Q: So, how was your Election Night?
A: Pretty horrific – thanks for asking. As someone who very much did not want Donald Trump to be president, things started off OK, but gradually became more and more worrisome as it became clear that Clinton was having trouble closing the deal in a lot of crucial parts of the map. It was never going to be a joyful election for me; I hated both candidates. But this morning was no bargain, as I spent my first few half-awake minutes wondering where that vague sense of uneasiness was coming from, then remembered what had happened. Unpleasant.
Q: How did this happen?
A: That’s the proverbial above-my-pay-grade question, but here goes. It seems clear that a lot of what many people thought about the Obama years was, in fact, illusory – where’s the Great Progressive Realignment that people were talking about in 2008, eh? It will be tempting to think, for many in the Democratic party, that Stupid Redneck Racists are to blame. It’s for sure that all of this demographic that bothered to vote voted for Trump, but that’s not the whole story – I still don’t think that they deliver a victory on their own. There are surely quite a few people who voted for Obama and then turned around and voted Trump, because they didn’t get any of that hope and change that they were promised and thought the next guy could deliver it.
So some putatively Democratic voters went Trump, but many more, it appears, just stayed home, and that gives you the electoral map we have today. (Conservatish folks like me who held their noses for Clinton do not seem to have been much of a factor). It seems that Trump will, in fact, have gotten fewer votes than Romney and fewer than McCain. (Hell, neither candidate this time looks to have gotten as many votes as Romney did while losing in 2012, which I have to interpret as widespread disgust). Compared to Romney and McCain, though, Trump’s smaller vote was just better proportioned electorally, and (very importantly), the Democratic votes simply were not there. Clinton has far fewer votes than Obama did in either of his elections, many million fewer. People who were expected to vote for her just did not turn out. So much for the Incredible Ground Game, and so much for likely voter models in the polls – these are in the same trash can as the Great Progressive Realignment of yesteryear.
Q: Thoughts on what it means for the drug industry?
A: The ostensible subject of this blog! Actually, biopharma stocks are likely to start off the day going straight up. There was a lot of worry about what a Clinton administration and a partially Democractic-controlled Congress might have been able to come up with, and a price control measure in California had a lot of industry investors worried as well. But Clinton is history, and the CA measure failed. As for my own portfolio, I’d rather give the money back and not have Trump, though.
Q: Anything else good that you can come up with?
A: A few things. First off, I think that a lot of Trump supporters will be disappointed when it turns out that their man cannot Remake The World for them the way that he’s been promising. Trump said a lot of wildly irresponsible and stupid things during the campaign, and (fortunately) many of them are going to be impossible for him to realize, such as turning the US economy back to what it was in 1952. Others are going to be impossible without the consent of Congress, and most of the people there (R and D) are saner than Trump is, and certainly have a lot more experience of actually governing. I very much hope that Trump finds that he likes being cheered by crowds more than he actually likes the details of running the country, and leaves that to others, but who knows? Either way, he’s likely to end up in the same position as Gov. Schwartzenegger in California or Gov. Ventura in Minnesota, where his supporters eventually wonder “Why did we even elect this guy anyway? Nothing we wanted has happened!
Secondly, another thing that this might do (I can only hope) is to put a dent in the way that too many people think about the Presidency, as a sort of elected kingship. The people who kept complaining about those foul Republicans obstructing the Obama agenda are now desperate for someone who can obstruct Trump’s. We have a deliberately divided system of government in this country, very carefully designed that way. Some people get frustrated with that and long for a Big Leader who can just ram through whatever they want. This longing is not specific to either the Right or the Left – you can find plenty of examples on both sides, but our system makes that the least likely outcome. Even when presidents have had both houses of Congress to work with, somehow the millennium does not seem to arrive on schedule. Disappointment of the sort I’m expecting might make Trump’s supporters wonder about all this Big Man stuff, and his opposition will meanwhile be frantically trying to reduce the power of the presidency any way they can.
Three: one thing this election did certainly do was break up a rationale for running/winning that had been taking hold over the years, namely “Because I’m a Bush” or “Because I’m a Clinton”. As nasty as it is this morning being a Never-Trump former Republican, it has to be even nastier being a committed Democrat and knowing that the voters did not exactly come flocking to your candidate, party royalty though she was. It’ll be tempting for some in the party to reach for some more of the dog that bit them, decide that the problem was the Hillary was Reagan in a pantsuit, and that they need to go really hard Left next time, but I think that would be a serious mistake. Trump did not win by going really hard Right; he went hard Trump (populist nationalist protest).
Finally, a couple of the less honorable reasons for not being depressed this morning. As mentioned above, I tend to think that Trump will actually find that he hates being president – at least, will come to hate the parts of the job that involve work, rather than the “Hail to the Chief” parts. The dog has caught the mail truck, now we get to watch him try to eat it. Similarly, I look forward to his more rabid supporters turning on him when they realize that their dreams don’t seem to be coming true. You take your comforts where you can.
But schadenfreude is not something you can survive on for four years. Much as I would like Trump’s hard-core fans to be disgusted, some of that disgust would follow Trump crashing the economy or wildly screwing up foreign policy. And yeah, he’s capable of either of those, and how, but I am very much willing to trade the dubious pleasures of watching him bungle up the country (and the world) for a chance to see him ineffectively putz around instead. May he end up doing some good, even if it’s in spite of himself, and may the harm he’s capable of be contained. Those are my goals and hopes for the next few years, and here we go.