Go, Soul, the body’s guest,Upon a thankless errand;Fear not to touch the best;The truth shall be thy warrant:Go, since I needs must die,And give the world the lie.
—Sir Walter Raleigh, “The Lie,” (c. 1592)
A question many of us should be asking: do I believe in lies?
But first, a confession: I did not think Donald Trump would win this election.
I was wrong. Were you?
There are those in my circle of influence—I think of John Robb and Lynn Rees in particular, though they were not the only ones—who claimed Trump would win, and claimed Trump would win in exactly the places and for exactly the reasons he ended up winning.
I discounted what they had to say. I will not be making that mistake again.
Who have you discounted? Better yet, who should you have discounted?
In demographic terms, there are two reasons Trump now claims the title President-elect. The first is that in the old Northwest he galvanized millions of people, mostly white and rarely educated, to vote for him. In days past this demographic split their vote. Many used to vote for Democrats. Even more just did not vote. That has changed.
Why and how this change occurred, and what it means for the future of this republic, is important. I will have more to say about that on a later day. Today though we need to focus in on something else—the second reason Trump won this election.
It’s a simple one: millions of people who voted for Barrack Obama would not show up to vote for Hillary Clinton.
This was true in almost every state. It was true for Latino voters. It was also true for black voters. And millennials. And women. And yes, it was true for the whites as well.
More dramatic still: this took everybody who should have known better by surprise.
I suppose that is not quite true. Some people knew. Some suggested that this would not be the electoral dream so many imagined it to be. But that wasn’t the narrative. The narrative was that this was going to be an election with record turnout, an election that mobilized the masses against the great monster of bigotry and oppression. There would be more people voting here than ever before.
It was all a lie.
Some of my readers supported the President elect. Those of you who did not are angry. You have a right to be. But time is short. If you wish your anger to matter, then it must be focused. Rage! —but channel that rage towards the places it can make an immediate impact. It is time to destroy the lies.
We heard these lies the entire election season. We repeated them. Most of us believed at least some of them. Some of us believed all of them.
The lies went like this. Hillary Rodham Clinton is a wonderful and visionary person. She is a representative for women across the world, an extraordinarily talented politician, and a true example of what makes America great. Clinton’s words are inspiring. Her political judgement is beyond reproach—in fact, given current national conditions, her political instincts are ideal. She is a good listener. She is in touch with the concerns of the nation and its ordinary people. She is a woman of the future. History is on her side.
This lie both enabled and was enabled by others: America’s economy is only getting better; because of her predecessor’s efforts, the country’s future is bright. Americans look forward to that future. Only those deceived by Fox News and the “Alt-right” could believe otherwise. In fact, if you didn’t realize it yet, the few thousand twitterers known as the ‘Alt-right’ are a critical part of the enemy coalition; when normal Americans hear about this new political force, they will care about it, remember it, and feel threatened by it. Demographics is destiny. Hispanic voters will be an electoral force to be reckoned with. Gender will be a deciding factor in this election. The concerns of working class whites do not deserve to be addressed; really, it’s an open question whether that demographic even needs to be respected. Jim Webb and Bernie Sanders were out of touch. The media isn’t actually filled with the lap dogs of the DNC. The DNC isn’t actually filled with the lap-dogs of the Clinton campaign. Clinton’s victory is so sure that she should be spending her time in Arizona and Georgia, not in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The Democratic Party is in the best shape it has ever been in. Sharing John Oliver videos makes a difference.
It was all a lie.
Time for some truths: America’s governing class is bound together more by geography, education, and manners than anything else; it does not understand and cannot relate to the lives of most of their countrymen. Socially and economically the led and the leaders are distinct. In less than two decades, this elite has launched this country into three wars, and lost each of them. None were punished or held accountable for doing so. They plunged the earth into recession, a recession entire regions still feel–but none were punished or held accountable for doing so. This class is fundamentally unaccountable: bankrupt Americans, bankroll cartels—in the end, none of that matters if you’ve made the right connections and you speak the right shibboleths. The gateways into this class are shrinking. The privileges it claims grow larger. Amid all this walks in a woman who embodies it all, Davos Man in the flesh, avatar of establishment orthodoxy. She is the author of one war, supporter of two others; devoted to the poor of other nations but aloof to the poor of her own; friend of the banks, paid by Wall Street when not in government service, and financed by it when on the campaign trail; undeserving darling of a slavish media, uncrowned queen of a slavish party, beloved by all the institutions Americans have grown to distrust and hate; unable to keep rules she demands of her subordinates, and excused for failings that would crush the careers of the less connected. Onto this stage walks this ghoul, and you expected America to be excited about voting for her.
It is time to destroy the lies.
You lost because your party chose a messenger and a message five million of your own voters—not Fox News Acolytes, not the Breitbart junkies, but your own voters—could not stomach. You lost because the party elites and their press hanger-ons lied to themselves, to each other, and then to you. Hillary Clinton was unfit to be the President of the United States. The majority of Americans believed this. The majority of Americans still believe this. An enormous amount of self-deceit is needed to claim otherwise.
Some of you aren’t ready to hear this. Some of you are not willing to concede it. I am sorry I must speak to you so bluntly and so roughly, but time is short. You just lost three branches of government in one night. You don’t control the Senate, and you don’t have the House. You’ve only managed to keep a hold on five state governments—the lowest number in the entire history of your party. You were a percentage point away from losing Minnesota. Minnesota! Yet you thought you were about to win it all.
The time has come to drive out the lies.
Normally this is where you start hearing calls to “spend time in the wilderness.” Your party elites deserve this. Maybe you do too. There just isn’t time for it. Look folks, I am no Democrat. I’m much more comfortable in an America where the court leans 5-4 to the right than the other way around. But I’m also an honest checks-and-balances sort. The prospect of Trump unchecked is unnerving. Many of you go further—you express abject terror.
If that feeling is genuine, then I plead with you, cast out the lies.
Events will move quickly. The Democratic Party is without a leader. The President and his administration are packing up shop. Clinton is a dead letter. Harry Reid is gone. The DNC is a mess. A civil war is brewing. The battle for your party’s soul is coming—and when it is over, the winners must be people with better judgement than those who ran the last campaign.
That is only the first part. The second may be more important—the cadre of “thought leaders” who led you all into this mess must be cast aside. Nate Silver and the modelers like him deserve to be treated like the cultic shamans they are. Ezra Klein, Zack Beauchamp, Dylan Matthews and the Vox set, who did so much to establish the false narratives that dominated this cycle, must be called out, talked down, and driven out. The campaign’s go-to propaganda disseminators (e.g. Joan Walsh, Greg Sargent, etc.) should be treated like pariahs; reporters who could have pushed back on emerging narratives, but instead let DNC and campaign team members vet their reporting (e.g. Mark Leibovich, Glenn Thrush, etc.) should be treated no better.
These men and women are drunk on their own cool-aid. They built an echo chamber and mistook its confines for the world outside it. They sold their self-deceptions to you as fair and reasoned truths—but they are and always were deceptions. You and I were fed a diet of lies. Now the liars and those who believed them both find themselves locked out of power, utterly unprepared for the age about to dawn. These people need to be held accountable. You are the only one who can do that to them.
Politics is not about signaling disgust or praise. Politics is a contest over the division of power. To win this contest you need men and women tethered to reality, not to shibboleths. Those people do exist on the left. Among elected officials, Tulsi Gabbard comes to mind. Adam Elkus recently endorsed David Auerbach and Chris Arnade as media personalities who fit the bill; I might add Thomas Frank to that list. There will be others. The time has come to put them up front.
As for the rest? Do as Raleigh directs: “give them all the lie.”