Real newsman Bob Schieffer, as opposed to a flock of amateurs whose qualifications are a keyboard and access to the internet, called this the strangest campaign he’s ever witnessed and he’s covered 14 of them. He’s covered Washington since 1969 and has interviewed every president since Richard Nixon. He is one of the few journalists to have covered all four of the major Washington national assignments: the White House, the Pentagon, United States Department of State, and United States Congress.
And he calls this one the strangest he’s ever seen. “And we knew it was a deeply divided nation,” he said.
Certainly the divisiveness and the unreasoned hate that every one of the debates generated - dating back to the first crowded Republican stage on August 6 - sets it on a par with George Wallace's losing 1968 campaign which was driven by his strong pro-segregation policies that were rejected by the mainstream Democratic Party. His impact was substantial, winning the electoral votes of several states in the Deep South. It exposed the ugliness that was lurking just under the polite sensibilities of most of American society. The horror most people felt at what was said and done helped drive the politics of hate deep under cover.
It was so well-disguised that three years ago the Supreme Court decided we had entered a post-racial era and invalidated parts of the Voting Rights Act. Their decision let the genie out of the bottle which was poorly corked, anyway. It gave rise to a small fire which Donald Trump’s populist rhetoric soon whipped into a nasty conflagration. The vilest members of what became known as the ‘alt right’, warmed by his coziness with hate speech, began a poorly disguised sub rosa campaign on his behalf.
He was the first candidate since Mr. Wallace to not immediately repudiate their endorsement and reject their help.
Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, entered the bloody fray carrying too much baggage, most of it artificially hoisted on her back by 30 years of unproven accusations that had her complicit in everything from embezzlement to murder. The most damaging claims had her guilty of allowing the attack on Benghazi to happen - she didn’t - and sloppy handling of government emails - she apologized. Even though the FBI decided there was no criminal intent, few on the right had it in their hearts to forgive and forget. “The fix,” they thought, was in.
During the campaign, Trump savaged women, Mexicans, Muslims, the disabled and the entire ‘swamp’ of Washington politics. Hillary did a smack down of the ‘basket of deplorables' who backed Trump.
The result going into election eve? Hillary was ahead by just a few percentage points. Trump’s odds of winning had gone from near nil after their last debate to 35% and it quietly escalated during the last few weeks, resulting in a win that shocked everyone outside of the hard core Trump fans.
As the votes started being counted, exit polls showed the temperament of the people. A majority thought the country was on the wrong track. Democrats and Republicans dropped their blood feud long enough to agree on one thing. To quote Bill Clinton's 1992 team, “It’s the economy, stupid!”
But the economy could be felled by a shaken worldwide investment community. The Dow Futures dropped almost 800 points in late trading. The S&P and NASDAQ reached their bottom limit and trading was stopped. Asian markets took a nose dive off the same financial cliff. The specter of Trump’s threat to renegotiate or rescind major trade agreements and what that would do to international trade was more risk than the big money markets were willing to take.
But it was a the powerful racist thread that tilted the table toward Trump. at 1:14 Wednesday morning, David Duke, the ex-head of the KKK, tweeted “This is one of the most exciting nights of my life -> make no mistake about it, our people have played a HUGE role in electing Trump! #MAGA.”
Paul Krugman, the New York Times conservative voice, wrote this in the middle of the night, even before the race was officially called: “Now comes the mother of all adverse effects – and what it brings with it is a regime that will be ignorant of economic policy and hostile to any effort to make it work. Effective fiscal support for the Fed? Not a chance. In fact, you can bet that the Fed will lose its independence, and be bullied by cranks.
So we are very probably looking at a global recession, with no end in sight. I suppose we could get lucky somehow. But on economics, as on everything else, a terrible thing has just happened.”
The real driving force behind the election, though, was the 69% of the people who told exit pollers that they were disgusted or angry about how government works. More than anyone in the race,Trump spoke often and forcefully to their concerns.
The popular vote exposed a vicious split, a huge gap between urban and rural voters. The Ag community gave Trump the nod while the urban areas were reliably Democratic. Farmers and ranchers are an unforgiving lot, though. If they don’t see some real action from Trump - a serious reduction of federal rules and regs they see as killing their profitability and encroaching on their land rights, for instance - their sense of retribution will be swift.
The short end for establishment agriculture, though will be Trump’s promised attack on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), an agreement that groups like the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the North American Meat Institute fervently backed. Anti-establishment groups like R-CALF, a staunch supporter of a protectionist attitude toward international trade, should be delighted.
The effect of the election will change the way Congress will manage the debate over the 2018 farm bill. Mississippi’s Senator Thad Cochran (R), for instance, will be the most likely chair of the ag committee. He prefers traditionally styled crop subsidies while Michigan’s Senator Debbie Stabenow (D) backs revenue-based supports.
The bottom line: middle class Americans wanted change and they voted in Barak Obama because he promised change. In their opinion, he didn’t deliver so they brought in a man who promised to destroy the existing system and create a new one. Trump’s “Drain the swamp” battle cry will be a promise that must be kept, regardless of the damage.