Democratic societies know various forms of hangover on the day after an election, depending on the political persuasion of the loser. Conservative parties mercilessly drop the losing candidate after a short period of mourning and immediately seek new a leader. The liberal or left-wing hangover is more analytically sophisticated, long-winded, more painful and also usually without political consequence – for years to come.
American commentators and Democratic Party strategists, who had been banking on Hillary Clinton for a good year, are asking themselves how they fell victim to an incredible misapprehension about the majority of Americans who were leaning towards Donald Trump. Was it self-hypnosis? How could they believe that a blend of lesbians, gays, Hispanics and African Americans, college kids and urban hipsters, would decide the election?
Why did Hillary Clinton lose sight of the millions of disenfranchised in impoverished Midwestern industrial towns and cities – simply because they had been faithful party voters in the past? Her election campaign was based on cold analysis of past voter behavior. She only took her campaign to places where there was a clear chance of victory. She was preaching to the converted. The arguments in her speeches made a lot of sense – they just lacked the convincing melody. Her husband would once throw himself into the crowd; she always appeared as if she were standing behind a glass wall. No baby kissing!
And she was playing opposite a star from reality TV, a provider of mass entertainment that sweeps the audience into an alternate reality where facts count for little. No American presidential candidate in recent history has lied as much as Mr. Trump.
Once the Democrats’ initial shock has passed and the Republicans have recovered from their own surprise, the cultural, historical and sociological explanations for the victory of a racist and extraordinarily uneducated real estate tycoon will fill the pages of the United States’ remaining quality newspapers and magazines.
The political origins of the gigantic redistribution of wealth in America from the bottom upward will be noted. Ronald Reagan’s “trickle-down” economics of the 1980s provided a boost by cutting taxes for the highest earners by 30 percent. The rich and super rich vanished forever from the average citizens’ circle of vision. The fact that a duped electorate voted for a beneficiary of this policy is part of the dialectic of how Mr. Trump presented himself. After all, he knows “the system” from the inside, he says, and only he can change it.