The Man Who Would Not Quit
Donald J. Trump is the new President-elect of the United States of America. Even a couple of days ago to suggest this was a legimtiate possibility would have been a sure fire way to be recommended a one way trip to the funny farm. Who could have foreseen this? Certainly not the pollsters, who were near universal in their agreement that mathematically Trump’s odds at winning were on par with those of the Cubs winning the World Series (hmmm, about that….). Not the media either, who said repeatedly that the prospect of a Trump victory was so apocalyptical that the voters would never be so reckless (um, where before did we hear this?). Not the nation’s CEOs, who embraced Clinton whole heartedly with open arms and open wallets. Not the celebrities and entertainers of Hollywood who threatened to leave the country en mass should the unthinkable happen. I certainly had rejected the possibility. As much as the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency, let alone the insufferable gloating it would inspire, made me wish to gouge out my own eyeballs and then eat them I had resigned myself to the fact it was coming. For it to be otherwise Trump would not only have to avoid losing a single red state (several of which were teetering in the polls) but also run the board across the toss ups and then pick off one Democrat stronghold. It seemed to impossible a task, even if the polls weren’t all showing Clinton with a narrowing but consistent lead and Trump wasn’t trying to overcome it with a ramshackle GOTV operation going up against the vaunted Democratic machine.
Well the joke was on me. For all the speculation that Utah or Georgia or maybe even Texas itself might be in play, in the end all these traditional Republican bedrocks stayed reliably red. Trump picked off Florida and North Carolina and Iowa and Ohio (a last minute surge of votes from the suburbs and bedroom communities of DC kept Tim Kaine’s state of Virginia in the Democratic column by a nose).
By the time the clock struck midnight it was clear a wave was building. It swept north into Wisconsin and Michigan and finally even that eternal Republican white whale of Pennsylvania, states that had been reliably blue for a generation. As the numbers poured in you could see the worry and then the panic build across the major networks as the presenters stood before their magic boards frantically scanning county after county trying to find a path, however windy and crooked, that would lead to a Clinton victory and then the resigned despair set in when they realized there was none.
Sneered at, slandered, and transfigured by the establishment into the greatest boogeyman of modern times, Donald Trump turned out to be a messianic prophet of our times. He saw what no one was able or indeed even willing to see, and used it to build an electoral map to victory no one but him would have imagined possible. He did this with no background in professional politics, no deep pocketed donners, a campaign organization held together with duck tape and glue, and an almost habitual tendency to get his foot stuck in the mud only to pull it out and promptly stick it in his mouth.
In the end it did not matter. Trump somehow understood that outside the insulted bubble of Washington and New York and Silicon Valley there was an entire seething nation of people who were tired of being told to sit down, shut up and just do what the smart people knew was best for them. He spoke to these voters, the voiceless and scared and forgotten not, and more importantly he spoke for them. He went out into the great wilderness of Middle America, the vast wasteland of hollowed out post-industrial towns, and told the disenheartened and disfranchised blue collar voters of the working class “I’m with you” and they in return roared “we’re with him”.
These disaffected masses came out for Trump in droves, running up huge margins for him in rural and small town counties across the country. After a long, cold winter of discontent the prospect of a candidate who spoke to them, rather than at them, energized voters in places like Scranton and Allentown and Flint. In the end this was enough to deliver Trump the presidency.
The rash assertation by progressives that we had reached the end of history with the preordained victory of liberalism over all it’s rivals has by this time become little more than a cheap laugh line. Trump’s victory over Clinton, the unapologetic globalist who championed open borders and multilateralism, can indeed be seen as the ultimate refutation of this. It turned out in the end people wanted history. They wanted glory. They wanted identity, and borders, and the sense they were part of something greater than themselves that would give meaning to their otherwise worthless lives and continue on when they were no longer on this earth.
This happened very much in spite of the candidate himself. It is undeniable that Trump proved to be his own worst opponent, far more so than Hillary Clinton who ran a campaign lacking in ideas or vision that was ultimately reduced to little more than mudslinging and fearmongering. His tendency for self-sabotage was almost farcical at times, with such poignant examples as his self-immolation in the first debate to his publicized fight with a Gold Star family.
But despite this, Donald Trump still must be recognized for being the candidate who never quit, despite leading a campaign that found itself on the edge of the abyss on not just one but multiple occasions. No matter how many times he fell down, somehow he still found the inner fortitude (or perhaps sheer arrogant stubbornness) to get back up and keep going. He must also be recognized for being the first major candidate in living memory to question, however crassly, the Enlighenment consensus that has dominated Western politics since the aftermath of the Second World War. Perhaps it could only have been a candidate such as Trump who could have said the unsayable that the Emperor that is liberalism wears no clothes; that we have sacrificed our industrial manufacturing base for cheap imported crap from China, that we’ve built a modern economy that does very well by the very educated and very skilled and very wealthy but increasingly has no place for anyone else, and that our governing elite has become insulated and out of touch from all the bad and discomfort that the rest of us are forced to live with.
If for nothing else, Donald Trump must be credited for this. The Overton Window has not just been shifted, but utterly smashed by his election and its pieces burnt to ash and scattered across the earth. The tallest spires and deepest catacombs of the Cathedral are now ringing with the cries of Trump’s supporters. History has returned and hopefully there is no putting it back on the shelf. The challenge is now for those of us who have been waiting for this very opportunity to utilize it by occupying this new space that has been opened up in the public square. We have our ground. We must now take our stand.