Some thoughts from the Cliscep team on this morning’s news. This post may expand and develop during the day.
So, it’s happened again. The “experts” and the pollsters have got it wrong, just as they did with the UK election of 2015 and the Brexit vote in June. Probably the reasons are similar — the out-of-touch, left-biased chattering classes, the failure to understand ordinary people, the ‘shy conservative’ factor, and the protest vote factor, with those who normally don’t bother to vote coming out to express their feelings towards the establishment. No doubt the reasons will be analysed by pointless “expert” academics in The Guardian and The Conversation.
Of course, we should have predicted this. I was slightly tempted to put money on Trump yesterday at odds of 4:1, but regrettably I didn’t, despite having noted the Brexit analogy in a tweet.
In case anyone is wondering, no, I didn’t want Trump to win. But there is a certain Schadenfreude in the so-called experts being wrong again and in the over-the-top wailing and ranting that we will inevitably see today from the left. In his speech, Trump called for unity (and said some nice things about Hillary) but this is unlikely to be heeded.
The climate policy consequences will be interesting of course. Trump has said he will pull the US out of the Paris climate agreement.
The calamity! You could sense even by 4am UK time that many people were shaken to the core by what was emerging. The BBC’s coverage dipped significantly in mood. Emily Maitlis, who was admittedly tired, became positively funereal in her pronouncements about the shifting numbers. The left only has itself to blame. As many climate sceptics have argued, allowing fears about climate change (and other things) to dominate left-wing politics has hollowed-out politics over the last 30 years leaving vast swathes of people turned off and disenfranchised – people who now have put Trump in the Whitehouse. The philosopher Slavoj Zizek recently argued in a Channel 4 News interview that Trump winning would be a necessary jolt to the system, allowing, or forcing, the priorities of the left to reconfigure. It can’t do anything else. We are gonna have a left so great, so beautiful, it’ll be a left like you’ve never seen before. Truly. And by the way, tremendous potential will be unleashed.
(Unlike Paul I gave in to the temptation to put money on Trump, at 5-1, two weeks ago. I won’t mention this again.)
Edit: there’s been endless wailing about this being a shock, unpredicted, coming from nowhere. I find this odd. Thinking about why I was prepared to put a bet on Trump, the answer is: Wikileaks; The FBI investigation; the extraordinary way Trump overcame, again and again, his Republican competitors and detractors; The huge crowds that were turning up to see him compared with the modest crowds for Hillary; the online excitement about Trump. This unexpected, shocking, weird turn up for the books must be the most in-plain-sight hidden revolution in years. Those saying they’re bewildered by the result just didn’t want to see what was there in front of them. The evidence was just too distasteful.
Did anyone see CNN’s coverage? I thought it was brilliant psychodrama. Their panel of two Democrats and two Republicans were lined up. One of the Democrats, a rather arrogant but very perceptive and often funny black guy turned to the two Republicans (one, looking like Bela Lugosi after a long night, was the sacked Trump aide Lewandowski – really) and said words to the effect: “we were wrong and you were right. I congratulate you.” And the saner of the two Republicans replied “Thank you sir.” When it came to the black guy’s turn to analyse the results he started off brilliantly, though seemingly close to tears, then suddenly said “…and Climate” and went to pieces. If anyone could find that clip…
[The guy is called Anthony Van Jones and he’s Obama’s special adviser on green jobs and author of a NYT best seller called “the Green Collar economy”. The clip is all over the internet with a quarter of a million hits in some cases, but the versions I’ve seen all stop before he says the word “climate”. I found his tears about explaining the election to his children genuinely moving, but maybe he was crying for those lost Green Collar jobs.]
In the lead up to the election my favourite commentary was by Thomas Sowell: Choose Trump, he’s much easier to impeach. The central point:
How impeachable is Hillary Clinton? Since she would be “the first woman president,” any criticism of her, much less any impeachment, would bring loud howls from the media across the country. Hillary in the White House would have a blank check, and she would not hesitate to use it.
So I see today as a significant victory for constitutional government, under the rule of law, against totalitarian identity politics. That doesn’t of course mean that I think highly of Donald Trump. Nor does Sowell.
I have mixed feelings about Trump. His acceptance speech was gracious, emphasizing he would be there to represent the interests of Americans of all stripes. Conrad Black, who knows Trump personally, has said he will be far more sensible than his campaigning rhetoric has led some to believe. But how good will he be under pressure? On that I fall back on the Welby approach.
No CliScep analysis of Trump can be complete without this
As conspiracy theories go it’s not as crazy as many, at least in the cui bono sense. But how did these clever, inscrutable people create such a concept, that has had such deep impact on the politics and sociology of the West? I’d like some of that!
I decided not to stay up for the night but have listened on BBC radio a little this morning to US and UK reaction. The comments that stand out are all from women. Anne Applebaum thought it was the end of the West as we know it: the end of Nato, the end of free trade. Then she wondered aloud about the Conrad Black effect: maybe he didn’t really mean it. Who knows.
Then it was into Woman’s Hour. Gnashing of various feminist, black and leftist teeth but some interesting stuff. The representative of Women for Trump in New York was deeply impressive to this libertarian-leaning listener: Trump for her is all about lower taxes, less regulation and parents having real choice in schooling. (The latter being a big reason Sowell started to warm just a little to Trump.) The defeat of Hillary was nothing to do with identity politics, either way, but a matter of basic policies and economics.
It was left to a Tory MP, Sarah Wollaston, to mention climate, as part of her woe-is-all-of-us lament. Trump does deserve some of this opprobrium in my view but, who knows, maybe he really meant it about climate – but not about that Mexican judge. Only time will tell.
Well, I called it wrong for both the EU Referendum and the US Presidential Election, so clearly I have the political nous of a goldfish. But anyway, moving swiftly on, here is the future that I now foresee. You will recall that quite a few years ago, before the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal, there was another guy called George W Bush, who was basically responsible for most of the awful things that were happening in the world. Oh, he was such a baddie. He was an American, he was male, he was white and Republican and not very young and he wasn’t all that fussed about saving the planet from climate change. Remember him? So whenever climate talks were stalled or gaseous emissions were on the rise, you could be sure that, whatever he actually said, Bush! was somehow to blame. In that way, Bush! was such a wonderfully convenient symbol for all the things that correct-thinking progressive folks felt were bad about America and the world.
But Bush! was only the precursor. Now we have Trump! – male, white, American, Republican, not very young, and also in every way bigger, badder, blonder and more outrageously not believing in climate change than his earlier incarnation. I foresee an endless stream of dirge-like outpourings on sites like the Guardian and HuffPo, proclaiming that Trump! is none other than the Climate Satan. He will reverse the Paris Agreement, join with cartoon villains the Koch brothers in casting scorn and doubt on science itself, dissuade the Chinese from the path of renewable righteousness. These articles will be accompanied by photos of the darkest ever carbon fumes, backlit by the setting sun and belching from a thousand horrid Appalachian smokestacks. Trump! will – from now on and forever – become a synonym for everything that correct-thinkers feel has gone wrong with the planet.
I will end with a prophetic song (and with apologies to South Park):
Times have changed
Awful rednecks are getting worse
They won’t obey their betters
They just want to pollute and curse
Should we blame the political class?
Or blame un-civil society?
Or should we blame the images on TV?
No, blame Donald Trump, blame Donald Trump
With his beady little eyes
And strangely-coiffed head so full of lies
Blame Donald Trump, blame Donald Trump
We need to form a full assault
It’s Donald Trump’s fault!
I’m not normally one to express my opinion on a topic, but a couple of people have been begging for my reaction to the seismic events they’re calling Clexit, so OK, fine, if you care that much, here goes. (Hi Mum, hi Dad.)
First, it’s hard to believe the normally-reliable expertocracy got this one so ass-forwards. Perhaps we’re just so used to our pundits, mavens and boffins having their asses facing the correct, backwards direction whenever they opine on national television that the moment they make a slight miscalculation it can be quite a disorienting trauma. Do you really blame Rachel Maddow for derealizing in real time? Don’t answer.
It’s hard to overstate just how fundamental to human civilization is the institution of predicting election results, but I’ll give it a shot: the day we can no longer trust pre-election prognostications is the day we literally have to hold an election every time we want to figure out who’s going to lead us. Like savages.
It Doesn’t Make Sense™! I mean, we’ve got supercomputers that can accurately anticipate trends in the Earth’s temperature decades in advance, so why the hell couldn’t someone manage the vastly, exponentially, orders-of-magnitude simpler task of extrapolating the results of a two-party straw poll? Oh, wait…
Seriously though, even Ian Woolley managed to pick the winner of Election ’16 (and made a tidy profit betting against The People Who Are You Know Actually Like Paid To Know What They’re Talking About). Don’t get me wrong. Ian, who’s a friend of mine, is a comic genius and I like him like a friend, but come on: the guy doesn’t even believe in catastrophic anthropogenic global warming. We’re not exactly talking here about someone known for being plugged in to the future reality on the ground, as agreed by an overwhelming vote of the scientific community! You know, the people who are, like, paid to actually know what they’re talking about.
Speaking about climate, I know you shouldn’t speak about climate or religion unless you want to ruin a perfectly pleasant discussion of politics, but Vishnu dammit, I’ve spent my whole life keeping my views to myself and where’s it gotten me? No place. No place at all (leaving aside here, obviously). Sue me.
Anyway, Joe Romm has a characteristically nuanced article out today that poses the question we’re all wondering: will President Trump pull the plug on a livable climate?
Alas, mesuspects even Joe may have allowed the prevailing mood of national drama to get the better of him just a little—which ought to tell you just how emotional this issue has been for Americans! The starting-point for his thesis is that
The fate of humanity is in the hands of a denier who pledged to kill domestic and global climate action
And yes—technically, this is a fair, objective paraphrase of the President Elect’s climate platform. But let’s be sober about this: every political candidate in history has made grand promises, and Donald Trump (whatever his protestations to the contrary) is just that. A politician.
Trump threatens to disembowel climate science, he threatens to turn off the torrential knowledge-spigot that is the Global Earth Systems Change sciences, but where have I heard that rhetoric before? Here. Where I live.
In Australia, it was Tony Abbott who once vowed to dissolve the gangrenous monasteries of climatography. And to his credit, he did have a handful of the fatter klepto-clerics abducted and desaparecidos, presumably to be sold off for slaughter in the debating pits. But last I checked, my local Climate Ethics Centre for Excellence was still standing, not a brick out of place. So much for Team Abbott’s famous slogan (CLIMA DELENDA EST)!
Does the Latin gerundive of obligation mean nothing any more?
So it’s all very well for Mr Trump to say he’s going to take the world back to a pre-Inconvenient Truth Dark Age of climate ignorance, incuriosity and insouciance. Call me a skeptic, but I’ll start celebrating when he does it. I want to see the leader of the free world, on free-to-air TV, telling Michael Mann straight upside his face: ya fired.