Everything mattered

Loved this post in Vox from David Roberts about what mattered in the election.  Of course, in an election this close, most anything you can point to potentially made a difference in the outcome.  Roberts systematically looks at the evidence for all the commonly-offered explanations and gets to this sort-of summary:

The most agonizing implication of the narrow loss is that everything mattered.

Every decision to hype Clinton’s emails. Comey’s extraordinary violation of precedent. WikiLeaks. Clinton’s Goldman Sachs speeches. Her refusal to dissociate from the Clinton Foundation. Her poor retail politics. Trump not releasing his tax returns. Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan hiding out. Sanders tarnishing Clinton’s image among young people. Institutions standing by and doing nothing as Trump shredded democratic norms. The gamble that Trump’s misogyny and racism would render him unacceptable.

Fake news on Facebook. Epistemological bubbles. Elite self-absorption. Hot take after hot take delivered to the choir. Americans making the contest into a crass reality TV show fueled by Facebook memes. The press refusing to cover policy.

And whatever else you can name. The Electoral College turned on a 107,000-vote margin. All of it mattered. If you’re prone to haunting, crippling regret (luckily I don’t know anyone like that), that’s where you should focus your energy.

And I really like this part, because it certainly applies to what I got wrong:

Many people assumed that certain norms and standards still transcend the partisan divide. Surely being accused of, and admitting on tape to, serial sexual assault. Surely swindling poor people with a fake university. Surely crude racial stereotypes. Surely running a charitable foundation as a slush fund. Surely encouraging violence at rallies or threatening to reject unwelcome election results. Surely celebrating torture or vowing war crimes.

Clinton bet most of her chips on there being some floor, some violation of norms too low even for today’s radicalized Republican Party. She thought responsible Republican officeholders would rally. She thought at least well-off, well-educated Republican women would recoil in horror.

She was wrong. There is no floor. Partisanship has been revealed as the strongest force in US public life — stronger than any norms, independent of any facts. [emphasis mine]

Ezra Klein sums it up:

Political scientist Julia Azari has written the single most important sentence for understanding both Trump’s rise and this dangerous era in American politics: “The defining characteristic of our moment is that parties are weak while partisanship is strong.”

Here is the problem, in short: Parties, and particularly the Republican Party, can no longer control whom they nominate. But once they nominate someone — once they nominate anyone — that person is guaranteed the support of both the party’s elites and its voters.

And I’m particularly frustrated because I study partisanship and know how damn strong it is.  But even I didn’t realize it was that damn strong.  Among other things, as discussing with Jon K via email today, it is clearly stronger than religious faith (how else to explain so many Jesus-loving Evangelicals whole-heartedly embracing a man like Trump).

Anyway, lots more good stuff in Roberts article– I especially like the part on how Clinton was victimized by the media– but the biggest takeaway for me from this election was that a candidate as fabulously flawed as Trump still got 90% of his partisans to vote for him.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

One Response to Everything mattered

  1. R. Jenrette says:

    Yes, IT can happen HERE in the good old USA.
    What democratic institutions still remain except for lip service?
    Is democracy only viable in a homogeneous state?

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