she delivered it well.

It was class, dignity, grace, honor.

And here I need to do some Monday morning quarterbacking in service of my point. It was a visionary speech, an eloquent declaration of an unmistakably American vision. If the voters at large had seen a campaign that was anything like that speech, it would have been a victory speech. Some of the voters she repelled, and some who stayed home, she would have inspired instead.

She sounded more presidential in that speech that either candidate did at any point in the debates.

So watch the speech. Read the speech. See how it’s done.

Whether a concession speech will make any difference in the tenor of our self-government in coming months is an open question, but one does what one can on the morning after.

Waking up the day after Election Day with a president-elect I don’t want is a familiar experience. (There was no chance of any other result this time; I didn’t vote for either of them.) But the republic lives on, as it would have with the other result. And as we would have with the other result, we have lots of work to do. Much of it won’t be easy or pretty, but it’s honorable work — work worthy of self-governing citizens.

New Predictions

Wall Street will be jittery through the inauguration, then start to settle down toward wherever it was already headed anyway. Mr. Trump can help this process by naming stellar, trusted people to key cabinet and other positions. His appointments will give us all a good early sense of how he means to govern, so he needs to get them right. And I’m trusting Congress (an odd combination of words) to block protectionist measures and other really bad ideas.

A lot of the extra-legal executive legislation of the past eight years will be reversed, against loud protests from the factions who benefit by it. I expect the abusive practice to continue, however, as Mr. Trump replaces President Obama’s fiats with some of his own. And we’ll see a flurry of such activity, as well as pardons, from President Obama in the next several weeks.

I expect that President Obama will show more dignity and respect for the office than the last departing Democrat did — by not making off with the furniture, by not allowing his people to vandalize the West Wing on their way out the door, etc. (By the way, the thing where the outgoing Clinton administration removed the w‘s from White House keyboards in advance of George W. Bush’s arrival was just funny. I’m on board with pranks at that level. It was clever and surely cost far less than the inevitable new drapes for the East Wing.)

The Democrats will feed on themselves for a while, trying to figure out how they got themselves a candidate who couldn’t even beat Donald Trump. The energy — but probably not the big victories — probably will be found in the more radical Bernie Sanders wing of the party. One way or another, the Democrats will probably be stronger than the GOP four years hence.

The Republicans will struggle with their collective identity for some time, especially if Mr. Trump tries to govern as he campaigned.

Will the GOP become the party of the alt-right and other disenfranchised angry people — in which case it may never win another national election — or will it gradually become again a home for millions of conservatives who now feel homeless, and for moderates who won’t move far enough left to be modern Democrats? Or will the Democrats tack toward the center to pick up refugees from the Trump party, and push what’s left of the latter into obscurity for decades to come?

I don’t know.

Will a new conservative party arise, a common-sense movement that eclipses the GOP and eats into the orphaned right wing of the Democratic Party? I think it may be time for that.

Meanwhile, ObamaCare will not be repealed wholesale — not without a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. But with smart work on both sides of the aisle, if we can get it, some of the really bad and foolish things in it might be replaced, and some of the sensible things in it preserved. It will change enough that opponents will be able to boast of its repeal, and proponents will report that they were able to save some of the essentials against impossible odds.

Supreme Court nominations will be difficult but probably possible. They will not go far to the right but will likely stay right of center.

One thing to watch will be the fate of Mike Lee in the Senate. Will there be backlash against him for not supporting Mr. Trump? (For example, he could lose his place on the Judiciary Committee, despite being a perfect, obvious fit there.) Or will they put his superb mind and knowledge — and developing political skills — to work fixing what can be fixed across the aisle, such as ObamaCare?

Efforts to foment racial violence against the police will fade somewhat, not completely, without a sympathetic and encouraging White House and Justice Department — unless the new president overreacts against them.

Senate Democrats will resume all the practices they squawk about when the Republicans engage in them, such as filibusters. On some pet Trump issues they will be joined by some Republicans, I expect. I’m okay with that.

If it becomes impossible not to indict Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Trump will, if he’s wise, work very hard to convince the nation and his own party that the right thing to do is pardon her — not because she’s innocent, but because closing wounds instead of enlarging them is good for the country.

Pollsters will try to figure out not what went wrong with their predictions — I think we probably already know that — but how to factor in such things in the future. It’s a thorny problem and a moving target.

I didn’t vote for Mrs. Clinton, but it’s only a matter of time before a female presidential candidate emerges for whom I can happily vote. I don’t much care about the president’s gender, but if you want a female president for the sake of having a female president, yesterday’s result merely delays, not ends, your hopes. No major party had ever nominated a woman to be president before this summer, and this one may have won the popular vote. (They’re claiming that, but the jury’s still out. It’s very close.) These are big steps.

Call me naive, but I don’t think she lost because she’s a woman.

And sometime soon, we should talk about more women getting more involved in politics at every level and across the political spectrum. We need that.

Finally, like these notes, our political attention will be focused inward, on domestic matters, until — as always seems to happen — events beyond our borders command our broader attention.

As for Us Little People . . .

This would be a great time for all of us to forget the personal animosities we felt and either expressed or resisted during the campaign, towards those who felt and thought differently and declared their intentions to vote accordingly. Let’s try assuming the best of our neighbors, not the worst. Let’s be more than coldly civil; let’s be neighbors.

Let’s be calm, helpful, comforting neighbors especially to those among us who think that the end of history has arrived for the nation, for themselves personally, or for people like them, whatever that means.

If compassion comes with difficulty, consider this. A lot of people have never been so engaged in a presidential race before, either because they’re young or because previous elections didn’t seem that big a deal. The rest of us can help not only by modeling for them the equanimity with which seasoned (jaded?) citizens approach political victories and defeats, but also by reaching out and pulling troubled souls into our own circles of calm.

Even if we’re partly faking the calm.

As always, the news is not all good, and it’s not all bad. Things have been better, and things have been far worse. The sun came up this morning, right on schedule. We are still Americans. We still have work to do, good people with whom to do it, and political and other spaces in which to do it.

Thanks for reading.

2 thoughts on “Now What? (Electoral Afterthoughts)”

  1. Alison Hutt says:

    Thanks, David. Trump was a suprise for me; When you mentioned how you thought things would go yesterday, I was taken aback and very thoughtful. I was suprised how many states swung Republican.

    I heard a pollster interviewed this morning say this: The secret sauce of American Democracy is we give the winner a clean slate. This makes us different from so many other countries who rise up in revolution and coup when they don’t like the results. It may be something that keeps others from successful democracies. I hope we as a nation can remember this and make it a value. Not that we sit back and accept whatever is done–we still need to make our voices heard throughout the year–but we must accept that this was what the nation voted for and we have agreed to move forward with that result.

    Thanks, as always for your eloquent and thoughtful words. I will take a listen to Clinton’s speech from this morning.

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