Short Relief: Trump won because he knew better

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As I have for many years, I worked the polls on Munjoy Hill in Portland on Election Day. In general, the electorate there is more diverse, less affluent, and more transient than the rest of Portland, and 14 percent of it is currently enrolled in college.

Typically, it turns out to support liberal, Democratic candidates. So much so that the superintendent of schools cancelled classes at the East End School on Nov. 8 because of the expectation that long lines would stretch into student areas and disrupt school activities.

We were extremely busy from opening at 8 a.m. until about 10 a.m. From then until the end of my shift at 2 p.m., the lines were shorter than I can ever remember them being in a presidential election year.

I discussed the situation with my fellow election clerks. Theories varied. I wondered whether people weren’t enthused enough to turn out for Hillary Clinton. Others thought that many people had voted early.

In the end, election results showed that about 5,300 people voted in the district, compared with about 4,600 in 2012. I guess that makes me just another know-it-all who was wrong about this election.

Political pollsters were most spectacularly wrong of all.

No matter how much they defend their polls with margins of error and levels of confidence, almost without exception, they predicted a decisive Clinton victory in terms of both the popular vote and the Electoral College. As of Dec. 2, the numbers were that Clinton won the popular vote by 1.9 percent, 65,259,681 to 62,692,056) and Trump won the Electoral College by 74 votes (306-232).

Polls that are that far off aren’t much good.

The pundits weren’t much better. On Nov. 7 they were confident Trump had no path to victory and the Republican Party was doomed by demographics to the ash heap of history. On Nov. 9, it was the Democratic Party that was in need of a post-mortem because of its misplaced emphasis on identity politics and neglect of working-class rural voters in favor of urban elites.

Those errors reinforced the sense that we are in the midst of a crisis of legitimacy, in which the experts are out of touch and at best not performing well, and at worst, corrupt.

Trump won because he had a visceral understanding of that feeling. He used celebrity, charisma, showmanship, crude language, the Internet and social media to connect with an electorate that had grown weary of smooth talk and not enough hopeful change.

He also connected, albeit contrariwise, through the legacy press. It could not have been more antagonistic to him. All but a handful of newspapers in the country opposed him. Down the home stretch of the campaign, the Washington Post and New York Times carried four or five anti-Trump op-eds a day.

It backfired because the press has lost credibility to the point that a substantial number of people respond to what it reports and opines by believing the opposite.

Now, in the wake of the election, the Clinton team, some of her supporters, pundits and reporters are promoting the idea that Trump won because of racism, sexism, xenophobia, fake news, FBI impropriety, Russian hacking, and dog whistles.

The implication, at least, is that Trump supporters are ignorant, impressionable bigots. I know some of them. They are not. Insisting otherwise further alienates and unnecessarily divides us. My hope is that we find a way to get past this, to come together and restore faith in each other, in our experts, and our systems.

Halsey Frank is a Portland resident, attorney and former chairman of the Republican City Committee.

  • David Craig

    You say, “My hope is that we find a way to get past this, to come together and restore faith in each other, in our experts, and our systems.” We? WE need to find a way to get past this? More than half of us still have faith in our experts and systems. To us, facts still matter. We know climate change is real and Obama wasn’t born in Kenya. “Getting past this” is going to require change from the top — Trump, that is. And it will need to come from his supporters, a large and growing minority of Americans who don’t care about facts or what the experts say or what our systems do. Trump’s early actions as President-Elect show little evidence that we’ll see a restoration of faith in experts or systems. He’s ignoring the professionals and experts in the State Department and irresponsibly talking on the phone to Pakistan and Taiwan. He’s appointing people to important positions in his administration who think climate change is a hoax, who question the rights and equality of women, who oppose a free press, etc.
    Instead of blaming all of us, why not call out your party and Trump for leading this assault on our experts and systems? Why not put the blame where it belongs?

    • Jane Gildart

      “Faith in experts.”
      Can we talk about this outside the context of a political campaign?
      What does it mean to have faith in experts?
      How is it measured? How is it manifested?
      Can one have trust in the scientific method but be skeptical about giving experts too much authority over one’s life and livelihood?
      What about instances where public policy was shaped by experts who were later shown to have been wrong or whose studies were found to be flawed and thus their conclusions unsupported?
      Present day example: Nutrition policy in the US has been shaped by the expert consensus that a low-fat, high carb food pyramid constitutes a heart-healthy diet. So what explains the “epidemic” of obesity, diabetes and heart disease? Experts have re-examined the original work that gave us the food pyramid and found it was flawed, too late for lots of dead or sick Americans who trusted expert guidance.

      What about people who have faith in the experts who tell them things they believe but don’t have faith in experts who tell them things they don’t want to accept?
      A large set of Americans have faith in the food safety experts who tell them uncooked meat can make them sick. A subset of these Americans have no faith at all in the very same food safety experts who tell them foods produced or grown with genetic engineering are safe and a boon for humankind. They can cite contradictory works by other “experts.”

      A large set of Americans have faith in the experts who tell them there are unsafe and inappropriate levels or methods of pesticide application. A subset of these Americans have no faith at all in the very same experts who tell them there are, in fact, safe and appropriate levels and methods of pesticide application. They can cite contradictory works by other “experts.”

      A large set of Americans have faith in the experts who tell them CO2 is a greenhouse gas and that a certain increase of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere will cause global average surface temperatures to be 1 degree C higher at the end of the century than they are now. A subset of these Americans have no faith in the very same experts who tell them that poorly understood mechanisms involving water vapor, clouds, albedo, etc. make the climate so sensitive to CO2 increases that the effect on global temperatures at the end of the century will be three, four or more times greater than 1 degree C. They can cite contradictory works by other “experts.”

      In each of these examples, the Americans in that particular subset have public policy preferences that are shaped by their skepticism of certain expert guidance.
      Does that make them ignorant? Dangerous? Deplorable? Maybe you (the reader) agree with some subsets (say, about pesticides and GMOs) and disagree with others (say, about climate sensitivity). What does that say about you and your faith in experts? What does it say about your neighbor who agrees with the climate skeptic subset but not with the pesticide-GMO skeptic subset?

      Isn’t it likely that the typical skeptic trusts the scientific method but thinks errors are very common? There are studies saying exactly that: most studies are flawed. We live in interesting times.

      • David Craig

        Excellent post. Look at all the questions being asked! That it what is lacking the response to fake news. Few are taking the time to fact check or ask questions. Unfortunately, this goes for much of the main stream media as well. They didn’t ask the tough questions of any of the candidates (and they still aren’t).

      • Just Sayin’

        Does science sometimes come up with contradictory answers? Yes, it does. That is not a sign that science is wrong, but instead that some of our underlying understanding or assumptions of the matter being studied are wrong, and that we have further to go before we discover the truth.

        That doesn’t mean that science is untrustworthy. It is, in fact, the best way of discovering truth that we have. This is why we attempt to have a scientific community who review and replicate each other’s work. If results can be reproduced faithfully, it affirms the work of the scientist who originated with it.

        Part of the reason that people believe and cite conflicting scientific studies is that we have allowed that scientific community to be corrupted. Now there are legions of ‘fake’ scientific journals that do not care if the work they publish is accurate, true, or even original work. They publish virtually anything they are paid for, and misrepresent both it and themselves as scientifically valid, all to make a quick buck.

        The reasons people publish this way are myriad. They need to be published to break into the field and are willing to publish bunk to do so, they’re being paid to publish views that are politically convenient to someone with deep pockets, they’re being paid by businesses trying to avoid liability or higher costs, etc, etc.
        The results are easier to see than the reason, and too many people are using that conflicting information to support their pre-existing views, when they should be spending the time to research what the consensus is.

        And while this fake science is proving to be quite problematic, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have faith in science and scientific consensus. It might not always be fully correct, but it is -the best- vehicle to deliver truth. If we abandon that than people will turn their faith to outlets that are not committed to the search for lasting truth, but controlling beliefs and actions in very self-serving ways.

        • Jane Gildart

          If your first question upon hearing about a new study that produces a conclusion that cuts against your bias is, “Who paid for the study?”, may I suggest your next question ought to be the more important one: “Have these results been replicated by independent reviewers with full access to the original data?” If the answer to that is yes, then it doesn’t matter who paid for the original study. Rain is wet no matter who pays me to say so. Reality is reality. If the answer is no or the story doesn’t say, then be skeptical. And don’t trust that “peer review” means the answer is yes; there’s peer review and there’s the illusion of peer review.

          Yes, we must uphold the scientific method, and we should understand that science is being done by human beings. Sometimes their egos, reputations, ambitions, and/or ideology are tied up in their work to the extent that they consciously or unconsciously bias their results (or data!) to produce a preconceived conclusion. Even scientists doing the work of mission-driven non-profits and NGOs can (and do!) produce bad results. Peer review is supposed to guard against this, but there are huge problems with the peer-review process as well. See here:

          “Fixing peer review won’t be easy, although exposing its weaknesses is a good place to start. Michael Eisen, a biologist at UC Berkeley, is a co-founder of the Public Library of Science, one of the world’s largest nonprofit science publishers. He told me in an email that, ‘We need to get away from the notion, proven wrong on a daily basis, that peer review of any kind at any journal means that a work of science is correct. What it means is that a few (1-4) people read it over and didn’t see any major problems. That’s a very low bar in even the best of circumstances.’

          “But even the most rigorous peer review can be effective only if authors provide the data they used to reach their results, something that many still won’t do and that few journals require for publication.”

    • Chew H Bird

      I do not need to agree with someone’s beliefs if the product is good and we do not yet know what the “product” will be regarding Trumps team.

      What I do know is when something is reported to the mass market, the detailed wording of an article is critical to a reader’s perception, regardless of the actual content. While I didn’t support either of these deeply flawed major candidates, I found the general lack of knowledge among my peers to be troubling as most of the supposed facts came from sources that had an economic or political interest in the outcome.

      I also know that what we have been doing for decades is not working for many Americans. While I have significant concerns about Mr. Trump, the pot needs to be shaken, and a changing of the guard needs to occur. I may not like the result but I dislike even more the continuation of failed policies (over and over again) by people who expect a different result.

    • Charles Martel

      Your “experts” are charlatans. Climate change is a hoax, facts are conveniently ignored by the Left and the people spoke. Get over it. Here’s a song dedicated to your loss which we love:

      • David Craig

        Frequent readers of your trolling posts know that you consider yourself the only true expert. Usually you only come out of Mom’s basement to post Islamophobic conspiracy theory videos. Glad to see you branching out to climate change so that we can benefit from your wisdom.

        • Charles Martel

          For you to benefit from my wisdom would take way too much effort on my part and not worth the bother.

  • Charles Martel

    After to listening to or reading articles from all the pundits, this explanation on the day after the election is the best I’ve come across thus far:

  • truther

    “My hope is that we find a way to get past this, to come together and restore faith in each other, in our experts, and our systems.”

    The events of the past few days — including Trump today dismissing the CIA report about Russian interference as “ridiculous” — show fairly conclusively that Trump is a demagogue and a charlatan. He bullies people on Twitter. He turns away his intelligence briefers. He appoints foxes to guard every henhouse in his cabinet. And so on.

    It’s great that we should all “come together” but that’s going to be impossible to do when the president of the United States, abetted by a collaborationist Congress, is the problem. Trump is making a mockery of every aspect of the civil society we Americans have spent literally centuries trying to build. Seriously, why should I bother paying taxes when the president says taxes are for chumps? Why should I treat people with respect when the president treats all human interaction as an opportunity to belittle somebody weaker than him?

    I want my kids to grow up to be decent people. People with integrity, honesty, and compassion. That literally means telling them to watch how the new president behaves and then do the opposite. What does that say about our society that I need to do that?

  • justanotherfakename

    The full investigation hasn’t been released yet, if it ever will be, and even if it is, its probably impossible to know how much the Putin orchestrated Russian hacking and propaganda campaign effected the election. But to deny it took place, when all seventeen of our intelligence gathering organizations say it did, is at best overly defensive on the part of the President Elect, who begins to smell a bit Manchurian. One thing is obvious to any who can remove their rose colored Republican glasses for a moment, all the hacking emails released and Russian propaganda favored Trump, and was meant to harm the candidacy of Clinton. The animosity between Putin and Hillary is a matter of fact. The mutual admiration society love fest between Trump and Putin is well documented, despite Trump tales to the contrary. And after a year of Trump insulting his way to the top, the folks he insulted are not likely to all immediately forgive and forget, especially with the Manchurian candidate who is a ‘smart person,’ so doesn’t need those irritating daily intelligence briefings.

  • splurker

    The implication, at least, is that Trump supporters are ignorant, impressionable bigots. I know some of them. They are not. Insisting otherwise further alienates and unnecessarily divides us. My hope is that we find a way to get past this, to come together and restore faith in each other, in our experts, and our systems.