Against all the predictions of the pundits, pollsters and polling groups, Donald Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States. Well except one, that is from my alma mater – University of Southern California, Los Angeles.
For much of the year, the 2016 USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Presidential Election Poll—designed to track changes in voter opinions throughout the campaign, using what experts called a unique and more complex weighting model—behaved as a quirky outlier. It pointed all along to a Trump victory on the magnitude that came to pass last Tuesday night. The poll was set up differently than other major polls.
Roughly 3,000 respondents were recruited into a panel that used an unusual method of “micro-weighting” to reflect the overall voter population. The poll was conducted by dipping back into this same pool of people each time. This may have created a more stable baseline from which to detect shifts in voter preference. The USC poll design allowed respondents to assign themselves a probability, from zero to 100, of their voting for either candidate. This approach, rather than simply asking for a concrete voting preference, may have allowed the poll to be more precise in detecting shifts in sentiment. The USC poll’s results also were weighted based on how people said they voted in 2012—an approach that experts criticized on the basis that many people misstate or misremember how they voted in the past. USC’s Arie Kapteyn believes it is critical for pollsters to cover every part of the population, which most online polls are unable to do, and, importantly, to have a good model of who is actually going to vote—something sorely missing ahead of Tuesday night.
Kudos to the University of Southern California for a good job showing once again the power of good sampling in such polling studies! (My father who lives in Bangladesh was also right in his prediction. His logic was very simple: Americans would prefer a change after two terms of Obama.)
The media played a critical role in creating President-elect Donald Trump. The Tyndall Report, which tracks how much airtime different issues and candidates receive on the major news networks, summarized media coverage of the candidates in 2015. Donald Trump received 327 minutes, or close to one-third of all the campaign coverage, at a time when he had 16 Republican challengers. “ABC World News Tonight” aired 81 minutes of reports on Donald Trump, compared with just 20 seconds for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, according to Tyndall. On March 15, 2016, after the primary day dubbed “Super Tuesday 3,” the networks played all the candidates’ speeches, except for the speech by Sanders. The networks actually spent more time showing Trump’s empty podium, filling the time until he spoke, than playing any words of Sanders’, who addressed the largest crowd that night.
Earlier this year, CBS CEO Les Moonves told a Morgan Stanley-hosted media-industry conference, speaking about the volume of political advertising that the “circus” of Trump’s campaign was attracting: “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS. … The money’s rolling in.” Professor Noam Chomsky says, “The media manufacture consent.”
The media analysts, prognosticators and pollsters are now at a loss to explain why they were wrong to predict the election outcome. They are offering “mea culpas” to explain the failure of their ‘scientific’ methods. They imagined that Obama’s high approval rating (above 50%) in his last year of presidency plus good news about job creation (approx. 10 million in the last 8 years), let alone Trump’s obscenity would gravitate most voters towards Mrs. Clinton, who happened to be more qualified than anyone in history who ran for the job. That simply did not happen!
Looking back, it should be obvious that the Democratic Party’s Achilles Heel was its near-complete failure to prioritize the issues of economic inequality, jobs, and the aiding of America’s working class, middle class, and poor. Based on the New York Times’ exit polling data, (1) 79 percent of voters who agreed that the condition of the nation’s economy is “poor” voted for Trump, while 55 percent of those feeling it was merely “fair” did the same; (2) 78 percent of those saying their “family financial situation” is “worse today” than in the past voted for Trump; (3) 65 percent of those who said the “effects of trade with other countries” has been to “take away jobs” voted for Trump.
How could the Democrats failed to hear those voices of dissatisfaction with job and trade? For decades, most trade unions supported the Dems, but not this time. Trump was able to exploit those anxieties of ordinary White American workers to his advantage. He presented himself as a successful businessman who knew how to solve all those problems, esp., how to keep jobs in the USA for ordinary American workers – and not some illegals coming from the south who have been ‘stealing’ jobs. To his mesmerized believers, Trump’s deception of many contractors and workers who worked for his real estate was only a matter of distant past!
According to the Academy Award-winning filmmaker Michael Moore (director of the new film, Michael Moore in Trump Land) when Donald Trump came to the Detroit Economic Club and stood there in front of the Ford Motor executives and said, “If you close these factories, as you’re planning to do in Detroit, and build them in Mexico, I’m going to put a 35 percent tariff on those cars when you send them back, and nobody is going to buy them,” it was an amazing thing to see. “No politician, Republican or Democrat, had ever said anything like that to these executives,” Michael Moore said. “And it was music to the ears of people in Michigan and Ohio and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin—the Brexit states. If you live here in Ohio, you know what I’m talking about. Whether Trump means it or not is kind of irrelevant, because he’s saying the things to people who are hurting. And it’s why every beaten-down, nameless, forgotten working stiff who used to be part of what was called the middle class loves Trump. He is the human Molotov cocktail that they’ve been waiting for, the human hand grenade that they can legally throw into the system that stole their lives from them.”
Furthermore, the billionaire Trump was able to portray Clinton not only as a ‘corrupt’ career politician who failed to better the lives of ordinary White Americans but also as the ultimate symbol of Wall Street power and greed — the ‘crooked’, ‘nasty’ lady who would even ‘sell’ the White House to the highest bidder. The leaked emails and FBI Director James Comey ultimately sealed the fate of Hillary Clinton. [On Friday, Comey sent a letter to congressional Republicans suggesting more emails had been discovered “that appear to be pertinent to the investigation” of Hillary Clinton’s private email server. This was 11 days before the election. Nine days later, he stated publicly that the emails offered nothing new. Early voting was happening during those nine days, with Hillary Clinton under the cloud of potential renewed FBI investigation. According to Business Insider, 24 million votes were cast during this period. We may never know how many votes Clinton might have lost as a result of that FBI intervention.]
Clinton could neither regain the election momentum nor the people’s trust. She was not exciting enough for her supporters to vote for.
In hindsight, Senator Sanders would have been a better candidate to field against Trump. He did not have the ‘baggage’ carried by Clinton.
According to Lehigh University’s Anthony Dimaggio, “Trump’s victory was just as much about the Democratic Party’s implosion as it was about the triumph of Trump’s “outsider” political campaign.” Because of the poor (i.e., less than 50%) approval rating of the presidential candidates, many voters chose not to cast their vote, and some voters voted for other (e.g., Green or Libertarian) candidates. Less than half the eligible voters casted their votes in 2016, once again showing that democracy is losing its charm in the USA.
For Clinton to win, the Democratic Party needed massive turnout of its supporters. But that did not happen. Despite significant U.S. population growth from 293 million in 2004 to 325 million by 2016, total voter turnout for both the parties was lower than previous years. The Democratic Party’s total votes received for presidential candidates fell from a high of 69.5 million in 2008, to 65.9 million in 2012, down to 59.8 million in 2016. This represents a 14 percent decline in Democratic voting over just 8 years. The votes for the Republican presidential candidates in this period is as follows: 2016: 59.6 million votes; 2012: 60.9 million votes; 2008: 59.9 million votes; and 2004: 62 million votes. This translates into a net loss of 2.4 million votes (or a decline of four percent) over 12 years, despite 11 percent U.S. population growth during this same period. As bad as that looks for Republicans, Democrats have been hurt even more as the overall percent of Americans voting fell dramatically.
Trump comes into the White House cloaked in a smog of controversy. Although he won the presidential election, he lost the popular vote. Much of Trump’s support originates from a noxious blend of sexist, racist, and xenophobic beliefs. He opened his campaign calling Mexicans “rapists,” and promised to build a wall along the border with Mexico (and to make Mexico pay for it). He vowed to ban Muslims from entering the country, insulted people with disabilities, bragged about committing sexual assault, denied climate change and said he would jail his opponent, Hillary Clinton. Will he carry out such promises once in office? Many residents are nervous and many protesters have come out on the streets showing their displeasure with his win.
His self-indulgent personality profile, detailed in the pages of the New Yorker magazine, paints a picture of an audaciously narcissistic, egocentric maniac who only cares about basking in the public eye. According to Dimaggio, “He doesn’t care if the attention he receives is positive or negative. So long as it’s attention, that’s all that matters. Every media interaction is driven by a lust for public attention, while avoiding or downplaying real political proposals that challenge Washington establishment politics. Each press conference represents a chance to self-aggrandize, at the expense of substance, politics, and the nation itself.”
Trump promised to repeal NAFTA, abandon the Trans-Pacific Partnership, designate China a “currency manipulator,” and implement tariffs on foreign goods to pressure U.S. companies from relocating abroad. However, the opposition on those agenda may actually come from the Republican majorities in Congress who are sold to corporate interests and profits.
Michael Moore believes that people’s honeymoon with Trump will be short-lived. “And it will feel good—for a day, yeah, maybe a week, possibly a month. And then, like the Brits, who wanted to send a message … They want another election. It ain’t gonna happen, because you used the ballot as an anger management tool… So, when the rightfully angry people of Ohio and Michigan and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin find out after a few months in office that President Trump wasn’t going to do a damn thing for them, it will be too late to do anything about it. But I get it. You wanted to send a message. You had righteous anger and justifiable anger. Well, message sent. Good night, America. You’ve just elected the last president of the United States.”
Nearly 14 centuries ago, Muhammad (S), the Prophet of Islam, famously said, “As you are, so will be your leaders.”
Trump’s win tells volumes about where America is heading. And it is not pleasant! There is no denying that from Barack Obama, the first African-American president, the pendulum has worryingly swung to the KKK’s choice, Donald Trump.
On election night 2012, Trump tweeted, “The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy.” Ironically, it is that ‘disastrous’ system (not the popular vote), which is sending him to the White House come January.
With the House of Representatives and the Senate remaining in Republican control, and a newly appointed conservative Supreme Court Judge, Trump’s executive power could be almost entirely unchecked. He has the potential to become either the most successful president in recent history, if he is willing to amend his ways for greater good of everyone, or the worst president, if he fails to reform himself and carries out his dangerous and divisive agenda. The choice is surely his.
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