Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Reflections on a Democracy in Crisis

Well, it’s finally over, and I think it’s fair to say I called it. As I predicted back in January of this year, working class Americans—fed up with being treated by the Democratic Party as the one American minority that it’s okay to hate—delivered a stinging rebuke to the politics of business as usual. To the shock and chagrin of the entire US political establishment, and to the tautly focused embarrassment of the pundits, pollsters, and pet intellectuals of the mainstream media, Donald Trump will be the forty-fifth president of the United States of America. 

Like millions of other Americans, I took part in the pleasant civic ritual of the election. My local polling place is in an elementary school on the edge of the poor part of town—the rundown multiracial neighborhood I’ve mentioned here before, where Trump signs blossomed early and often—and I went to vote, as I usually do, in early afternoon, when the lunch rush was over and the torrent of people voting on the way home from work hadn’t yet gotten under way. Thus there was no line; I came in just as two elderly voters on the way out were comparing notes on local restaurants that give discounts to patrons who’ve got the “I Voted” sticker the polls here hand out when you’ve done your civic duty, and left maybe five minutes later as a bottle-blonde housewife was coming in to cast her vote.

Maryland had electronic voting for a while, but did the smart thing and went back to paper ballots this year, so I’m pretty sure my votes got counted the way I cast them. Afterwards I walked home—it was cloudy but warm, as nice a November day as you could ask for—and got back to work on my current writing project. It all made an interesting counterpoint to the nonstop shrieking that’s been emanating for months now from the media and, let’s be fair, from politicians, pundits, and a great many ordinary people all over the world as well.

I don’t see a lot of point just now in talking about what’s going to happen once the dust and the tumult settles, the privileged finish throwing their predictable tantrums, and the Trump administration settles into power in Washington DC.  There will be plenty of time for that later. What I’d like to do here and now is talk about a couple of things that were highlighted by this election, and cast a useful light on the current state of US politics and the challenges that have to be faced as a troubled, beleaguered, and bitterly divided nation staggers on toward its next round of crises.

One of those things showed up with rare clarity in the way that many readers responded to my posts on the election. All along, from my first post on the improbable rise of Donald Trump right up to last week’s pre-election wrapup, I tried to keep the discussion focused on issues: what policies each candidate could be expected to support once the next administration took office.

To my mind, at least, that’s the thing that matters most about an election. Four or eight years from now, after all, the personality of the outgoing president is going to matter less than an average fart in a Category 5 hurricane. The consequences of policy decisions made by the presidency over the next four years, on the other hand, will have implications that extend for years into the future. Should the United States pursue a policy of confrontation with Russia in the Middle East, or should it work out a modus vivendi with the Russians to pursue the common goal of suppressing jihadi terrorism? Should federal policy continue to encourage the offshoring of jobs and the importation of workers to drive down wages, or should it be changed to discourage these things? These are important issues that will affect millions of lives in the United States and elsewhere, and there are other issues of similar importance on which the two candidates had significantly different positions.

Quite a few of the people who responded to those posts, though, displayed no interest in such mundane if important matters. They only wanted to talk about their opinions about the personalities of the candidates: to insist that Clinton was a corrupt stooge, say or that Trump was a hatemongering fascist. (It says something about American politics these days that rather more often than not, the people who did this were too busy slandering the character of the candidate they hated to say much about the one they planned to vote for.) Outside the relatively sheltered waters of The Archdruid Report, in turn, that tendency went into overdrive; for much of the campaign, the only way you could tell the difference between the newspapers of record and the National Enquirer was by noting which candidates they supported, and allegedly serious websites were by and large even worse.

This wasn’t the fault of the candidates, as it happens. Whatever else might be said for or against Hillary Clinton, she tried to avoid a campaign based on content-free sound bites like the one Barack Obama waged against her so cynically and successfully in 2008; the pages of her campaign website displayed a laundry list of things she said she wanted to do if she won the election. While many voters will have had their disagreements with her proposals, she actually tried to talk about the issues, and that’s refreshingly responsible. Trump, for that matter, devoted speech after speech to a range of highly specific policy proposals.

Yet nearly all the talk about both candidates, in and out of the media, focused not on their policy proposals but on their personalities—or rather on nastily distorted parodies of their personalities that defined them, more or less explicitly, as evil incarnate. The Church of Satan, I’m told, has stated categorically that the Devil was not running in this year’s US presidential election, but you’d have a hard time telling that from the rhetoric on both sides. The media certainly worked overtime to foster the fixation on personalities, but I suspect this is one of those cases where the media was simply reflecting something that was already present in the collective consciousness of our society.

All through the campaign I noticed, rather to my surprise, that it wasn’t just those who have nothing in their heads that a television or a website didn’t put there, who ignored the issues and fixated on personalities. I long ago lost track of the number of usually thoughtful people I know who, over the course of the last year, ended up buying into every negative claim about whichever candidate they hated, without even going through the motions of checking the facts. I also lost track months ago of the number of usually thoughtful people I know whose automatic response to an attempt to talk about the issues at stake in this election was to give me a blank look and go right back to ranting about the evilly evil evilness of whichever candidate they hated.

It seems to me that something has been forgotten here.  We didn’t have an election to choose a plaster saint, a new character on My Little Pony, or Miss (or Mister) Goody Two-Shoes 2016. We had an election to choose the official who will head the executive branch of our federal government for the next four years. I’ve read essays by people who know Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump personally, and claim that both of them are actually very pleasant people. You know what? I literally couldn’t care less. I would be just as likely to vote for a surly misanthrope who loathes children, kicks puppies, and has deviant sexual cravings involving household appliances and mayonnaise, if that person supports the policies I want on the issues that matter to me. It really is that simple.

I’d like to suggest, furthermore, that the fixation on personalities—or, again, malicious parodies of personalities—has played a huge role in making politics in the United States so savage, so divisive, and so intractably deadlocked on so many of the things that matter just now. The issues I mentioned a few paragraphs back—US foreign policy toward a resurgent Russia, on the one hand, and US economic policy regarding the offshoring of jobs and the importation of foreign workers—are not only important, they’re issues about which reasonable disagreement is possible. What’s more, they’re issues on which negotiation, compromise, and the working out of a mutually satisfactory modus vivendi between competing interests are also possible, at least in theory.

In practice? Not while each side is insisting at the top of its lungs that the other side is led by a monster of depravity and supported only by people who hate everything good in the world. I’d like to suggest that it’s exactly this replacement of reasoned politics with a pretty close equivalent of the Two Minutes Hate from Orwell’s 1984 that’s among the most important forces keeping this country from solving any of its problems or doing anything to brace itself for the looming crises ahead.

Thus I’d like to encourage all the citizens of my country to turn off the television and the internet for a few moments, take a few deep breaths, and think about the tone of the recent election, and to what extent they might have participated in the bipartisan culture of hatred that filled so much of it. It might be worth pointing out that you’re not likely to convince other people to vote the way you think they ought to vote if you’re simultaneously berating them for being evilly evil with a double helping of evil sauce on the side, or sneering at them for being too ignorant to recognize that voting for your candidate really is in their best interests, or any of the other counterproductive habits that have taken the place of reasonable political discourse in today’s America.

The second point I noticed in the course of the election campaign connects to the one just discussed. That’s the hard fact that the United States at this point in its history may still be a single republic, but it’s not a single nation—and it could be argued on reasonably solid grounds that it never has been. Facile distinctions between “red” and “blue” states barely touch the complexity, much less the depth, of the divisions that separate the great urban centers from the rest of the country, and the different regions from one another.

I think it was Pauline Kael who, in the wake of Richard Nixon’s landslide victory in 1972, commented that she didn’t understand how Nixon could have won—after all, nobody she knew voted for him! The same sentiment is currently being expressed in tones ranging from bewilderment and baffled rage from all corners of the affluent left and their hangers-on among the mainstream media’s well-paid punditry. The 20% or so of Americans who have benefited from the jobless recovery of the last eight years, and the broader neoliberal economic agenda of the last four decades, very rarely leave the echo-chamber environments where they spend their days to find out what the rest of the country is thinking. If they’d done so a bit more often in the last year, they would have watched Trump signs sprouting all over the stark landscapes of poverty that have spread so widely in the America they never see.

But of course the divisions run deeper than this, and considerably more ramified. Compare the political, economic, and social policies that have the approval of people in Massachusetts, say, and those that have the approval of people in Oklahoma, and you’ll find next to no overlap. This isn’t because the people of one state or the other are (insert your insult of choice here); it’s because they belong to different cultures, with incommensurable values, attitudes, and interests. Attempts, well-meaning or otherwise, to impose the mores of either state on the other are guaranteed to result only in hostility and incomprehension—and such attempts have been all too common of late.

Ours is a very diverse country. That may sound like a truism, but it has implications that aren’t usually taken into account. A country with a great deal of cultural uniformity, with a broad consensus of shared values and attitudes, can afford to legislate that consensus on a national basis. A country that doesn’t have that kind of uniformity, that lacks any consensus concerning values and attitudes, very quickly gets into serious trouble if it tries that sort of legislation. If the divergence is serious enough, the only way that reliably allows different nations to function under a single government is a federal system—that is, a system that assigns the national government only those powers and duties that have to be handled on a nationwide basis, while leaving most other questions for local governments and individuals to settle for themselves.

My more historically literate readers will be aware that the United States used to have a federal system—that is, after all, why we still speak of “the federal government.” Under the Constitution as originally written and interpreted, the people of each state had the right to run their own affairs pretty much as they saw fit, within certain very broad limits.  The federal government was assigned certain narrowly defined powers, and all other powers were, in the language of the Tenth Amendment, reserved to the states and the people.

Over the first century and a half of our national history, certain other powers were assigned to the federal government by constitutional amendment, sometimes with good results—the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws to all citizens, for example, and the Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments’ extension of voting rights to black people and women respectively—and sometimes not—the Eighteenth Amendment’s prohibition of alcohol comes to mind here. The basic federal structure remained intact. Not until the aftermath of the Great Depression and the Second World War did the metastatic growth of the federal government begin in earnest, and so in due time did the various attempts to impose this or that set of moral values on the entire country by force of law.

Those attempts have not worked, and they’re not going to work. I’m not sure how many people have noticed, though, that the election of Donald Trump was not merely a rebuke to the liberal left; it was also a defeat for the religious right. It’s worth recalling that the evangelical wing of the Republican Party had its own favorites in the race for the GOP nomination, and Trump was emphatically not one of them. It has not been a propitious autumn for the movements of left and right whose stock in trade is trying to force their own notion of virtue down the throats of the American people—and maybe, just maybe, that points to the way ahead.

It’s time to consider, I suggest, a renewal of the traditions of American federalism: a systematic devolution of power from the overinflated federal government to the states, and from the states to the people. It’s time for people in Massachusetts to accept that they’re never going to be able to force people in Oklahoma to conform to their notions of moral goodness, and for the people of Oklahoma to accept the same thing about the people of Massachusetts; furthermore, it’s time for government at all levels to give up trying to impose cultural uniformity on the lively diversity of our republic’s many nations, and settle for their proper role of ensuring equal protection under the laws, and those other benefits that governments, by their nature, are best suited to provide for their citizens.

We need a new social compact under which all Americans agree to back away from the politics of personal vilification that dominated all sides in the election just over, let go of the supposed right to force everyone in the country to submit to any one set of social and moral views, and approach the issues that divide us with an eye toward compromise, negotiation, and mutual respect. Most of the problems that face this country could be solved, or at least significantly ameliorated, if our efforts were guided by such a compact—and if that can be done, I suspect that a great many more of us will have the opportunity to experience one of the greatest benefits a political system can bestow: actual, honest-to-goodness liberty. We’ll talk more about that in future posts.


In unrelated and rather less serious news, I’m pleased to announce that the second volume of my Lovecraftian epic fantasy series The Weird of Hali is now available for preorder. Once again, H.P. Lovecraft gets stood on his head, and the tentacled horrors and sinister cultists get the protagonists’ roles; this time the setting is the crumbling seaside town of Kingsport, where Miskatonic University student Jenny Parrish is summoned to attend a certain very ancient festival...

The Weird of Hali: Kingsport, like the first book in the series, The Weird of Hali: Innsmouth, is being released first in two signed and numbered editions, one one merely gorgeous, the other leatherbound, traycased, and utterly over the top for connoisseurs of fine printing and binding. There will be a trade paperback edition in due time, but it’ll be a while. Those of my readers who find eldritch nightmares from the crepuscular beginnings of time itself better company than the current crop of American politicians may find it worth a read.


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Bootstrapper said...

Not really on-topic but I was trying to understand what the labels "left" and "right" mean, in the context of politics. This, because the terms are most commonly used today, as derogatory epithets. In researching this, there seems to be as many opinions about what they mean as there are people expressing them, which made me wonder if the terms had any objective meaning at all. Then, I recalled your comments from an earlier essay, about "interests" and "values" and I was wondering if "left" could describe those positions that considered "values" as more important, while "right" is a position that considers "interests" as paramount. Your thoughts?

Mongo, At The Moment said...

Well spoken, as ever.

GreenEngineer said...

it’s time for government at all levels to give up trying to impose cultural uniformity on the lively diversity of our republic’s many nations, and settle for their proper role of ensuring equal protection under the laws

Please expand upon how you would propose to square this particular circle.

If the issue at hand is gay marriage (or transgender bathroom usage, for that matter), then to the left it's a matter of equal protection/privilege under the law. To the right, it's a matter of those damn lefties imposing their San Francisco values on good ol' Americans.

There are similar dynamics in play around, for example, pollution or climate change. To one side, justice requires action. To the other side, justice requires that the government butt out.

Not every "left/right" issue breaks down this way, but I'd hazard that most of the important ones do.

Tom Bannister said...

Haven't commented in a while but i finally feel the need to do so again.

Completed agree with you about otherwise perfectly thought and reasonable people raving (or screeching rather) about personalities rather than policy whenever discussions of politics come up. Trumps rise and rise has attracted plenty of interest here in New Zealand, although discussions of Trump almost never (so far as I've heard) actually addressed any of the issues that have now propelled him into power (Well ok, I managed raise those issues on a few occasions, with mixed results). Rare exceptions consisted of a observance that of something like "Americans are so desperate for change they'll do anything" but then the subject promptly turns back to "trump is a moron" etc etc etc. Though quite a bit of our media is straight out the American institutional propaganda machine...

Just for any NZ readers, I'd say our closest equivalent to Trump is Properly Winston Peters (That is, he'll pick up the anti establishment vote).

donalfagan said...

Re: Policy positions. According to the other fellow who successfully predicted that Trump would win (Scott Adams), most of us are irrational 90% of the time. Adams suggests that facts like policy positions don't matter to most people as much as emotional reactions.

I was watching The Young Turks, and they interviewed a few Trump supporters, who said they trusted the Donald because he spoke more like a real person than the scripted style of Hillary Clinton (and most media types). I thought this election was more of a repudiation than an endorsement. So I think the only policy positions that mattered was that Trump repudiated the establishment, NAFTA, immigration, etc.

Cortes said...

A tour de force. Thank you.

Trump's mother hailed from Tong/Tunga on the NE coast of the Isle of Lewis. When we spent a holiday on that island back in?1995, the village was really "the land that time forgot " for people from mainland Scotland, even after 25 or so years of access to TV. NO movement by locals except to church on the Sabbath. I gave my wife a long lie in bed and walked the kids around the area and at an isolated house a young woman ironing clothes hurriedly pulled the curtains closed.

That was ?1995.

The village in the days of Trump's mother's youth would have been familiar to the Taliban.

I suspect that there is an inner core of such asceticism in DJT.

Ridiculous as it appears.

Dale NorthwestExpeditions said...

I tried a number of times prior to the election to get my liberal friends to just consider some of the things that the supporters of Trump were saying, and why. I also told them that I didn't plan on voting for either of the two primary candidates; that there were other presidential candidates on the ballot worth looking at. After a momentary blank stare, the first answer I always got was "If you don't vote for Hillary, you are voting for Trump." Oh, really? We as citizens of this country need to have all the candidates' positions available for us to review so that we can make valid choices in the future. We need more political parties as the two primary ones should go the way of the Whigs. One thing I'd love to see is the return of the candidate debates back to the control of the League of Women Voters. The other thing is the right for all parties to have their candidates participate in the debates.

I support your idea of devolving power back to the states as much as possible. The one concern I have is trails of tears type exoduses from within a state or between states as individuals attempt to find folks who share similar belief systems.

I can't wait to see what you come up with next. I truly appreciate your insights.

Grebulocities said...

I have very mixed feelings about our new President-elect, but I love that the chattering classes holed up in their little enclaves of DC, NYC, and Silicon Valley just got a huge whack with the cluebat. I don't know whether they'll actually choose to learn and listen to what working-class people have to say, but they have been decisively shown that their "divide and conquer" approach of winning over a coalition of urban liberals and overwhelming majorities of ethnic minorities, while trampling on the white working class, really doesn't work. They're going to have to start caring about regular people of all colors, shapes, and sizes, or they will lose the Rust Belt and the election with it. I am extremely happy that the normally blue-tinged states of the Rust Belt were the states that revolted and made it abundantly clear that they are justifiably angry and can't be taken for granted anymore.

The most striking thing to me about the results is that it's impossible to dismiss them as racism or white nationalism. Trump actually did better among ethnic minorities, in particular Hispanics, than Mitt Romney did four years ago. And there were patches of solid Democratic support in a few rural parts of the Midwest, especially in parts of Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota, that went solidly for Obama twice but completely flipped red this year. Iowa was solidly in Obama's camp in 2012 but flipped a full 13 points, from Obama by a 5% margin to Trump by 8%; Wisconsin is the same story but a few points more Democratic. A whole lot of Obama voters all over the Rust Belt, both white and minority, went for Trump. The Dems won't win the presidency again until they figure out and address the real grievances of the voters who left them this year.

Philip Bridges said...


A thoughtful post, as usual, about our current state of politics and culture, but I do have one question. I grew up in the segregated South, went to white-only schools, and lived in the white part of town. How does one draw the line to determine mutual virtue in situations like those? Many Southeners viewed legal segregation as our "unique institution" and actively resisted civil rights efforts. Would racial segregation in schools, eating establishments, and public places be allowed if the local majority desired it?

thenoteswhichdonotfit said...

Yes, you called it.

Speaking as a resident of the Left Coast, I think the social compact you speak of could gain a lot of popular support here. A lot of the push to impose our values on other geographical areas is because it is believed that, if we do not push our values onto them, they will push their values onto us (which some people from other geographical areas have tried to do). With a strong guarantee that they cannot push their values onto us, I think most people here will lose interest into pushing our values onto them, just as we generally don't try to push our values onto Mexico or Canada.

Trump's stance on leaving the marijuana issue to the states is encouraging in this regard. I think recreational drugs in general should be managed at the state and local government level, not the national level.

Cherokee Organics said...

Amen, Brother Greer!

You called it. Well done for your prescience. Seriously, A+, and 10 out of 10. I’d even chuck in the elusive and rarely seen Elephant Stamp, but alas this forum is not mine to do so. I reckon you earned a Gold Star though and wouldn’t be at all unhappy with you awarding it to yourself because you deserve it!

And here today you have delivered a fine reprimand and scolding to the many naughty children who well deserved it. But also, I must add, that you have shown the way forward as well. Respect to you!

The media down here is foaming at the mouth in disbelief, which appears to have arisen because they have seen firsthand for themselves that they do not indeed set the tone of the public opinion. That job is reserved for the public who have to live with things as they actually are. Do you reckon that is a form of cognitive dissonance? It looks a bit that way to me.

Yesterday I heard a guy interviewed on the radio who wanted to talk about the class issues which are driving politics and the interviewer blithely ignored the guys observations - even after the election result was in. It was uncanny. The pollsters and advisers should be sacked, immediately and no questions should be asked and certainly no blathering should be listened too.

I was mildly curious as to whether the belief in your prediction had been shaken by the sheer weight of opinion thrown at you over the past few months? I sort of believe that it didn't but it appeared to me that you spoke more gently to people who held divergent views as time went on. Dunno really.

Congratulations on the new book too and I shall grab a copy!

PS: Nothing beats paper ballots for honesty and I can attest to this.



Jason B said...

Aside from my earlier attacks on Trump, the personality, I do believe we are witnessing a waking up, it's just that it's going to be rough for those people who have bought the establishment line for so long. I don't know what I think of Trump. I have my worries, to say the least. He seems to be in carnival barker mode most of the time, but that doesn't really matter. What matters is that he be held to his assertion that he will reach out to Russia and Putin right away, as nuclear war is on the horizon and is the most pressing concern I have had in this election. It's the reason I couldn't vote for Clinton no matter what.

trippticket said...

Make sure you're on the 'Counties' map in the left column.

Notice how the arc of blue counties in the southeastern U.S. follows the fall line, the geographic transition from piedmont to coastal plain around the South. What? Why? Why would that occur? Seems odd, doesn't it? Could it be some sort of common mineral deficiency or something?? ;o) oink, oink!

Full disclosure: Johnson/Weld voter, and disappointed they didn't get the required 5% nationally to assure them a place in the conversation next time around.

Very impressive, Mr. Greer. You outdid even yourself with this one.

ChemEng said...

Mr. Greer:

During the course of the last year I have become deeply involved in a local issue that will have a major impact on the small town in which I live (not too far from where you are) and the surrounding areas. I have found that the more local the politics are the more they focus on the actual issues, not on personalities.

At the federal level it has all been about emails and other scandals. At the state level my observation is that the two persons running for Representative are decent people, even though their opinions are far apart. At the county level, based on what I have observed, I respect the thoroughness and balance of the Board of Supervisors. And at the Town Council level it has all been about the issues and hard work, almost regardless of personalities (with some exceptions, here and there).

Based on this experience I would also like to see a devolution of power all the way down the chain. I recognize that some issues, such as a trans-country pipeline, have to be handled at the national level. But many more issues can be much more effectively “delegated” to the local elected representatives, supervisors and councilors.

Varun Bhaskar said...


Brilliant. Thank you for this calm and level headed response to what has been the most disgusting political season I have yet witness. I had the day off and took the time to watch the left-wing reaction the elections. I am saddened by the fragility of so many people in this country. One of my inlaws got an invitation by some neighborhood housewives for a hug party this morning, I had other people on my facebook feed explaining how they had broken down in tears. It is such a mess, and in the current environment it is impossible to talk about policy. Hate and anger are the orders of the day.



JacGolf said...

Ya couldn't have put this article out 9 months ago??? Rationale discourse? What are your candidates issues versus mine? That is crazy talk! He said, she said is such a better way to decide the fate of our nation! And kudos on the prediction. You and Dan Pena are two folks who caught the seed of why last night happened. Hopefully, WWIII is delayed indefinitely. War is not healthy.

Mark said...

Hello JMG, was it you who recently remarked on the need people feel to absolve themselves from blame, and relieve themselves from guilt, that they feel subconsciously, for enjoying material wealth, and class and race privileges that they know they don't deserve yet are loath to give up, because of the inconveniences involved,which result in their demonization of others, and the constant search for scapegoats? I may have had a few too many. There may be a few people I know who fit that profile. I wonder if most voters voted for there own self interest, viewed through the lens of (two) party politics. Looked at county level election returns, regardless of what they were told, the left behind and the top 20% went two different ways. Half the country didn't vote; 30% went Republican, Libertarian, Green, or other, and 20% went Democratic. Millennials read the writing on the wall and decided, "we are so fracted,". (actual quote of 29 yr old friend, modified for publication in your blog). The upshot being that, without consciously voting their interests, and without having to defend their reasons, they get to vote against a human being without any redeeming qualities. Perhaps it has always been thus, but Internet Technologies seem to exacerbate the predisposition. This type of inter-manipulation wasn't a problem for the Lakeland Republic. It wasn't so necessary to control the minds of the citizens, be it government control, media control, or social network control. How did the Lakeland Republic reduce the need to control others thinking to such a low level?

John Conner said...

Oh boy.... Book is ordered!

Funny you should mention Oklahoma. Was down there for a 50th anniversary celebration a week and a half ago. Coming back stopped to visit a cousin. She was all down on Halloween... Blames all on Druids.... And she is one of the few relatives I can still talk to in the Oklahoma - Kansas area. But things are about as varied there as in the country as a whole. My wife's side is largely 'liberal' (unions and Pot) but not Mass. style.

Unknown said...

Greetings JMG,

I submit that a large reason for the Republican clean sweep of the Presidency, house and Senate majority was the meteoric rise of so-called "Affordable care" premiums just two to three weeks ago. It seems to me that the election results represent a clear mandate to "do something" about this...

Regarding the "no one I know" groupthink bubbles, I have seen electoral maps by county and it clearly debunks the red state, blue state myth. It shows quite clearly that the cities are islands of blue in a sea of red...


Kevin said...

Much of the horrified response to this election result that I'm seeing in my circles is not from the "liberal elite", but from those who see themselves as likely to be directly and negatively affected by Trump's stated intentions - women, people of colour, First Nations, LGBT folks, and especially those who check more than one of those boxes.

It's going to be an interesting next few years. I have never been more glad that I immigrated to Canada, and not the US, in 1981.

Mark said...

BTW, I just want to go on record, I've never had any sexual craving involving mayonnaise, though I enjoy BLT's

Lucius Cornelius Sulla said...

I visit internet forums frequented by young left leaning American s and have noticed 3 types of response to the election.

The first is terror from members of vulnerable minority groups. Their political champion turned out to be a paper tiger and now they are falling into despair or are preparing to go out in a blaze of glory when the black vans come for them.

The second group are the Hillbots. They have been busy blaming everyone from Bernie Sanders to Jill Stein to the entire white race for Hillarys defeat.

The last, and most numerous group are burning with white-hot fury. Not against Trump, but against Hillary, her most ardent supporters, the media and the entire left wing establishment. They want blood and will tear apart whats left of the Democrats to get it.

canon fodder said...

First, the election results - going by the Electoral College, it wasn’t even close. Going by the red/blue county pictorial, it was even more lopsided. Going by the popular vote, though, Trump lost. This is something all Americans need to consider as we try to stitch back together a nation from a vile, divisive campaign. The supporters of both major candidates have results to support their position of where we politically go from here. How we reconcile those different results will say much about us as a nation.

From the invective and spittle I’ve seen in all sorts of media, I agree with you that we probably cannot forge a nationwide consensus on much of anything. If we can somehow devolve the federalist system to emphasize true states rights, I also agree that a nationwide consensus really isn’t necessary except for those few things listed in the Constitution as federal responsibilities. Unfortunately, I don’t believe for a moment that the Federal government will relinquish one bureaucratic minutia to the states unless it is forcibly removed, either by constitutional amendment or actual armed force. Not only would the ruling elite oppose such transfer, but the 16th amendment also blocks the way. Most of the taxes collected in the US funnel through the federal government. Regardless of how much of the money is funneled back to the states, the monetary power is held by the Federal government. And, as the old saw goes, whoever has the gold, makes the rules.

I don’t find the overt focus on personalities inconsistent with how Americans act. We are, by and large, a nation that worships celebrities, thrives on sound bites (or tweets), and prefers a rousing round of he said/she said over stolid discourse. Throw in a bit of narcissism and coddling, and you have the makings of an electorate that will actively avoid issues. Issues make you think. Issues make your positions susceptible to reasoned debate. Issues make you look beyond your own insular, entitled cocoon to the wide, uncaring world. Issues paint the world in shades of grey instead of the politically correct black/white. And issues can make you have to admit you’re wrong. All of these and more are why we celebrate the cult of personality, not the triumph of reason.

Perhaps one other thing has lead to the dearth of issues in our national political discourse - the political promise. Much of what I have read or heard from candidates has been presented as “here’s my position, and here’s what I’ll do if elected.” The follow thru is usually lacking, if not completely upended. The usual joke is for a book to be published labeled “Promises I Have Kept” by Some Politician. It’s blank. I have one from Bush II and Obama, and no doubt many others exist. Why engage in a discussion of issues when you know the person you’re talking to will turn around and stab you in the back whenever convenient. On a more positive note, I can and do have discussions on issues with most of my acquaintances. But they’re not politicians.

Household appliances and mayonnaise??? Now that’s an image that’ll take a while to eradicate. I may have to resort to chocolate therapy.

On a completely different topic, I’ve noticed that the book links on your blog take me to a couple different sellers. As I have a Kindle and it’s easiest to feed the beast from Amazon, I’ve looked at your books there as well. As I want to support your blog, which seller nets you the most income?

Ray Wharton said...

"One Law for the Lion & Ox is Oppression" - William Blake

A Federal Government that is actually Federal would be attractive to me. I can even see a narrow path to such a thing. Everybody I know is shocked, my liberal friends are really having a rough time. Once you have accepted decline of western civilation as a thing, the out come of one election isn't as deeply disturbing.

K Sc said...

Yes definitely worth taking a step back from the vitriol.
However, I humbly disagree on the point that it's not the candidates fault we ignored their content.
How often can politicians be trusted on their word?
We've heard the lies so many times, we don't trust they will do what they say.

Rich_P said...

JMG, I hope you and your readers will permit a longer-than-usual comment; I work in San Francisco and think your readership will appreciate these post-election observations from the field.

First, a full ten percent of SF voted for Trump. I suspect they are the old-school residents who are fed up with the haughty, anti-social tech workers who have flooded the area during the present Federal Reserve-fueled asset bubble.

Several people took the day off to "process" the outcome of the election. The fact that people in Ohio and Michigan are scraping by while office workers on the coast can take a day off to pout is indicative of the overall problem, but the SF Progressives are too clueless and self-absorbed to understand this.

As you predicted, the elites and SF office workers are coming up with a litany of just-so stories to explain Trump’s victory. Everyone who voted for Trump is a racist! Facebook did it – if only we had an approved news source which supplied the “facts”! Rural America is soooo dumb you guys! If only everyone went to college and received the approved talking points in exchange for thousands of dollars of debt!

The more I hear this, the more I realize that modern Progressives (the Obama stalwarts) sound exactly like Stalinists too clueless to realize that Prada was full of lies. This is more frightening to me than Donald Trump.

Lastly, to bring things full circle: early on you said the Progressives would make a serious mistake by implying ALL Trump supporters are bigots (even though some totally are). This turned out to be true. Likewise, I was sometimes called a bigot because I support states’ rights (only racists like that!) and secession, as a last-ditch response to tyranny.

But now that Trump is in office, wouldn’t it be great if California could secede!? This coming from the elites who mercilessly mocked Northern California’s “State of Jefferson” movement for decades – and who called me a neo-Confederate for pointing out, like you do JMG, the importance of federalism and how it was the Framers’ intent from the beginning.

The statists destroyed federalism, enlarged the federal government, and now must live with the consequences of Donald Trump controlling leviathan. You reap what you sow.

While I do not support Trump, I am enjoying the elites eating a buffet of crow.

Jordan said...


Long time reader of your blog, I always appreciate your wide perspective and historical insight on matters of the day. That being said, I think you're off the mark on this one. I will grant that people voting for Trump have been thrown under the bus for the last 40 years. They can't find jobs or economic opportunities because of immigrants, outsourcing, automation, neoliberalism in whatever form. I get it, I really do. They have needs that aren't being met and that could be met and should be met. But along with those unmet needs breeds fear and hatred of the "other" that have taken those things from them. And what Donald Trump's personality does is legitimize those feelings. "Hey, if he's saying it, it must be ok." People will rally around a charismatic leader, you know this. People rallied around Churchill when he called for shared sacrifice. People rallied around Hitler when he told them the Jews were responsible for their discontent. And people rally around Trump when he says it's ok to blame Muslims, Mexicans, and women for their problems. That's why his personality matters. You keep insisting that it's only the policies that matter, all that other stuff is irrelevant. Tell me this, how hard do you have to look to see that Trump will not actually give his supporters what they need in terms of economic opportunity? I know, I KNOW that it will not be different with Clinton. More of the same, I get it. But Trump has been hobnobbing with political insiders for decades. The man comes from more privilege than most of us can imagine. He has no idea, none, what it's like to live life like one of his "deplorable" supporters. Just today it was announced that he's looking into Rudy Giuliani, Chris Christie, and Newt Gingrich for his cabinet. Honestly, how different are Trumps policies going to be, really? The small chance that he rises to the occasion and actually delivers something different is not worth the hate and the vitriol that we already know come along with it. It feels like cutting off our nose to spite our face.

James M. Jensen II said...

Congrats on the prognostication!

The Democrats really did deserve to lose this one. The fact that Trump took the Rust Belt, which Clinton had thought was a safe bet for her, shows where the hurt really lies: "The economy, stupid." The real economy, not the meaningless piles of paper and bits pushed around all day.

I've no love for Trump, and if any of the allegations of sexual assault against him are true, then he deserves prison. But when a working-class family is faced with a choice between a candidate who wants to continue the status quo that's destroying your ability to makes ends meet and one who might--might--do something different, is it really so hard to understand why they'd go for the latter?

One thing that fascinated me throughout the race was how effectively Trump used the Left's tactics and issues against us. How were we supposed to counter "Make America Great Again" when we've been the ones saying America wasn't great? And I wonder if the impact of the Access Hollywood tape and allegations of rape and sexual assault against him weren't significantly blunted by the fact that the last time we had a sexual predator in the White House were the last halfway decent years for many working class people in this country (not to mention the fact that said predator was his opponent's husband).

Philosopher Richard Rorty, a self-described "decadent liberal" politically, often argued that the Left's lack of old-fashioned patriotism has been one of our greatest weaknesses, and at least once even argued that our elitism and ignoring the issues faced by the working class was going to be our undoing. He didn't live long enough to predict a Trump victory, but I wouldn't be surprised if he would have.

The Left generally and the Democrats specifically have a lot of soul-searching to do. Let's hope we find the right answers, and the right questions.

Kevin Warner said...

Damn right you called it! Congratulations!

To my mind, one of the most fascinating essays that you have ever done was the one on Trump predicting his eventual success - but not about the man himself. It was your analysis of how much of the West was coming down to a salary versus wage class struggle in it that has let me understand a lot of what I was witnessing across the world, especially here in Oz. It was like how changing the focus on a set of binoculars brings everything into sharp focus. That essay is going straight to the trophy room!

It was weird watching the reaction to Trump's win from several thousand klicks distance. The pearl-clutching, the wails, the tears, the accusations - and that was just the men! Perhaps Brexit led the way but it was the courage of average Americans to take a leap into the unknown rather than accept more of the same misery and victimization that gives me hope. The knock-on effects are going to be massive across the world.

Huge sections of American society have just been rendered irrelevant - the pundits, the pollsters, the media, celebrity opinions, Republican & Democrat HQs. Only now are they waking up to the possibility that they have only been playing to an echo chamber. God knows what the effect will be on the upcoming French and German elections next year. Probably the jihadists in Aleppo are now wishing that they had taken up the Russian offer of evacuation. Being a New Yorker Trump will have no sympathy for their ilk. Interesting times ahead.

Darthy Noxin from the Planet Gopp said...

Dear Sir

Long-time reader, first-time commenter. This is one of those moments where I felt I wanted to just put this out there as an adoring fan.

Reading your Nov. 9 post reminded me of a book called _American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America_ by Colin Woodard that gives perhaps-more-than-needed contextual information on why, for example, the people of Massachusetts and the people of Oklahoma on aggregate don't see eye-to-eye.

I had originally thought I had become aware of this book through your blog. However, since you didn't mention this book in your post (and I did a word search on your blog for the author's last name and found no results), I now presume I had discovered this book elsewhere.

Just in case you have not read it, I would like to add it to the no-doubt long list of suggested reading materials from your admiring fans.

P.S. Thanks to you, I have had roughly 11 months to subconsciously prepare for the result of Nov. 8. I think I needed it. Unfortunately, my friends and associates who are even more insulated than I am probably had between 1 minute to 3 hours to mentally prepare, depending on if they learned the results before or after they slept for the night.

P.P.S. To you and all other commenters, a somewhat-edited quote of an Egyptian blessing that I encountered from an episode of _Babylon 5_, a sci-fi show I wistfully know now will not become even-somewhat-slightly-true in the future.
"May God [or whatever word you wish to use in this sentence] stand between you and harm in all the empty places where you must walk."

Ducky said...

"The 20% or so of Americans who have benefited from the jobless recovery of the last eight years..." Could you either provide or link to some data that support your assertion that the recovery has been jobless?

beetleswamp said...

I really hope someone in the State Department/Pentagon starts taking an interest in your blog. Living in a first-strike nuclear zone, it was a huge relief to see the results last night. People are crying about Roe V Wade but arguing about abortions isn't something that you can do if you're a radioactive pile of ash.

Jen said...

Yes, I also experienced a complete lack of engagement tinged with hysterical hostility when I tried to discuss actual issues with anyone during this election cycle (at least for values of "discussion" other than "abject agreement"). At best, I got an acknowledgement that perhaps the candidate had a point about X or Y, but they were so utterly evil that only evil could possibly proceed from them, thus rendering their respective policy stances ultimately irrelevant.

Admittedly, I expressed my fair share of disgust, sometimes serious but often petty, with the characters and demeanors of the candidates (and was known more than once to declare that I had met potatoes more inspiring than Hillary Clinton), so I am not guiltless. I will keep a better eye on myself in future as regards my own tendency to engage in the "politics of personal vilification," as you term it.

What concerns me most about the whole trend is not so much its application to the candidates themselves, unfortunate and obstructing as it is, but its extension to anyone who chooses to vote for one of them. Never have I felt so strongly that my choice of candidate was functioning as a sort of litmus test, in the minds of my fellow citizens, of my worth as a human being. Moreover, the degree to which I was assumed to be identified with the candidate I chose was disturbing--as if I were personally putting on their every fault, and should be punished in proxy for their every sin. I felt like an effigy about to get burned on more than one occasion. It worries me.

Nestorian said...

You seem to be arguing that personal virtue does not matter in politicians. But it does: It requires personal virtue for a politician to mean what she says concerning the policies she wishes to enact.

If the politician is a virtueless opportunist, as so many of them are, then speaking about the merits of the policies they claim to want to enact is a useless exercise fit only for suckers. As such, personal morality turns out to be a very important trait for a politician to have, and arguing about it in political discourse is not at all out of place.

cynndara said...

Thank-you, JMG, for another reasoned and reasonable analysis of the current political situation. I have to say I was somewhat heartened by the extreme civility of the candidates in their victory/concession speeches this time around. And disheartened by various media pundits calling for unqualified eternal resistance to the Orange Horror. At the very least it seems like a good idea to see what happens before taking any rash actions. I couldn't help but remember that the last time a group of American States refused to accept electoral defeat, things turned out very badly.

Glenn said...

A gentle corrective to the vituperation and gloating I've read elsewhere. Thank you JMG.


in the Bramblepatch
Marowstone Island
Salish Sea

Paul said...

Interesting times we live in for sure.

Predictably enough, just like every time, the response both during and after this election from the Democratic Left is "Hey, ordinary people, you're a load of morons"

Same thing happened with Brexit. The lazy characterisation of those that supported leave as ignorant racist knuckledraggers did two things. One, it hardened their stance. Two, it meant they didn't bother arguing their views. Just kept it to themselves. Why bother, when you know full well you're just going to be reviled? So no wonder it came as a surprise.

If the dems had nominated Bernie Sanders, they might have had a chance.

llmaiwi said...

I admire how you always seem to be informed about current trends and events, but also grounded in reality and experience, and outside the various echo chambers. Would you be willing to share any of your info-hygiene tips or rules of thumb for those of us who struggle to strike a similar balance?

brett rasmussen said...

Your views are very instructive, and it will be a great challenge, I think, for individuals to break away from the temptation to criticize two such divisive characters as Trump and Clinton on a purely issues basis.
Do you think this new federalism that you write of is actually possible, or is your recent fictional post-2nd civil war scenario more likely?

pygmycory said...

There certainly is a lot of panic about Trump all over the place. Today, I ended up trying to explain to my pastor, and assorted people on facebook, why many people might have decided to vote for Trump. I also fielded assorted 'woe, woe' spiels from assorted internet petition groups whose petitions I sometimes sign, depending on what I think of the individual petition.

Trump is certainly VERY unpopular in Canada, especially with those on the leftward end on the spectrum. One of the candidates for leader of the conservative party wants to be Canada's Trump. I don't think that's likely to fly here unless the situation gets a lot worse.

I find myself not as downcast as part of me feels I ought to be by Trump's win. Perhaps I detest the neoliberal elite more than I knew. Or maybe I'm just hoping that he might actually live up to his better policies instead of down to his worst. Hope springs eternal in the human breast...

Amy Olles said...

May I please quote you on the "evilly evil with a double helping of evil sauce on the side"? That was hilarious and wondrously educational. Actually I believe this whole post tonight was perfect. Thank you for cutting through the rubble to get to the point.
I noted on my social media outlets, and during my conversations today that people are talking about everything but what you bring up in this post. Women can't shatter the glass ceiling and this is a terrible thing!(But yet, who leads England and Germany?) RACISM. SEXISM. UNEDUCATED IDIOTS - these types have done this country in - I've been told this all day today. I have witnessed shock from my peers who are males, and fear from my peers who are females. I have tried to use some of your points, to present a case as to how the election results turned out the way they did, but I have been told I was wrong all day. Fair enough, I'll try to respect others opinions. However, it's very encouraging to read a post like this after a day like today. As usual - thank you.

Revere T. said...

Thanks for your reports from the front lines, JMG. As a regular reader of yours, I was emotionally prepared for last night's results while most everyone else in my social circle was feeling the painful shock of acute disillusionment. I'm no fan of Trump, but I'm hopeful that this election leads to more readiness among my friends to discuss some of the deeper issues facing industrial civilization. Maybe some will even start checking out the Archdruid Report without my prodding. Stranger things have happened!

How would you describe the mood in Cumberland? Things are pretty subdued in your dear old Los Angeles North!

Also, I'm curious, did you have a draft worked out for what you would have written had Hillary won?

KL Cooke said...


My hat is off to you. You called this one months ago, in the face of all seeming evidence to the contrary.

You can deny it, but somehow I think there were some druidical tea leaves involved.

Chris Balow, Jr. said...


Do you believe this "new social contract" could potentially keep the United States together over the course of the next century? Or, do you see a break-up of the union--whether peacefully or violently--into separate polities (e.g. a Lakeland Republic future) as basically baked into the cake at this point?

blue sun said...

JMG, what do you make of Putin sending a telegram, yes a TELEGRAM, to congratulate Trump? I'm not clear whether it was sent to the White House or somehow to Trump himself, but is the White House even equipped to accept telegrams? The people in my office scoff when we have to send or receive a fax! I confess I'm ignorant of the technology beyond the fleeting lesson in fourth grade history class. It was an odd twist to the story, I thought.

Bruno B. L. said...

JMG, maybe its off-topic, maybe not, you be the judge of that, but I think you would like to see this:

patriciaormsby said...

You did indeed call it! I was just telling my husband that "my friend with Aspergers in America" (he wouldn't know a Druid from a raven) has such a keen overview that he was saying way back in January that Trump looked likely to win. Now you're going to get such a following you'll have to settle for sweeping responses to large blocks of us.

We had the third meeting of the Kanto Green Wizards, but this time it was small group of long-time Kompira friends, who are really like family. Long-term expatriates from various western countries with close Japanese friends or spouses. Our friend from Germany was just terrified by Trump, saying how his family had seen the rise of Hitler, and it was just like that. He requested us to pray that Trump would lose.

As it turned out, though, the other priestess, Ikeda-san, did not want to hold a ceremony, so I proposed we do a short standardized prayer together and then a harae for anyone wanting it, but everyone else wanted a ceremony enough that we held a short one, with the standard prayer and everyone able to make their own private wish to the gods. We asked our friend if he'd wished for Trump's defeat. He'd forgotten!

For the first time in my life, I gave a short sermon I'd planned. I spoke about dissensus as a strategy in rapidly changing times and a few other related ideas from your book, Ecotopia. It went over quite well. I'd also brought along food preserved in three ways not needing refrigeration, plus simple materials for a quickly constructed solar dehydrator. Everyone was chatting, but I think they absorbed what I was trying to convey. It was too shady on the mountain to demonstrate the dehydrator, but they could all see me making it and they asked a lot of questions. There was talk among them about farming. The nearly constant rains starting in August ruined most people's crops, and the only fermented food I had on hand to bring were anchovies (which I don't share for fear of mistakes being disastrous) and extremely hot peppers, which seem to love the rain. Still, they found fresh, unstrained tabasco to be quite good. They noted that some experienced farmers managed to get some degree of produce despite the rains. None of these people are following Green Wizardry, but they are practicing it on their own with awareness of its importance.

I want to buy the rest of your books, John, but I don't want to go through Amazon. Is there a way I could send you a check and have you send me your books, or is there any other way to send a check and make sure you get the proceeds?

andrewmarkmusic said...

"evilly evil evilness " choking and laughing at the same time:)

JRG said...

Thanks JMG. Having been an avid reader of your blog for I guess close to 10 years now, only with this election have some of the people I directed towards it actually read some of your posts. Peak oil, climate weirding, cultural variety, the influence of history, ecology before economy - no, being right about Trump was more real to them. Thinking that that has something to do with the general malaise of change about thinking is hard work and scary, but voting is easy. Keep up the good fight!

Tower 440 said...

Greetings to the assembled Wizardren!
We in Northeast Ohio are following Melbourne’s example by holding well-advertised monthly meetings.
The monthly joint meeting of the Green Wizards’ Benevolent and Protective Association, Tower Number 440, and Ruinmen’s Guild, Local 440 will be held at 11:30 AM on Wednesday, December 21 2016. Our location is Ruko’s Family Restaurant, 9385 Mentor Avenue, Mentor, Ohio 44060, (440) 974-1914. Shining the Green Light! Public Welcome! Tables for Failed Scholars. Look for the table topper with the Green Wizard Hat. Contact us at [email protected]
Many thanks to John for the posting space on his blog.

onething said...

I think a major reason the polls got it wrong is that older people have land lines and can be gotten hold of. I got lots of political phone calls, including polls. My daughter got none.
A lot of young people raised in the blue demographic understand things differently than their parent's generation. They were Bernie supporters but wouldn't switch to Hillary. She said I should inform certain of my friends that there's a new demographic called moderate independents, and they are out for blood - blue blood.

They weren't the ones polled. She was in despair a few weeks ago about those polls. I told her not to worry, that they were probably not accurate.

Mister Roboto said...

What I think is weird is that the way so many "SJW" Hillary supporters on social media are responding to Trump's Electoral College victory (I predict that the final popular-vote tally will be an effective tie) is a perfect mirror image of the way Republicans who became "The Tea Party" reacted to Obama's election!

D.X.Logan said...

I have long felt that our country would be greatly improved by a bottom-up approach that favors local over state and state over nation when it comes to anything not national in scope. I wish more people were as clear-minded as yourself when they sit down and consider the implications of what has been happening. Everyone seems caught in a loop of focusing on all the wrong things.

It has been odd watching normally sane people melt down on both sides of the political spectrum and start chasing phantoms instead of things of substance. I especially worry that most people will take away the wrong lessons from current events instead of trying to really analyze them. Thank you for your illuminating and insightful posts.

As an aside, I've also enjoyed your creative ventures as well. Retrotopia most recently inspired me thinking about a potential novel. I normally favor Science Fiction and Fantasy, but obviously this one would be based more on near-future events. Not quite dystopian or utopian exactly. Either way, your work was inspirational and I plan to start hammering it out after I've completed those I am already working on.

Barrabas said...

Fascinating that Mike Pence immediately thanked God in his " amazing grace", Trump himself went straight for the " 200 or so Generals, Admirals and congressional medal of honor winners that i've gotten to know ", before going on to taunt " the secratary who ran second".
Everyone here in Australia was absolutely glued to it and the Prime Minister immediately took to the airwaves to make a panicked , incoherent speech reassuring everyone that Barack Obama will be in office until January 2017 and the U.S is still the bestest ever friend Australia has ever had .
The 99% corporate controlled media here in murdochs plutocracy has ensured the australian public all think that Trump is just a racist misogynist Fascist pig , although all of the media talking heads appear severely dumbfounded and rattled .
The only sensible sounds ironically came from elite lefty but neoliberal critic naomi klein who pointed out the ravages of globalism . There is a sense of nakedness and palpable trepidation in Australia now , but overall barely anyone gets it.

Old Professor said...

Dear JMG

Another great post... I agree that moving more towards state, even regional power, would help the Republic. There are already rumblings from rich techies in California about secession. In the microcosm of family, we all agreed to refrain from voicing opinions on the candidates as the Northerners and Southerners did not agree, of course. We do talk about policies and usually find common ground there.

I note with hope that at the state and local levels people are finding agreement on issues as diverse as cannabis, gun control, and campaign financing. There are problems at the state level such as gerrymandering but the courts have been addressing this at least here in Florida. However, federal power will be difficult to curb as long as it can print money and run up debt. The states are very dependent on the dollars flowing from the Golden Goose.

HanZiBoi said...

Home run, Hr. Dr. Greer!

Ien in the Kootenays said...

The Automatic Earth called the presidency this time "A poisoned chalice". With the entire power structure now in the hands of one party, at least we will be spared the spectacle of a congress totally obstructing a president and at the same time blaming him for everything. I agree with your analysis regarding the descent of politics into infotainment. I am both terrified and fascinated by this outcome. Let's hope America's democratic structures will be strong enough to withstand the turmoil. I am heartened by the many voices on Facebook this morning calling for ordinary people to not fall into hatred.

Raymond R said...


Excellent summary of the election. If Mr. Trump sticks to the main points of his platform, there may be hope for the American Republic. I wish my American neighbours well.

For those hoping to escape to Canada, it is not any better here, just a few programs like state run medical insurance for which we pay through fairly high taxes. The divisions are here, just not so acute - yet.

zach bender said...

Thanks, JHG, for a thoughtful postmortem to the craziness of the past year and a half, and of the past forty or sixty years.

I do have one quibble, which is that while I have not watched a whole lot of Trump's speeches, I did watch portions of his debate performances, and I have read a fair amount of content on his campaign website -- much of which, incidentally -- weirdly -- has now been delinked in favor of a page celebrating the election victory.

And I found him not only unable to form coherent sentences, but also vague to the point of meaninglessness on specifics of how he intended to bring us from point wherever we are to the promised abstraction. He identifies a target, but not a path.

I have little doubt he will surround himself with technocrats, possibly Beltway insiders, who will advise him on how to frame and pursue his agendas, but I will suggest even his strongest supporters can have very little idea how exactly he proposed to go about accomplishing any of his objectives.

James Fauxnom said...

This isn't directly relevant to this weeks post but I thought readers would appreciate a bit of military humour to lighten the post election mood. It reads like an onion article and very much in keeping with the limits to complexity theme.

Darren Urquhart said...

Shervin Pishevar, co-founder of Hyperloop-One with Elon Musk, announces funding for a Californian secession campaign. And so it begins.

Compound F said...

I just saw a Los Angelena protesting Trump with a sign that said "Cal Exit: Succession!" rather than the "Secession" she probably intended; so, I thought, "Trump did succeed." I minor comic moment.

I saw a few silver linings within the general horror. First, apparently the deep state is not entirely in control of democracy. Second, Clinton did not get elected, and therefore the certainty of escalation with Russia/Syria/Ukraine et al, becomes a more open question, because who really knows what Trump thinks? Third, it was a clear rebuke of entrenched power by generally powerless people.

That said, Trump's language is entirely offensive, insofar as it predicts policies, while his actual policies remain completely obscure. My confidence in him is essentially nil.

The major silver lining is that voters finally figured out that when Monty Hall keeps showing you the donkey (i.e., a bad choice, not necessarily a reference to Democrats...) you absolutely and always increase your odds by switching your choice to the other curtain. In a three curtain situation, your odds increase dramatically just by switching from your initial choice.

Now, one might argue that the only reason that statistical reasoning works is because "monty is obligated to show you the donkey, because it never makes sense to show you the Cadillac." Whereas I would argue that it also seems that the elite are also obligated to show us the donkey, because it never makes sense to show off their Caddies!

Maverick said...

US presidential election is the most keenly watched event on Earth. At least wherever English media dominates. It got big coverage here in India and was a great source of humor for us.

I understand what you are trying to say, I really do. We have our own set of CNN, Huff Post type liberals who foam at the mouth for every bit of perceived immorality. My country took them to the cleaners in last general election. They have been at the receiving end ever since.

Congratulations on achieving something similar in US.

On a side note I found this gem online

There's this pundit (a PhD candidate) in Australia who proclaimed that it's mathematically impossible for Trump to win.

Poor fellow will have this article haunt him for the rest of his life. I wonder what his university will do now, I believe it's a logical case for firing him from his PhD for displaying such poor mathematical skills :)

Roy Smith said...

In the opening of the movie "The Big Short" the narrator says this about the financial crash of 2008: "there were some who saw it coming. While the whole world was having a big old party, a few outsiders and weirdos saw what no one else could. . . These outsiders saw the giant lie at the heart of the economy, and they saw it by doing something the rest of the suckers never thought to do. They looked."

You have accomplished to same feat (it seems strange to describe simple looking as a feat, but there it is) with regards to this election; the entire army of pundits, pollster and politicians failed to look, and now you look brilliant. Congratulations!

In other news:
The November meeting of the Cascadia Guild, Greater Seattle Branch, will be held on Thursday, November 17, 2016, from 6:30 to 8:00 PM. Venue will be the conference room at the Edmonds Library, 650 Main Street, Edmonds, WA 98020.

Visit our online forum for meeting agenda and other details.

Thank you to Mr. Greer for the inspirational blog as well as for tolerating advertising for this in the comments section.

Dennis Mitchell said...

I figured Hillary had it in the bag. You did have this one pegged. I'm amused that at the same time Republicans will gain control of all three branches of government, so many states passed gun control and pot legalization. Ive stated from my soap box that our national problems are too dangerous to be left to the two party system. To vote for either of the two parties would be an act of treason. As far as I know nobody responded. I was just adding noise to a noisy world.
I have a good view of the future here in Idaho. We are solid Republican. They have not made our state great. Lower taxes to match lower wages. Thick bureaucracy. Low unemployment. Just people struggling. Very few small businesses, unless you mean those small farms who employ only a few hundred, mostly Hispanic. The dairy industry calls these family farms.
The cult of personality has gripped our culture by the neck. From mega churches, to politics, TV news to CEOs. Something as simple as a plant based diet has followers of x just to be opposed to y for suggesting a little bit of meat is acceptable. Course to belong to the web site is twenty a month, but you get a discount on all his salad dressings, so it's not really that much. That does it for me no more late night coffee. Enjoy your corner of Retrotopia!

Zanshin said...

Well done John Michael, you're entitled to say "I told you so!'

Here in New Zealand disquiet at Trump's win is mixed with satisfaction (outside of the ruling neoliberal circles) that the TPPA is dead in the water.

Bryan L. Allen said...

Bravo on your predictive powers, and concise summary of the situation we find ourselves in. I had my "aha" moment back when I read your Jan. 20th posting on Trump and the politics of resentment. Just went back and reread that essay again; good stuff!

I know nothing of CNBC or of the particular writer who wrote the piece, but here's what seems to be a quite thoughtful reflection on why Trump won (is the author, Jake Novak, someone who's been reading your blog?):


peakfuture said...

And people thought the very idea that he would win was crazy. Your commentary in January (and that of Michael Moore) solidified my viewpoint that he would win.

"It’s time for people in Massachusetts to accept that they’re never going to be able to force people in Oklahoma to conform to their notions of moral goodness, and for the people of Oklahoma to accept the same thing about the people of Massachusetts"

This still confuses me somewhat. It seems that is incredibly obvious, but this is missed by many on the left and right. What is the reason for this? Is it fanaticism to one idea or political viewpoint, or something else? What causes anyone to think that they can get people to conform to their own notion of moral goodness?

Friends on the left (in coastal states) are in shock; friends on the right (of course) are happy with the result, but most don't seem to be gloating. Most want to be left alone. So far, only a few tantrums have been observed.

At least the principals after the election were somewhat civil and dignified. Let's hope we continue the tradition of a peaceful transfer of power.

Goldmund said...

Hi John. I agree that we are a nation comprised of many cultures but I'm not sure if the cultures are always regional. Having recently visited the camp that has sprung up to resist an oil pipeline being built just north of the Standing Rock rez I witnessed a remarkable clash of cultures based upon very different views of our relationship to land and water and the life it supports. On the one side is an industrial culture that views land and water as "resources" to be exploited without constraint and turned into profit, on the other a much more ancient culture that views them as living relatives that we've been entrusted to care for, as they care for us. This latter view is shared by native people who have come to this place from all over the continent and beyond, drawn to the stand that has been taken here. The highly militarized police forces have also arrived from many states and are serving as the hired goons of the pipeline company for all I can tell. The pictures coming out of there have been quite dramatic, with native people on horseback being chased by riot police in humvees, ATVs and helocopters and unarmed "water protectors" being maced, shot at with rubber bullets or mauled by dogs. I don't know how all of this will end but I don't really see much room for compromise, as one culture- the industrial one- has always viewed the other as an inconvenience at best, something that needs to be cleared away along with the forest to make way for the march of progress. One thing I do know is that the natives and their allies have dug in for the long haul and have no intention of giving up the fight. The pipeline company is equally determined to push this project through, especially now that they have a powerful ally about to move in to the white house.

Emmanuel Goldstein said...

Niccolo Macchiavelli, in 'The Prince,' gives us a way to evaluate a ruler based on the people he chooses to run his government;
"Chapter XXII - Of the Secretaries of Princes"

If Trump is good enough to pick competent people who will put the interests of their nation above personal interests, he is probably OK. If he picks people who are set on gaming the system, we're in trouble.

This chapter is well worth reading--
Highlights include;
"...there are three classes of intellects: one which comprehends by itself;
another which appreciates what others comprehended; and a third which
neither comprehends by itself nor by the showing of others; the first
is the most excellent, the second is good, the third is useless."
"...When, therefore, servants, and princes towards
servants, are thus disposed, they can trust each other, but when it is
otherwise, the end will always be disastrous for either one or the

John Michael Greer said...

Well, that was a pretty impressive response! Thank you all for your comments; since there's kind of a mass of them, I'd like to start by thanking everyone who posted congrats about the success of my prediction. When I was walking to the polling place, yes, it occurred to me that I'd be eating a nicely seasoned dish of crow if Clinton won by a landslide; still, it was pretty clear to me that the polls were wrong, for the same reason they were wrong about Brexit -- and of course they were.

Now, on to individual comments:

Bootstrapper, I'm rather startled by your suggestion that "left" and "right" are derogatory epithets; last I checked, they're common labels routinely used by the people to whom they're applicable. No, the division doesn't correspond to that between values and interests. If you go out and ask people whether they're politically to the left or to the right, then ask them to explain their political beliefs, I'm sure you'll figure it out promptly.

GreenEngineer, I'll be discussing that in upcoming posts. The phrase "equal protection of the laws" has been stretched and bent embarrassingly out of shape of late, and requires a bit of resizing. So does the concept of justice, which you'll notice I didn't reference. The law is not there to enforce somebody's abstract notion of justice; it's there to maintain those minimum standards of behavior without which civilized life is impossible. More on this as we proceed!

Tom, I'm sorry to hear that it isn't just an American problem. Sigh...

Donalfagan, obviously I disagree.

Cortes, fascinating. I've suspected for some time that the brash blowhard persona is basically an act...

Dale, thank you. The funny thing is that some Trump supporters were saying that a vote for a third party candidate was a vote for Hillary!

Grebulocities, exactly -- though the establishment Dems will try to spin it as racism as long as they can.

Philip, that's one of the things that a refederalization of the country would have to address. Since the Fourteenth Amendment gives the federal government the right to intervene against legal or institutional inequalities on the part of state governments, I don't think it's unreasonable for federal law to continue to prohibit segregation of public amenities, businesses open to the public, and the like.

Notes, I suspect that's behind a lot of the frantic attempts to legally impose this or that system of values on the whole country -- the fear that somebody else will impose an intolerable system on you. I would agree about drugs, and a great many other things; those are best left to state and local governments, and to individual choice.

Cherokee, thank you. I was unsure of my prediction for a while in the later part of the summer, when Trump made a lot of gaffes on which Clinton's people were able to capitalize; I thought it was possible he would crumple in the stretch -- but as it turned out, he managed to recover, regain control of the narrative, and win. I was pretty sure by the beginning of October that he was going to take it, and the louder and shriller the Clinton camp and their pet pundits got, the more sure I was that they were desperately trying to convince themselves that the inevitable was impossible.

Unknown said...

Have really appreciated the thoughtful commentary all through the election.

I'm prompted to leave a comment by today's post regarding the different nations of the US.
Folks not familiar with it might be interested in Colin Woodward's map of the 11 nations of the Americas, from his book "American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America"

However, now that I'm here, I do have to wonder if the men of this country, possibly including you, are not stuck in their own echo chambers, clueless to the painful blow dealt to the women of this country by the "personality"of our president-elect. Back when Obama was nominated, it was only at that moment of feeling some racial healing that I understood the pain that all of us live with due to racism. And I'm white. So although I wasn't gung ho for Hillary, as the prospect of a woman being elected president seemed likely, I began to feel the relief of the pain of long-term, deeply-conditioned gender discrimination. I became aware of how deep the pain has been, for me as a woman, and how deeply it affects the dynamics between all of us in this country, maybe even more so than racism. But we're so used to it, we usually don't even see it. It's like having a toothache for so long you just think it's normal. Well, many women in this country finally felt the depth of that pain and anticipated the relief of that pain that a Hillary victory would bring. Instead, to have a p***y grabbing man elected to the highest office in the country feels not just disappointing, and not just painful, but humiliating. Mutual respect you say?

So I do feel for the stark landscapes of poverty. Their plight is one of loss. And please be aware, the women of this country are still waiting to ever have the thing they lost.

Guilherme de Baskerville said...

Heh, I just posted something in the last post less then an hour before you posted this. I guess it's gone to the ether now.

Anyway, I'm always impressed by your druidic prediction powers. It almost makes me believe you have supernatural powers :)

And for a post that could have been just a "Told ya!", which you would be entitled, I appreciate the excellent discussion and thoughtful arguments.

I'll have to question some of your assumptions, though. As one of the first commenters asked, how do you square things like the Civil Rights Act? Or even slavery in the South pre-1860? Do you think Abraham Lincoln over-stepped the boundaries of the Federal government? Did Lyndon Johnson when he signed the Civil Rights Act? I mean, there WAS widespread popular support (from whites, that is) for Jim Crow in the South. On the other side of the fence, I bet there would be enough popular support in a few of the more liberal states to essentially revoke the Second Amendment locally, and if the divide keeps growing, in the future they might view "the right to keep and bears arms" as intolerable interference by the central government. At a certain point, the diferences are so great that moving from state to state would feel like crossing a international border.

I mean, there's some issues that are fairly ameneable to being decided in a more local manner, for sure, but there's some stuff that's non-negotiable as long as you're trying to maintain any kind of political union. Large multi-cultural, multi-religion, multi-national political unions existed in the past for sure, but they tend to be unstable and usually held together by a degree of force from the dominant religion/ethnicity. One of the great criticisms lobbied against the Europpean Union is precisely that it's too difficult to balance the interests of the different states within and even the extremely weak degree of central coordination they have is seen as intolerable intereference by a growing number of people in the continent (Brexit comes to mind, of course!). I seem to recall you not being very sanguine about the future of the EU as a political entity.

What I'm saying is that, yes, there's some issues that could and should be easily devolved to the individual States, but there's some things that either you can agree upon or you can't and no ammount of federalism will help and it's likely that the political union will dissolve at some point, with or without violence.

I'm also slightly more sceptical about the benefits of extremely descentralized government, but that's a huge topic and I'm not the one who's blogging here, so, I'll just end here;

drhooves said...

JMG, thanks for helping us keep our eye on the ball, and attempt to focus on the issues and challenges for the next four years. You certainly deserve to pat yourself on the back with your prediction. I must admit, however, that I felt immense relief as the results came in. With Trump's attempt to "drain the swamp" and fight against the globalists most likely a smoke screen about bigger problems, at least there's a slim chance we'll see some Rule of Law restored. With Hillary, there was zero chance.

I think you're spot on with the view to devolve the Federal government, which goes hand-in-hand with the decentralizing the Long Descent will impose anyway. You noted the increase in size of .Fed along with FDR's terms, and I believe you've mentioned that he was one of three American "dictators", and we're about due for another. If so, I see the table being set for this dictator to come to power in 4 or 8 years (if by "election"), and that event being in direct conflict with any attempts to devolve the Feds...

John Michael Greer said...

Jason, I know a lot of people for whom Clinton's embrace of neoconservative ideology and her apparent willingness to push for a confrontation with Russia were the last two straws. I wonder if the Democrats will get around to taking that into account.

Tripp, funny! No doubt it was a mineral deficiency. ;-)

ChemEng, exactly. That's one of many reasons why I think a renewal of federalism and a devolution of powers are worth pursuing.

Varun, remember that a lot of these people have spent the last year or so convincing themselves that Donald Trump is Satan incarnate -- I suspect this was at least in part so they could overlook the more dubious aspects of Clinton's record -- and now they're terrified that the bogeyman they imagined is going to come and eat them. You're right, though, that there's a lot of emotional fragility these days. It's a stressful era.

JacGolf, I probably should have, but it wasn't until I fielded some trollspittle in response to last week's post that the penny finally dropped.

Mark, no, it wasn't me, but it's a valid point. As for Retrotopia, one of the points of that story is that you give people good jobs at good pay, a relatively fair and democratic government, and other such amenities, you don't have to control them -- they take care of themselves and their society just fine, thank you!

John, I hope you enjoy it! As for Oklahoma, I thought of it because I've been to Guthrie a couple of times for Masonic speaking gigs, and found the very different culture there interesting and by no means unpleasant.

Unknown Joel, I'm sure you're right about the Unaffordable Care Act. That really rubbed the noses of a lot of people in just how little affluent liberals care about what happens to ordinary Americans -- and Clinton, who'd promised to keep Obamacare, was the logical target for their wrath. Even so, that was simply one more straw atop an already overburdened camel.

Kevin, I can understand Hispanic Americans and Muslims feelng threatened by Trump's "stated intentions," but the others you named? I think some serious demonization is at work there.

Mark, so noted! Ah, but what about the household appliances? ;-)

Lucius, I wonder what the first group is going to do when it finally sinks in that the black vans are entirely figments of their imagination. The third group -- those are the future. I wish them wisdom, persistence, and ultimate success.

Canon Fodder, that's why I think it's important to begin pushing political discourse back toward issues, and holding elected officials accountable for their promises. It'll take a lot of work, but it can be done. As for books, please don't patronize Amazon or any other discount retailer if you can avoid it -- those discounts come straight out of the authors' income. The links I provide are mostly publishers, and buying from them gets me the largest royalty. Thanks for asking!

Ray, Blake's usually a source of good advice.

K Sc, politicians go back on their word because they know the voters won't throw them out of office for doing so -- so again, it comes back to the voters.

SamuraiArtGuy said...

I had a long night with raised eyebrow watching the stunned disbelief wash across the facile faces of politicians, pundits, pollsters, and media flacks as the red wave rolled west and the cries of "how did we miss this." Probably because you weren't paying attention. But while I hoped you were wrong, I do see you were right - and within the "margin of error" lurk battalions of ninja assassins. Thank you for being thoughtful and gracious with entirely justified "I told you so's.”

I have been lavishly quoting you, especially your thoughts about the plight of the wage class under thirty plus years of neocon foreign policy and neoliberal economic policy. The majority of the audience swiftly diverts to Right vs Left ideology, discounting or badmouthing the poor, or the usual accusations of racism, naziism, or sexism, so that those people can be dismissed as deserving of scorn.

Well they’re angry as hell, and sent a right proper Brooklyn Salute to the Beltway. And many of them apparently dislike and despise Donald Trump’s personality and (forgive me) deplorable business record, but voted for him ANYWAY, as their fury at thirty years of maltreatment by Washington “Trumps” his liabilities. Some of the cognitive dissonance among pundits and more attentive observers is that despite his disturbing rhetoric and behaviors, he still managed to be the only candidate, once Bernie Sanders was safely disposed of, to speak directly to the concerns of this cohort. Unfortunately, he also adroitly spread his outreach exploiting racial resentments and religious intolerance. So his campaign has swept up racists, bigots, sexists, and authoritarian proto-facists among his supporters and normalized their views, which distorts the perception of the legitimate and very real anger of the Ordinary Citizen.

There were two other thoughtful humans that saw this coming, Kevin Drum wrote in MotherJones back in 2011 –

"If politicians care almost exclusively about the concerns of the rich, it makes sense that over the past decades they've enacted policies that have ended up benefiting the rich. And if you're not rich yourself, this is a problem. First and foremost, it's an economic problem because it's siphoned vast sums of money from the pockets of most Americans into those of the ultrawealthy. At the same time, relentless concentration of wealth and power among the rich is deeply corrosive in a democracy, and this makes it a profoundly political problem as well.”

- Kevin Drum, Why Screwing Unions Screws the Entire Middle Class, Mother Jones, March/April 2011

And of course, the deeply missed George Carlin –

"Because the OWNERS of this country don't want that. I'm talking about the real owners, now. The REAL owners. The big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions. Forget the politicians. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don't. You HAVE NO CHOICE. You have OWNERS. They OWN you. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They've long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the State Houses and City Halls. They've got the judges in their back pockets.And they own all the big media companies so they control just about all the news and information you get to hear. [italics mine]

"They've got ya BY THE BALLS!

"They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying. Lobbying-- to get what they want. Well, we know what they want. They want more for themselves and less for everybody else.”

– George Carlin, "American Dream", Life is worth Losing, 2005

There's more...

SamuraiArtGuy said...

Some of the more insightful coverage of the plight of the American Dispossessed has come from UK-based The Guardian, who actually sent reporters into flyover country and actually TALKED to them. Of course its a non-US, Non-Corporate, Independent News organization, so they are occasionally allowed to practice a little actual journalism. It’s a grim picture, but they deserve some credit for trying to inform people.

But whatever policy, or crisis management, comes out of the Trump Presidency, I agree with your assessment that the two-party system is in some trouble, and even the pundits are coming around to this view. Among disturbing possibilities, the GOP is a MESS, fractured, consumed by the anti-establishment insurgency, and spent the campaign in all but an internal civil war. The smell of power will more than likely hold them together, unruly as they might be.
However, the Democratic Party may very well also be quite finished as a poliitcal force in this Nation, and along with it any legitimacy of the American Left, especially as conceived by affluent elites. And this was entirely self inflicted, and utterly avoidable. But the store is bare, the varsity bench is empty. The DNC in it’s obsession to coronate Sec Clinton, utterly abandoned both their rank and file, and democratic principles. This has cost them the House, Senate, and now the White House, and in January, The Supreme Court, likely for a Generation - should the Republic endure that long.

More immediate casualties may likely be the Affordable Care Act, with all it’s flaws, the rolling back of Environmental Protections, and any legitimate response to Climate Change. But as you have remarked, the Paris Accords were all but a PR photo op in the first place.

As for ordinary folk - we’re still on our own, and have been for a while now. I found it interesting that Trump in his acceptance speech was pledging to do all the things the GOP absolutely stonewalled for eight years. This is going to be a lot MORE interesting if he tries to stick with the high sounding stuff he's tossed out there last night.

But he got there setting every thing in sight and in his path on fire. Now that he's triumphant, he's being all gracious and Presidential. The Man rather has a thing for “winning." We'll see how that lasts when it's time to actually govern, or the first crisis comes across his desk, or hits some blowback in the GOP or Congress. Who knows, maybe he’ll actually help, but his record in business is not reassuring.

My plan is to remain a citizen of this Nation, and act like one. With everything that implies. In the meantime the sun still came up. Still have to chop wood, carry water, still have to sit at the workstation and shove pixels, so long as the power stays on.

SamuraiArtGuy said...

An aside.... Nate Silver at ThreeSixtyFive was harshly criticized for giving Donald Trump such a high Probabilities of winning, the highest of the various forecasters. By last night, the pundits wanted his head on a pike for "getting it completely WRONG!"

Mind you, the results were entirely within the stated "margins of error." Margins make a difference in statistics, as Mr Silver would be happy to remind people. Many states went to Trump by far LESS than said margins.

Jus' saying'.

Nancy Sutton said...

Here! here! and can I, again, recommend 'American Nations' by Colin Woodard, to reveal our very real and definitely various 'cultures' (ala MA's and OK's et al) I just realized how glad I am that there's a mostly empty mountain range between us left coasties and the vast majority of Americans in their distinct nations on the other side. Melting pot, indeed!

I'd happily support 'states' rights' on a lot of issues. I voted for a woman's right to choose in 1973 here in WA, before Roe v Wade. Single-payer medical care will happen on the state level, first, in those that want to join the rest of the world. Just as the reversal of the unconscionable outlawing of cannabis is happening on the state level. I'd love to see how the other 'nations/cultures' in this country would proceed with 'freedom' distributed 'unequally', amongst the states.

But, I think a large element is being left out here... the bottom line is the usual bottom line... the most powerful ($$ and military) buy the best minds to strategize the most effective ways to control.. using the tried-and-true 'divide and conquer', the 'social', i.e., crotch, wedge issues, bleeding heart red-herring appeals, etc. We are so easy to manipulate (see Edward Bernays, et al) wonder the TPTB want to make the world democratic! Dictators like Saddam and Ghadafi were a challenge (even though their countries had high literacy, fair gender equality, and posed a military threat to no one ... except you-know-who :).

Jesus had it right... the one and only alternative to God is Mammon ;)

lordyburd said...

Congratulations Mr Greer, on calling it! Thanks to you I've made a decent bit of cash from the people around me, and seen a whole lot more with egg on their faces. Only yesterday, a social sciences friend of mine told me how this election will prompt a whole new set of PhD theses, particularly on the meaning of Liberty. I read this essay this morning, and ta da! Upcoming blogposts on Liberty.

Candace said...

One of the arguments I have heard for brining "character" in to the assessment of candidates is that it is not possible to know in advance all of the issues that may arise during a term in office, so the character of someone is something that is supposed to help gauge whether the person would choose to respond to the problem in a way that you would favor. I have to say that I think the duopoly is also part of the problem with holding politicians accountable, sometimes there is no place to really go with your vote. I'm thinking particularly here of the 2008 election and the anti-war issue. Neither main party candidate was an option if you wanted the U.S. stop the military adventurism. They each just promised to focus on the "correct" military adventure.

At any rate, my family and friends have so thoroughly absorbed the idea that Trump is unleashing the forces of hate that they spent the wee hours weeping and terrified that "black vans" are coming.

Thanks for the voice of reason. I was hoping that you or some of the LGBT commenters would be able to help me find a way to communicate that this election is disappointing, but panicking that the brown shirts are coming to take you and your friend away is not necessary.

Brian Cady said...

Why, when polls differ from vote tallies, do we doubt polls and trust the tallying? Greg Palast's video 'Best Democracy Money can Buy' and the free Black Box Voting's online 'Fraction Magic' video provide insight into what was done and what was possible, respectively.


Mario Incandenza said...

This discussion of the support of "the working class" for Donald Trump seems to me to leave out an extremely important part of the story. Namely, that a very large portion of the working class voted strongly against Trump - in particular, blacks, hispanics, and other non-whites. As a matter of fact, exit polls showed Trump doing worst and Clinton doing best at the low end of the income spectrum, largely due to her support from non-whites.

If Trump had such appeal to "the working class," why did he perform abominably in the very hardscrabble towns of the Rio Grande Valley and the Mississippi Delta? The answer clearly has something to do with race.

I'm not trying to take sides in the tired economic anxiety vs. racial anxiety debate; I am happy to allow that the phenomenon of political support for any given group is overdetermined. But this blog entry would give the impression, if one didn't know better, that the Trump phenomenon had pan-racial appeal, uniting the disaffected of all colors in rejection of the politico-economic establishment. That is simply false.

jean-vivien said...

Hi everyone,

not much of surprises about the reaction in France.
Here, journalists were busy re-making the election, asking if Bernie Sanders would have had a better chance of beating Trump...
Interviewing respected American artists and intellectuals who were (rightly)horrified that he had insulted all those groups of people.
Talking about values a lot.
Now some journalists are actually talking about his program, but mostly to say that it will be disastrous or that he will be unable to enforce it.
We have also had plenty of explanation about how America is actually in a very bad shape, a lot of people are poor, and that's why they were desperate and voted the way they did.
Still the narrative told is that the Obama program did work out and it profited mostly non-white groups which is why the poor white groups did vote the way they did.
Parallels are being drawn between the USA and France, but to point out the danger of a vote to the far-right.
Amid all of this, the failure of the whole neoliberal agenda gets little discussion, even from the talking heads usually busy denouncing it.
Interestingly, the political figures taking this victory as example to defend their programs are the ones on the right - Le Pen, Sarkozy... but Sarkozy is advocating exactly the neoliberal agenda that got us in trouble in the first place.
As for Le Pen, her party is divided between several currents, one of which is more on the neoliberal side of economic policies, whereas the other is more focused towards protectionnism and economic patriotism.

I feel that somehow, the right lessons are not being drawn. It amazes me that the journalists here don't seem to understand that the US campaigns are full of lowbrow tactics and lowkick insults, but that it's mostly for communication purposes.
Or rather, they accept it when it comes from certain candidates, and not when it comes from some others.
It looks arrogant to us, so I can barely imagine how the folks in the USA must feel about their journalists...

In the end you cannot draw parallels between France and the USA, because those are two very different nations, in terms of History, politics and culture. Whatever political solutions might work for the USA would certainly not work for France, and reciprocally.
And yet you can bet your shorts that there will be no shortage of journalists trying that perilous exercise !

I saw some people commenting about French police demonstrations. Just one precision here : there are two corps of French law enforcement forces.
One is police, those who are demonstrating, and they are attached to the Home Affairs' Ministry. Whereas the other is Gendarmes, and is attached to the Defense Ministry. Those are not demonstrating.
I suppose that it might be a future faultline in our society, army versus civilian law enforcement... And it is just one more harbinger of troubled times to come.

However it is nothing new, there have been police demonstrations before (against other leftwing governments...).
In fact, a lot of what is happening now is nothing new, what is unprecedented is the level of collective forgetfulness and lack of hindsight that we display.

PRiZM said...

After wasting much of my time trying to pass along information to help people understand why Trump was voted for, and trying to help point out facts about the previous administration, and prior adminstrations, and having all met with evasion, dodging, or flat out ignoring, I've realized it was useless using this path to try unifying people to deal with our problems. However, it is going to be an extremely difficult path when helping to restore our liberty and federatist values will require undoing the works and legacy of Obama when many refuse to face the facts. This is yet again one of those situations where one must lead and prove their point by example.

Rita Narayanan said...

Have been watching all the action through Television in distant is an understatement to say that the whole establishment seemed shell shocked & dazed and now you have trouble in some urban areas.

for a person like me in inculcation & mind liberal but in outward philosophy not so :( # to protect that which is liberal have to be conservative ( like a wired fence).

it has been a long journey for ma person who admired a Hillary Clinton in 1992 but the wheel has come full circle & I felt only a Trump win would delve a serious slap to the rich educated liberal elite.

the term ** minority is often used as if these communities are old Christians being fed to the lions but the truth is internally many such communities are far more conservative/regressive than ordinary decent conservative White people...& the even worse part of this charade is that this form of liberalism often turns on the progressive elements in such communities.

Hard work is not just physical labour but also the hard work required for the mind, manner & soul..this is what I feel (with due respect)America does not recognize.

Thanks & regards!

Roy Smith said...

Hi JMG, I was wondering if you had heard of the American Solidarity Party? One of their emphases is on subsidiarity (taking care of problems at the lowest level of government possible), which is in accordance with your ideas on greater federalism. They are fairly conservative on social issues, but I am hopeful that I can advance the view with them that subsidiarity should apply to social issues just as much as to economic and environmental issues.

Rob Rhodes said...

Nice call! As I heard several talking heads speak scornfully about Trump supporters who don't get progress and think America was great sometime in a vaguely dated past that never quite happened I realized: Trump has a mandate to create Retrotopia :-)

Since you rebooted my view of him in Jan. it has been a delight watching him play the media and break all the rules of modern campaigning, declining a big cumbersome machine and just flying around talking to people while HRC raised money to feed her machine. His campaign was so different that it gives more hope that he can lead real change. With no "ground game" across the country I guess you could call it a federal campaign!

Scotlyn said...

I would like to submit this thought that has had hold of me since immersing myself in some of Thomas Frank's analysis of American liberalism and its preferred political economic arrangement based on meritocracy.. he says in a meritocracy there is no solidarity. Inequality is, by definition, all due to individual effort, and therefore no successful individual, invested in a sense of their own merit, will deign to fight alongside the less meritorious, EVEN WHEN THEY HAVE COMMON GOALS.

The thought in summary, is this: The opposite of inequality is fellowship.

And fellowship has become the biggest casualty of a politics conducted as a vendetta or intergenerational feud. Also the biggest casualty of an economics of widening inequality where the beneficiaries believe too strongly in their own personal merit.

Building fellowship around me... my personal little campaign for the nonce.

Ondra said...


"congratulations" that you rightly guessed the result of elections. Now it's time for Saudi Arabia to fall apart!
I want to note that it has been bad season for pollsters, beginning with general elections in the UK 2015, then referendum on staying in the EU and now your new "presden"... There is certainly some class of people which is unrecognized by standard measures of public opinion, and this class is decisive.
As you said, liberal left is often baffled by the fact that not everybody has the same opinion as they do - I have seen this in the US as well as in the UK. Here in Czech rep. it is not that often, probably because of the fact that it is not that easy to be completely out of touch with the Others, who are not so "enlightened".

One more thing - as you said, devolution of powers is the reasonable direction. But the division runs across states, it is very much urban - rural, at least on state level.


Scotlyn said...

Ok, one more thing.
I watched the speeches, Trumps, and then Clinton's.
"Rebuilding infrastructure" featured in the first.
Those are two very strong words that I cannot imagine Clinton having uttered were she on the winner's podium.

cristina said...

From an European perspective it's just crazy to watch Americans having their election. Admittedly, this one was especially insane, but I watched with some kind of morbid fascination, given the fact that I fear that this kind of thing will play out across Europe in the months to come. Just one and a half years ago it would have been unthinkable that the German chancellor would be hanged in effigy by angry protester. Well... interesting times ahead.

Just in case somebody's interested: Against Elections, The Case for Democracy by David Van Reybrouck. A rather slim volume, but worth reading.

Taraxacum said...

No doubt there are some silver linings to to drubbing given to Clinton and the DMV. I am looking forward to the repeal of NAFTA, should it come to pass, and I do hope that we will in fact take a step back from the brink of war. I identify as a socialist and am very hopeful that the elitist neoliberal consensus may in fact be broken. Nonetheless, I am struggling to integrate the prospect of a President Trump. I do recognize that the bulk of Trump's voters are not the kind of caricatured racists that some present them as. I am an early millenial living in a red state, earning beneath the national median income and struggling to get by financially and I have no time for the old political consensus, and never had. Nonetheless, the majority of those who are in fact virulently racist have gleefully gravitated to Trump. I am sit here with a pit in my stomach as I watch reports of assaults on people of color, Muslims, and LGBTQ, including small children, roll in by the dozen from all over the country today, most of which were perpetrated by individuals proclaiming Trump's victory as their justification, and people I love describe the sheer terror they are experiencing today, and I don't know what to do or how to feel. I was raised to watch for just this kind of behavior as a dangerous prelude to pogrom and atrocities, and I can't just dismiss that. I can't help but fear that Trump, acting as a demagogue (rather explicitly so, as described in his own book The Art of the Deal), has unleashed something terrible from within the id of this colonial settler state, something that will not rest without a blood sacrifice. These kinds of things do happen with some regularity. If you have some reason to believe this fear is truly unfounded I am all ears.

Avery said...

Hi JMG, may I shake things up by offering a comment that doesn't stick to strictly partisan lines? Although I've also been caught up in the enormous emotional swings of the past few days and I have to confess that I just posted an anonymous comment on Reddit alleging that the forum was being overrun by bots/paid shills, so the hate and anger is mine to own as well... but here's something a bit more interesting.

Some old left archivists and I were looking through the demographics of the vote. The Washington Post made a handy chart of all the counties won by Obama in both 2008 and 2012 that switched to Trump in 2016. And there's a huge block of them stretching from Peoria through Mason City, through La Crosse, all the way to northern Wisconsin.

I was interested by the fact that I had heard nothing about this, and did some sleuthing. It appears that the entire upper Mississippi survived through 2008 through some kind of sustainable economic development, then was hit by a flood of factory closings since then. There's no outright proof of this, only scattered references in papers.

It's fascinating to me-- when the Rust Belt started to rust, it was major national news and a theme for articles that persists as a stereotype today. Pundits and journalists who wanted to dig into the Trump phenomenon went to west Pennsylvania-- and not without reason, as they produced a surprise upset. But the economic failure of a similarly sized Midwest region, what appears from the polls to be an entire new Rust Belt, didn't even make a mark on the topics of national concern. Colbert never put them on notice. Jon Stewart never had a laugh about them. There's not much to laugh about anyway.

Spanish fly said...

It's funny that a lot of Europeans (brainwashed by the "presstitutes" in TV, radio, and newSPAPERS) love H.C. and hate D.T.
However, "Killary" would have keeping on the same selfish and reckless "bushists" politics in foreign affairs and confrontation with Russia.
Stupid pundits say that Trump is a menace to Europe, but in fact his triumph is better to Europe and the world.
Bye bye, WWWIII! (at least for some years).
I don't like much Trump, but it was the "best between two evils".
Spanish Prime Minister Mr. Rajoy congratulated yesterday Mr. Trump for his victory.

He was the same politician that some weeks ago warned against fool populist people in politics. From extreme left to neocon right, everybody was anti-Trump here. How embarrassing!
I have no idea how to translate our emphatic set phrases: "trágate el sapo" or "trágala perro"...'swallow your pride', maybe?
So, I've found a visual explanation of these vernacular sentences:

Vedant said...

Though this is a very sound analysis, being an Indian I can not help but comment that focusing only on policy and not on personality will be equally destructive. In India , we have repeatedly seen that to get votes candidates say that they will support whatever policy which is currently demanded by voters. After winning election they do practically nothing to enforce this promised policy but on the contrary they continue to enforce same old existing policy which were in existence before theirs election in election. And this done by not one or two candidates but all of them and every election. You will see one party promising one policy in one state, an opposite policy in other state and a mix of them in 3rd state , and finally adopting none of them after winning election in any of the state or in whole union and maintaining status quo. Due to this a I believe it is necessary to to ensure that candidate whom you support atleast have basic characteristics such as honesty. Without it in U.S. will just become like India, i.e. electing one person only to get disappointed and elect another person in hope of change only to get disappointed again and then electing a third and then forth and then fifth and the loop goes on. We need focus on both policy and personality.

Spanish fly said...

"I noted on my social media outlets, and during my conversations today that people are talking about everything but what you bring up in this post. Women can't shatter the glass ceiling and this is a terrible thing!(But yet, who leads England and Germany?) RACISM. SEXISM. UNEDUCATED IDIOTS - these types have done this country in - I've been told this all day today. I have witnessed shock from my peers who are males, and fear from my peers who are females. I have tried to use some of your points, to present a case as to how the election results turned out the way they did, but I have been told I was wrong all day."
Amy Olles: and similar types lead Spain... Some days ago our government denied refueling at port to the Russian fleet. They were good Obamas minions...Now, they are sweating blood to please new USas president (but they are very unconfortable with Trumpo).
When I told people around me that I am not Trump's supporter (aka fawscist, extreme right...) they don't understand me.

Phil Knight said...

There's a really excellent essay by John Gray here, which I can't recommend highly enough:

It sums up something that I've felt more and more over recent years - that Liberals are simply incapable of learning, or adapting their ideology to real-world circumstances. Indeed the opposite is the case - the more they are proved wrong, the more they double down.

PV Learning Garden said...

One of my first thoughts yesterday morning was gratitude that you never let me forget that Trump had a very good chance of being president, so that in spite of all the polls and pundits, I was not taken by surprise. You explained it so well, it opened my eyes these last 10 months, and I was able to see through the shaded coverage and confound more than one friend when, as a progressive so far left I couldn't vote for either candidate, I defended Mr. Trump or criticized a policy idea of Ms. Clinton's. My only sigh is that we are always called to "come together" when the conservatives are in power, and we do, at least a little. When there is the slightest leaning to the left, the other side becomes the part of Hell No.

Barrabas said...

One of the things shining out right now is the tens of thousands of young Faceborg Facsists who seem emotionally unequipped to deal with an election result that didnt go their way , and so are tearing up the streets in petulant tantrum , fighting to preserve the womb like matrix of corporate political correctness which has them captive .... they are the scary ones for mine .

Alan B said...

Nice job on calling the election. I live in a VERY blue region and "our" viewpoint has long seemed self-evidently correct to me. However, I spent some time in rural Virginia over the summer and fall and had an interesting revelation; that being that the values of rural VA started to made sense to me in the context of their landscape, population, and culture; as much as mine currently make sense to me in the context of my landscape, population, and culture. Put me in the rural south long enough and I might start to think more like they do. Value systems that are adaptive for one situation are not necessarily applicable in a different situation. So...yes, an argument for allowing these different regions more self-determination.

Ron said...

A very good piece as we have come to be used to, JMG.
Indeed discussion, debate and reason is something we sorely miss these days, wherever we are. But you said it yourself repeatedly; shouting down someone who disagrees is so much more easy then having a debate. The latter would require intelligence, facts, argumentation and mutual respect. Again something more often than not sorely missed.

Yet another question that came to my mind was:"Why was mr. Trump allowed to win, if he was such a threat to the establishment?" Surely a single politician could be dealt with, when said establishment overthrows governments, instigates revolutions and bombs entire countries and populations to kingdom come, whenever it suits them?
Why indeed?

Sleisz Ádám said...

Congratulations for your right prediction!

I think that the strong focus on the personal quality of candidates may be an early attribute of caesarism. The power of caesars is personal power, their only allegiance is to the "little people". The theories and institutions of the former elite are essentially just decorations. Leaders must be competent to get things done and convince the masses to trust them. Any other thing gradually becomes irrelevant. Nowadays even the supporters of the establishment frequently say that populists are not "electable" and cannot be taken serious because, hey, just look how miserable they are! A perfect environment is emerging for charismatic leaders.

You may have a disagreement with Spengler (or my interpretation of him) on this issue but he explicitly said that democracy directly belongs to a certain historical period of a civilization. In his model, the call to revive or even save its original spirit and meaning - a call you seem to make here and elsewhere, too - is almost certainly a losing proposition. Such a thing would be unusual from you. Do I miss something?

About the decentralization of politics, I can only wish good luck. We all are going to need it.

mr_geronimo said...

About the minorities afraid of being persecuted by Trump's Frog Cultist of Kek: when you ride the tiger that the State is, it devours you when you inevitably fall from it's back. The minorities rode the tiger and now are afraid of the monster they used and abused until yesterday. It doesn't matter if the cause is just, if it is a human right, what matters is that those that live by the sword perish by it, and the State IS the sword, the biggest one. It's the same reason why the alauties in Syria (Assad II's group) are fighting to the death: they rode the tiger during the Assad Dinasty and know what will happen should that dinasty falls. The same thing is happening here in Brasil. The sexual minorities used the long leftist cycle from the mid-nineties up to 2016 to push as much legislation as possible, to use the State to achieve their aims. Some of them got quite rich in the process as "defenders of the minorities". But now their cycle is over, their party was toppled and the biggest protests in the western world were not only against corruption but against government intruding in every aspect of life and that intrusion being managed by some minorities that used the state power to aquire privileges and spread ideologies (in the marxist meaning of the term). Now it's over and last month's elections here confirmed that the leftists and all those that used the long reing of the left to achieve goals are on the run.

As the Druid said: when the system falls you fall with it.

Disclaimer: i'm falling too. I'm public worker and my category bet everything on the worker's party system. The party has fallen and there is nobody to protect my category from the approaching economic liberalism.

Mister Roboto said...

This thought-provoking article by professional pollster Nate Silver posits that if one out of a hundred Trump voters (and one may as well render that as "non-Clinton voters" to include those who voted Green and Libertarian) went for Clinton instead, a few crucial states (including my own state of Wisconsin) would have flipped in Clinton's favor. This would have yielded exactly the reverse result in the Electoral College, thus putting Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Oval Office. I looked at the tallies for the states that flipped in this projection and saw that in each case, a substantial minority of Johnson and Stein voters going for Clinton instead could have caused this flip.

And the primary issue that I believe decided this minority of third-party voters who could have given this election to Clinton, of whom I am certainly one? Not wanting World War 3 with Russia, as you said to Jason B. And that sounds very plausible and was certainly also true for at least a handful of Trump-voters. When you see a movie such as The Day After on television at the age of sixteen, believe me when I tell you that it stays with you for the rest of your life!

Fred said...

I'm sorry I keep mentioning in my comments from last week that you called this election in August 2015 when you did the series of posts on the primaries. Anyway, thank you for calling it in January and sharing your thinking so I could prepare and watch the unraveling.

There is a Micah White, PhD who claims to be co-creator of Occupy Wall Street and lives in Oregon. He is called on activists to move to the "red" areas of the country and take over local city governments. Oh, and he's asking for donations from people to do it, because you know, there is no work there and it will take money to move and all that. This is the weirdest thing I read since the results came in.

People are protesting "Not my President" in the streets. More are being organized tonight. It is so childish to be protesting in anger against something. Isn't this why you said the left has failed? They have no proposal for what to do instead.

AlthoughI did see a talking head media person post that we need to have all the election all over again, leaving off all the 3rd party candidates. It would only be fair of course to do it this way, he said. And I thought, ah, he's gotten to the "bargaining" phase of dealing with grief. Lots of shock and anger out there right now. Wish more of it was directed at Clinton than at their fellow citizens.

Fred the First said...

Another tidbit I thought was interesting to share - Dem's hold less than half of the state governor positions (18/50) and only 11/50 state legislatures are controlled by Democrats. The problems with that party go deeper than loosing an election.

Locally in rural PA, people run on both party tickets in primaries so when voters pull 'straight party" they get in no matter what.

Anselmo said...

Let me congratulate you for the achievement of your prediction. The reading of your post of the last january, was surprising for me and guided en the understanding of the happenings concerning to the elections till today.This sucess in the art of predicting the future enhances the esteem that i feel about your predictions, so that the admiration that i have about your perspicacy.

The necessity of to demonice de opponents is a necessity imposed by the mass psicology according Gustave Le Bon (Crowds; 1898).

The democracy is a good way of goverment, but it si not perfect. An equivalent of the democracy brought to the field of the TV scheduling, is the trash that usually is watched in TV. According with the words of a philosopher called Gustavo Bueno (a different person than Gustave le Bon ).

Finally I must add that the last paragraphs of the present post, are misguided in my opinion, because ,seems to me, that in these are missing the idea that politics is the fight for the power. And, too i think, that your love to your country impedes you to acknowlwedge that his future as an united state is practically imposible, because as you remark, it is not possible to speak of an american people. and this is a basic condition for the construction of a national state.

Finally i fear that t a democracy an not survive without economic progrees and peronal freedom. Two things that will not exist in world biten by sharp limitations.

barrigan said...

@JMG, @Darthy Noxin -

I, too, am reminded of Woodard's book by this election. I think what Woodard terms the "Midlands" actually extends further north into Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio etc. and that the "Yankeedom" influence is mainly felt in the Great Lakes-urban corridor. I know there's some degree of a cultural divide between Cleveland and Cincinnati.

I would not be surprised if, for instance, California wanted to secede as a result of this election. (I would also not be surprised if much of the rest of the country was perfectly fine with this.)

Alex Blaidd said...

Well, I found myself being quite happy at the result when I checked in the morning. I have yet to speak to my friend who said it was impossible for him to win - should be an interesting conversation! Interesting, I'd missed the correlation between Orwell's Two Minutes Hate, and what's going on, but quite right. It seems that the most hateful of them all are my leftie friends. People I thought were quite intelligent - and indeed are most of the time - seem to be taking it really hard, even though these same friends equally despise neoliberalism - why is that? How could they go from supporting Sanders to supporting Clinton with such lack of cognitive dissonance? That I don't quite understand.

I think people should be relieved that we are far less likely to see a WW3 between US/The West and Russia (and no doubt China and Iran). That's all I've said to people about it.

The thing I've had to observe in myself is my desire to want to 'convert' others, persuade them, tell them they're wrong (about Trump that is) etc. And that is why I've imposed a ban on myself of either a) posting anything on Facebook espousing the alternative view to the media, or b) even going on Social media. It's tempting, but I've learnt from the aftermath of Brexit that there is little to be gained by it, and perhaps indeed that desire is the problem with politics at the moment - everyone's trying to put their opinion onto others (albeit by most by yelling and screaming and wailing). Facebook I've come to realise, from spending a little bit of time on it again recently, against my better judgements, is nothing more than a stream of consciousness and one-upmanship of the least conscious sort, and it's not worth getting worked up over. Then again much of the everyday discourse around politics has become that. There seems to be too many 'knowing' opinions these days. Too many armchair experts, and I don't want to become another one. Any historical examples of it being the same? And besides on Facebook and the internet in general all social norms, and values go out of the window meaning it descends into playground mentality (actually that's insulting to school children) - perhaps because its a dehumanised form of communication.

But finally what is it in me that gets to riled when I see everyone acting like children on Facebook? Why can't I let it wash over me? Why does it frustrate me? I'd be spending my time better answering those questions I think, otherwise I am merely projecting my shadow onto my Facebook 'friends.' And besides, it really has become quite boring discussing politics all the time - can we not find something else? Can we not explore the range of human emotions beyond that of injustice and rage? Can we not have friends that have different thoughts, views and beliefs to ourselves? Do we have to become so monoculture?

About government now being too big, and too cumbersome, I can only agree. The UK is less diverse and smaller, and I think even here it's needed. Different people have different needs and different contexts, so why not allow for that? Perhaps trying to force everybody to live by everybody else's values isn't such a great idea. I think society needs to become more human-scale again, which in practice means local government.

I'm thankful there are people like you in the world prepared to tell a different story and go against what the cultural mainstream would prefer. We need more of it.

Russ said...

John - agree with your post. Russ

Mat F said...

2020? Mr. Greer, if you start now...we have proof now it can be done! In an utterly unpredictable and weird way I am feeling "bigly" relieved now that Trump won. You see, from outside the country the whole thing can look a bit different (I live in Germany):

Thanks for electing Trump so Germany doesn't become the next hot zone in a war with Russia.
Thanks for electing Trump so we do not have to suffer TTIP and international corporations overriding our local justice system and environmental protections any more than they already do.
Thanks for electing Trump: Hopefully he takes along the nuclear warheads that are stationed next to my house (30 miles) when he abolishes NATO and brings the troops home. You know, if you do not have to suffer the tax cuts for the rich, abolition of health care, gay marriage turnaround, racism, etc. the whole thing does have some bright sides.

I identify myself as dark green, at the same time fiercely in favor of individual civil liberties and equitable societies, I am also homosexual - so not a natural bedfellow of Trump. I think, this whole election just shows how weird, unpredictable and erratic reactions to our predicaments have become. Now that it is so hard to paper them over any longer - and I mean that on both ends of the voting booth. Guess, if you encounter a lot of "problems" that are not solvable any longer you get these kinds of answers from your leaders. Let's see what happens with the French and German elections 2017 - I also see this même there...

Sub said...

Excellent post as always JMG,

Here's to hoping that the country can do as you say, and find a way to accommodate the wide variety of cultures that exist here peacefully. There is a book called American Nations by Colin Woodard that I thought did an excellent job of highlighting how the different regions of the country have very distinct values, and how they have shaped the policies of country as a whole.

I have had a lot of anxiety about the heights(or depths) of the rhetoric being used against "the other side" being an indicator for the potential of civil unrest and violence, and apparently there are already riots in some parts of the nation as a result of Tuesday's election. I really hope that we can find a way to defuse these cultural conflicts before they lead to widespread violence that is good for no one but arms manufacturers.

Looking forward to next weeks essay already.

Juandonjuan said...

Well stated. I have been pointing out rather snarkily, that everybody keeps going on about "our Democracy", while its "The Republic" that's endangered. I very much agree with your Issues and Interests basis for governance, and would suggest that in the interests of Federalism as a basis for continued association the 17th Amendment be repealed. Which, much to the annoyance of the Federal Bureaucracy, might enable the 10th amendment to be a sort of DMZ for the authority/autonomy divide.

Sub said...

Forgot to mention in my last post:

It was interesting to see people's reactions at work yesterday as I work in an academic science lab. In general there was a lot of hair-pulling and gnashing of teeth among the American born, but the PI of the lab is Russian, and one of our postdocs is a Chinese national, and the first things they said coming in were "shit happens" and "the sun will rise tomorrow" respectively.

While almost everyone, American or not, was concerned about what the state of science funding would be(hopefully the repudiating of the religious wing that JMG mentioned will limit this), both my boss and the Chinese postdoc were happy with the election outcome in the sense that both viewed it as highly likely that military tensions with their home countries would be reduced.

I will be quite happy if this election results in a rejection of the "mission accomplished/we came, we saw, he died" neocon wing of geopolitics for awhile. It has been disturbing to see how many left-leaning friends dropped their anti-war stances and became pro-civilian drone bombing as soon as it was "their guy" in charge of it.

Juandonjuan said...

Or Civil War followed by...........the Lakeland Republic et al. At the cost of how much death and dislocation? The cost of the Partition of India is still being paid.

Greg Belvedere said...

Yes. Congrats on your prediction. Perhaps this will give you some cred as a prognosticator. And thanks for helping me stay ahead of the curve. When all my fellow east coast leftists found themselves very distraught, I found myself much more prepared for the results. I think I worked myself to the acceptance stage months ago. Then again, my area has tons of Trump signs and I have only seen a few Clinton bumper stickers. I don't even live that far from NYC. Poughkeepsie is the last stop on the MTA North (commuter line).

I could not agree more about the insane focus on personalities in politics. My younger brother told me that he knew people who worked with both Clinton and Trump. I could not give him anything but a blank look when he told me how people say she is very nice and he is a jerk. Who cares. Frankly, I find her affable enough and I find him incredibly crass yet entertaining. Comedians who don't like him have admitted that he kills as a performer. They each have policies I agree with and disagree with, but this did not get talked about. We need to put the league of women voters back in control of the debates.

I think the democratic party will go through a positive transformation and we can elect a progressive Bernie style dem in 2020. Probably Elizabeth Warren. Bernie is already working for such reforms and this failure of the third way should make this the obvious path.

Two pieces from the Intercept I find relevant.
First, an analysis of why the dems lost which makes points similar to the ones you have made here.

Another, which talks about rebuilding our democratic institutions. I have my qualms about some of these points, but I think # 4 is on the money.

asr said...

It was people voting their perceived economic self-interest.

Broken down by income bracket, 52% of voters earning less than $50,000 a year – who make up 36% of the electorate – voted for Clinton, and 41% for Trump.

But among the 64% of American voters who earn more than $50,000 a year, 49% chose Trump, and 47% Clinton.

Greg Belvedere said...

Also, I think Bill Clinton screwed up when he got accused of having an affair with Monica Lewinsky. He should have done what Gary Hart tried to do and said, "None of your business. I'm the president. Ask me about foreign or domestic policy. Next question." I don't know if this would have stopped the kind of reality TV politics we have now, but it could not have hurt.

Karim said...

Greetings all!

Thank you John for such a pleasantly enlightening view on politics in your country that you sketched out for us over the year. I feel I know better your countrymen and women now (even though I have never set foot in the US).

Now that trump is President Elect, do you think that he'll carry out much of his promises, especially concerning Russia, jobs and immigration?

It seems to me that should he honour some of his promises, he'll go down in history as someone who actually made life better for his citizens and may be even for the rest of us.

David, by the lake said...


I'm late to the party this week, but I'd like to add my congrats to everyone else's. You totally called it.

I have to admit to 1) a definite schadenfreude and 2) a certain admiration for Mr. Trump -- he had a sense (I can only envision it as an intuitive sense) of the path that took him from being a fringe-candidate in a crowded Republican field chock-full of insiders to President-elect, and he stuck to that path in the face of derision and dismissal. (And the flanking maneuver through the Rustbelt was masterful, I have to concede.)

I've had to point to out to e number of folks (on the left and the right) that Trump is not (or did not run as) a standard Republican. Rather, he took the Republican label and ran off with it. So the Republican party's "control of government" is something of a misnomer if Trump's policies are anything akin to what he offered in the campaign. It will be interesting to watch what he actually does, particularly those aspects where he (and the voters who sent him to the White House) is at odds with the Republican establishment (trade comes to mind).

I agree with you that the federalism you describe is our best chance to hold the nation together. Essentially, we have to (re)adopt a much looser structure among the states and between the states and the federal government. I wonder, however, whether such a structure would last in the face of our very human tendency to get in other people's business. Perhaps devolving into the collection of more culturally-homogeneous nations is a more effective way. I guess I suspect that so long as there is an over-arching power structure, someone is going to reach for it and try to use it to impose their values across the board, so the best way to prevent that is to not have that over-arching structure in the first place. Just my (admittedly still-evolving) thoughts on the matter.

Re the "if you're not voting for Hillary, you're voting for Trump" meme -- I was told that more times than I could count. After a bit, I tried to point out that the logic was nonsensical, but with little luck: if, given the two major candidates A and B, a non-vote for A is a vote for B, then likewise a non-vote for B is a vote for A. Since I voted for neither A nor B, by that logic I therefore voted for both A and B, and everything cancels out nicely.

I saw that Kingsport was up for advance order early yesterday and immediately got my order in. Cannot wait until March :)

asr said...

The history of calling people "left" or "right" has its origins in where certain factions sat in the French National Assembly which was called before the onset of the French Revolution.

Nastarana said...

Dear Lucius Cornelius Sulla, regarding your third grouping, if a candidate is passionately supported by a large contingent of young voters, who will be voting for decades to come, it might not be a very bright idea to steal a primary from that candidate. The second group you mentioned might be well advised to sacrifice a few well-chosen scapegoats--DWS and Schumer come readily to mind--and then re-evaluate their political philosophies and their priorities.

My two children are both of mixed, anglo-hispanic, birth, identify themselves as persons of color, and are in full panic mode. sigh. I have been trying to reassure as best I could. Outright segregation is and has been illegal for decades, and cannot be easily reinstated. Both are considered valuable employees at their places of work, as is shown by steadily improving salaries and responsibilities. There is in any case hardly a "white", if I may use the term, family anywhere in the USA which does not have at least one set of non-white inlaws.

Bill Pulliam said...

trippticket -- there's actually nothing mysterious about that blue arc. The fall line is as far upriver as barges could travel, so shipping centers sprung up there. These grew into cities. Actually, though, that blue arc is shifted westwards a bit, running more through the piedmont than along the fall line. That is the I-85 corridor. Grew to prominence before I-85 as a rail corridor, it connects the deep south with the northeast. It grew as an industrial belt and then as an urban finance, media, etc., strip corridor filled with educated yuppie transplants.

Ahavah said...

I watched the presidential election results all the way to the 3am finale, with decidedly mixed feelings. The state races are causing me a lot more apprehension.

For Senate the Dems ran an openly gay mayor of one of the two big cities here against Rand Paul, in spite of the fact that the state voted for Bevin the last time around who ran on a get rid of gay marriage platform. I knew he didn't have a snowball's chance you know where, even though he's a bona fide DINO. His economic policies are 100% chamber of commerce Republican.

Against Andy Barr they ran an elderly wealthy white woman who proudly proclaimed in her ads that she was a single mother. Guaranteed not to go over well with struggling families who can't get any help from welfare benefits due to being married.

At the state level, Republicans came iut with full control of both houses of the legislature, giving Bevin a de facto mandate to turn us into Kansas redux, though it would be hard for our educational system to get worse since we're already fourth from the bottom in the nation. That won't stop them from wrecking the economy worse than it already is and shredding what's left of the social safety net. Welcome to thurd world America.

As someone else noted, the two urban countries here were islands of blue in aw of red. Places that actually supported Obama last time refused to vote for Hilary.

And I am sure that skyrocketing ACA premiums are a bit pay off the blame. There are lots of people whose stories are like mine - can't get any medical care all because we don't have money to pay the ridiculous deductibles (which for our family is actually more than I make a year) yet our premium is already higher than our mortgage payment before any 2017 hikes. It's insane to think families can afford this. Yet they was the Dems main supposed selling point.

The SJWs here are in complete shock. One of the secular orgs I work for had a "safe space cookie social" yesterday. I am curious to see if the local Federation office will do anything useful. A few years back I wrote an article for the local Shalom newsletter saying we need to return to more traditional Federation programs such as having a community doctor, lawyer, accountant, etc funded by the Federation as well as an agressive program to help people get out of debt, a community garden, tool and appliance library, etc. They refused to publish it. And now here we are, looking Bevinistan in the face. It is depressing, though I don't think cookies are going to help.

Glenn Murray said...

Thanks for your prognostication, it made things easier to take and understand when it happened (all year it was like watching a slow motion train wreck, or the alien pick off the crew of the gothic spaceship one by one). Here in OHIO the Strickland/ Portman race was the presidential race writ small. An energetic politcal newcomer PG Sittenfeld was passed over and former Governor Strickland was anointed by the dems even before the primary. Strickland (like HRC) had his chance and it was over, but the dems refuse to let in new blood to build up a serious back bench of future candidates, instead giving the slot to the person who "paid their dues" and "who's turn it was" instead of letting the cream rise to the top. After watching this debacle I really think I would get better representation by a coalition of parties instead of a single party. Now I hear murmurs of "Michelle in 2020". The next heir apparent, I hope they learn from this. I honestly hope Trump delivers what he promised with respect to immigration, trade and globalization, and I think it is wise to stop "poking the bear". Thanks again, and I really did miss your week off.

Ben Johnson said...

JMG - Being from Oklahoma, I have a very random two cents to add.
I lived here until 2006, moved to the east coast, rural PA, and then back in 2014. The culture in some ways has changed.
To be clear; Oklahomans are by and large still closet racists with a strong authority-loving/theocratic streak, and I feel that's too bad for a state that gave America Woody Guthrie and Will Rogers.
HOWEVER, I think even here, the times are a changin'. We continue to elect people to state government who think that a day of prayer for higher oil prices are a solution to a billion dollar budget shortfall, so that's disappointing. But, we voted on a number to amendments to the state constitutions, and the results were largely encouraging.
Without going into too much detail; we voted to change the states outdated liquor laws, we voted to keep the death penalty, we approved two amendments aimed at reforming criminal justice by reclassifying drug possession to a misdemeanor, and we rejected a 'right to farm' amendment, a penny sales tax to support public education, and, most shocking to me, we rejected the removal of the separation of church and state clause from the state constitution.
I find this last one particularly shocking, and it is my hope that, even if we keep electing corporate tools to state government, at lease the people themselves seem to have chosen economic interest over values. My guess is that many Okies rejected the sales tax for education because of how regressive it is. I also guess that they embraced criminal justice reform because drug laws have economically crippled many communities. And modernizing our liquor laws took place in spite of opposition that claimed that doing so would increase alcoholism destroy public morals.
I sincerely hope this represents a shift in the political culture towards pragmatism over moral policing. Having grown up here though, I'm not holding my breath.

donalfagan said...

"Quite a few of the people who responded to those posts, though, displayed no interest in such mundane if important matters. They only wanted to talk about their opinions about the personalities of the candidates: to insist that Clinton was a corrupt stooge, say or that Trump was a hatemongering fascist."

So you don't agree that people are largely irrational?

Ursachi Alexandru said...

I guess that's where the Russians have the biggest advantage compared with your country, JMG. From what I know, they're a pretty homogeneous country. People I know from Moldova, who are familiar with Russian society, told me that they don't even have regional accents and dialects, except for Russian spoken by ethnic minorities. I've read about some dissatisfaction from lesser developed areas East of the Urals, but that doesn't even come close to what's happening in your own country.

Good luck with your soon to be new president. Romania's leaders have already done the sensible thing by congratulating him and showing willingness to work with him. We'll find out soon enough just how many of his campaign promises with regards to US foreign policy will be reflected in his administration's actual policies.

Nancy Sutton said...

Does this ring any bells? from Yves Smith at naked capitalism:

".. He mentioned that he has over 200 retired generals and admirals consulting with him, which raises the possibility that this was just maybe a Pentagon-led insurrection against Hillary’s plans for WWIII. The Pentagon has never won an honest war game against Iran, and most admirals admit that our sixteen aircraft carriers are just fat, slow targets for swarms of supersonic Russian and Chinese and Iranian missiles. The Pentagon doesn’t want a real war; they just want more money for new toys..."

Fred the First said...

I am fantasizing this morning of Trump appointing Bernie to a cabinet position, completely cutting the left off at its knees. They would be left standing, eyes staring and mouths open in shock.

Bill Pulliam said...

JMG -- about the two nations in one... is there really anything new at all about differences in values, religion, economic prospects, etc. between urban and rural people? It seems to me that this split is a fundamental part of any ONE nation. What does seem new though (speaking historically, not about 2016 specifically) is the suburb/exurb phenomenon. I know you like the model of dispossessed working class and others like the model of racist rural rednecks as the archetypal Trump voter. But the stats show that the majority of his voters were comfortably middle class, not especially exposed to the deprivations of the disposessed working class, and living in suburbs and small cities. Sure my rural county voted 3:1 for Trump, but that was about 4000 total votes cast countywide (my own candidate, chosen based on policies, received 42 votes in the county). In contrast, Williamson County, the "hard-red" affluent outer suburb of Nashville, cast many tens of thousands of votes, also mostly for Trump. It is a land of shopping malls, acura dealerships, suburb after suburb, and constantly snarled traffic. THAT is the true heart of the "Trump Nation," not rural America.

If you listen to Trump voters talking now, they have absurdly ridiculously mind-bogglingly high expectations for their man. Many of his base see him as a savior who is going to fix everything, absolutely everything. This may only be about half his supporters, but that is an awful lot of people. It seems to be more extreme than what I remember from Carter, Reagan, or Obama supporters on the morning after their wins (those are three other candidates I can personally remember who were swept in on a tide of emotional and political opposition to the status quo -- Watergate, Stagflation, and Cheney's "Long War"). It's gonna get ugly when reality hits them in the face. There is potential for a massive backlash in the 2018 midterm, with angry motivated Democrats and disappointed bitter Republicans. There is almost always a backlash 2 years into a presidential first term; this one might be a doosey! And then we get divided government and gridlock, continuing... and perhaps a steadily shrinking Supreme Court.

Don't forget, the Evangelicals got the VP spot. And living here in Evangelical land, in a truly rural area, Trump voters are not especially gloating. I actually think I saw fewer trucks flying flags yesterday, Union or Confederate, than is normal for this town. The evangelical prominence may account for the lack of Trump yard signs that I and other rural ADR readers here noted in our neighborhoods in contrast to your experience in an old mill town. They voted for him overwhelmingly, but they don't love him, and I'm not sure how much they trust him either.

Nastarana said...

Dear Compound F, While I have no use for any part of the Trump ménage, I do agree with you that we dodged a bullet Tuesday/Wednesday. At least for the time being we did; I note with some apprehension that the neo-cons seem to be losing no time in cozying up to the President-Elect.

I will take a cute donkey, and its home produced fertilizer, over a gas guzzling, thief magnet Cadillac any day!

Patricia Mathews said...

I hope the age of focusing on the issues in a civil manner comes soon. The latest from CBS News is that traders on the NYSE floor were booing and jeering during Hillary Clinton's quietly gracious concession speech, and shouting "Lock her up." One thing about being a lifelong politician - she learned how to lose like a gentlewoman. But it will take some time for the devil's horns and tails fastened on the candidates by their opponents to become quietly unfashionable.

Meanwhile, Charlie Stross from Scotland pities us, saying "Worse than Brexit", and dear clueless Dana Blankenhorn compares Trump to Carter and cries out for the next Reagan, saying that Trump's presidency is hurting the tech sector and the internet and that the future lies in being like China. Brin is going to have screaming hysterics, I'm sure.... and I haven't yet dared call one of my friends who is totally value-driven and choleric to boot. One only hopes he hasn't worked himself up into a heart attack.

The good news is that a bitterly divided nation pulled together after Pearl Harbor and forged a consensus that lasted until the (insert sarcasticon) Great Boomer Awakening - even though no such thing happened in 1860. These two being the only reference points I'm sure of, other than those I could dig up out of antiquity. And no, this old lifelong liberal - whose liberal roots greatly predate the current definitions - is not in a panic. However, the dice were thrown and have flown high. Let's wait and see.

Bill Pulliam said...

Kevin, JMG, LGBT -- Trump himself is about the most LGBT-friendly Republican you will find. But the worry is the Supreme Court. Of course, he could hardly appoint someone more conservative to fill the current vacancy than the person who vacated it! Democrats will filibuster any hard-right nominee, especially after the inevitable backlash in the 2018 midterm. So we may get centrists on "equality" issues.

I will be very curious how he approaches cannabis legalization. As a businessman I would think he would be all in favor of expanding opportunities for growth and entrepeneurialism (no way I spelled that right...) in a new industry.

Bill Pulliam said...

On a final comment -- though I may be sounding cool and rational, I personally despise the man and always have. I will be referring to him as "President P***ygrabber" for the duration of his administration.

Mark said...

Excellent prediction and congratulations! Your thinking on this topic has been very helpful for me, and I've shared much of it with my family and close friends.

On the morning after the morning after, it seems to me most likely that Trump is going to try for a sort of redo of the 1980s - triggering an American industrial resurgence, deregulating and getting back to basics, but with much less focus on financial engineering. I don't know that he really has any other practical options. Would love to hear your perspective on where he is actually going to go. I think we'll know soon, based on who he decides to put in what jobs and what advisers he leans on.

Johnny said...


Thanks for your insight into these elections. I think had I not read your work I very possibly could be caught up in the same confused outrage that seems to be ubiquitous among my friends (and the media too). As it was I was able to just listen to him speak and think about what he was saying a little less emotionally.

During one of the debates, I think it was the second one, the issue of abortion came up. When pressed on it Trump said the judges he would choose would likely lead to Roe vs Wade being overthrown, and then (why I am bringing this up), he twice said it would be up to individual states to decide what they wanted to do. It makes me think he might be thinking in ways along the lines you are writing about this week.

Bill Ding said...

I thought your prediction was way off until Comey made his move and on the same day the Bundys were acquitted. Then my eyes opened: right wing extremism has become normal. There was no pushback against Comey (the president muttered something a week later, the AG stayed mum) and an armed takeover of a federal building by people threatening to shoot anyone who interfered was dismissed by a jury as a simple protest. Then I remembered that in the past few years we have seen murder-by-gun legalized in half the states, and that Congress responded to Newtown by doing nothing in spite of the pleas of over 90% of the population to at least have background checks. The NYT interviews people deeply grateful to have health insurance for the first time since they can remember, and those same people vow to vote only for politicians who want to take it away from them. On and on. Trump was inevitable.

Bill Ding said...

PS - when half the population loudly asserts that all scientists are liars, Trump is inevitable.

gwizard43 said...

JMG, interestingly, you and Michael Moore are, I suspect, in rare agreement. In his 'Morning After To-Do List' number 4 is:

4. Everyone must stop saying they are “stunned” and “shocked.” What you mean to say is that you were in a bubble and weren’t paying attention to your fellow Americans and their despair. YEARS of being neglected by both parties, the anger and the need for revenge against the system only grew. Along came a TV star they liked whose plan was to destroy both parties and tell them all “You're fired!” Trump’s victory is no surprise. He was never a joke. Treating him as one only strengthened him. He is both a creature and a creation of the media and the media will never own that.

So that may be the extent of the agreement, but still. If some of the liberal establishment can see that far, perhaps there is hope of some thoughtful conversations after the tantrums have died down.

And, BTW, congratulations - I consider this a real vindication of your historically-informed political analysis methods.

Meanwhile, seems there's more agreement with you on the non-establishment Left - check out two of Glenn Greenwald's pieces - the first on Brexit:

and his followup on Trump:

I see large areas of agreement here, at least in regard to diagnosis:

"That message was heard loud and clear. The institutions and elite factions that have spent years mocking, maligning, and pillaging large portions of the population — all while compiling their own long record of failure and corruption and destruction — are now shocked that their dictates and decrees go unheeded."

Senility of the elites, anyone?

Pantagruel7 said...

Two points to make today: first, I was more worried about Bush/Cheney in 2000 than I am about Trump/Pence in 2016. Events could prove me wrong, however. If neocons like Rice and Wolfowicz appear in the cabinet, I'll be extra worried. Second, regarding federalism: some advocates of uniform standards across the states, such as the trucking industry (as an example), oppose what they call "a patchwork quilt of contradictory regulations." For example mudflaps legal in one state may not pass muster in the adjacent state. They hate that. Not that I'm a fan of the trucking industry - far from it! My own concerns relate more to the "race to the bottom" between states competing to attract businesses to their locales, and competing not to attract poor people seeking better benefits. It seems to me that protectionism is desirable where regulations, benefits etc. differ to avoid just this race to the bottom.

Jessie said...

Hi there--yes, congrats on calling it a year ago! I remember that post and the kind of unraveling of my thinking that started to occur then. I hope you're right that Trump's ego will ultimately benefit the people...

I was surrounded by coworkers who felt utterly free to drop all pretense of workplace self-control the day before the election and talk about the "morons in the country" voting for Trump -- precisely because of the success Clinton's team had in framing him as the next hitler. Who doesn't feel free to openly hate Hitler? But it bothered me that people took his ugly rhetoric into account and ignored the very real dead children that would result from her foreign policy, liberal interventionism, tough-guy stance towards Russia, etc. My liberal coworkers had literally formed her into a sort of savior in their brains and yes there was the sobbing over fears of family members being deported. But didn't NAFTA ultimately leave the citizens of Mexico worse off?

Bill Pulliam said...

OK one more thought about polls -- Over at 538 there was an article posted a week or so before the election to the effect of "Trump is now only a normal polling error away from the Presidency." And they posted 5 scenarios for how the election would turn out based on quintiles of probability from their forecast models. These ranged from Clinton electoral landslide, to Trump electoral victory while Clinton maintained a small plurality of the popular vote. The actual outcome was almost exactly in line with this last quintile. Those who thought this election was a done deal based on polling were indulging in ignorance (willful or otherwise) of probability and statistics. Same is actually true of Brexit - polls were within the margin of error on the eve of the vote. Trump's victory may have defied punditry, but it fell well within the 95% confidence range of the polls and the models based on them.

Many analysts fall into several errors. Biggest is that they forget that states are not independent. If North Carolina goes heavier for Trump than expected, Florida and Wisconsin are more likely to also. And polling has a sample size. People will look at the theoretical "normal" distribution for an infinite sample size. But the real t-distribution of means based on smaller sample sizes (samples of DIFFERENT POLLS, not the number of people sampled within a poll) has much fatter "tails," i.e. events that appear unlikely are actually more probable than they might seem. Throw all this together, and even based on existing polling Trump's odds going into Nov. 8 were more like 30%, not the 5% or 2% some people gave him. And 30% is pretty good odds, nearly anyone would take those chances on such a huge prize.

Maybe we need to teach probability and statistics in grade schools? It might save millions of poor people a bundle on lottery tickets they can't actually afford.

Obama in 2012 outperformed the polls to the same extent that Trump did in 2016. The difference is that Obama was already favored to win, so he just won by a larger margin than expected. Trump's error bars straddled the "win/loss" line

W. B. Jorgenson said...

This is probably my favorite freak out so far:

My apologies for the language used in the headline, but it's amusing to see that apparently the only possible reason for a Trump victory is the email issue was blown out of proportion. Another fun one I'm hearing from a lot of people is there was an attempt to create a "false equivalency" to avoid accusations of bias, however I find it hard to think of many positive stories I've heard of Trump since the election started, and many in the media were very anti-Trump.

On an unrelated note, but I think people here will be interested, but I recently decided to try to set up a home phone, and found out no one is installing new ones in my area. Not just are they not installing, but no one is even willing to install. This is a little concerning to me, since home phones aren't reliant on electricity. Given some of what I'm hearing about the state of the electric grid here, that seems very appealing...

Mountain said...

Maverick, he stated it was unlikely.

"Despite what the public polls suggest, and even with her latest email scandal, the election is Clinton’s to lose, and it appears mathematically unlikely that she will."

W. B. Jorgenson said...

I have two observations to make, as someone who predicted a Trump victory as well: First, a number of people could not understand that thinking he would win was not the same as supporting him, and second, as much as I hate the thought of a Trump presidency, it is satisfying to see things turn out as predicted.

The collective freak-out is quite amusing. I expected it, I wasn't sure what form it would take though. I'm rather enjoying the form it appears to be taking: "We weren't hard enough on the Evil One and din't highlight the good in She Who is Perfect enough!"

On an unrelated note, but I think people here will be interested, I recently decided to try to set up a home phone, and found out no one is installing new ones in my area. Not just are they not installing, but no one is even willing to install. This is a little concerning to me: given some of what I've been hearing of the electric grid here, using anything not reliant on electricity, like a home phone, seems like a much better idea than the electric equivalent, such as a cell phone.

Lawfish1964 said...

Once again, an amazingly insightful post. There is another alternative-media writer whom I follow who also correctly predicted a Trump victory - Brandon Smith of I read everything you both write so it was intriguing to see you both predicting this for months. The curious part is that the rationale behind your predictions was so different.

Brandon believes the world is run by the "elites," what some would call the deep state. I believe he is correct about that, but perhaps not so all-encompassingly powerful that they could influence the presidential election. Brandon's theory was that the elite wanted a Trump victory so that they could blame the coming collapse (when Yellen raises rates in December) on conservatives. The theory was that the ship is sinking, so best to put the right scapegoat in as captain before the ship slips beneath the waves. That reasoning was also behind his correct prediction of the Brexit.

I find your reasoning more persuasive. I too have sensed that the affluent liberal class has completely missed why Trump was so effective. He is a rejection of the status quo. There is no small number of us ordinary white folk, who as you correctly note are the only group it is acceptable to hate in this country, who are fed up with the pandering and political correctness that permeates everything in this country. The left were claiming Trump was a maniac who couldn't be trusted with nuclear weapons. But Clinton represented more of the same - endless wars, provocation of Russia (she advocated a no-fly zone over Syria, which is an overt act of war), continued over-spending on the military industrial complex, etc. When Putin stated on the record that a vote for Trump was a vote for peace, he was right. Yet none of the affluent liberals gave any credence to that.

I am now busily unfollowing a number of my affluent liberal friends on social media who simply can't leave it alone. The evilly-evil evilness discussion has become tiresome.

Howard Skillington said...

I certainly agree that American voters have had their attention diverted from issues and policies to personalities, yet they don’t really care about probity – they demand affability. People smirked at Carter the Sunday school teacher for his rectitude, yet W’s imagined affability as a buddy to drink beer with was the key to his success - aside from being born into the Bush family, of course.

I was unable to convince any of my old-school liberal friends that insulting a beauty queen was a lesser threat to the republic than instigating World War III, or that the TPP might outweigh insensitivity toward non-WASP ethnic groups as a deal-breaker.

Above all, America has needed a disruptive agent to destroy both of our decadent political parties, and Trump appears to be that nemesis, having sundered the candidates the Deep State had anointed for each. It certainly appears hopeful that a coalition of embittered old Bernie supporters and dismayed Millennials might now have a shot at putting a stake through the heart of the Democratic Party.

Unfortunately, it now looks as if the Republicans may be perfectly happy to set aside their many fundamental differences with Trump for the sake of being in power with him. Our best hope is that he will treat the GOP old guard with such contempt that their egos will compel them to annihilate themselves by opposing him.

Allie said...

Congratulations on the prediction. Your post this week was spot on as usual and I agree with it. I was amazed myself at how no one wanted to talk about the issues during the election. Everything focused on the candidates' personalities or a very generalized expression of negative results if the bad candidate won. I hope to see the nation return to critical thinking and thoughtful debate of issues and policies that may address those issues, but I'm not holding my breathe.

I also noticed that some family members and friends would also resort to calling certain ideals and beliefs the opposite of what they were b/c those ideals and beliefs they either liked or didn't like. The main example I have in mind is that people called Hillary a socialist b/c she advocated for a global economy. The ideal of a single free market where capital, goods, services and labor could move freely without excessive interference from governments in the way of tariffs, immigration quotas, etc. When I pointed out to people that those ideals have been on the wishlist of the arch capitalists of the West since the end of WWII and are actually capitalist ideals, their eyes would just glaze over. In their mind, since immigration and free trade had hurt their fortunes those things deserved to be labelled with the cold prickly label of: Socialism.

The flip side of that was also true. When I'd point out to those same people that Trump was campaigning on the very same talking points that the international Left (socialists included) had for decades, they just wouldn't get it. I pointed out how the socialists said that free trade / free markets destroys the working class and creates mass unemployment and immigration into and out of certain areas depending on the flows of capital. They had advocated for protectionism and trade barriers to protect jobs,etc. Of course a huge distinction b/w the international Left and Trump is that the Left correctly laid the blame at the feet of the wealthy and powerful business interests. While Trump for the most part blamed any convenient scapegoat for the policies; which he had to do, lest he sound like a socialist. So since he advocated for things they felt would be beneficial to their fortunes they were labelled with the warm and fuzzy label of: Capitalism.

Lastly, a lot of the same sort of warped thinking happened in the Hillary camp. All of her campaigning for hyper global capitalism was worded and viewed instead through the warm and fuzzy rhetoric of an "open, accepting, egalitarian, global society". Instead of what it actually advocated for: tearing down borders, pry open new markets and unleash the predatory corporations upon the world with ever more force. Of course she couldn't speak so honestly lest she sound like a big mean ol' capitalist.

Up is down, left is right and America stumbles along to the next set of crises.

onething said...

Tom Bannister said,

“Trumps rise and rise has attracted plenty of interest here in New Zealand, although discussions of Trump almost never (so far as I've heard) actually addressed any of the issues that have now propelled him into power “

I am horrified to discover that the propaganda machine that I thought was American is fully integrated into the coverage in Europe and Australia/NZ. The way I know this is that the narrative and the way that people fall for it is identical. Truly the reach of the New World Order is long.


“I suspect that there is an inner core of such asceticism in DJT. Ridiculous as it appears. “

Not ridiculous and one of the reasons I voted for him. Oddly, and partially because of two of his wives, I think Trump actually sees that there are other human beings in this world.


“I tried a number of times prior to the election to get my liberal friends to just consider some of the things that the supporters of Trump were saying, and why. “

This is where I'm getting convinced of some serious brainwashing. You see, the liberals know that brainwashing occurs – to someone else. That they themselves might have buttons that are deliberately cultivated so as to be pushable, never enters their purview.

All these people that I have felt a part of for years - these aged hippies who support Hillary so strongly - I believe they have lost their way. Look, back in the 70s these guys understood that our govt was an empire possibly headed toward ruin, that we meddled immorally in world affairs, that Viet Nam was a blot on our nation, that there was a lot of lies and corruption in high places, that the media was not to be trusted -- and now they support a candidate so STRONGLY who is everything that they deplored. Everything that they ran from when they came to West Virginia - she's Monsanto, and Big Pharma, and Nafta, Wall Street banking,  TTP, and a neocon war hawk.
It's like JMG said a few months back. Trump's their man (at least way more than Clinton) but they just can't see it.
“Much of the horrified response to this election result that I'm seeing in my circles is... from those who see themselves as likely to be directly and negatively affected by Trump's stated intentions - women, people of colour, First Nations, LGBT folks,”
Respectfully, what stated intentions? Trump is a social moderate. Bush and other presidents stated they were against abortion, for example, and we did not have this national day of mourning. This is evidence of the success of the brainwashing!

HalFiore said...

trippticket: Not sure what the back and forth wink, wink, nod, nod means, but I can tell you exactly what the blue counties in Mississippi and Alabama represent. They are the Delta region of the former and the "Black Belt" of the latter, named originally for it's rich soils, but when used today refers to demographics, nudge, nudge, say no more. Those are the areas of those states that were most conducive to big plantation agriculture and which have large residual populations of poor - working class! - African Americans. So, what was y'all's point?

Mark Rice said...

You called it.

Back in the days of water power, a lot of towns with manufacturing set up along the edge of the Piedmont Plateau. Water power plus ships could sail up to the towns. The urban areas went for Hillary and the rural went for Trump. Hence the arc of blue on the map.

HalFiore said...

The problem with using policy instead of character to judge a candidate is that it requires taking them at their word about what they will do in office. I've become convinced over the years that character tells me a lot better what a politician will do in office than the p4romises they make. Of course, that comes with a truckload of caveats regarding their alliances, affiliations, and interests they seem to be most beholding to. Heraclitus comes to mind.

Fred the First said...

Looking at the number of Democrats that voted on Tuesday, Hillary has less than half the votes that Obama had in 2008. So when Obama was saying the last days of the campaign "Don't boo, vote.", Democrats clearly heard "Don't vote, boo". They didn't vote and now they are shouting on the streets.

Dammerung said...

I will never forget the year /pol/ put a meme into office. What a ride.

Eric S. said...

First of all, I want to congratulate you on helping all of us brace for this… (I was braced, but even braced it was a shocker). I have wondered for years how you do it, but I think I finally figured it out looking back through your old posts, you predict the future using the time machines you taught us how to make using the power of organic gardening and the magic of green wizardry ;-)


Anyway, on to the actual substance of the post:

You said “it’s time to consider, I suggest, a renewal of the traditions of American federalism: a systematic devolution of power from the overinflated federal government to the states, and from the states to the people. It’s time for people in Massachusetts to accept that they’re never going to be able to force people in Oklahoma to conform to their notions of moral goodness, and for the people of Oklahoma to accept the same thing about the people of Massachusetts”

I think there’s another angle to that as well… and it’s a situation I’ve been having a much harder time figuring out the solution for… you’re quite right that Oklahoma and Massachusetts are different cultures… but the same cultural division exists between Baltimore and Cumberland, Austin and Waco, and so on, and that has had just as drastic implications as the cultural division between regions. Most recently that played out in North Carolina, when Charlotte tried to pass a city ordinance that was voted in by its people, and the state government proceeded to impose the values of North Carolina as a state on the very different values of Charlotte as a city (which led to a nation-wide circus). There does seem to be some sort of correlation between certain aspects of culture, and its expression in human ecology, and I’m not sure what the best answer to addressing that is… because if imposing New England culture onto the Southwest is a mistake, it’s just as much of a mistake to impose the culture of Iredell North Carolina onto Charlotte or Asheville.

I think the suggestion is the right one, but it almost seems like it would have to be taken a step further in order to really account for cultural distinctions… It looks like what would have to happen is a distribution of power in which the United States federal government has roughly the level of power that the UN currently does, with the state governments having similar power to the federal government as it currently stands and individual counties being able to do the things state governments can currently do, that way Charlotte is still able to pass its city-wide antidiscrimination ordinance without getting it shut down by the governor, and without it having to be imposed on the very different culture you see in surrounding rural counties.

Eric S. said...

As for President Trump:

We have a new balance of global power, things we’ve been hoping for for a long time are on the way, between this and Brexit, globalism will be dying a harsh death over coming years… the Europe/US centric world will give way to an ascendant Russia and China, Neoliberalism has had a big hole punched in it… And Trump is going to probably be as instrumental as Roosevelt and Reagan in completely rewriting our economic consensus. It’s going to be a different world…

However, while Trump the person may guide the policies that define the next era of history, but there is also a cultural element to what Trump’s America will become, and there are some people who are apprehensive about what that will look like. I’ve had friends of mine in vulnerable demographics already receive threats online from Trump supporters talking about what their new America is going to do to them… And there are some people who are feeling… empowered by this in ways other than hope for jobs. it may be the working class and legitimate policies that pushed Trump to victory, but that does not erase the existence of a shadow contingent of his supporters who were motivated by things other than international trade. To the people here who did support Trump though, the ball is in your court now, and Trump’s America is your responsibility, and I imagine there are a lot of apprehensive people looking to you to prove their worst fears about what that world will look like wrong. It’s an extreme example, but I think about Oswald Spengler voting for Hitler for legitimate policy reasons, and speaking out as soon as he saw lines being crossed and spending his final years under house arrest as a result.

That’s an extreme example of course… Trump’s obviously no Hitler… at best he’s a Reagan, at worst a Berlusconi… but I would say that that sort of prescience and caution from people who have supported Trump’s ascendency is important, as is keeping a finger on the pulse of the country closely in coming years, just in case people do begin to slip into that all too familiar and all too enticing collective madness that can so easily when a tired and broken country is rescued from the jaws of collapse by a charismatic and unconventional leader. We may be too big and diverse a country to that sort of madness to become universal, and of course it’s just as likely to inspire an equally ugly resistance, but that sort of mentality can still affect enough people to feel justified in acting out in terms of some internalized idea they’ve projected on to Trump that it could still be a significant force… bringing the fringe I have been following the conversations of on forums like Stormfront off of the internet and out into the street. It feels to me like we’re entering into an era of history that is as precarious and dangerous as it may be necessary.

(Note… I’m not calling Trump a fascist, or calling all or even most of his supporters racists or any of that… I’m basically saying that there is a possibility (and in some cases already a reality) of a noticeable uptick in things like assaults and harassment directed towards certain visible and vulnerable demographics by a fringe who has dragged a few Trump quotes out of context and used them to justify itself and decide it is no longer a fringe… and that it is the supporters of Trump who supported him for legitimate reasons and are not that who are in the best position of power to speak out against such things when they happen.)

Alex Blaidd said...

Why is it that next to no-one is discussing the fact that a Trump win will most likely calm the growing hostilities between The West and Russia? A Hilary win would have pushed us very close to WW3 - and I don't think that's hyperbolic to say. Surely, that's worth covering? Surely that's a good thing? Even if you hate Trump, surely you're pleased that the chances of WW3 in the next 8 years have just been reduced? For that reason aloneI would've voted Trump.

ThisOldMan said...

I am stunned that neither JMG, nor even any of the preceding commentary, gets into what will certainly, in the long run, be the most significant consequence of this election's outcome, namely, that it pretty much blows our chances of reigning in climate change before it's too late. Maybe it's because no one believes Trump's really going to through out the clean power plan, shut down the EPA, and pull out of the Paris Accord? Or maybe it's because those things were, by themselves, insufficient to halt climate change? Or maybe it's because you all think the majority of all extant species including, just possibly, our own, are doomed to die because of our species inherent stupidity (evil, venality, etc.)? I don't know, but failing to even mention it on this web site seems, well, as incredible as anything else about recent events.

James M. Jensen II said...

My university's newspaper has an editorial apologizing to minorities for the Trump victory. About halfway through it says of Trump voters:

"They are your family, your friends, your nearest and dearest - but they do not love you."


"They do not love you, so do not be fooled when they tell you they do."

Yes, this is the message we need to be sending to people right now: be suspicious and distrusting of your friends and family because of who they voted for. Which, because this is one of the reddest stats in the union, is probably pretty much everyone you know. Because that's going to be helpful in healing this nation just now, obviously.

I am so ashamed of my own side of the aisle. We deserved to lose.

Matthias Gralle said...

I am not an American and therefore do not attempt to judge or predict the effects of this election.

However, The Atlantic has quietly posted a very well-researched and referenced article on how the Democratic Party in the 1970s abandoned anti-monopoly policies and small independent farmers and shop owners, favoring centralisation and redistribution instead.

RPC said...

Apropos to your theme of reprehensible people delivering positive results, the last Notre Dame Magazine had an article about the strong-arm tactics LBJ used to get the Civil Rights act passed;

Caryn said...

Thank You, JMG and fellow commenters: The results did not surprise me, as we;ve been residents here in 'fly-over country' since July. I have not met anyone who was anti-Trump, did not haaaaaate Hillary, a fair few who were absolutely pro-Trump; and true enough, most people just didn't talk about it. I don't know if this matters, maybe it does, but they were all white, non-immigrants who would never be affected if the scapegoating which swirled around his campaign are pushed further into action. Many were women who already live in a world most of my previous cohorts in Liberal Elitistan would consider abusively misogynist. "Grab 'em by the p***y" is not unusual or out of bounds talk. They hear stuff like that all the time, "It's just talk, what's the big deal?"
OTOH: They can afford to dismiss that angry rhetoric as just inconsequential bluster. ((Well, so can I, but I'm not sure I want to.)) They can afford to dismiss the vitriol of his more extreme supporters as justified economic angst, or well, OK, maybe some of them ARE racists, but of course not all, so not to worry, nothing is going to happen. No Kristallnacht is on our horizon. Don't worry, ignore it, Calm down.

There are some people who cannot afford to ignore it, but they don't live out here in rural WY or rural/suburban NV. They are not in our sphere.

There are policies of Trump's that I like and agree with: cooperation with Russia, a move to isolationism, (dismantling US hegemony), trade tariffs, the goals of encouraging manufacturing to come back, (although I disagree that they are laid out in any specificity, as a commenter said above, the goal is stated, but the path is missing), rebuilding infrastructure. Some I think are problematic because they seem to me to be very open to graft, corruption or abuse: Rounding up 11 million illegal immigrants, a ban, (temporary or not) on people based on their (Muslim) religion, building a giant wall that Mexico will, (but has refused to) pay for, "fixing" the healthcare debacle by simply opening up cross-state competition between insurance companies, more trickle-down Reaganomics.

Personally, my biggest concern is that if we are headed for some big fractal collapse, some big chunk of our glass dome falling in, like another 2008 or something, President Trump will abandon those problems and the hard work on them in favor of the easier path that strongmen throughout history have taken to regain their popularity and public approval: just scale up the scapegoating. I don't know why, I keep thinking in this respect of Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe more than the funny little man with the mustache. Demonizing a clear, targeted minority group to coalesce different factions of the majority. Laying waste to the country and the people in the process.

JMG: I'm pretty sure you will disagree with or also dismiss this fear. You have written about this a bit before. I wish I had your faith in the goodness of humans, but I don't. IMHO: Yes, we are headed for a collapse that has nothing to do with civil rights or how we cut the pie, but I do foresee as a part of that collapse, a large or complete rolling back of civil rights. When not personally affected, I predict people will just not care enough or think "We've fought that fight, we've won, It can't happen here". It can. I think it will.

Scotlyn said...

@JMG re the first group in Kevin's comment, there may certainly be some demonisation going on, but I believe there is also some hard experience brewing on the ground... this fellow, Anthone J. Williams is a thoughtful person, I believe, and there is some basis to what he, among many others, is bearing witness to here:

Further down this thread, he muses:

"A win for Trump and a win for Clinton would have been a win for white supremacy. But Clinton didn't embolden bigots like Trump does. There has been some serious evil brewing from rhetoric that Trump continually used. White supremacy has been here but now it's on the hunt... When you dehumanized a group it's very easy to justifiably commit various forms of violence and abuse on them. You don't see us as equals. We're tired. We just want to live another day and that ain't even promised."

This is certainly a time to resist the pull of tribalism, and to really have one another's backs in the face of violence... solidarity is not about saying the "correct" words (especially if you don't mean them, or if they disguise your investment in the status quo). But it IS a matter of doing the right thing, especially when it comes to the protection of the weakest and most vulnerable, and there are some people (not the vocal or affluent, by the way) who are especially vulnerable at this very fraught time when things hang in the balance and can still go any way.

zerowastemillennial said...

The pearl-clutching is the perfect description of what I see happening with my card-carrying progressive friends.

They are "despondent", having cry/hug sessions in classes, and apparently MassArt had a "moment of silence", to use their words. These are people who would not have benefited from Hillary, and will not be particularly disadvantaged under Trump. It just boggles the mind, though, how quickly they went from #Feelin' the Bern to being #With Her. Hopefully they will just as quickly get over themselves about this.

I did not vote - I did not consent to being governed by any choice that I had, and I knew all of the important ballot measures here in California would go my way anyways - that is, except for the death penalty repeal, which was rejected by not a slim margin. It perplexes more than it angers me at this point, though.

I'm just ready to move to Canada at this point - and for legitimate romantic reasons, not to escape a political mess that I had some hand in making. A parliamentary system makes much more sense to me.

For now, I'm going to avoid speaking to my friends until they learn to get on with their lives - and take heart knowing that we're all up dung creek anyways, no matter who is in office. It's only another 8-10 more election cycles before all of our port cities are underwater, before the oceans are empty, and USian infrastructure finally stumbles down from a D+ to a solid F. Only then, I believe, it might be appropriate to start panicking. (If you're into that sort of thing.)

Jeff said...

Thank you for this post John. So reassuring to hear a voice of sanity in what's become a madhouse of American politics. Couldn't agree more on State rights, it would solve a lot of seemingly intractable problems like health care if states were able to come up with their own regional solutions. Even more important but more radical would be ending the federal reserve and allowing the states to run their own affairs in that regard.

Gabriela Augusto said...

Dear JMG
And also mea culpa, mea maxima culpa you are so right, "Four or eight years from now, after all, the personality of the outgoing president is going to matter less than an average fart in a Category 5 hurricane", and I also fell on that trap concentrating on the duplicity I witnessed on Mrs Clinton long public career, instead of her political program.
It is disturbing the incivilities of democrat supporters in reaction to the election results. Did it ever happened before?

steve pearson said...

JMG, The report on EXXON decline that I mentioned to you appeared this morning on

Scotlyn said...

@Bootstrapper, I do think there are nuances that make the "left" and "right" distinction a bit blurry at times. I remember when, as an 18-year-old in 1978, I arrived in the US from a childhood spent in Latin America to go to college. I thought I knew what "left" meant then - to me it meant economic redistribution - putting a floor under the poor lower than which we would not let one another fall. It meant resisting the predations of the rich upon the poor. I grew up among poor people, so much poorer than us, that I never realised until many years later that my own family was (in US terms) working class. In any case, I couldn't find any economic "left" (as I saw it) anywhere in the US at that time. Not in any of the churches I visited, or among the other college students I met. I had to settle for "liberals" who seemed to get "some" of what I was on about, though almost nobody could grasp how the US and its policies and interests looked to people when viewed from the other side of its southern border... (not for want of me trying to explain). Mostly these liberals were in favour of more inclusivity, and less prejudice, but never spoke of class or economics. After that, though, what I mostly noticed was that discourse in the US became more and more polarised every time I returned, and that polarisation ran right through my own family. It took me years to appreciate how class shaped this phenomenon within my family and in the greater society. And its effects were more pernicious precisely because it could never be spoken about. It was taboo.

In any case, I think it is fair to say that at this point there is an "insider left" and an "insider right" (the established core of both party organisations and their connections in business, media, finance, etc), for whom status quo still works. There is an "outsider left" (Bernie Sanders movement) and an "outsider right" (Tea Party movement and Trumpism). These are the populists on both sides for whom the status quo is not working. And right now there are ways in which the "insider" versus the "outsider" dichotomy is so pronounced that it can blur left and right. That is to say, the outsiders may sometimes have more in common with each other, at least just now, than they do with their respective "established" wing.

I think you can also find "interest/based pragmatists" and "values/based idealists" on both the right and the left. And again, there are times when the pragmatic/idealist dichotomy is more pronounced than the left/right one.

As for myself, in puzzling over where my best "fit" is, I'd say I'm definitely an "outsider" and will always lean left, and I know I've never been a "liberal". As to values v interests I am learning that my values are for guiding me alone, while pragmatism must guide my search for a workable common ground (as much as that may ever be found) with my fellow human beings.

And then there are days when I decide, flip all that nonsense. At heart, I'm a barbarian, I live on my wits, my courage, and my honour, as best I can, among people who, believe it or not, are just people, like people everywhere.

Ric said...

Yes, you can take credit for calling it. It's a large topic, and I would have some bones to pick with you on some points, but when it comes to predictions, here's a salient point about past records we may well agree on: enterprises led by Trump often end up bankrupt.

IIRC, you've made the point that the US is *not* like a household, or a business, in that it can always "pay" its debts by financial manipulations, but that's not exactly a free pass to bliss.

Scotlyn said...

@K Sc - you said "How often can politicians be trusted on their word?
We've heard the lies so many times, we don't trust they will do what they say."

In this I am with JMG (and incidentally Thomas Frank, whose writings I have just discovered)... it is up to us to organise around our concerns and issues in such a focussed way that we can ultimately "trust they will do what [we] say" (or at least give it due consideration in the resulting compromise). (For example, would an effective trade union movement not have prevented/softened the effects of NAFTA, or a great deal of offshoring, and prevented the working classes from being as easily divided from each other's support by race, ethnicity?)

If all our discussion revolves around who can be trusted, we never get around to thinking about what issues we care about them, and more to the point, what we are prepared to do to advance them. Why should a politician care about any issue, if we spend zero time putting our concern for it into words and deeds.

Focussing on trust also tends to reinforce a way of thinking that there is a half of our fellows who cannot be trusted... not hard to see where that leads.

I hope there are people even now starting to think about issues to put on the table for the mid-terms in 2018.

Bill Pulliam said...

ThisOldMan -- So far all efforts have had zero impact on the rate of CO2 increase, which continues to accelerate (i.e. the increase is increasing). I don't think any political actions will ever have any meaningful global impact on this. It will slow when the global economy crumbles sufficiently and/or fossil fuels become too expensive to compete, and not before. In a globe of hundreds of nations, there will always be enough cheaters and non-signatories to any "global" accord to make it ineffective. So, yeah, I think it won't make any difference.

SOF said...

JMG Not a word about global warming. People will not voluntarily change their lifestyles in order to lessen the future impact of an invisible gas in our invisible atmosphere. Thanks to "internal combustion" that is out of sight. We need responsible governance and regulatory frameworks to deal with such an existential threat to our future.

Revere T said...

With your Druid hat on, what are your thoughts about the impact this recent shift in U.S. and global politics will have on the biosphere? There is much gnashing of teeth in liberal media outlets about what's going to happen to environmental policy under a Trump administration. I'd certainly hate to see even more habitat destruction and climate chaos than we already have, but I get the sense that there may be a silver lining or two here that many people are missing. Is it just that throwing wrenches into the gears of the financial casino machine does more for the environment than the EPA ever could?

Do you think that this could be the first stumbling step towards an America that actually acknowledges the reality of limits, or is our national psyche too wedded to the myth of the Blaze of Glory?

asr said...

Ron. When Obama won. I was happy, but remember a nagging thought that Obama was the perfect rebranding of the American Empire. A charismatic new voice with just slight differences. Almost a walking United Colors of Benetton add. As institutions crumble and we're left with a celebrity culture perhaps Trump is simply the new face of the establishment transmogrifying itself. His current choice to be Treasury Secretary is Steven Mnuchin of Goldman Sachs. Hmm. Exactly where Hank Paulson and Tim Geithner came from.

Ray Wharton said...

Well I have been watching the freak out... pearl clutching, HA. Already the "Oh no, brace for the Gestapo" voice has turned down, about a half of my friends who started posting that stuff have switched over to "What do we build as an alternative from here." Going to Reddit they are just steamed at Clinton and the DNC, repenting their abandonment of Bernie like a bunch of baptists in a river. I see alternatives coming up for discussion, right now the most interesting figure being discussed as a new standard bearer for the left is the up and coming Tulsi Gabbard. In some ways she is extremely impressively adapted to the current situation, and even having some of the traits that we might fear in Fred Haliot. But, I don't yet see evidence of the dark side that Fred would have. Too early to tell, and interest might move elsewhere, but I got a feeling that she might be one to watch.

aNanyMouse said...

Hi JMG, I met you at the Chicago Bioneers three years ago, at which you “admonished” me to concede that I (and others there) were among the most privileged of people on the planet. In recalling this exchange, I’m reminded of what we were told (in RFK’s day) was the Kennedys’ motto: “from those to whom much is given, much is required”.

Part of what the Kennedys did to live up to that motto was to give their opponents a FAIR hearing. (Perhaps I was spoiled by growing up in a time of such great men as JFK and his pal Goldwater!) However, as you vividly emphasize in this post, this ethos has suffered hugely this year.

Part of giving others a fair hearing involves restraint from the urge to straw-man, rather than faithfully represent, the views of one’s opponents. A particularly egregious instance of this was the Media’s charge that Trump had called (all) Mexicans rapists, when a fair reading of his (rather famous) actual words about them belies that caricature. (This is similar to the degenerate hatchet job on Gore’s supposed words about “inventing the internet”.)

And part of this urge to straw-man stems from isolation in ideological or social echo chambers, where those trying to correct the record on the words etc., of Gore or Trump, are intimidated (into silence or withdrawal), e.g. via the sorts of diatribes which you so vividly decry. It’s the Media’s job to correct such misinformation, but, starting (?) with the hatchet job on Carter’s “malaise” speech, the Media has been increasingly MIA.

As long as the Media gives many of those practicing these demagogic tactics free passes, I fear that debate in this land will continue to deteriorate. We once had folks like Irv Kupcinent and Bill Buckley, who tried to mind the store in this regard, but they got replaced by smarty-pantses like Tim Russert, Rush Limbaugh, and Rachel Maddow. Mogadishu, here we come!

MawKernewek said...


Obviously not as many people went from #Feelin' the Bern to being #With Her in realspace rather than on Twitter.

Perhaps try to get Congress to approve an amendment that provides for a 8-year trial of a parliamentary type system with a figurehead president?

According to WikiHow the President has no veto on constitutional amendments.

However getting that through 66% of Congress and 75% of state legislatures by the end of January doesn't sound very likely

Devin Martin said...

JMG and readers,

I see a certain level of dark thaumaturgy taking place as a result of the election that disturbs me. Just today, I learned that a Muslim woman was assaulted and robbed of her hijab at my alma mater university by a group of men in white Trump hats. A friend related that her elementary age schoolchild, who is multiracial, was bullied by another child and told that she was going to be deported. I’ve seen many more such events related on social media and in the news. Obviously bad actors aren’t limited to just one side of the political spectrum, as demonstrated by riots breaking out at some anti-Trump rallies in California and other places, and certainly not all Trump supporters are violent prone white nationalists, but his campaign does seem to have emboldened them. Unlike many on the left, I’ve watched many of his rally speeches online, where his demeanor, cadence, and subtext is a bit too much like a few 1930’s style dictators for my taste.
And even here, reader Trippticket says:
“Notice how the arc of blue counties in the southeastern U.S. follows the fall line, the geographic transition from piedmont to coastal plain around the South. What? Why? Why would that occur? Seems odd, doesn't it? Could it be some sort of common mineral deficiency or something?? ;o) oink, oink!”
Maybe trippticket can comment as to what he meant by “common mineral deficiency…;) oink oink”, but a good knowledge of geohistory tells us why those counties went blue: that transition from piedmont to coastal plain has some of the best soils for growing cotton, and thus was the place where lots of African slaves were imported to grow it for their white masters. Their descendants still live there and vote blue from a loyalty to the party that helped deliver ensure their right to vote in the 1960’s.

Violet Cabra said...

With this election I have found by experience that you, and Péladan are quite right in your post "A Lesson in Practical Magic," that indeed staying out of the mass mind and thinking for oneself can indeed "be catchy as a lively new tune." Several people have thanked me for sharing my thoughts on the widespread appeal and positive potential of a Donald Trump presidency, saying it helped them and is helping them to think more for themselves and with more complexity and to be more calm and less filled with fear. Living in Massachusetts, speaking somewhat openly about this sort of thing has filled me with no small amount of anxiety of reprisals, but doing what I can to help maintain political legitimacy seems well worth the risk at this point.

I wonder if it has occurred to others that political legitimacy is a shared commons? Watching the debates, and listening to people speak of their hated candidate I was filled with a sense of foreboding; if everyone seeks to delegitimize the other, than the results are a delegitimized political process. This is a tragedy of the commons. I doubt very many people who engage in this behavior truly want the sort of future that they feed by trying to taking the initiative to demonize the other.

Nathan said...


Thank you for your eloquence and blunt words.

One reason I focused some on character this election is because the specific policies I voted for in 2008 (the only other year I have voted major party) didn't happen. Obama very clearly promised opposition to the Iraq War and the Wolfowitz Doctrine in the Middle East. I saw him speak live about this, and watched him talk about it in countless debates. These policies were nearly 100% under his authority as CiC, he didn't have to get congressional authority or anything. Yet, except for the late term deal with Iran, all he did was double down on neoconservative tactics, as you yourself have pointed out on this blog.

This left a sour taste in my mouth for politics. Since then, I feel like my first priority is to figure out how much each candidate can be trusted at all to even try to implement their promises in office. Thus, character evaluation must play a part. In this election, I felt like Trump both had more character and policies more compatible with my politics (with major caveat being climate change), so it was an easy decision.

Hope to hear your opinion on this.

pygmycory said...

One thing I can't help but notice: Trump won the electoral college and therefore the presidency, but Clinton won the popular vote. A lot of people voted for her.

[email protected] said...

Hi John

Congratulations on the successful prediction of a Trump victory.

Your post in early January helped push me, to the point where I made my very same call, as I had a growing sense that Trump could do it. Your analysis of why he would win was very powerful and influenced and sharpened my own analysis on why the Donald could go all the way to the White House.

I have been a little surprised about how limited the reaction has been to a Trump victory. Most people seem to have taken it, in the UK, in their stride. Maybe Brexit has already used up the capital of emotional hysteria among the Brits or just maybe the average voter is a bit more clued up than our elites.

One thing that did cross my mind is what I call the "orphaned generation", the 18-25 year olds who were brought up under Abundant Industrialism but their early adulthood has been shaped by the Great Recession and the emerging era of Scarcity Industrialism.

This cohort, the first to be raised in the era of "progressive" politically correct identity politics, seems unable to cope with the emergence of a post-liberal politics. Their response seems to be bitterness, anger and a strange kind of nihilism.

Will this generation be forever orphaned... unable to adapt to the reality of late industrial civilization in decline?

Out of interest, in my summer post "winter is coming" I noted that the likely election of Donald Trump would herald the start of the era of Scarcity Industrialism. Would you agree with that statement?

I have ordered the bulk of your remaining peak oil/civilization books and I am sure you will be pleased to hear that there is a Greer section in my study!



John Michael Greer said...

Good heavens. Well, this week's post looks as though it's going to be a contender for most comments, just as last week's is a contender for highest all-time readership -- and I have some commitments over the next few days that won't give me time to respond to every comment in the usual way. Thus I'd like to thank everyone who's commented so far, but will be responding only to direct questions and a few other comments that, to my mind, really do call for a response.

Ducky, go compare the change in the rate of permanent unemployment with the change in the working age population from 2000 to today. That'll show you just how jobless the "recovery" has been.

Llmaiwi, sure thing. There are three basic rules for staying out of the self-reinforcing groupthink of our time:

1. Get rid of your television. This is the most important step of all, because television makes you stupid. I mean that quite seriously; the "plug-in drug" puts you in an alpha state, turning off your critical faculties, and then fills your head with a torrent of mind-numbing imagery. The sooner you get rid of it, the sooner your capacity for clear thinking will return.

2. At least once a month, read a book that was written before you were born. This helps break you out of the unexamined presuppositions of the present.

3. Schedule time every day for solitary, silent thinking. You can call that "meditation" if you want to, so long as you're using your mind, not turning it off. Have mind food handy -- books and other resources, that is, that give you interesting things to think about, and then think about them.

There are other things you can do, but those three are the basics. Give 'em a try.

Brett, I think it's an either-or situation. Either we begin moving deliberately toward a renewal of federalism, or the centrifugal stresses at work in this country will tear it apart, with or without benefit of civil war.

Amy, you certainly may quote me on that!

Revere, yesterday was an ordinary day here. I think a lot of people are glad that Trump won but they want to see whether he'll actually make a difference.

KL Cooke, only the ones I use to brew my morning cuppa. The tools I use for forecasting are a close study of historical parallels and a location outside the bicoastal bubble of affluence.

Unknown said...

Wanted to leave this.

My collaborator and I predicted Trump would win with our satirical "Ronald Krumb" in our online comic Apocalypse Mom last spring. (The farcical Barney Ganders is elsewhere parodied with a not shown graphic in a mock election gimmic)

Only place I could brag about something so goofy! Cheers,

Elderwoman said...

Like all my fellow Archdruid fans in this comments column, I really appreciated your thoughtful (as always) and insightful (as always) post and it helped me to move past the shock and grief of the election result--which, after Brexit, felt like a one-two punch for many of us here in England, though I am well aware that the two results grew from similar roots.

I also agree that the personality of the victor is not the most important thing.

What I feel the need to point out, however, because nobody else here has, as yet, is that there is a sense in which the personality of this particular man has had a profound effect on a certain segment of the population--probably a larger segment than we might think. For although a lot of women voted for DT, there are also many, many thousands of women (and possibly some men too) for whom the election of a man like DT to the highest position of authority in the land has inevitably triggered a deep, visceral pain that goes way beyond shock and disappointment. These are the people - and they are legion - who have been sexually abused by male authority figures and, as a result, carry ancient emotional wounds, often from childhood. As a psychotherapist (long since retired) I have counselled many abused women and I know how easily such painful memories can be triggered and how easily those old wounds can bleed again. Not only that, but millions of women still carry a race memory of abuse by male authority figures from way back in the burning times.

So it is not just the 'glass ceiling' issue that makes Hillary's failure so painful for so many women. This other, darker layer of pain should not go without a mention. There are thousands who spent yesterday in floods of tears. And have spent a lot of today processing it all with their friends. Tomorrow, maybe, they will read your column, and others like it, that will help to return them to a calm rationality. And, in time, on hopes, to constructive action.

Phil Harris said...

@ pygmacory
Over here in Britland I personally very much have the same experience and echo your thoughts. We might be even more tied root and branch to the USA than you are in Canada. Our Brexit of course isn't panning out anything like a potential revolution. Who knows whether Trump is actually going to change the course of things in US, but there is no intention here among the dominant political stratum to allow any real class struggle to make a difference. If anything those who have done worst are going to lose what little they have.

But as you say - hope for the best. Thanks for your informed humanity. I echo JMG I think when I suggest that easing-off failed American foreign policie might provide some breathing space.


Justin said...

Pygmycory, no, CNN is predicting a narrow win for Trump in the majority vote.

Patricia Mathews said...

Said in anguish - it's getting ugly indeed. "Sore Loser" used to be said in scorn and contempt, about on the same level as "crybaby!" One of the things that bothered me about Trump was his statement that if he lost, he would bot accept the results of the election.

Well, the sore losers are out in full force, from the destructive fools who covered the University of New Mexico buildings with graffiti, to the mass marches, protests, and school walkouts being reported by NPR as if it were the only proper response to the election. Yes indeed, it's not the right who are starting to tear the nation apart, but the left, if those terms still have any meaning. My side, and I'm afraid, once my tribe. And they apparently don't see anything wrong with it. Because, after all, it's .... the Great Unspeakable, after all! An outrageous offense against the Natural Order of Things.

Well, the sore losers are out in full force, from the destructive fools who covered the University of New Mexico buildings with graffiti, to the mass marches, protests, and school walkouts being reported by NPR as if it were the only proper response to the election. Yes indeed, it's not the right who are starting to tear the nation apart, but the left, if those terms still have any meaning. My side, and I'm afraid, once my tribe. And they apparently don't see anything wrong with it. Because, after all, it's .... the Great Unspeakable, after all!

I will not cry. But until they become the Loyal Opposition, I am turning in my resignation in the tribe now carrying on like a bunch of ....crybabies. Said in anguish - it's getting ugly indeed. "Sore Loser" used to be said in scorn and contempt, about on the same level as "crybaby!" One of the things that bothered me about Trump was his statement that if he lost, he would bot accept the results of the election.


pygmycory said...

Assuming for a minute that right-wing populism becomes popular in many western countries, it occurs to me that the more of these regimes there are, the higher the chance of a true Hitler-type emerging somewhere. Now if that happens somewhere small and poor, that won't cause much trouble beyond its own borders, but if it happens somewhere stronger, we'll all have a big problem. It would be good to be able to tell ahead of time which leaders are most dangerous, as opposed to just looking at country capabilities.

How do you evaluate whether a would-be leader of country X will be a Hitler or a Berlusconi?

rapier said...

I could sort of agree but what about corporations? Corporations are not going to be local or regional. They are global. Or in other words, citizens don't mean much, if you catch my drift. It's all sort of quaint this talk of citizens.

latheChuck said...

beetleswamp - "No worries."

latheChuck said...

Bill Pulliam - You advocate teaching probability and statistics in grade school, but then immediately showed why that's so unlikely. When you point out that children so educated will not buy lottery tickets, you appear unaware that the government-sponsored lotteries (here in Maryland, at least, and I think in most other places) have been established on the promise that the profits they "generate" will be dedicated to school support. What teacher of mathematics would dare teach children the folly of purchasing lottery tickets, at the expense of funding his own school system?

David, by the lake said...

Apparently, one of Trump's issues is termimits for Congress

Unsurprisingly, McConnell seemed cool to the idea...

I did not know this was on Trump's agenda, though. My estimate of him just went up a notch. His list actually has some good ideas on it.

latheChuck said...

Re: electoral votes vs. popular vote

Not that I'm any kind of a baseball fan, but the winners of the 2016 World Series was Chicago, with 27 total runs in seven games, compared to just 27 total runs for the Cleveland Indians. Does ANYONE question that it was a historic victory?

David, by the lake said...

Follow-up to my previous comment just now

I realize of course that the President has no authority with re to constitutional amendments and Congress would simply block the issue by not bringing it up. However, could you not see Trump deciding to put out a call to the states, asking them to call a convention to bypass Congress and get these limits put in place? He doesn't seem to be one to be stymied. If, that is, it isn't just talk.

Just for the record, there was much on that list I don't agree with, but more that I do than I would have imagined there'd be.

Cortes said...

On reading a book written before you were born: I concur.

Even we'll-written modern novels are little more than exercises in product placement. I don't recall brand statements in Balzac, Dickens or Thomas Wolfe (the real, NC one).

Compound F said...

Dear Nastarana,

I appreciate your thoughts. My focus was not on the Caddy v. donkey as material possessions having valence beyond what it meant in the 70's gameshow; at this point, those representations are purely metaphors of history. My intention was to introduce the logic of the Monty Hall problem, which everyone, to a man and most women, have extreme trouble understanding. When Marilyn vos Savant explained that logic, statisticians worldwide blew their tops about why females should never be allowed near math. Of course, after their very public, self-righteous indignation, she was proven right, and they wrong. The entire episode was particularly beautiful, in its way of exposing the adamant, and vicious illogic of the supposed logical geniuses.

Bluebird said...

I have been thinking the same thing and wondering when on earth we'd get back to that, and address what to do.

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