One of the things that gripes me about the political punditry on the left is how quick they are to say, “Nobody knew. Nobody saw this coming.” They are saying it now about the election of Donald Trump to the presidency. It was unthinkable, so it couldn’t be true. Well, some of us said the unthinkable was something that could happen …
They said nobody saw the insurgency on the left, which drove the rise of socialist Bernie Sanders as a real contender for the Democratic nomination, which I predicted in May, 2015: Hillary Clinton has Bigger Problems Than She Knows ~ Part 1 and Part 2. They said it about the youth insurgency, which helped drive the Sanders campaign into a national challenge, which I predicted in September, 2015: Part 3 And, most recently, they said it about the election of Donald Trump, which I predicted last May, before either major party nominee had been endorsed: Why Trump Will Beat Hillary On Election Day.
I didn’t get all the details right, which is very hard to do when prognosticating. A lot can change in a day in politics and campaigns, not to mention an entire election season. I thought Bernie and his advisors would be smart enough to figure out that the Democratic establishment would do what they had to do to block his nomination and that he’d see that and run as an independent. I got that wrong. The establishment was crafty enough to string him along to the convention. The presidential race, the 2016 election, and the political landscape on November 9 would have been entirely different if he had undertaken an independent bid. He might even have won the presidency. Had he been able to bring Senator Elizabeth Warren onto his ticket, I’m convinced he would have won.
I’ve also gotten a few things entirely wrong. Notably, I predicted in September, 2015 that the US House would pass immigration reform before the year ended: Why Congress Will Pass Immigration Reform This Year. Obviously, that didn’t happen. But when you get something wrong, you admit that you were wrong … except if you’re a widely known pundit who makes his living being smart about politics.
It’s easy to see why guys like Chris Matthews, Chuck Todd, and others will look for self-justification by claiming that “nobody knew.” OK, so an occasional writer for an obscure blog in Minnesota that’s read by a few hundred people might count as “nobody.” I get that. I guess what they really mean is “nobody … who counts.” And that, in a nutshell, is the problem — discounting not only the opinions of political writers in the hinterlands who disagree, but the opinions of voters in the hinterlands who disagree.
However, film-maker Michael Moore is NOT nobody. He’s been involved with the political left as long as I can remember. He has street creds. And he has a national rep.
HE counts. Moore predicted a Trump victory in an article on his blog last July: Five Reasons Why Trump Will Win. He told Business Insider in December, 2015 that “Donald Trump is absolutely going to be the Republican candidate for president of the United States.” And he publicly warned the left on Real Time with Bill Maher and The Rachel Maddow Show not to get too confident, because if we on the left became complacent and too sure that Hillary would win, or if millennials remained peevish about Sanders losing the nomination, then not all of our voters would turn out. And that would spell disaster. That’s exactly what happened and disaster is exactly what we got.
Moore not only predicted Trump would win the Republican nomination, he also predicted a Trump victory at the polls. “Mitt Romney lost by 64 electoral votes,” Moore told Bill Maher on his show Real Time. “The total votes of Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania is … 64. All he has to do is win those four states.” Trump won those four states and with them the presidency.
Moore had concrete reasons why:
“Let’s face it: Our biggest problem here isn’t Trump – it’s Hillary. She is hugely unpopular — nearly 70% of all voters think she is untrustworthy and dishonest. She represents the old way of politics, not really believing in anything other than what can get you elected. That’s why she fights against gays getting married one moment, and the next she’s officiating a gay marriage. Young women are among her biggest detractors … […] And because this election is going to come down to just one thing — who drags the most people out of the house and gets them to the polls — Trump right now is in the catbird seat.” Five Reasons Why Trump Will Win
Moore went on to call out something that few other political pundits ever address — the ESAD vote (think about it), which he called the Jesse Ventura Effect.
“Finally, do not discount the electorate’s ability to be mischievous or underestimate how many millions fancy themselves as closet anarchists once they draw the curtain and are all alone in the voting booth. […] Remember back in the ‘90s when the people of Minnesota elected a professional wrestler as their governor? They didn’t do this because they’re stupid or thought that Jesse Ventura was some sort of statesman or political intellectual. They did so just because they could. Minnesota is one of the smartest states in the country. It is also filled with people who have a dark sense of humor — and voting for Ventura was their version of a good practical joke on a sick political system. This is going to happen again with Trump.” Ibid.
Don’t discount what Moore has to say about that 1998 election. We Minnesotans know that part of Ventura’s success was because his two opponents were an untrustworthy, ambitious political windsock on the right and a gregarious but feckless gadabout on the left. But something never mentioned is the effect of the ESAD vote in electing Ventura. Or, for that matter, in getting Trump the nomination. When voters are in an ugly mood, when they feel they’ve been used, lied to, and marginalized — as they do now — the ESAD vote can be the difference between winning and losing. And the ESAD voter is the most reliable down-ballot voter there is. Primus inter pares.
Consequently, not only did Trump win the presidency, the GOP retained the House and Senate. Now they have a unified government and they can do anything they want: eliminate the ACA, abrogate the nuclear treaty with Iran, slash poverty programs; engage in military brinksmanship with North Korea, China and Russia; deport millions of undocumented workers, privatize Social Security and Medicare, cut taxes on corporations and the über-wealthy, etc. In a word, for at least the next two years, we’re going to see a radical re-organization of our government, our foreign relations, our culture, and our economy. Winter is
What has to happen now is we Democrats have to take a hard look at why our messaging and policies are not resonating with voters. We’re supposed to be the party that is looking out for the interests of wage-earners and the middle-class. But they’re not buying what we’re selling. We can’t simply offer a set of policies that have been focus-tested and expect that X-number of people will flock to our candidates. Voter sentiments and the choices they make in the voting booth don’t work like that.
When we say, “Vote for this levy because the schools need more money”, that sounds rational and reasonable … to us. It doesn’t to a retired couple on a fixed income barely scratching by, whose kids are grown and gone. Instead, we should say, “Vote for this levy because better schools draw more young families into the community, which will boost the value of your home.” Most people have the lions’s share of their wealth tied-up in their home. A $50 a year bump in property taxes doesn’t compare to a $20,000 boost in your home’s value. For some reason, Democrats just don’t get how to couch our arguments in things that touch on what voters care about directly.
“Nobody knew. Nobody saw this coming.” Really? Nobody? There’s enormous danger in thinking you already know everything, that you’re so smart everyone who has a different take can be safely discounted. By ignoring danger signs, you’ll fail to take appropriate counter-measures. It was that arrogance that contributed directly to the epic fail of the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party.