The Meaning of 2016


For my last blog post of each year I briefly summarize the main events of the preceding year and then try to evaluate their significance. Last year I was badly off in one respect. I said that the rise of Donald Trump was a disaster for the Republican Party because he could not possibly be elected president!  I badly underestimated the force of populism sweeping the country.
Here are the main events of 2016:

  • Brexit. On June 23 Great Britain voted 52% – 48% to leave the European Union. Elite opinion advocated staying in and the polls predicted majority support for staying. The world was shocked when the vote went the other way.
  • Donald Trump was elected the next U.S. President on November 8. The polls predicted a Hillary Clinton victory and she in face won the popular vote by a 3,000,000 vote margin. But Trump squeaked by in the Electoral College by winning the rust belt battleground states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by a combined total of 100,000 votes (see attached map to understand the Trump electoral vote margin).capture17
  • The Mid-East Refugee Crisis, Terrorism and Russia’s Vladimir Putin were even bigger problems in 2016 than in 2015 and will present huge challenges to Donald Trump when he becomes President on January 20.

Granted that Trump was elected by a slim electoral vote margin and a smarter campaign by Clinton could have led to a different outcome, nevertheless for such a sleazy, non-politically correct candidate to have done so well, has huge significance. It constitutes a major slap down of elitism:

  • Consider where our most recent presidents went to college: Reagan (Eureka College), George H.W. Bush (Yale), Bill Clinton (Yale Law), George W. Bush (Yale), Barack Obama (Harvard Law) and Donald Trump (Fordham). In other words, Trump will be the only president since Reagan not to have graduated from Harvard or Yale.
  • Consider that since John Paul Stevens (Northwestern Law) retired from the Supreme Court in 2010, every current Supreme Court Justice has graduated from an Ivy League Law School.
  • Consider that most nationally prominent Republicans, including members of Congress, shunned Donald Trump on the campaign trail even as his poll numbers steadily increased. In other words he was elected largely without the help of the Republican establishment.

Conclusion. The American voters have decided to take a big chance on a nontraditional presidential candidate. Are the voters collectively smarter than the elites to whom they usually turn for leadership?  I am optimistic that the answer will turn out to be yes!

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