I am not even going to bother calculating how wrong I was on my predictions. Suffice it to say that the lesson I learned this election was that if you are going to follow the crowd, make sure they are headed in the right direction.
Donald Trump’s victory last night should cause us all to reflect. The leadership in both parties need to figure out how they could have let so flawed a person be their standard bearer. One reason is that both leaderships have slowly been losing legitimacy among a large swath of the American electorate. This is not just about white male racism. I am a big believer in globalization and technology, but for decades now a significant slice of the population have been taking it on the chin as the world changes around them. Political elites have been pushing ideas like trade, federalism, foreign intervention, and regulation without feeling much of a need to build a popular consensus or explain why any costs are worth bearing. I am a big believer in most of these policies, but when leaders exceed the limits of their popular support, they deserve to be reined in. The solution is to go back and rebuild a path forward that deserves and gets a broader majority.
Every election results in elation for the winning party and predictions of doom from the losers. And yet the nation goes on. Democrats now will gain new appreciation for the many checks and balances our system contains. Somewhere they are plotting to make sure Trump is a one-term president, just as Mitch McConnell did eight years ago. Meanwhile many Republicans will gain new appreciation for the aggressive precedents president Obama set in the use of executive power. And in two or four years it could all change. Things are never as bad or good as they seem. Losers always warn that the sky is falling and winners always over reach. The fact is that it remains very hard and unwise for a president to enact major policy changes without bipartisan support. There are several opportunities including infrastructure investment, tax reform, and even immigration reform where reasonable compromises by both sides could produce progress. The question is whether the leaders are willing to govern.
It is worth keeping in mind that eight years ago Democrats rejoiced at the election of the first black president, the attainment of 60 votes in the Senate, and a new majority in the House. It barely lasted two years. The 2010 elections could produce similar change. There is some reason to be vigilant in making sure that Constitutional boundaries are respected. There is even more reason to be hopeful that the inherited institutions that have seen us through much greater challenges will remain strong.
Our founders believed that, man being imperfect, so must be the institutions and policies that guide society. But they also believed in a higher purpose and potential. That still holds.
All rivers go to the sea,
yet never does the sea become full.
To the place where they go,
the rivers keep on going.
Ecclesiastes (1: 7)