Edit: Addendum at the end of the post /JW
Private Hudson: Oh dear Lord Jesus, this ain't happening, man! This can't be happening, man! This isn't happening!
-- Aliens, 1986
We are lost.
Far from home.
Cut off from help.
Wounded and alone.
Surrounded by terrors.
And it’s going to be a long time before rescue.
We’re going to lose people along the way. We will. There is no doubt. At this point, the best we can hope for is that they go down swinging.
Oh you bet. I don’t think we know just how bleak as yet.
But sugar coating it isn’t going to make the situation any better.
This is our worst nightmare, this is unknown darkness filled with monsters.
We are now facing an unhinged uncouth unrepentant proto-fascist in the White House not only enabled by a willing Congress and a vulnerable Supreme Court, but aided and abetted by a newly emboldened mob made up of bigots and haters of every foul stripe.
Nearly all the checks and balances on our government will shortly be disabled and we are soon to be the target of their vindictive madness.
The situation is so dire in fact that I actually used the word “emboldened” as if the Bush years were now a source of gentle nostalgia and benign inspiration.
Panic will only make things worse.
And howling into the dark won’t frighten away the monsters.
Rage and fear won’t help. Running away won’t save you; there’s nowhere on the planet that won’t feel the effects of what is about to come.
As the man said, we’re in some real pretty shit now, aren’t we?
Private Hudson: Hey, maybe you haven't been keeping up on current events, but we just got our asses kicked, pal!
We did. We got our asses kicked.
We’re standing in the wreckage, the smell of charred meat and burning fuel in our nostrils, and night is coming.
The White House. The Senate. The House of Representatives. And very shortly, the Supreme Court. All are lost.
The conservative extremists who will soon control those bodies will not hesitate to force their ideology upon the country. And they will do so without restraint. They’re already gleefully crowing about it and they can’t wait to get their revenge for all the wrongs they believe they have suffered.
It doesn’t take any great clairvoyance to see what’s coming.
We are going to lose our healthcare. Who lives and who dies will once again be decided by faceless insurance adjusters and for-profit medicine and your employer. And the priests, of course. Always the priests.
LGBTQ people will likely lose everything, including their freedom and their very lives. The best they can hope for is a fearful return to the closet, the worst is written into every history of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.
Women should get used to the idea that they will shortly become property of the state. And the Priests, of course. Their choice will soon be forfeit – or in the charming vernacular of our new president, their pussies are now up for grabs.
The rich will now get richer and not one penny of that will ever trickle down to you. The idea that handing out yet more tax breaks to the wealthy will somehow translate into good jobs and a restored middle class is nothing but delusion of the most ludicrous persuasion, but that’s what’s coming.
Our new leader has promised he’ll bring jobs back to America. What jobs? Slave wage labor in the long vanished textile industry? Maybe not every American wants to be a maid cleaning toilets 80 hours a week in a Trump resort for whatever pocket change the Wealthy tenants leave behind once the minimum wage has been eliminated along with the Affordable Healthcare Act. Out in the factories, will President Trump rip out the automation and advanced manufacturing processes and put the proletariat to work making iPhones and Volkswagens with their hands? Or will each of us be handed a shovel and marched to the southern border to build a wall for America, for Freedom, for the Fatherland?
Undesirables will be shortly rounded up. Conservatives have spent the last eight years pissing themselves over fever dreams of concentration camps and reeducation centers manufactured whole cloth by the likes of Glenn Beck and Alex Jones. Now they cheer the idea of Trump rounding up Muslims and Mexicans and putting them into camps for “humane” disposal. Best have your papers in order, especially if your skin tends to the darker end of the human spectrum – especially since Trump has declared his intention to clear out the ghettos and inner cities.
And, of course, he has promised us a great war of conquest and riches, where our enemies will be vanquished or converted, and our soldiers can earn themselves glory under the Eagles of the Legion while the world trembles and bows down before our might. Remember to tell your children to come home with their shields or carried upon them as true patriots.
And that is just the start, the dark clouds on the horizon before the storm.
Today every white supremacist, every religious lunatic, every raging gun nut and beer-bellied militiaman, every flag-humping jingoist is cheering.
They have indeed, at last, taken their country back.
All their dreams are coming true.
Private Hudson: Well, that's great. That's just fuckin' great, man! Now what the fuck are we supposed to do? We're in some real pretty shit now, man!
Corporal Hicks: Are you finished?
Newt: I guess we're not gonna be leaving now, right?
Ripley: I'm sorry, Newt.
Newt: You don't have to be sorry. It wasn't your fault.
Hudson: That's it, man. Game over, man. Game over! What the fuck are we gonna do now? What are we gonna do?!
Burke: Maybe we can build a fire, sing a couple of songs, huh? Why don't we try that?
Newt: We'd better get back 'cause it'll be dark soon and they mostly come at night. Mostly.
There are more than a thousand messages in my inbox this morning.
All of them ask the same question: How could this happen?
How could this happen?
How could they have been so wrong?
That’s the question, isn’t it?
Historians, pundits, political scientists, citizens, all of us, we’re going to be debating this election for a very long time.
Somewhere in the future, there’ll be a pitched battle among Wikipedia editors regarding the precise wording of how we ended up here. Citation needed! Citation needed!
Experts and the ignorant alike will debate economic factors and the demographics of fear and hate fueled by the media, the worthiness of the respective candidates, the fundamental difference between urban and rural populations, the growing (or lessening) influence of religion, black turnout, the Latino vote, women who vote against their own interests, the perennial angry white male, energy, immigration, terrorism, and of course sex and email and the chicanery of the FBI.
At the moment and for the foreseeable future, a whole bunch of experts who expertly predicted in their expert opinions based on their expert polls why Hillary Clinton would most certainly win, are expertly telling you why they were expertly correct even though it turned out they were utterly and thoroughly wrong and why you should trust their expert expertise on this matter.
But the simple answer is that there is no simple answer.
No single cause.
Except maybe there is.
Let me show you something:
That’s how the country voted this time around. Red for Trump, blue for Clinton, broken down by county.
What do you see?
Look carefully and think it through. What do you see?
The population is not distributed evenly, of course, nor is is it uniform. The population density is higher at the coasts and in the cities. Urban areas tend be more liberal, rural more conservative. The South is more religious than the North and therefore more conservative. The Southwest and Pacific North West tend to higher concentrations of sovereign citizens and anti-government militias. Union manufacturing tends to the North East, non-Union to the South. Agriculture and ranching are the Midwest and the Great Plains. Immigrants settle around the edges or in specific urban areas. Florida has a high concentration of older white retired people dependent on Social Security and Medicare and small retirements. The West Coast tends more liberal than the East – but voting begins in the East and travels west in real-time and that matters in a world of instant broadband communications. And etc. Etc. Etc.
There is far more to that map than just red and blue.
So, what do you see?
Compare that map to this one:
A lot more blue, right?
Or is it?
A lot more blue in Michigan and Wisconsin, in New England … but not really anywhere else. The breakdowns in California and the Pacific North West, the Southwest, Texas, Florida, the Old South, are all essentially the same.
Look at this:
That’s 2012, Obama and Mitt Romney.
What do you see?
Look at the aggregate, 2008 to 2016. Eight years, three presidential elections, two elections for Congress – the first of which turned the House red and the second which did the same for the Senate.
What do you see?
You see a lot of red, don’t you?
But what does that mean?
What does it mean, really?
Does it mean the majority of the country is overwhelmingly conservative?
Because you’re only looking at two dimensions. You’re not seeing depth, you’re not seeing all those things I mentioned up above.
Any political scientist will tell you that right out of the gate.
And that, right there, is their mistake.
You see, while liberals and conservatives make up roughly equal percentages of the population, the majority of the map is conservative.
The majority of the map.
Look at it. You can see it for yourself. That’s a lot of red.
And it matters, because our system of selecting a president was designed to be, or eventually evolved into, a hybrid of both state (or political party) based processes and direct democracy.
Thus, the Electoral College.
The states (and the District of Columbia) put forward Electors and those electors select the president and vice president based (more or less) on the popular vote. However the important note here is this: “popular vote” is at the state level, not the national level. Which is why this year Clinton won the popular vote but Trump won the Electoral College.
Now, nobody likes the Electoral College – especially if their team loses.
But it was put in place for very good reasons (reasons that should be required in testable detail in every high school and college in this country, but are often never even discussed. I digress). Chief among those concerns were because without such a system, a) large states (population wise) would always control every election, and b) because direct democracy becomes tyranny of the majority in short order.
Now, we can argue the merits of the Electoral College until Trump ships us all off to the camps, but as I have repeatedly said to you: pragmatically, this is the system we have right now.
This is the system we have right now.
I’m not telling you anything you shouldn’t know already and nobody knows this stuff more than professional political organizations. Every Republican and Democratic and Third Party political machine looks at that map in multiple dimensions. They crunch the numbers. They spend millions to build complex mathematical models based on demographics and ground sampling and polls and history and guesswork. Then they design strategies to woo both voters and electors though a complex organic network of evolving political organizations and information systems. And even then, it’s mostly just guesswork and general case tactics because it’s impossible to tailor such a massive and hideously complex undertaking below a certain level of granularity. Even in the most well funded campaign, there are only so many assets to go around, so attention is focused on swing/battleground states specifically because you need those electors to win.
It doesn’t take much, as those maps up above demonstrate. A little more blue, and little more red, not much, and the election swings.
It’s easy to get lost in the details, almost impossible not to – especially if this is your job.
We could spend another million words talking about this, and you can bet millions of words will be devoted to exactly that over the next few years.
The first thing you learn as an intelligence officer is this: statistics aren’t reality.
Systems, strategies, polls, those aren’t people.
And that’s what that map is, you know. People.
That’s what the map is showing you. People. Attitudes. Outlooks. Ways of life. History. Religion. People.
Much has been made of the difference in campaigns. Clinton was well organized. Well prepared. Focused. Strategized. Polished. Experienced. Trump was a mess. Crude. Disorganized. Vague. Off-topic half the time. Supported by Neo-Nazis and the KKK.
But the thing is, those little red squares are full of Americans who don’t see themselves as haters or bigots, racists or misogynists. Rather they see themselves as the heartland of America, because they are. They see themselves as the ones who feed the world and keep the wheels turning, who love their God and their children and their country and their way of life. If you drive through those red areas on the map as I did last month and you listen to the radio, to the endless sermons of fire and divine wrath, to the Good Ol’ Country Boys singing about flags and trucks and guns, to the endless conspiracy theories of doom and betrayal from the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones, you start to get an idea of why they voted for Donald Trump. I mean, somebody is listening to those broadcasts or they wouldn’t be so damned popular or so many.
It wasn’t the email. Or Benghazi. Or any of the myriad debunked conspiracy theories.
Or rather, it wasn’t just that.
Clinton’s professionalism, her ground game, her polish, her experience, even her pantsuits, all worked against her here.
It was most certainly the Democratic Party’s fault, but not because they didn’t select Bernie Sanders.
Because if you think for one minute some aging hippy intellectual, a declared socialist, from one of those liberal New England states would have fared any better in those red areas on the map with his talk of free college and windmills, you haven’t been paying attention. And all those hardcore third party voters who wrote in Bernie or blackened the circle for Jill Stein and Gary Johnson simply gave the Electors that much more margin to throw in with Trump.
Now before you get all pissed off, I’m not blaming Bernie supporters or third party voters for how things turned out and as I have said many times previously, you each have the inalienable right to vote your franchise as your conscience dictates.
And you, like the rest of us now, will now have to live with the consequences of it – though I’ll take this opportunity to remind you that those consequences don’t apply to all equally and some are going to pay horribly more than others.
My point here is this: Third party voters didn’t cost the democrats this election.
Neither did the media, though it certainly didn’t help matters much. And if the press is to remain worthy of the protections afforded it in the Constitution as the watchdog of liberty, sooner or later we’re going to have to demand it live up to its responsibilities in a more professional manner or we’re going to have to decide whether those protections are still deserved.
That said, third party candidates – including Bernie – would have fared no better against Trump and probably worse.
No, this race was lost by the political parties.
It was lost by the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, both of which looked at that map and saw little squares full of numbers instead of people.
The Republicans ended up with Trump because after 30 years of increasingly strident religion-fueled lunacy, after a full eight years of conspiracy theories and obstructionism and childish histrionics, they were unable to produce anything better. They were hoisted on their own ridiculous petard.
More than anything, Republicans ended up with Trump because they could not compromise, they could not bend their sacred principles.
The Democrats ended up with Trump for the same reason.
Look at that map again.
What do you see?
Walk it back for the last 30 years. The blobs of red and blue move a little bit, growing, shrinking, but the overall values change very little – particularly if you adjust for population growth and migration.
What’s that tell you?
Democrats – liberals and progressives – are just as inflexible and just as lousy at reaching out to the other side as Republicans are.
You and I laugh when the GOP declares with all seriousness that they are reaching out to minorities of color. To women. To the LGBT community. To immigrants. We laugh, and rightly so, because it’s ridiculous.
But if you look at that map, you’ll see Democrats – or third parties – aren’t any better at reaching out to rednecks and evangelicals and all those people who listen to those radio stations I mentioned up above.
That’s why Hillary Clinton lost.
Abortion. Trade. Immigrants. Terrorism. Guns. Jobs. Same sex marriage.
All of these things are aspects of the same division: those who embrace change and those who fear it.
Clinton, as Bernie Sanders supporters are wont to point out, is an establishment candidate. Staid. Pantsuit. Wall Street. More of the same. She should have been able to bridge that divide, to cross over, far far better than some rich billionaire from New York. But for numerous reasons she couldn’t or didn’t – not even to the degree Obama did in 2008 and 2012 (which as it turned out, was just enough). And again, if you think Bernie Sanders, a guy much further left than Clinton, could have done better with the same demographic, you’re just fooling yourself.
Trump shouldn’t have appealed to any of those in the red zones of that map.
I mean, look at that guy. Billionaire. New Yorker real estate developer. Atlantic City and Las Vegas casino owner. Married to a string of super models. Obnoxious. Uncouth. Foulmouthed.
But it was Trump’s bombastic disorganized campaign – and the man himself – which tapped directly into that fear of change at a visceral level.
Make America great again, and to the white people in the red zone, that means churches and deer season and homecoming and fences and Little League games, build a wall and keep America for Americans.
That’s why the pundits and political scientists and the pollsters got it all wrong.
Those people, if you call them up on the phone and ask if they are racists, they’ll say no. Because they don’t think they are. Because to them racism is burning crosses and lynching and they aren’t doing any of that. But they don’t want brown people moving into their neighborhoods, because on TV people with dark skin are thugs and rappers and terrorists and not like them. If you ask if they hate Muslims they’ll say no, but they love Jesus and they hate terrorists and the sons of bitches who blew up the World Trade Center, just like their grandparent hated the Japs and the Krauts. They don’t hate Mexicans, they hate people who take their jobs. They go to a Trump rally and who do they meet? People just like them, people who look just like they do, who own farms and small businesses, who lost their jobs to Mexico and Bangladesh, who are angry that they have to pay taxes to support welfare cheats and moochers, who go to the same kind of church they do and worship the same God. They want America to be great again like it used to be for their grandparents, that golden magical time of the 1950s with jobs and traditional marriages and white picket fences and they don’t want to hear about how that time wasn’t a paradise for everybody.
They don’t want change.
They want it the way it was.
And that’s why Hillary Clinton lost.
But that’s also how we fix it.
You see, Trump is about to learn the Obama Lesson.
Trump is about to face Obama’s Gitmo.
He’s not going to be able to make good on his campaign promises.
Not all of them. Not the ones which matter most to his supporters.
No, he’s not.
Trump is not going to build a wall.
It wouldn’t work. We can’t afford it. Mexico isn’t going to pay for it. And if you look at the practical aspects alone, it’ll take longer than Trump’s next four years in office just to do the site surveys and the engineering assessment and the various feasibility studies and decide on preliminary designs, let alone find the money for those things and bid the contracts. Trump is used to spending his investors’ money, but the government doesn’t work that way as he is about to learn.
He’s going to most certainly repeal Obamacare.
That’s inevitable at this point. If he doesn’t, his supporters will burn Trump Tower to the ground. But see, his promise was to replace it with something better. Think about what that’s going to take. Think about what it’s going to take to repeal the ACA and replace it with something better. Republicans have been threatening to repeal the ACA for seven years. You know why they haven’t? Because they know what happens should they succeed. The ACA is deeply ingrained into the fabric of the country now from top to bottom. It’ll be utter chaos. You can’t go back to the way things were. It’s impossible. They can’t just pull the plug. They’ll have to keep all the things people want, pre-existing coverage protections, covering your adult kids, expanded Medicare, they’ll actually have to make good, they’ll actually have to replace the ACA with something better. And that’s the real kicker, if they do, if they do replace the ACA with something better, affordable healthcare for all with all the things you want, how is that bad for you? And if they don’t, well, Trump won’t see a second term and neither will most of Congress.
He’s not going to ban Muslims from the United States. He can’t and he knows it and he’s not even going to try.
He’s not going to bring manufacturing jobs back to America.
He can’t just wave his hand and eliminate NAFTA and the TPP. He’s thinks he’s going to personally renegotiate those treaties to penalize manufacturing in foreign countries and force business to build factories here? That’s hilarious, given that those jobs left the United States long before NAFTA. More importantly Wall Street and his wealthy friends will fight him every inch of the way because that’s how they made their fortunes. Trump says he’ll impose tariffs on Mexico and China. Except that only works if you can get the same products made in the United States when the foreign sources are cut off, which you can’t, at least not until the factories are built and the workforce trained and the supply and distribution lines put in place but you’ve got no reason to build those factories here if you can get products from overseas for less. It’s a classic chicken and egg dilemma. Worse, it will lead directly to a trade war and all those industries that depend on those foreign products, like the auto and electronics sectors (not to mention Walmart) will suffer almost immediately. You can expect a recession and the loss of tens of thousands of domestic jobs and sooner or later voters are going to wise up to the fact that every time Republicans are in charge that happens.
But for argument’s sake, let’s say he succeeds. Let’s say he brings back millions of manufacturing jobs without a trade war and he does it in the next few years. How is that bad for you?
Trump promised to cut taxes and fix the budget deficit.
You can’t do both. It’s one or the other.
You cut taxes, you get a bigger deficit. Especially since he’s promised to increase the size of the military (and build a trillion dollar wall).
You’d think a guy who’s gone bankrupt four times would be better at the math, wouldn’t you?
And again, if he does succeed in eliminating the debt and lowering taxes via some heretofore unknown economic wizardry, again, how is that a bad thing? Hypothetically speaking, of course.
And, finally, perhaps the most impossible promise he made was to defeat “ISIS.”
How he’ll do that without committing to full-scale war or adding trillions to the debt I’ll leave as an exercise to the reader.
But here’s the real kicker: Republicans will now have to govern.
Donald Trump will now have to govern.
It’s all on them. All of it.
If they fuck this up, they’ll never get elected again.
That disorganized bombastic campaign appealed to the people who put him into power, but that’s not going to work in office.
Not at all.
And all the people he’s so far produced or suggested to help him with the task of governance are terrible at it.
And the one thing Americans, especially those Americans in the little red squares, will not tolerate is incompetence.
Ripley: How long after we're declared overdue can we expect a rescue?
Hicks: Seventeen days.
Hudson: Seventeen days? Hey, I don't mean to rain on your parade but we're not gonna last seventeen hours! Those things are gonna come in here just like they did before! And they're, they're gonna come in here…!
Hudson: …and they're gonna come in here and AND THEY'RE GONNA KILL US!
Ripley: HUDSON! This little girl survived longer than that with no weapons and no training.
Ripley: [looks at Newt] Right?
Hudson: Then why don't you put her in charge?!
Ripley: You'd better just start dealing with it. Hudson! Listen to me! Hudson! Just deal with it because we need you and I'm sick of your bullshit.
Yeah, but what now?
Sure, Trump will eventually implode and take what’s left of the Republican Party down with him.
But now what? What do we do right now?
Now? Now you set aside your goddamned idealism and your principled stand and you get practical.
Look at that map.
Look at it.
You figure out how to bridge the gap. Both the Republican Party and especially the Democrats (and all the Third Parties too), need to figure out how to reach the people in those little red squares. How to address their fears without inflaming them. We must find a way to manage both the traditional past and the unknown future and turn that map purple instead of red and blue.
It can be done.
We’re going to, all of us, have to compromise some of our principles for the sake of our nation.
That map tells you how to step back from the edge. If you have the wit to read it.
But in meantime what about all those terrible things I listed at the beginning of this article?
Healthcare. LGBT rights. Women’s rights. Reproductive rights. Education. Religion. Wealth distribution. War. All of it, what about that? We’re going to lose all the progress we’ve made.
Yes, very likely we are. Or at least a lot of it. For a very long time.
You thought I was going to blow smoke up your ass? Make you feel better? You haven’t been paying attention.
You thought the future was going to be easy?
You thought there wouldn’t be setbacks?
You thought we’d won? You thought the battle was over? You thought the racists and the bigots and the misogynists and the goddamned haters were just going to go quietly into the night? You thought the priests and the privileged were just going to zip up their pants and give up their station, their power, and join us?
You thought we were just going to waltz into the space station and rescue all the juicy colonists’ daughters from their virginity?
Is that it?
Is that what you thought?
If that’s what you thought then you were wrong and it’s long past time you faced it.
This isn’t going to be a stand up fight, this is a bug hunt. And just like Private Hudson, you’re going to have to start dealing with it because we need you.
Help isn’t coming, Folks. We’re going to have to rescue ourselves.
So gear up, Marines.
And let’s get after it.
(1) Commenting 1: comments are now well over 200 on this post. When that happens, you have to scroll to the bottom of the page and click <load more…> to see all of the comments, including those nest under other comments. You may have to do this several times. If you want to read all of the comments, you should do this first.
(2) Commenting 2: comments are moderated. I don’t care if you don’t like it. Behave yourself and your comment will post. Act like an ass and it won’t. This isn’t Yahoo News or Facebook. The rules are clearly posted. Due to the nature of this post, I have relaxed my commenting rules a bit, however, those rules are still in force. If you’re engaged in bugfuckery, your comment will be deleted without posting. Be polite, do not engage in personal attacks, and try to keep the conspiracy theories to a minimum unless you want to be the subject of future posts.
(3) Commenting 3: comments are moderated. By me. I get to them as soon as I can, however sometimes I have to eat, or sleep, or do other things that are none of your business. Be patient or go find somewhere else more to your liking. Sending me angry messages about your First Amendment rights will get your comment deleted without further consideration.
(4) Rhetorical Style: Some of you are new here and are apparently unfamiliar with the type of style I use. The first part of this particular post outlines the very real fears a significant portion of this country is feeling right now. You can laugh at that or be outraged as your various inclinations indicate, but the reason people feel that way is because your candidate or those supporting him have said that’s exactly what they intend. When conservative priests and politicians go around telling LGBT people they’ll be put to death as soon as Trump is power, you don’t get to say their fears are unfounded. If you don’t like that I outlined those fears in such bald terms, then you can join us in standing against that kind of hate coming from your own party exactly as you demand moderate Muslims denounce the radicals in their own midst. Otherwise you can shove off.
(5) Rhetorical Style: those conservatives commenting that they think the fears outlined at the start of this article are unfounded and unfair are missing that I’m engaged in deliberate hyperbole as a lede. That said, after eight years of listening to conservatives float every type of hysteria from Secret Muslims to Jade Helm, I find your feigned outrage amusing.