Note to readers: Columnist Jim Tortolano is taking the week off with Retorts. Here’s a “classic” column from almost four years ago. It seems like not much has changed. Back to live action next week.
Democracy, it’s said, is the proposition that 51 percent of the public is right 51 percent of the time. That may be true, but the results of Tuesday’s election suggests that experts – pollsters, political insiders, journalists, etc. – can be wrong a lot, too.
Although we at the OC Tribune focus on the local elections, it’s difficult to ignore the result of the presidential election. Hillary Clinton apparently has narrowly won the popular vote – she was leading by about 160,000 votes as I write this Wednesday morning – but lost where it counted, in the Electoral College.
Donald Trump, our next president, did just about everything wrong, by conventional standards. He “lost” all three debates, said some pretty embarrassing things and rarely looked “presidential.” But voters – at least the ones who supported him – were looking for other qualities and were willing overlook that stuff.
Trump tapped into a thick vein of reaction to the swift pace of change in our society. Many people are feeling threatened or left behind by the impact of globalization, demographic and cultural change. For lots of Americans, how did transgender bathrooms become a civil right? Where can I get a job without a degree? And why doesn’t my neighborhood look like it used to?
The popular vote suggests that the nation is politically divided just about equally. Half are happy this morning and the other half miserable. Both Trump and Clinton built coalitions that left out a bunch of folks, making the calculation that they would have just enough in their corner to pull this thing off.
Regardless of who won, a victory by “just enough” isn’t exactly a recipe for a successful administration. Trump left behind minorities and most women. Clinton left behind working class whites and most men. A slightly better turnout in this city and that state might have given us a different outcome, but left us with the same divide.
I see in each party some troubling strains, which I hope, will fade with time. In the GOP, a roughness and anger has emerged that is without recent precedent. Among Democrats – the one-time party of “the people” – there can be a strong whiff of snobbery.
Republicans needs to understand that we can’t all be born white and straight, and Democrats that we didn’t all go to college and get that affirmative action bump.
The events of Tuesday are still too recent to fully understand. It’s like trying to focus on something with your eye plastered right up against it. You need to step back to get a better look. Let’s do that, and while we are, let’s see that The Other Guy is not really the devil, and that the wheel of change is always revolving.