by Judy Ferro
As my friend Jack said election night, “I’ve just learned that I don’t understand anything.”
And understanding is the first job facing Democrats—and pollsters– right now.
Pollsters develop models—algorithms—to decide who to ask and how much weight to give different groups. If they get answers from 100 voters over 70 and 100 under 30, they’ll give the oldsters’ answers more weight because, in the past, a higher percent of that age range actually voted.
With the decline of home phones, pollsters have tried contacting people by cell phone and email. Not everyone’s contact information is known though—and people can easily ignore attempts at contact. Most e-mail polls are simply façades for fund-raising.
It’s possible that neither the algorithms nor the samples were at fault. Bloggers warned that significant numbers of responders might be unwilling to admit they were voting for Trump; pollsters assumed, however, that the same held true for Hillary supporters.
Democrats must search through a lot more variables in their attempt to understand. Throats tighten and tears threaten when we contemplate that millions of our fellow Americans voted for a candidate endorsed by the Klan, one who made a practice of attacking Hispanics, Muslims, Mormons, Jews, women, the media, and the disabled.
Is there that much hate in America? The collapse of the original Populist movement—the 1890s movement against railroads, banks, and other monopolies—was followed by a revival of the Ku Klux Klan. Some men served as leaders in both movements. The Klan of the 1920s spread nationwide, even winning a majority of legislative seats in nearly-all-white Oregon.
Friends give other reasons for supporting Trump. They resemble what Democrats said about Obama—“he gets it.” They see Trump as a fresh, new force, capable of seeing things as no established politician dare, and willing to move in new directions. A businessman. Intelligent. Concentrated on the big picture. Willing to take risks.
Even Democrats who agree with all that cannot overlook the attacks. Inclusion is not a side issue for us; it is our core.
The role of prejudice was the most haunting question that came up as a dozen or so of us watched election results together, but there were others.
How will Trump’s election affect the media? Will Trump the President be as vindictive as Trump the candidate indicated? Will heads roll and media self-censor to avoid lawsuits?
Will President Trump’s affiliations with Russia and China—coupled with his feelings that we’ve been giving allies too free a ride– change the lineup of nations?
And what about the danger of nuclear weapons coming into play? Trump has given mixed messages, arguing on one hand that he opposed the war in Iraq and, on the other, that he would destroy ISIS immediately. In the end will he listen to his generals? And will they tailor messages to him differently than they have for President Obama?
Does Trump’s rejection of global warming and pledge to revive the coal industry mean bad news for the planet? Will requirements that the current electrical grid purchase energy generated by wind and solar installations continue?
And how will Trump’s supporters react when they find a President—even one with a Congress of his party—has limited powers? Or will President Trump have such sway that the usual limits won’t apply to him?
No doubt a president with Clinton’s experience would have been a more predictable leader, but that’s not what we got.
May all work for prosperity and peace—and inclusion—during the coming administration.