In a tentative return to posting at Forbes, I drew out the comparisons between Donald Trump and Marion Barry. Those comparisons are more comprehensive than one might expect.
There was ample good news for Democrats in the 2016 results, but without some coherent vision it won’t matter. Clinton was remarkably popular in suburbs everywhere, even across the South and especially in Texas and Georgia. Trump is on track to finish this race with a lower popular vote percentage than Romney, and will possible reach McCain’s level by the time the last ballots are counted in California. Republicans won the generic national Congressional ballot with barely 51%. The last two Republican Presidents will have assumed office while losing the popular vote, finishing with 47% and 46% of the vote respectively.
Just to be clear, I know absolutely nothing about Chris Knight’s politics. For all I know he’s walking around right now with a safety pin on his lapel. That’s not the point. Knight’s music is a unique window into the frustrations of a certain chunk of the white electorate. If you want to understand the emotions that would inspire support for Trump among white voters who could still, potentially, vote for a Democrat, then you should probably become familiar with the music of Chris Knight.
The left loved big government when they felt like they could potentially control it. With the entire central government under the leadership of a radically dangerous figure, maybe we have an opening to consider alternatives.
Let me suggest, however, that we resist the temptation to normalcy. Regardless what we may have done to fight this menace, we all own what happened here. I live in an affluent suburb, insulated from much of what was wrong about the world yesterday. I will still be insulated tomorrow and next week. I have a choice to make about whether to continue that isolation, whether to rest, whether to accept comfort.
No matter how this night ends, we are in for some bitter, miserable years. Apparently the damage we endured from the Bush years wasn’t enough. There’s more pain on the way.
Milgram’s research also suggests that the party will not be able to reform itself. Having purged dissenters and shrunk to a culturally and racially monolithic core, there is simply no force capable of resisting its present dynamics. The party will break and re-organize, or be replaced. How long this will take is anyone’s guess, but the process can be expected to spread instability all across our system.
Politics in a democracy hinges on an openness to understanding, the quest for empathy. As the Trump Whisperers are demonstrating, that quest can go wrong, especially when both understanding and empathy are stunted by cultural distance. Our drive to find common ground can end up legitimizing or even romanticizing toxic ideologies. All values are not equal. Some values deserve to be aggressively marginalized. Some values should inspire more anger than sympathy.
The most depressing message from this election is not that Trump might win. He won’t. What’s truly frightening is that very few Republicans are peeling away from their 2012 voting patterns. The most abhorrent political figure to rise in from our political system, perhaps ever, will inspire a decline in internal Republican support of only about 3-4 percentage points. That tells a terrible story about the weakness of conscience in the face of group pressure. It is a reminder that “it can’t happen here” is a myth.
Perhaps the biggest story of this election is how little impact the video had on the preferences of the vast majority of American voters. Yuck.