A few scattered reactions to the election…
First of all, I am wondering (along with everyone else) how the polls could have gotten this so wrong. The straightforward answer is that two or three percentage points is a standard margin of polling error, and that was essentially the difference. The more complex answer is that polling has become much more difficult than it used to be.
Second, I’m very disappointed by the lack of reflection and self-examination on “both” sides. As a libertarian (or classical liberal) who is skeptical of democratic process (as I’ve outlined here and here), I was disgusted but not surprised by the two choices of the major parties. Who ever was going to win on Tuesday, I (and those who care about liberty) would lose. Nearly every criticism leveled at the major-party candidates by “the other side” was valid, and neither is fit to hold presidential office, in my opinion.
But I was very disheartened at the lengths to which both sides went to defend their candidate as “better than the other guy/gal.” Clinton supporters derided Trump for his disgusting behavior and comments towards women, but ignored the role that Hillary played in covering up her husband’s sexual abuse of power during his time as governor and president. Trump’s supporters were the ones who said, “Character matters,” when Clinton was being impeached. How can Clinton supporters justify voting for a candidate who believes it’s OK to tear eight-month-old fetuses apart in the womb, and to use taxpayer dollars to do it? How can Trump supporters actually believe that this “Johnny-come-lately” to the pro-life cause (he was a pro-choice Democrat who supported Planned Parenthood) would actually be the principled ally that he claims he will be? I could multiply examples of this phenomenon, but the lesser of two evils is still evil.
Third, I’m concerned about Trump’s coming abuse of executive power. Bush and Obama have expanded the power of the presidency, even while Congress and SCOTUS have lost their political nerve to place any check on executive actions. There’s always a lot of talk about “federalism” and “reigning in executive power” when the other team is in the White House, but not much reflection when “my guy” is in there. Reason has a great piece entitled, “Trump Gives Victory Speech, Liberals Rediscover Appeal of Limited Government.” Republicans need to reflect on the state of the politics after eight years of Democratic executive abuse of authority, and remember that a tyrant in a red robe instead of a blue robe is still a tyrant.
Fourth, I’m weary of the melodrama among the media and other progressive elites who are treating this as some major setback for women, minorities, LGBTQ+ people, etc. It all seems quite over the top. Have little girls really had their dreams crushed because a woman didn’t win (sorry, Leslie–luv ya, though)? Do little boys actually look to the president as their example of how to treat women? Was Clinton finally going to succeed in solving problems of poverty and racial disparity, where Obama “failed”? C’mon, now. Most of the people who voted for Trump are not racist/misogynist/xenophobic/homophobic, but rather supported him because they (mistakenly, IMO) think his policies will lead to economic growth. If your self-worth and personal decisions are determined by who is president, you need to rethink your life.
OK, rant over. So, where do we go from here? Fortunately, it’s not all bad.
First off, we can all agree that it’s a good thing that the president does not have sole power over government, business, law, and the economy. Whether your team won or lost on Tuesday, we still got up and went to work and school on Wednesday, and we will do so on January 21 as well. I’m always looking to convince people that voting is a relatively insignificant civic action, in comparison to the other things we do for and with others in our society: peaceful trade, involvement in institutions (religious, civil, educational, etc.), and care for our families and neighbors. Neither Trump nor Clinton is so powerful as to fix or ruin all these institutions or abrogate those more important civic responsibilities.
Second, I’m glad that Trump will get to appoint at least one and perhaps two or three Supreme Court justices. We don’t know for sure, but at least there is a chance that he would appoint justices committed to textualism–whereas we can be certain that Clinton would appoint justices that would further undermine constitutional protections of freedom.
The danger is that Trump (and the conservatives in his ear) might mistake judicial restraint for judicial deference. When I was first becoming politically aware, conservatives were decrying “activist judges” who “legislated from the bench.” But judges, as the non-democratic branch of government, need to actively engage and overturn the will of the majority when it infringes the rights of the minority. What we have now, unfortunately, is a Chief Justice who defers to the political branches when he should overturn.
For an interesting take on Trump and SCOTUS, read Ilya Shapiro’s piece from Wednesday.
Finally, Scripture and the witness of history teach us two things: God is in control, and things have been a lot worse. Trump is as self-aggrandizing, vulgar and ignorant as Clinton is corrupt and wicked–yet the USA and other nations have survived much more ignorant, prideful, wicked rulers in the past.
There are many things still wrong with America, that neither Clinton nor Trump had any inclination (or probably ability) to fix. On the economic side, there is Obamacare, tax reform, entitlements, and burdensome licencing restrictions (to name a few). On the civil liberties side, there is the failed drug war, immigration restrictions, civil forfeiture, mandatory minimums, police and prosecutorial misconduct.
It is left to individuals to choose to make things better.
Lest we be too optimistic, here’s a hilariously-written, pessimistic take on the GOP by noted Trump critic, George Will.
At the end of the day, maybe we should simply have put an average, industrious American couple in charge: 7 Reasons To Give America To Chip And Joanna Gaines After Tuesday.