Eating Crow on Thanksgiving
by Nick Paleologos
A week ago tonight, when the reality of what was actually happening started to sink in, I got a call from my daughter. She was crying. And I felt awful. She’s one of three millennials in our family. I had been confidently predicting that America would not let her down.
Boy was I ever was wrong.
Back in August I imagined a future in which Donald Trump, after losing this election, would take the worst of his backers and skulk off to a fringe (but lucrative) corner of our country – leaving the rest of his rational right-leaning supporters (including many members of my own family) sitting around Thanksgiving tables all over America wondering what the heck just happened.
Instead, Donald Trump is now the 45th President of the United States and I’m the one asking that question. Only twice in the last 125 years have the voters’ picked one candidate for president, and ended up with the other. In 2000, Al Gore beat George W. Bush by a half million votes, and lost. This year, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by more than a million votes. She also lost. I’m not supposed to complain about these outcomes because after all, rules are rules. If I still had a sense of humor, I’d say the election was rigged - by Alexander Hamilton in 1789.
But this isn’t about the Electoral College. It’s about my oldest daughter.
“President” Trump is a very tough pill for her to swallow because his victory flies in the face of everything we’ve ever taught her about decency, civility, empathy and tolerance. Even worse, many people she loves – who themselves have sisters or daughters – voted for a guy who bragged about grabbing women by their genitals because “When you’re a star, you can do anything.”
People she admires – who pride themselves on their patriotism – voted for a guy who never served this country, who unapologetically disrespected a Gold Star Family, and who publicly ridiculed a decorated Vietnam War veteran and POW.
Maybe there is no rational explanation for why one out of every four Trump voters readily admitted that their candidate was unqualified to be president, yet voted for him anyway.
But even with that, Trump barely bested Mitt Romney's vote total from four years ago. So how then to explain, without crushing my daughter’s faith in democracy, that a guy who is a million votes less popular than Hillary Clinton, is now President of the United States?
For starters, we need to take a long hard look in the mirror. It certainly is true that – as between Clinton and Trump this year – a clear majority supported Hillary for president. But under our system, that (plus four bucks) will get you a grande café mocha at Starbucks. Of all people, Hillary should have known that.
So how does she manage to lose (albeit barely) Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and maybe Michigan? Let’s start with Hillary’s first significant decision as the Democratic nominee: her choice for Vice-President. Don’t get me wrong. I like Tim Kaine. But America’s middle class is hurting. Big time. In eight short years, the federal budget surplus and booming economy that Bill Clinton handed over to the GOP in 2000 (the year Bush became president after the voters chose Gore) deteriorated into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. That’s what deregulation, dumb wars, and welfare-for-the-rich gave us.
Yet even as Obama slowly and methodically dug us out from under the Republican rubble, the crooks who caused it walked away with all the money. Millions of democratic voters who lost their jobs, homes and pensions watched with increasing anger as tax dollars meant to help them went instead to the very people who screwed them.
If you’re the Democratic nominee who accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees from this corrupt crowd, you damn well better pick a running mate who can speak convincingly to the pain they caused.
Bernie Sanders spoke to that pain. Elizabeth Warren spoke to that pain. But Hillary simply lacked the boldness to pick either one of them. As a result, this election was reduced to a choice between Trump’s sexism and Clinton’s emails. Is there any doubt now that if Bernie were on the ticket, Hillary would have won the Electoral College in addition to the popular vote? I don’t think so.
In the end, her caution killed her.
Did she trade on her celebrity to earn obscene speaking fees from institutions I can’t stand? Yes. Did she make a bad (but not illegal) call using a private email server? Yes and she owned up to, and apologized for it – many times. Has anyone, anywhere – republican or democrat – found anything wrong about her handling of Benghazi? Absolutely not.
At the end of the day, she is a woman who - over the course of a distinguished public career - has been accused of everything and convicted of nothing. On her worst day, her public behavior has been infinitely more honorable than his.
So this is what I told my daughter.
The good news is that the American people did in fact chose the classier, more qualified candidate. The bad news is that our system gave us the other guy.
Unfortunately, Hillary spent her entire campaign relentlessly hammering home a single message: Trump is a despicable human being. Congratulations. Mission accomplished. What she failed to do was to give voice to the justifiable rage of middle class Democrats who filled football stadiums for Bernie Sanders.
The result? President Donald Trump.
Does his election mean the end of the world as we know it? No.
Trump’s first act as President-Elect was to change Steve Bannon’s official title from Racist Fearmonger to Senior White House Advisor. Not a great start.
On the other hand, in his first exclusive interview with 60 Minutes, the priorities he outlined to Leslie Stahl included: huge infrastructure spending; preserving the popular elements of the Affordable Care Act; and avoiding costly, stupid wars. If you closed your eyes, it sounded an awful lot like a third Obama term.
I’ve closely watched and grossly underestimated this guy for the past two years. He cares about one thing. Ratings. He wants to be popular. Squeaking out a late-night Electoral College victory will never cut it for The Trumpster. Being President of a country in which Hillary Clinton is over a million votes more popular than he is, must kill him. Only one thing will satisfy him now - convincingly winning the popular vote that he lost so embarrassingly in 2016. He’s now got four years to make that happen.
Taking health care away from 20 million people won’t get him those votes. Sending American boys into Syria won’t get him those votes. Privatizing social security, cutting taxes on the rich, and letting Wall Street run wild, won’t get him those votes. Continuing to disrespect women and minorities won’t get him those votes.
So maybe, just maybe, the folks who should be worried are Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. Because if we’ve learned anything about the President-Elect, we know he cares about one thing, and one thing only – Donald J. Trump. And his breathtaking narcissism may end up being unexpectedly good news for Democrats. We’ll see.
In the meantime, as I eat my crow this Thanksgiving, I don’t want to hear anything more about the Comey letter. The numbers speak for themselves. Trump didn’t win this election. Hillary lost it. And the only question left is this.
What will he do with her mandate?
What will he do with her mandate?