THE BLOG
11/09/2016 06:49 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Angry White Men Triumphant

Carlo Allegri / Reuters

For the past eight years, America has had an African-American president. Faced with the prospect of a white woman succeeding him, America instead just elected an angry white man as president. Call it the triumph of angry white men everywhere. Millions of Americans are about to find out what it's like to be led by the equivalent of the drunk uncle at the Thanksgiving table who refuses to follow the rules of politeness and political correctness. Was it a backlash against our first black president? Or rampant misogyny towards Hillary Clinton? Or just free-floating rage against a changing culture that is becoming more tolerant and multicultural by the year? It's impossible to accurately say, really. The only thing that can be said for certain is that angry white men are now dominant.

Of course, even saying so is oversimplifying things. There were plenty of angry white women who voted for Trump yesterday, as well. The demographics of the 2016 election will be carefully studied for years to come, as political elites and the media search for the reason why they were all so utterly wrong, before the fact. I certainly include myself in that group, as I in no way saw last night coming ahead of time. I thought Hillary Clinton might have a tougher time than predicted, but would emerge victorious with a few states like North Carolina and Pennsylvania shoring up the numbers she needed to win the Electoral College. Like many others, I believed that right up until state after state began to be called for Trump, beginning with Florida. A "silent majority" actually did exist, and they turned out to the polls in numbers which overwhelmed all of Clinton's careful preparations and all of the pollsters' predictions. It was stunning to see, and it still hasn't really sunk in completely, if truth be known.

Republicans will now have a free hand to reshape the country to their liking. If Senate Democrats even try to fight hard against this tide, Senate Republicans might just do away with the filibuster altogether so they will have complete control of all branches of government. They will almost certainly do so for Trump's Supreme Court nomination, and they may very well get rid of the legislative filibuster as well. At this point, nothing seems impossible.

Republicans are now in the position of the barking dog which caught the car it was chasing -- and then didn't know what to do with it. They will have no excuse now for why they can't pass the wildest fantasies of their base into law. Obamacare will be repealed, to be replaced with not much of anything. Gigantic tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy will (obviously) pass rather quickly. The safety net may be shredded or privatized. Who knows, maybe they'll even try to make gay marriage illegal once again. Perhaps the minimum wage will be lowered, or even abolished altogether. The entire Republican agenda is now on the table, and it doesn't really look like anything's going to stop them from passing whatever their little hearts desire.

Trump may go along with the Republican agenda, or he may not. It's really tough to even predict. He's been rather malleable on all kinds of policy ideas during the campaign, and gives the impression that he doesn't really care about any particular ideology. So a Republican Congress may be able to talk him into all sorts of things.

Or maybe not. Trump doesn't really strike me as playing the part of puppet very well, because his ego won't allow him to play second fiddle to anyone. On the issues he does appear to care about, he'll likely refuse to back down. This means that wall will get built, most likely. Millions may get deported as well. Bombs may rain down on ISIS indiscriminately. A trade war with the world may take place, as Trump convinces Congress to slap all sorts of tariffs on foreign goods. Some of what he said on the campaign trail may have been mere bluster, but on the biggest issues he's likely to attempt to follow through. How much of a match his agenda will be with Paul Ryan's agenda remains to be seen.

America under Trump's leadership may soon become a very dark and reactionary place. Will his close advisors be able to rein in Trump's natural vindictiveness? Or will he use the levers of power to get back at his perceived enemies? Nobody knows, at this point.

It'd be comforting to at least hold the belief that this was all some sort of darkness before a new dawn. Will Democrats emerge stronger in the end? Well, they've got a lot of wilderness ahead before that happens, that's the only thing that is sure. Both political parties were ripped apart by the 2016 election, and what gets reconstituted on either side remains to be seen. There are a lot of Bernie Bros saying "I told you so!" this morning, to put this another way. Will the Democrats realize that they've all but forgotten how to make average voters' lives better, and redouble populist efforts to address the concerns of the working class? Or will they attempt to lurch to the center and wind up being Republican-lite? That battle has yet to be fought, and the outcome is far from certain.

I can spin a rosy scenario for the future, but I'm not sure how much I believe it, at this point. California's Proposition 187 is the model for Democrats looking for a silver lining, today. Prop 187 was a virulently anti-immigrant ballot initiative with some of the worst scaremongering on the airwaves behind it. It passed, back in 1994, and the Republican governor who championed it also got re-elected. But Pete Wilson's triumph has turned California solid blue as a direct result. Republicans are now almost irrelevant in the state's politics. The backlash against the ugliness of the Prop 187 campaign convinced a whole lot of Latinos that the Republican Party did not want them at all. They are all now Democrats, and are a big reason why California is so solidly blue.

Will there be a national parallel? People who remember that Prop 187 flipped California to Democratic control for a generation often forget that it passed at the time. We all remember the backlash, but forget that it didn't happen immediately. If President Trump follows through on his promise of mass deportations, Latinos nationwide may start voting Democratic at the same rate as African-Americans. For decades to come. If the Democratic Party manages a comeback in two years (or four, or eight...), this will likely be the driving force behind such a resurgence. Angry white men in California won the battle, but they lost the larger demographic war. If that takes place nationally, the electorate is going to look very different in the next few elections, although not in every state.

Before that happens, though, we're going to have to get through the angry white men era first. Trump's economic promises to his base will be the hardest for him to keep, though. There simply is no magic wand to wave to bring all those manufacturing jobs back to the Rust Belt and beyond. If Trump slaps tariffs on lots of other countries, it could lead to a major recession -- meaning even more economic devastation for all those Midwestern small towns. Repealing Obamacare is going to mean millions will, once again, have no health insurance at all. That's also going to hit rural America hard. When another round of huge tax breaks for the wealthy fails (once again) to cause all those manufacturing jobs to reappear, Trump's own supporters may get pretty disgruntled with him. The Republican Party will have absolutely no excuse why all those rainbows and ponies they had promised everyone failed to materialize. If they hold total control of the government, it's going to be pretty hard to blame the other party if the economy goes south.

Angry Trump voters are triumphant now. They scored a huge upset victory, and they're all (with good reason) patting themselves on the back right now. But that honeymoon is going to wear off at some point. How long it will take and what will happen next is anyone's guess. Right now, though, the angry white men are going to have their day in the sun, whether the rest of us like it or not.

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