Thoughts after the election

It should not have happened, if the opinion polls were to be believed. Yet Trump performed an amazing triple-play. He tarnished the legacies of the Bushes, the Clintons, and President Obama in one swoop.

The pollsters had it wrong, big time.

Data gathering and statistical analysis is an art as well as a science and it is fraught with subtle biases. To be good at it, one must be able to distinguish between information and noise, have a solid sense of history, and an imagination for the future courses of events.

Not an easy task because we are a nation which relishes our biases. We can self-select cable news stations and social media which slant one way or the other. And our internet search engines can pick up on our biases and feed us webpages which make us happy. Our biases can stay satisfied within this cyber-bubble. After a while, any opposing view we might come across can sound like heresy; a shattering of faith.

Despite the heated rhetoric and all the mudslinging of both campaigns, the election of Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States of America is actually a moderating factor for the country. To paraphrase conservative icon William F. Buckley, much of the electorate looked at the course of history and yelled “Stop!”

What was quite shocking to many was how Trump was able to re-write the rules of the election season. Relatively speaking, his campaign was run on a shoe-string, with very few high-powered surrogates to pinch-hit for him or deflect criticism from the media. He was considered coarse and vulgar, and constantly erupting with antics that his opposition assumed would sink him.

But what made it work was an entrepreneur’s sense of vision and just a few simple ideas - on immigration, foreign wars, foreign trade, and the Affordable Care Act- and a “feel good” delivery about making America great again. The campaign had a core concept for what was wrong and for what was right about the country, and the messenger was a comet because of his celebrity and his entrepreneurial spirit, a combination in politics to probably not be repeated in our lifetime.

An entrepreneur fights hard for his vision and never wavers (or as it’s known in the political world: flip-flop). With this, Trump took on and roundly beat 16 Republican challengers, Hillary Clinton and all her high-powered surrogates, and much of the overly biased news media which failed to remain objective or notice the rising tide.

Usually to be a winner one has to start out looking like a winner. Agree or disagree, Trump’s simple vision and stubborn determination were two important ingredients when an electorate is looking for change.

So, Trump is president-elect, and currently some Blue-color cities are seeing violent protests.

Recall the worry by Clinton’s supporters that Trump would not accept the election results? An economics professor at Yale even made the midterm exam optional for any students too “distraught” in the wake of the election. To me this is symptomatic of living in that bubble which never breaks and when it does, the student is ill equipped to become a productive member of society.

To take a phrase popularized by Obama, this could have been a “teachable moment” for those students supposedly too traumatized to take the midterm. (Technically, the phrase is attributed to Professor Robert Havighurst, a physicist who became an educator and emphasized the importance of timing and learning.) In other words, it’s time for learning and not mourning. In solidarity with all the working people who don’t have the luxury to take time off for political mourning I suggest all students take their tests when scheduled. After all, test-taking is not “working.” It’s “learning” - and we all benefit when someone takes the time to learn.   

The bigger question now is how to bind the nation’s wounds and bring the country together. It won’t be easy when cities are violently erupting, and professors can’t keep a classroom in order.

What does it mean for Alaska specifically? If you asked me today, the answer would be a platitude. What will Trump do for the energy sector for example? What will he do in regards to federal overreach? He may open up the North Slope and ANWR. He may not. We have no idea who will be in his administration yet, so conjecture is just that.

In effect, the Trump comet could very well burn out, just as the Obama coalition could not transfer completely to Hillary Clinton. Of course, this is the danger when presidential candidates become so attached to the very brand they create; i.e., Obama’s “hope and change” and Trump’s “make America great again.”

One thing is sure, celebrity was a key ingredient in the rocket fuel both gentlemen used to power their rise. Time will soon tell if Trump will be able to transfer his entrepreneurial skills from campaigning to governing. If he can, he may be a very successful president. If not, the American electorate will vote for the next who promises change.

Darren J. Prokop is a professor of logistics in the College of Business and Public Policy at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

11/16/2016 - 2:08pm