[update below] [2nd update below] [3rd update below] [4th update below] [5th update below]
It’s election eve and thus time for my prediction of how it’s all going to turn out, which has been my personal tradition since 1992 (and 2002 for French presidential elections; for my call in the 2012 US presidential, go here). Before I get to that, though, I need to link to the essay my friend Claire Berlinski—who is conservative and normally not inclined to vote for Democrats—posted on the conservative Ricochet blog today, “Why I Voted for Hillary: Ten Essays.” It’s great—Claire is so smart and such a good writer—so please read the whole thing, but here are a few money quotes:
I do not think Trump is Hitler, if only because historical analogies are always flawed. But the analogy is correct enough in some respects that who would want to see whether it holds in the most relevant respects? Trump has this in common with Hitler (and with all garden-variety despots, too; it is a fixed personality type): enamorment of conspiracy theories, raving speech, anti-intellectualism, unprincipled opportunism, clownishness, bluster, threats, certainty that there are simple solutions to complex problems, vulgarity, palingenetic fantasies, appeals to ethno-nationalism, an obsession with “strength,” “stamina,” health, and physical perfection, a hatred of women, an instinct to mock the weak and the crippled, a disgust with “losers,” a hysterical fear of germs and contamination, literal and metaphoric. He invokes foreign cancers that must be excised before they metastasize and destroy a body politic weakened by traitors. He believes that winners and the strong enjoy the moral right to rule. He holds that the nation can be saved only through the singular genius and energy of a “great personality,” as Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf or a “great temperament,” as Trump read in Mein Kampf. “I alone can fix it” says Trump. “I am your voice.” He is visibly excited by talk of violence; his mental map of the world is one of perpetual conflict. His bragging, ranting, and perseverating, his disconnect from reality, his millenarianism, his hatred of liberals, conservatives, and the press, his fascination with dictators, thugs, lowlifes and creeps, past and present — for goodness sake, must he bark in German before the analogy is alarming enough? Trump is not just an oaf and not just a bully. These words are naive. Our imaginations and vocabularies have become hollowed out. He exemplifies a specific mindset, temperament, and ideology: it is a fascist one.
No, it is not absurd to invoke fascism; it’s absurd to deny it. He has not said, outright, that he has no use for democracy and the law, but his contempt for both is clear enough. This is a good enough definition of the fascist minimum:
… a genuinely revolutionary, trans-class form of anti-liberal, and in the last analysis, anticonservative nationalism. … a populist mass movement through a liturgical style of politics and a programme of radical policies which promised to overcome the threat posed by international socialism, to end the degeneration affecting the nation under liberalism, and to bring about a radical renewal of its social, political and cultural life as part of what was widely imagined to be the new era being inaugurated in Western civilization. The core mobilizing myth of fascism which conditions its ideology, propaganda, style of politics, and actions is the vision of the nation’s imminent rebirth from decadence.
“Fascism is a political ideology whose mythic core in its various permutations is a palingenetic form of populist ultra-nationalism” … “fascists advocated a mixed economy aimed at achieving autarky through protectionism and interventionism … ” a solution of “anti-socialism, dirigiste economics and social policy, imperialism, militarism, leader cult, [and] the compromise with traditional conservatism” … “We will no longer surrender this country, or its people, to the false song of globalism.” (“Does not our bourgeoisie rise in moral indignation when it hears from the lips of some miserable tramp that he doesn’t care whether he is German or not, that he feels at home anywhere, as long as he has enough to live on?”) To the victors go the spoils. The casual promise that he will order the military to commit murder, transforming America from the country that hanged war criminals at Nuremberg into one whose criminals will need hanging. “They won’t refuse, they’re not going to refuse me — believe me.”
Our system is proof against that? The one helmed by Paul Ryan von Papen and Ted Cruz Hindenburg? If it is an insult to memory too readily to make comparisons Germany in the 1930s, it is also one to refuse, when it is warranted, to make them at all — or even to ask if they’re warranted.
Nice characterization of Ryan and Cruz.
I’ve learned from this election that my mainstream, center-conservative political opinions and outlook aren’t mainstream. Perhaps they were when I was growing up, but clearly there is no significant constituency anymore, if ever there was, for conservatism as I imagined it – a solution of common sense and gratitude for America’s blessings coupled with a belief in the efficiency of markets, a preference for private property, a dedication to the idea of enumerated rights, limited government, and the Constitution. That was me and a handful of people on Ricochet. It wasn’t the rest of the country. There seems to be a very large constituency for authoritarian nationalism, however, and many people who have good reason to want to bet it all on an impossibly long shot or burn it all down.
The hostility Trump supporters feel for urban people — whom they call liberal elites or the GOPe or globalists — makes sense, too, looking at the numbers and the maps. But I’m not going to kid myself. These are not my familiar, fellow conservatives. They’re people who hate me because I live in the city. Their repurposed quasi-Bolshevism — elites, Establishment, cosmopolitans — frightens me: I don’t want to find out if it’s the sort that ends in exterminating the kulaks and everyone with eyeglasses.
The kind of conservatism I believed in may have once been a reality, or I may have been kidding myself. But my instincts for self-preservation, if nothing else, tells me it’s best to enter a defensive alliance with the decent center-left against the extremists on either side. Because there is no center-right in America anymore.
Sois la bienvenue, Claire.
Sarah Palin, and the cult of personality that quickly arose around her, should have been my biggest warning sign. Before Palin, and I remember this well, Republican anti-intellectualism was an affectation. Eisenhower styled himself as a friendly dope, but this was the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe; he had planned and overseen the successful invasion of France and Germany from the Western front; he was the first Supreme Commander of NATO. His knowledge of national security affairs was unparalleled. Palin, however, was an authentic nitwit. I didn’t see that sign for the ominous thing it really was.
My obliviousness is no tragedy; the world does not revolve around my amour-propre. But such a deep tragedy for mankind is now well underway. Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party caps a long period of foreign policy ineptitude with the spectacle of the United States becoming ridiculous, and, because no country as powerful as the United States can be purely ridiculous, frightening. His nomination effectively declares that a significant number of Americans no longer understand or care about even giving the appearance of decency, or liberal democracy, still less in the importance of American power and dignity abroad or the role America played in the world’s imagination. If he wins, America’s reputation in the world will be shattered. No one will take America seriously as a model, as a nation that leads the free world — there will no longer, really, be a free world; there will be a world of managed democracies.
I naturally have a few quibbles with Claire here and there—e.g. in some of her characterizations of Hillary and Obama—but that’s okay. Read her whole essay here.
On America looking ridiculous in the world—or, rather, alarming, if not terrifying—see Stephen M. Walt’s column (Nov. 4th) in Foreign Policy, “Will America’s good name survive the 2016 election? The campaign shenanigans might end on Nov. 8, but the damage done to America’s reputation could be insurmountable.”
Now for my call. Unlike last time, in 2012, I’m not going to get into a lengthy explanation of my reasoning, as I’ve already been doing this in the course of my posts on the election. The bottom line: Hillary’s poll numbers have been rising today in the major aggregators (RCP, 538…), the early voting reports are overwhelmingly positive and with Latino turnout surging, the Dem ground game is tops and with Trump’s campaign a circus being run by amateurs, and Hillary has been leading in the polls pretty much all along. So:
PV: Clinton 49%, Trump 43%, Johnson 4%, Stein <2%
EV: Clinton 341, Trump 197
Participation rate: Let’s say 135 million
In the EC, Clinton takes all of Obama’s 2012 states minus Iowa but plus North Carolina. She’s been down in Ohio but a late poll there is good and she’s been campaigning in the state to the last day, so I’ll give it to her. I would also like to give her Arizona but that looks out of reach.
A reminder: Barack Obama was up by exactly 1 point on the eve of the 2012 election and ended up winning it by almost 4. Hillary goes into election day with a 3 to 4 point lead nationally. If pollsters’ likely voter screens have been underweighting Latinos and Republican shy Hillary voters, then her lead may well be on the order of 5 to 6 points. So I’m rolling the dice on that.
And the Senate: the Democrats win it, with victories in WI, IL, IN, PA, NH, NC, MO, and NV. I realize I’m going out on a limb in regard to IN and MO, and perhaps NC, but as the Dem candidates in those states have been in the lead at various points in the past month, I would say they have a good chance of winning if Hillary’s margin of victory is 5 to 6 points.
As for the House, not this year.
With that, I leave you, dear reader, with Dylan Thomas’ essay in Vox, “Hillary Clinton’s quiet revolution: Nobody’s noticed, but she’s running on an ambitious plan to remake the American social compact,” and Chimamanda Adichie’s in The Atlantic, “What Hillary Clinton’s fans love about her: Her supporters are drawn to her intelligence, her industriousness, and her grit.”
ADDENDUM: Prediction: Trump will concede tomorrow and graciously. It will be a business decision, to save his brand, as if he doesn’t exit the election on a relatively high note, the brand will tank.
UPDATE: Vox’s Ezra Klein has an important essay (Nov. 7th), “Donald Trump’s success reveals a frightening weakness in American democracy.” The lede: “Trump found a flaw in our political system, and we have no way to fix it.” The flaw in question is the weakness of parties in the American political system but with an exceptionally high degree of partisanship. There are, in fact, ways to fix this—theoretically at least—e.g. requiring candidates in primaries, and for all offices (national, state, local), to collect a certain number of signatures from elected officials—members of congress, governors, mayors, state legislators, etc.—in order to participate, rendering it difficult for extremist or fantastical candidates to run under the banner of one of the two major parties (if such persons want to run for office, they can do so as independents or with another party). There is little chance such a fix will ever be considered, let alone adopted, but it does exist.
2nd UPDATE: Please read Paul Waldman’s column (Nov. 7th) in This Week, “Hillary Clinton has been a phenomenal candidate. Seriously.” This passage merits quoting:
That doesn’t mean it’s impossible for [Clinton] to lose. But if she does, it won’t be her fault.
While it seems like every liberal has been legally required for the last year to say that Clinton is a deeply flawed candidate as a bit of throat-clearing before they defend or compliment her, the truth is that she has performed extremely well throughout this campaign. She beat back a surprisingly strong challenge from Bernie Sanders and built up a formidable organization that has excelled in nearly every task a modern presidential campaign requires. She’s been disciplined and dogged, committing very few mistakes and maximizing the opportunities she was presented with. And most of what has held her back or hurt her is not of her own making.
But what about those emails, you say! Isn’t that all her fault?
The answer is that that there may never have been such a campaign mountain made out of such a tiny molehill. Clinton’s greatest vulnerability, the biggest knock on her, the thing her opponent has presented as the sum total of why she not only shouldn’t be president and for which Republicans at all levels now believe she should be impeached or jailed, is mostly bogus — and there’s nearly nothing she could have done about it.
Yes, using a private email account instead of a state.gov account was a violation of departmental policy. But it’s the politicians’ equivalent of a speeding ticket, and Republicans have succeeded in blowing this minor misstep into the Crime of the Century. They’ve done so with the help of a credulous media that takes any story related to Hillary Clinton that can have the word “email” attached to it and mashes it together into one gigantic front-paged amalgam of dark innuendo and implied criminality.
Just about everyone I know, or so it seems, has spoken of Hillary being a “flawed” or “bad” candidate. I am quite fed up with hearing this, as I think it not to be the case. I’ll come back to the subject after the election.
3rd UPDATE: Political scientist Scott Lemieux has a pertinent piece (Nov. 7th) in TAP, “On election day, a stark choice when it comes to policy.” The lede: “Policy issues have drawn remarkably little notice in this sensation-driven election, but the two candidates’ platforms are as starkly divergent as they have been in a generation.”
4th UPDATE: See “[i]n one tweet, the chilling result of Trump’s media attacks.” Yes, it can happen here.
5th UPDATE: Voilà an important article on WaPo’s Wonkblog (Nov. 4th), “Something has been going badly wrong in the neighborhoods that support Trump.” That something is expensive mortgage interest payments.