This past Thursday and Friday, I was substituting a fifth grade class which consisted of 23 students. Of those 23, the majority were Hispanic students- perhaps 15 of the 23 with the remainder either Asian (primarily Bengali) or African-American. The math subject- basically a review- was place value of decimals and converting fractions to decimals and percentages. One student asked where they would ever have to use this “stuff-” a common question for kids 10-11 years old who really don’t know the importance of math.
Being interested in presidential politics, I used the example of polls and the data one can glean from them. As an aside, I noted that I was voting for either Betty White (“Who?” came the response), or Terry Crews (who they knew as that “guy who makes his boobs jump up and down”). Now comes the most surprising part. Many of the students looked at me incredulously and said, “Not Donald Trump?” When I rolled my eyes and told them I was not a fan of either Trump or Clinton, I got incredulous mouths opened and a curl of the lip when the name “Clinton” was mentioned. Maybe they just assumed I was a Trump supporter because I was a white guy, but I don’t think so.
Now, obviously 10-11 year old students have no idea about how politics works or even what either candidate stands for and their shortcomings or strengths. And being 10-11 years old, they obviously form the bulk of what passes as a “political opinion” from their parents or caregivers. And what struck me is the number of Hispanic students who expressed their surprise that I was not a Donald Trump fan- the bulk of them whose family came from Mexico. I asked one of the incredulous (a young girl originally from Mexico) why she reacted that way. She said her dad thought Trump was a lot of talk- he would not build a wall and all that- and that he was “better than that other lady.”
So I came home and I started to write this while surfing about the Internet where I came upon a news blurb that (1) the Cincinnati Inquirer which usually endorses Republicans had endorsed Hillary Clinton, (2) that the Los Angeles Times had done likewise and (3) that over 75 former foreign policy and intelligence figures had written a letter opposing Trump and that the list included people from the Nixon, Reagan and both Bush administrations. There was also a note that not a single Fortune 500 executive was endorsing Trump.
And then it dawned on me that Donald Trump may be our next President.
Leaving aside the fact that Trump is tightening the race in the polls and that he is showing improvement in the all-important “swing states” like Ohio, Iowa, Nevada and North Carolina, all these anti-endorsements from newspapers and experts in foreign policy, economics, the intelligence community, and politicians leave aside one very important fact.
This election is backlash against the political class and their elitism despite an “economic elite” leading the way. It is a backlash against the so-called experts in the field of intelligence, foreign and domestic policy.
On this very day, I read in The Atlantic an article about Donald Trump which cites an African-American man who claims the Donald Trump he sees on television nightly is not like the Donald Trump he met backstage before an appearance in Pittsburgh. To this unnamed African-American, Trump seemed genuinely concerned and dedicated to “making America great.” He also intended to vote for Trump, but asked that his name be left out of the article.
I read another article where Professor Alan Lichtman- who has correctly predicted every election since 1984- noted that this year all indications are that Donald Trump will defeat Hillary Clinton. In that article which included an interview with the Washington Post, Lichtman noted that Trump may very well break the mold that defined winning presidential candidates since 1860! The point is that Donald Trump is unlike any candidate and is defying the “rules” of presidential politics. In effect, he is the ultimate anti-establishment candidate no matter how we define “the establishment.”
That “establishment” may include that wing of the Republican Party…or the national security experts…or the political pundit class…or the elites in academia…or the economic experts…or the foreign policy experts.
What is interesting, to this writer, is the presence of Gary Johnson on the ballot in all 50 states. Normally, a Libertarian candidate would pull votes from the Republican one. And in certain western states like Utah, Arizona and Montana that may be true. But every indication is that despite Gary Johnson on the ballot, Trump will win those states. Instead, this year is proving that Johnson is a viable alternative not against Trump, but against Clinton and Trump in key swing states which would allow Trump to sneak by Clinton because, let’s face it (!), Gary Johnson will end up with zero electoral votes.
In effect, for every anti-endorsement of Trump by the business, political, media and policy elite or insiders, it simply solidifies the perception that Trump is the anti-establishment candidate that will get things done. Perhaps, there is that silent section of the electorate who will pull the lever for Trump come November.
And part of it is probably the fact that his Democratic opponent is simply a weak candidate who defines the establishment. Hillary Clinton has essentially been running for President for 25 years now and what more defines “the establishment” than a career politician?
Perhaps my experience with 11 year old students is a false anecdote, or perhaps the quote in another context- “out of the mouth’s of children-” holds some truth. Regardless, this race is anything but a done deal for Hillary Clinton.