I was wrong about literally everything last night. But you probably were, too! We’re all idiots today. So what can we, the incorrect many, take away from last night?
There’s something to be said for the idea that Trump rode a wave of white resentment into the White House. But this is, at best, a half-truth. I’ll discuss the demographics in a moment; for now, let’s focus on the resentment. “Family Guy”‘s Seth MacFarlane made the totally reasonable point that “the Left expended so much energy over the last several years being outraged over verbal missteps, accidental innuendo, ‘tasteless tweets’ … in the name of clickbait, that when the REAL threat to equality emerged, we’d cried wolf too many times to be heard.”
This is a variation on the “But he fights!” defense/critique of Donald Trump. He gives voice to people who have spent the social media age watching viral outrage after viral outrage consume news cycles and destroy lives, to people who look at the silliness on college campuses and recoil at the thought of giving such institutions tens of thousands of dollars to fill their children’s heads with nonsense ideas. As Robby Soave noted at Reason, “Trump won because he convinced a great number of Americans that he would destroy political correctness.”
But angry white dudes wouldn’t be enough to get Trump over the top. It’s not particularly surprising that black voters supported Trump slightly more strongly than they did Romney—after all, Obama wasn’t on the ballot and SNL’s “How’s He Doing” skit rather perfectly captures the black community’s unwavering support for the first black president. Nor is it particularly surprising that African Americans were a lower percentage of the electorate than they were in 2008 and 2012. That missing black vote helped sink Hillary’s campaign, however, proving basically every pollster wrong in the process. One can’t help but look at the data and wonder if the Democratic Party can win a national campaign without nominating a minority candidate going forward.
It’s worth considering for a moment just how little impact big stars had on the race. Endorsements from King James did not translate into support from the Beyhive. Clinton couldn’t ride a wave of Broad City GIFs and Lena Dunham tweets into the White House. A late concert from Chris Christie favorites, Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi, weren’t enough to swing the white working class of Pennsylvania. Indeed, one wonders if the meddling of such big names only reinforced the resentment that helped fuel Trump’s ultimate victory.
Professor Jonathan Haidt’s piece of advice for Democratic partisans on Twitter is, I think, wise: “Do not respond by doubling down on identity politics. That is poison in a multi-ethnic democracy.” I wonder if it will be heeded. Most of what I’ve seen on the social media service today suggests it will not be.
But that brings me to my final takeaway from the election, and it’s a rather banal one: Twitter created a series of impenetrable bubbles this cycle, and bubbles of this sort are not healthy for members of the media. They’re not healthy for anyone, really, but they’re doubly unhealthy for those of us who would dare to think they can or should shape the national narrative. If Democrats’ takeaway from last night is “the people of this country are filled with hatred,” as my own bubble suggests it might be, they will learn no lessons and gain no weapons with which to combat Trump and his successors going forward.