In March of this year, and as early as October of last year, and here and here, I wrote in this space about what I believed to be happening in our politics and the movement that was building. It was evident to me that this was something big, that had been building a long time. The political establishment was having trouble seeing it and understanding it. And that establishment was deeply resentful of it.
I described two fundamentals that were present in this election. First, there was a movement forming that had been building for decades, a backlash against economic and cultural globalism. This perspective was driven by an understanding of the economics of thousands of American communities and the changes in our culture as result of educational and demographic changes in many of those same communities. The impact of these changes and the perceived lack of responsiveness of people in power – people with names like Bush and Clinton – drove this movement.
They wanted change. The personification of that change was not as important as change itself. This was fundamental to this race.
Second, Clinton was not change. She, like Bush, was the very personification of the status quo. And not only that, but she is and was a terrible political candidate. She wreaked self inflicted wounds upon herself at every turn. She failed to connect with voters. She ran a campaign that offered people nothing. Her electoral record still consists of beating the second string candidate in a New York Senate race and a 74 year old Socialist in a Democratic primary.
So why did I not more firmly recognize these things and boldly predict a Trump victory?
I let myself get taken in by two things. First, the data. I believe in data. Its essential to understanding. There was, however, a failure of data in this election, in polling and in information and analysis. I can’t pull it apart the day after. It will be studied for months to come. But when systems that project an 85% chance of a Clinton victory at 6pm swing to project an 85% chance of Trump victory in six hours, something is broken. It “got me.”
Second, I didn’t tune out the noise. This is the bigger, more personal failure. I always knew what the fundamentals of this race were. I wrote extensively about them and commented extensively about them. But the noise was so plentiful, so outrageous, so compelling.
And, so irrelevant.
Nothing in the noise changed any of the fundamentals. The fundamentals of this race never changed from the moment Donald Trump set foot on the escalator in Trump Tower to announce he was running. People wanted change, he personified it. They didn’t want the status quo. He won two races, one against a Bush, another against a Clinton.
This wasn’t hard. The data and noise obscured the underlying fundamental truths about this race.
My mistake was not believing what I saw, what I heard and what I wrote so extensively about through the Republican convention. Never forget the fundamentals. Tune out the noise. It’s a mistake I won’t make again.
Congratulations to President-elect Trump and his team. I’ll take some time over the next two weeks to unpack some interesting things apart about what happened. But for now, our nation’s challenges are many and our focus should be on finding ways to come together and address those challenges for the benefit of all the American people.