Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Worst Of Us

I was all set to write a sort of "Don't Panic" screed about the election today, but it turns out that Cracked.com--of all places--does a pretty good job of summing everything up.

I encourage you to read that article.

It's not a huge secret that I don't like Donald Trump and did not vote for him. And I'll also admit that almost everything I thought about this election has been flat-out wrong, so my political advice may not be particularly practical. (I take solace in the fact that everyone else was flat-out wrong as well, so I have good company.) But as the data comes in and the reality settles, I think it's important to note a few points.
  • First: Don't believe pretty much anything you see on social media for the next week. I've already seen at least three incendiary things that turned out to be complete fabrications. Just...don't.
  • Our system is specifically designed to handle people like Donald Trump. We've had some real assholes as President before, and we will again. The entire point of our federalist system is that we can mitigate all this. 
  • Don't freak out over the popular vote vs electoral college. You can't just plop the popular vote into the EC system and cry foul. Had we just ran a campaign based on popular vote, the candidates would have visited different states, emphasized different issues, picked different running mates, etc.Also, based on the current population distribution, more Republicans probably stayed home due to the EC than Democrats, so under a popular vote that may have been made up. We'll never know, for sure, but you can't use different rules for different scenarios based on one set of information.
  • The parts of the system you hate are now going to be the parts you love. Many people have complained bitterly about the obstructionist Republican congress (myself included) and with good reason. Right now, though, if you disagree with Trump's election, those things are going to be your friend. And while it's different, since both branches are in the same party, there's still a rather huge contingent of Republicans who do not like Trump nor agree with his more ridiculous stances. And that's not even counting the Senate, where it takes a slim 2 Senators to deny a majority. There are a lot of Red Senators in Blue states who just saw what happened to Mark Kirk in Illinois and Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire. I read on Twitter yesterday (sadly, can't find out who said it): "If your opinion on executive orders changed in the last 24 hours, you're part of the problem." They're not wrong.
  • It is more difficult to undo things than to do them. Obviously laws and policies are going to change, and they are probably not going to change in the direction you prefer, but the system is set up to prevent fullscale madness.
  • The Supreme Court really respects judicial precedent. The Supreme Court generally doesn't like overturning established court cases, especially recent ones. If nothing else, John Roberts might as well be walking around Capitol Hill with a "Don't Panic!" sign around his neck.
  • If you are blaming Trumps' re-election on racism or sexism, you missed the point. Certainly, that was a factor this election, and anyone who says otherwise is a fool. But the numbers don't lie--a higher percentage of both Latinos and blacks voted for Trump than Romney, as did millennials; while Clinton did win women overall, she lost non-college educated white women by a whopping 28 points. In fact, it's amazing how she barely won in a lot of demographics she was expected to win handily; she didn't even get over 50% of college graduates, which were supposed to be one of her strengths. To point a crooked finger and simply blame this all on bigotry is to ignore reality.
  • The above percentages are based on a lower total vote. The numbers show that Democrats just didn't show up for the polls. Take from that what you will, but I suspect a non-trivial number are from disaffected Sanders supporters.
  • Don't take the wrong lesson from all this. There's a fairly huge faction of Democrats who are convinced that if only Bernie Sanders had won this wouldn't have happened (Hint: No, it probably would have been worse. See: Feingold, Russ.) There's a lot of people thinking they should double down on the progressive movement. On the other side, there's a large portion of Republicans looking to move away from the Reagan coalition and moving to a new, nationalist and/or populist movement. Both of these are the wrong direction. The congressional politicians who did get elected were, across the board, fairly standard party individuals; the initiatives that did get passed, or got rejected, were almost all fairly status-quo. (It's hard to argue about California, who went 60% for Clinton, and yet reject anti-death penalty and drug-cost-control measures.) I don't exactly know what the message was supposed to be, but despite the absurdity of a Trump presidency I'm not convinced there's a massive shift in the electorate.
This isn't an apologia for Trump. I think he's a garbage human being, and I think the best possible outcome is that he has a decent enough staff and cabinet that his personal garbage is contained, and that reasonable people can make sure that reasonable policies are promoted.

I'm probably wrong about some of this, most certainly. Trump is probably going to do some boneheaded thing in short order, and I think a lot of how he does will hinge on how he will fill out his cabinet and listen to the people around him (a prospect I find...dubious). But the final takeaway from all this is: our system is pretty good at filing off the sharp edges of the worst of us, and extracting from the people the best of us.  Be educated, be vigilant, and be rational; above all else, don't be a dick.  

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