2016: What Did We Learn?
Wow! 2016. What a Year, Huh?
It was the year of Brexit. It was the year of Hurricane Matthew (you’re welcome). We lost a lot of cool celebrities. But we also got rid of Castro. Finally! 2016 was the year I billed Mexico for my garden wall. It seemed like the smart move at the time. They didn't find it funny. There was also some kind of election thingy, wasn’t there?
I Celebrate My Wrong-ness!
I am late getting back to you on one of my 2016 predictions. I have just spent several days in WordPress/Plugin hell trying to create a membership program for this site. I hope to create a talent incubator for political writers. And it will be for left, right, young, old, gay, straight, Lithuanian, Latvian…
It would be about time we had some talent here. Until that happens, you still have sweet, lovable me.
If you are a frequent visitor here, you will have read my warnings about the Federal Reserve's December 2016 rate hike. I will state for the record, I was anticipating from ½ to full point increase.
With Trump’s victory (the Fed sees him as a problem) I expected the Fed to go big. I warned people here to keep a sharp eye on their retirement accounts because a big rate increase would throw cold water on the stock market.
When I am wrong, I say I’m wrong. The Fed only bumped their rates to big banks by ¼ point. The Wall Street nose-dive I worried about did not occur. If the Fed is going to do anything in relation to Trump, they will wait until next year to see if he actually intends to “drain the swamp.”
If he really does enact the agenda he ran on, expect the Fed to punish him with draconian rate hikes. This won’t necessarily be a bad thing in the long-term, but it will be very painful for all of us at the outset. For the record, the Fed IS the very slime at the bottom of the entire Beltway “swamp”.
But There Was a Glimmer of Right-ness.
Poor Stuart Varney. From Late November until his last vacation, he was having on-camera, autoerotic spasms waiting to see the Dow at 20,000 before Christmas. Every guest who came on his show was asked to make a prediction on the possibility. He could taste 20,000!
Sadly, and predictably, it didn’t happen. And there is the tiny space in which I was right. While ¼ point was not enough to completely knock the wind out of Wall Street, the market has been quite flat since the very day of the announcement.
So much for all the talk of a “Trump” rally. What we saw was a run up to the Fed’s rate announcement followed by a slightly dampened market.
Poor Varney will have to sit alone in his room, doing god-knows-what, dreaming about the big moment. [1.I’m kidding, of course. I am a devoted Varney fan and watch his show almost every day.]
One last Street Politics prediction: As I said in a previous post, I predicted in 2013 that we’d see the National Debt at $20 trillion by the end of 2016. Ooooooh! So close! I lost a bottle of Johnny Walker Black by a mere whisker of $50 billion.
In case you think that was a wide margin to miss by, the debt as of 12:45 PM on New Year’s Eve, 2016 stood at $19,949,833,450. I missed by less than 1%! From two and a half years ago!
If ever there was a year in which we could have had our eyes open to how things really work, it was 2016. This was the year in which cult-like devotion out-performed any concept of quality statesmanship. The mob stole the show.
2016 laid naked our political and intellectual immaturity. It gave us a chance to really evaluate how far we’ve regressed as citizens and voters. After a primary offering several very good candidates, we left ourselves with a choice between a petulant, impulsive teenage girl and Hillary.
You would think the LEAST observant among the talking head class would have volumes of lessons. You’d expect the old, stale views would be abandoned in the hopes of quality elections in the future.
But it seems they’ve learned nothing of lasting value…or even of short-term significance.
I watched an interview on this subject led by Chris Stirewalt, one of my favorite commentators. I expected at least some hope that 2016 didn’t circle the toilet in vain. I was, for the most part, disappointed.
Stirewalt interviewed two journalists who had provided their “lessons learned”, three each, for discussion. Josh Kraushaar, political writer for the National Journal put up this list:
The Obama coalition is on life support
Data is only as good as the analyst
Clinton campaign lost because it got overconfident
All those statements are basically true. But, come on! Have we not come out of every election since JFK with at least the first and third item touted by every pundit?
Of course the Obama coalition is on life support! He’s a lame duck. His party lost. The Obama coalition was officially flat-line on 8 Nov 16. It will never be heard from again. Sadly, we can’t say the same for BHO. He’ll be holding court every day, opining negatively about the Trump administration. He was a weak and feckless president, even more so than Carter. He’ll crave validation wherever he can find it.
Kraushaar’s second point, “Data is only as good as the analyst”??? WTF? Is that a major lesson we learned in this election. I thought we learned that when Mondale and Reagan were neck and neck – and then Reagan took 49 states. Josh, please!
And data doesn’t win elections. Even your understanding of data doesn’t win elections. That point is a virtual corollary to a complaint I heard a Clinton staffer make. “We had such a good ground game in every state! And yet we lost!”
You can have a phone bank that calls every phone in America. You can offer every single voter (and in Hilary’s case lot’s of illegal aliens) a ride to the polls. You can have every statistician in the country analyzing your data. If you have a candidate that absolutely no one likes, who is under investigation by the FBI, you lose the election.
The only reason this one was so close is Donald Trump was only marginally less distasteful, to a frustrated 60% of the electorate, than Clinton!
Then it was Daniel Halper’s turn. He is the New York Times Washington Bureau Chief. This was his list of political profundity:
Don’t learn too many lessons from past elections
Conventional wisdom is often wrong
Ideology is insignificant
Well, bust my buttons! Is there something the other 310 million of us missed? Is this new?
Don’t learn too much from past elections is right! Other than 2010, how many times since Bush 41 have we heard that the GOP is the walking dead? “They’re on the wrong side of history,” we were told. The reason talking heads say we can’t learn from past elections is because Halper’s second and third points are correct.
But the same talking head class spends every election season reinvigorating the same wrongheadedness framed in these lists. Conventional wisdom, remaining stagnant since Reagan, is why I wrote Street Politics: It Ain’t your Daddy’s GOP Anymore! The people are bone weary of canned, handled, poll-tested campaigns. And they already reject "conventional wisdom".
That’s why the Donald was able to enter the election and say, “I’m going to build a wall” or blurt out something that was trending on his beloved Twitter feed, and people went wild! “He speaks the truth,” was a refrain we heard constantly. [emphasis mine]
I did said as early as 2013 that there was a dire need for a genuine, in your face candidate. Carly Fiorina could have been that. Certainly Rand Paul could have been. But they opted for caution. And yes, I will stipulate that since June of 2015 the press decided there were only two candidates in the race, Trump and Clinton and covered the two accordingly. ALL other candidates were ignored unless one of the prime darlings was attacking them.
And ideology is indeed insignificant. It is dead. When you see ideology being touted, you are being lied to. The Democrat party, the party of the “little guy,” has completely whored itself out to Wall Street and Hollywood money, while scut-mouthing the same rich people. Most of the GOP wouldn’t know a conservative idea if it fell out of the sky, landed on their faces and wiggled. (I stole that line from Dan Aykroyd in The Great Outdoors)
This is the inevitable result of an entrenched two-party system. When loyalty to party is everything and principles are nothing. Hell, even the “Christian Right” gleefully cast aside it’s core principles in favor of a candidate who, if he ever had a genuinely conservative thought, was only a conservative for 1 ½ years before he ran for president. So much for ideology.
It was Stirewalt who finally evoked anything other than cynicism on my part during this interview. First, he stated the only valid (if not self-evident) lesson of the 2016 campaign. “In 2012, people voted for Obama because they wanted to. In 2016 people didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton because they didn’t want to.” Wow! These guys are smart!
In the wrap-up, Stirewalt said, “Tell me the name of another journalist who distinguished themselves in 2016.”
It was at that point my head exploded, splattering the walls of my living room with pieces of my superior brain. “Me!” I shouted. “I was touting the real lessons we needed to heed since early two thousand and goddamn fifteen!”
They didn’t hear me. They never do.
Matt Jordan is host of streetpolitics.us and author of 16 20 24: A Path to Consistent Conservative Victory, on Kindle as: Street Politics: It Ain't Your Daddy's GOP Anymore!
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