Donald Trump’s triumph in the presidential race this year was as astonishing as Democrat Harry Truman’s defeat of Republican Thomas Dewey in 1948.
Both Trump and Truman were called losers by nearly every pundit and commentator. Cartoonists enjoyed ridiculing them both.
One newspaper, the Chicago Daily Tribune, even continued the insults on its front page the day after the election: “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN.” A flinty Missourian, Truman gleefully held the page aloft with the remark: “That ain’t the way I heard it.”
Trump campaigning was unquestionably boisterous, factually faulty and grossly wrong on so many issues like building a wall to keep out immigrants.
He embarrassed some Americans so much that they wanted to move to Canada. Leaders of European nations and commentators decried the frightful image Trump was projecting of America. He was called spawn of Satan. Fear and loathing gripped the land. Uncertainty reigned.
Truthout online called him a fascist. It declared that he was elected by white supremacists. Jacobin Magazine said his victory was a disaster. His victory was called apocalyptic, ushering in End Time. He alienated four large blocs of voters: blacks, Latinos, Muslims and women.
President Obama dumped on him as unqualified temperamentally, unfit for the office and a threat to the republic. But other presidents like Ronald Reagan and G.W. Bush have been unsuitable for the office.
OBAMA’S PERPETUAL WARS
Nevertheless, despite Trump’s horrible campaign, the United States has had presidents do much worse. Namely, the perpetual wars of Obama and his perpetual failure to keep his promises to end them.
So why did Trump win?
One factor was woeful misjudgment of the depth of Trump’s support. Another was failure to realize the extent of voter antipathy to Clinton, who represents Washington power politics, and voter wariness of electing still another warmonger president.
Democrats moaned that they lost the White House. No, Clinton did. Not just literally but because of her weakness and bleakness as a candidate. She won the blue states of the West Coast and the Northeast Coast but they were easy for a Democrat.
The one who should have won was Bernie Sanders, the Vermont populist. But he was driven out of the contest by the Democratic Establishment which smugly felt a Clinton win was inevitable.
Trump won the electoral-college vote, 290-228. But Clinton won the nationwide popular vote, 60,467,245 to 60,071,650.
If the “sacred” Constitution was not so badly flawed, Clinton would have been elected the nation’s 45th president. The electoral college gives low-population states greater strength than warranted.
Example: Montana and Wyoming each get three electoral votes for populations of 989,415 and 584,153. California has 55 electoral votes for a huge population of 38,802,500. The electoral-college winner has beaten the candidate with the most vote four times in U.S. history. In 2000 G.W. Bush won the presidency although Al Gore won 543,985 more popular votes.)
It ain’t just, as Truman might say.
In any case, presidents don’t rule the nation. Congress does. Both branches of government are checked judicially by the third branch, the Supreme Court.
The worst result of the election: Congress remained firmly in the hands of the Republicans. The reactionary GOP controls the Senate, 51-47, and the super-reactionary House, 235-181.
NEVADA’S MASTO WINS SENATE SEAT
On the plus side, Catherine Cortez Masto, Democrat from Nevada, won a Senate seat. Moreover, she’s the Senate’s first Latina. California Democrat Kamala Harris also won a Senate seat as did Democrat Tammy Duckworth of Illinois.
On national issues, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada voted to legalize marijuana. Colorado voters approved doctor-assisted suicide.
One of the few prominent people to pick Trump was Peter Thiel, a billionaire from Silicon Valley who ignored the tech industry naysayers. Wall Street also defied the doomsayers, the market shooting up 257 points the day after the election.
One group spectacularly wrong was the late-night hosts. They seem to know everything about anything except politics. The “sinners”: Samantha Bee (TBS), Trevor Noah (Comedy Central), Stephen Colbert (CBS), Jimmy Fallon (NBC) and Seth Meyers (NBC). They aimed their comedic barbs at Trump. That’s their job. Predictions are not.
Gamblers in the London gambling house of William Hill called the Trump triumph. Seventy percent of the bettors picked the winning “horse.”
While not intellectuals, gamblers are astute. It’s a pity the puritanical United States does not have legalized gambling. Think how it would swell the U.S Treasury!
Whatever the factors behind the election, cartoonist Dana Summers of the Orlando Sentinel in Florida had it right. It was labeled “deported” and showed Trump pointing a man the way across the border. The guy was carrying a suitcase labeled status quo.
The Trump triumph mightily upset the Establishment.
Jake Highton is an emeritus journalism professor from the University of Nevada, Reno. (firstname.lastname@example.org)