Monday, December 12, 2016

OKFIBAT: Trump presidency

OK, fine, I'll blog about this  over a month later....

So Donald Trump will be the 45th President of the US.

source: Business Insider
Image result for trump time magazine

Remember what I said about my inability to pick presidential elections?  Well, there you go...

What I find fascinating now--and have for the past month--is the range of postmortems.  How could this have happened?  Indeed, even on the election morning it was widely presumed that Clinton would roll to victory.  But then as the results came back, it first became clear that this would be closer than thought...and then the unthinkable became reality.  While watching the results, my phone kept buzzing with Twitter alerts.  Among them one friend, a Byzantine Catholic, sent at about 11 pm:

This is legit bananas.

Yeah, that pretty much covers it.  48 hours later, the shock still lingered.  Trump visited the White House to start the transition process, and it was clear the staffers had not quite accepted the news.

source: New York Times via Google

How about the woman third from left already tearing up and the glum faces all around?

How in the world did Hillary Clinton miss the equivalent of a two-foot lay-up?

Some of that lies with her campaign, namely taking for granted white working-class voters in the supposedly invincible "Blue Belt" across the upper Midwest.  Clinton did not visit Wisconsin once in the general campaign.  That was a fatal mistake.

Some of the victory lies with Trump himself.  The very day after, Marc Fisher wrote in the Washington Post:

Trump ran against the elites and won. Never mind that he was born rich, flaunted his wealth and lived like a king. He defined the election as a people’s uprising against all the institutions that had let them down and sneered at them — the politicians and the parties, the Washington establishment, the news media, Hollywood, academia, all of the affluent, highly educated sectors of society that had done well during the time when middle-class families were losing their bearings. He swore he would turn Washington upside down, that he would “drain the swamp,” and the crowds so loved the image that they would shout the words before he even opened his mouth to say them.
Trump ran against the old rules that governed how people talked about politics, and he won there too. Political experts from both parties chortled over Trump’s failure to get with the program and build a data-driven, modern campaign based on focus-group-tested TV commercials and microanalysis of voting behavior, but Trump trusted his gut and believed that his message and style would connect with how Americans now absorb the news.
Trump won because he understood that his celebrity would protect him from the far stricter standards to which politicians are normally held — one bad gaffe, and you’re done. He won because he understood that his outrageous behavior and intemperate comments only cemented his reputation as a decisive truthteller who gets things done. And he won because he had spent almost 40 years cultivating an image as a guy who was so rich, so enamored of himself, so audacious, and so unpredictable that he could be trusted to act without regard to the powers that be.

This against-the-grain campaign connected with some conventionally Republican voters.  White evangelical voters turned out in large numbers (81%) for Trump.  This should raise comparisons with 1976 and 1980 when the evangelical vote first emerged and then shifted allegiances from the Democrats to the Republicans (where they've been ever since).  But no:  even here, Trump's victory raises concerns over evangelical desires for greater diversity and community.  Meanwhile, Catholic voters shifted slightly towards Trump, 52% for & 45% for Clinton; a noticeable discrepancy from 2012 when Obama edged Romney 50% to 48%.

The Catholic academy has yet to wrestle adequately with this reality.  That is largely because the Catholic academy served the Obama administration loyally.  Thus many Catholic theologians saw the Clinton campaign as a foregone conclusion.  They were going to win.  Turns out they presumed:

Everybody's happy with where things are going.

Actually, not so much.  Rural discontent figured prominently in this reversal.  One Hoosier writes:

For the past 8 years, the people who live in rural areas of the U.S. have had their social values ridiculed, their religious beliefs made fun of, their educational levels laughed at, their industries regulated, firearm rights threatened, and their character called “deplorable.”  So, is it any surprise that it was a very angry and resentful voter that went to the polls on Election Day? While not all rural voters voted Republican, it was largely the rural vote that put Donald Trump in the White House.
Those of us who work with farmers and rural residents regularly were not surprised by this outcome. But for much of the rest of the media, political establishment, and liberal millennials, the election night results came as a total surprise. During the campaign, the feelings, opinions, and attitudes of those outside of urban areas were discounted and generally ignored. Most pollsters and reporters never ventured down county roads. The few that did had an early warning of what was to come. “The clues were there, but I didn’t fully understand what I was seeing. At that time, I had no inkling of the depth and breadth of rural dissatisfaction that would elect a Donald Trump as President,” writes photo journalist Edward Speed who traveled in rural Ohio just weeks before the election. “What I learned is that agricultural America felt not only ignored and forgotten, it felt rejected and despised by America’s political elite, and that any candidate who could hurt that elite was worth their vote.”

So the hinterlands are in revolt.  What is this, the Hunger Games?  Well, actually, David Wong writes, that's kind of the point.  Several friends from my Missouri years agonized over Wong's post.  What does this say about us?  Will our friends see the light and vote for Clinton?

No, I thought, it means some folks are really freakin' angry.  And on Election night that anger boiled over.

Check out this map:

It's that lightest red shade along the upper Midwest that won Trump the election.  Combine that map with this:
Image result for Counties that voted Obama and switched to Trump
Source:  Washington Post

Those dark orange counties in Wisconsin and Iowa voted for Obama twice and then switched to Trump in 2016.  The lighter orange ones went for Obama once but Trump this time.  Somebody somewhere in Clinton camp missed this discontent.  

Fueling that, among things, is the sense that the cultural wars have returned. Not only that, but many Americans feel their own institutions have been weaponized against them.  David Bernstein points to this 2015 US Supreme Court exchange between Justice Alito and US Solicitor General Dan Verrilli:

Let’s focus on one of these incidents, the time the solicitor general of the United States acknowledged that religious institutions that oppose as a matter of internal policy same-sex marriage may lose their tax exemptions. At oral argument in the Obergefell same-sex marriage case, there was the following colloquy:
Justice Samuel Alito: Well, in the Bob Jones case, the Court held that a college was not entitled to tax­exempt status if it opposed interracial marriage or interracial dating.  So would the same apply to a university or a college if it opposed same­ sex marriage?
Soliticitor General Verrilli: You know, I ­, I don’t  think I can answer that question without knowing more specifics, but it’s certainly going to be an issue. I don’t deny that.  I don’t deny that, Justice Alito.  It is ­­it is going to be an issue.
Thus Bernstein:

In short, many religious Christians of a traditionalist bent believed that liberals not only reduce their deeply held beliefs to bigotry, but want to run them out of their jobs, close down their stores and undermine their institutions. When I first posted about this on Facebook, I wrote that I hope liberals really enjoyed running Brendan Eich out of his job and closing down the Sweet Cakes bakery, because it cost them the Supreme Court. I’ll add now that I hope Verrilli enjoyed putting the fear of government into the God-fearing because it cost his party the election.
Read all of Bernstein's post here

Bernstein hits the nail right on the head.  Surely for some Trump voters, hatred of Hillary Clinton, a real misogyny, fueled their voting.  Others really liked Trump the candidate.  But many critics have noted that Trump voters tended more to vote against Clinton than really for Trump.  His demeanor did not endear him to his own voters.  Many Trump voters looked at the Obama legacy and decided to make a change.  The inability and/or unwillingness of Democrat leaders to notice this unrest cost them dearly.

Also in this spiritually diabetic age, our thirst remains unslaked.  Thus, folks seek spiritual answers in the real world of activism...with predictable results.

Version 1:  Anti-Trumpers gather in cities that supported Hillary to protest Trump's win...and burn/destroy stuff.
   Or:  doubling-down on ridicule of Trump voters.
Version 2:  Pro-Trump college students seize the moment to prove, as if we needed more evidence, that college students can make really stupid and harmful decisions. 

If we are ever to move beyond this national moment, we must reject both options.  Do folks have the right to protest a president's actions?  Absolutely--it's one of the things that makes the United States what it is.  Do folks have the responsibility to make good decisions and allow others to express themselves politically, religiously, and socially?  Absolutely--it's another of the things that makes the United States what it is.  If we are not careful, spiritual diabetes--and the very real actions that spring from spiritual maladies--will rip this country apart.  We cannot let that happen, but to succeed in this defense we need contributions from all.  Insulting Trump voters and denigrating Clinton voters gets us nowhere.  Worse, it only further deepens the hole in which we find ourselves.

Meanwhile, Roman Catholics need to remind themselves where their loyalties truly lie;  not with any political party, agenda, or candidate, but rather with God alone.  Christ alone is King and we are His loyal subjects.

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