Quite interesting to see the very different reactions I received on the short article I wrote yesterday, analysing the exit polls data of the past US election. It’s clear that an as objective as possible analysis of facts and figures is not always appreciated. You get put in one camp or another. Funny.
To clarify, one needs to make a difference between what an electorate intended when it voted and how that vote is appropriated and interpreted by the ones coming into power as well as the groups that support them. Let’s explore that a bit.
What the electorate intended
As I stated in my article yesterday, I don’t believe Trump necessarily won the election by, as some commenters would have us believe, identifying an undercurrent in American society and touching that. Rather, I believe the Democrats lost the election by a miscast and issues in their messaging which failed to connect to all necessary audiences, despite an elaborate ground game. This is not a comment on the competence of their candidate, which I cannot assess but believe to be sound. This is the simple observation that a 30 year DC insider may not have been the most appropriate choice in the circumstances.
That is, at least based on the exit poll data I got from the article in the Economist, what I learned. She lost it on percentage points. A very small difference in the vote share, a bit more support from the unions for example is all it would have taken to tip the balance. This was not a landslide win for the Republicans. But a slightly different vote should not have been interpreted as a resounding support for the Democrat agenda either.
How the vote is appropriated
There are signals that certain groups feel strengthened by the outcome of the election, and are showing this in public, by the way they are coming out in the open. There is no immediate reaction from the ones coming into power. I believe that to be a miscalculation. Trump is, more than any established politician, a white page. He can go in multiple directions. Depending on the choices he makes in the coming days, he can become a popular and successful president. Or he can sow the seeds of at least four years of very difficult governing in the US, with all economic ramifications that would entail. The choice is his now.
However, as I stated in the article yesterday, as far as the election signal is concerned, this does not seem to be a Brexit scenario, no matter how much certain people, such as the former UKIP president, Nigel Farage, would like it to be. Some politicians like to interpret such a vote as support for their vision. They’d better spend some time in trying to decipher exactly what the public has voiced. It’s not what most pundits believe it to be, according to me.
Asking the right question
What it comes down to, is the following: what question do you give your electorate to answer? Your choice of politician to put on the ballot is the choice of question you give the electorate.
Douglas Adams, a British writer with a great sense of humor and deep insight, traits that often go together, once wrote the following in his wonderful book “So long, and thanks for all the fish”, part of the Hitchhiker’s trilogy in four parts:
“It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see…"
”You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?"
”No," said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, "nothing so simple. Nothing anything like so straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people."
”Odd," said Arthur, "I thought you said it was a democracy."
”I did," said Ford. "It is."
”So," said Arthur, hoping he wasn't sounding ridiculously obtuse, "why don't people get rid of the lizards?"
”It honestly doesn't occur to them," said Ford. "They've all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they've voted in more or less approximates to the government they want."
”You mean they actually vote for the lizards?"
”Oh yes," said Ford with a shrug, "of course."
”But," said Arthur, going for the big one again, "why?"
”Because if they didn't vote for a lizard," said Ford, "the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?"
”I said," said Ford, with an increasing air of urgency creeping into his voice, "have you got any gin?"
”I’ll look. Tell me about the lizards."
Ford shrugged again.
”Some people say that the lizards are the best thing that ever happenned to them," he said. "They're completely wrong of course, completely and utterly wrong, but someone's got to say it."
”But that's terrible," said Arthur.
”Listen, bud," said Ford, "if I had one Altairian dollar for every time I heard one bit of the Universe look at another bit of the Universe and say 'That's terrible' I wouldn't be sitting here like a lemon looking for a gin.”
Perhaps next time, let’s put a human on the ballot.