Magazine December 5, 2016, Issue

The Week

(Roman Genn)

‐ We usually only worry about audits when Democratic presidents get elected.

‐ “We are now all rooting for his success in uniting and leading the country,” President Obama said of President-elect Trump the day after the election. “President Bush’s team could not have been more professional or more gracious in making sure we had a smooth transition so that we could hit the ground running. . . . I have instructed my team to follow [that] example.” For his part, former president George W. Bush, who did not endorse or vote for Trump, issued a statement saying that he and his wife, Laura, “pray for the success of our country and the success of our new president.” In her concession speech, Hillary Clinton said that America owed the president-elect “an open mind and the chance to lead,” adding that “our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power, and we don’t just respect that, we cherish it.” Trump was gracious in return. To uphold the virtue of civility under such circumstances is always an achievement. For their doing so, our thanks and congratulations to Mrs. Clinton and to the men she hoped to succeed and defeat in office.

‐ The presidential race got nearly all the attention, but Election Day went well for Republicans at all levels. Their losses in races for the House, the Senate, and state legislatures were much lower than expected, and they increased the number of Republican governors. Republicans now have the governorship and the entire legislature in 25 state governments, and in two more states, they have enough legislators to override the vetoes of Democratic governors. Conservatives who harbor doubts about President-elect Trump — including some of those who voted for him — can take comfort in the fact that most of these elected Republicans are not cut from the same cloth as he is and are not especially beholden to him. Most Senate candidates in competitive races outperformed Trump in their states, including winners Richard Burr, Ron Johnson, John McCain, Rob Portman, Marco Rubio, and Pat Toomey. We hope that the Republican Congress and president will cooperate in advancing a conservative agenda, but the former should not hesitate to stand up to the latter when necessary — to protect both us and him from missteps and to reassert the too-long-atrophied constitutional role of the legislature.

‐ Amid mounting shock and horror on Election Night, liberals reached for a security blanket of an explanation: White voters had chosen Trump as part of a racial backlash against the rising non-white population of the country. While Trump is no innocent in racial controversies, that’s a reach. Upon finding out that a portion of Trump voters large enough to be decisive had previously voted for President Obama, even twice, the explainers set about devising convoluted explanations of how this fact did not in any way bear on the validity of their theory. Ezra Klein asserted as indisputable truth that the 2016 campaign had placed race at the forefront of voters’ minds, unlike elections featuring the first black major-party nominee and president. If you believe that, you’ll believe anything — or at least anything you want to believe.

‐ The truth is that Democrats made a series of deliberate choices to alienate white working-class voters during the Obama years. Stances on energy production, illegal immigration, and same-sex marriage that were within the mainstream of the party even ten years ago had nearly disappeared from it by Obama’s last year in office. Democrats knew that white working-class voters disliked their new progressivism, but they thought that the “rising American electorate” of Hispanics and young liberals would more than make up for any losses from this declining group. Turns out the math was faulty. Democrats wrote off these voters and are now expressing shock that the gesture was reciprocated.

‐ In North Carolina, a slight drop in African-American turnout during this year’s early-voting period occasioned breathless reporting from mainstream outlets and lamentations of “Jim Crow” from Democratic activists. By way of background: In August, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a 2013 law that required voters to show a government-issued photo ID, ended same-day registration, and shortened the length of early voting. As a result, North Carolina’s 100 counties were required to file new election rules with the state’s election board just three months before Election Day. But contrary to claims by everyone from the New York Times to ThinkProgress, early-voting opportunities were not subsequently “slashed.” In fact, early-voting hours were expanded and polling sites were increased statewide. It turns out that a record 3 million North Carolinians cast their ballots during the state’s early-voting period, and that in Wake, Guilford, and Mecklenburg counties, all home to large black populations, Clinton ultimately outperformed Barack Obama. If her vote lagged elsewhere, the ultimate suppressor was she.

‐ The two leading contenders for secretary of state were, as we went to press, John Bolton and Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani, a former New York City mayor, has done yeoman’s work for Trump but doesn’t have extensive foreign-policy experience, to put it mildly. Bolton, a former American representative to the U.N., has the advantage of being an experienced, straight-talking, yet nuanced foreign-policy hand who fits the Trump sensibility on national security. A scourge of international institutions and treaties that threaten our interests or sovereignty, he is a hard-headed realist whose focus is always the national interest. Bolton has been around the block — he started his career as a protégé of James A. Baker III — but has never become an establishmentarian or lost his edge. He would understand that he is the president’s emissary to Foggy Bottom, not the other way around, and he is respected by all factions of the party. With allies nervous and an adversary sure to test the administration early on, he’d be a strong pick for a momentous job.

‐ Trump made two big appointments. Reince Priebus, the head of the Republican National Committee, got chief of staff. While Priebus has no governmental experience, he was an effective if occasionally heavy-handed head of the RNC. And he also has good relations with Republicans on the Hill. Steve Bannon, the Trump campaign’s CEO and before that publisher of Breitbart, will be a counselor to Trump. Bannon has been getting vilified as a white supremacist and an anti-Semite. The evidence for either charge is very thin, but he seems to welcome being allied with people who meet those descriptions. Newt Gingrich and Kellyanne Conway, among others in Trump’s circle, have pronounced themselves offended by questions about Bannon’s ties to the bigoted “alt-right.” The questions are legitimate, but the defensiveness is a good sign.

‐ For the second time in 16 years, the winner of the popular vote (Clinton now, Gore in 2000) came in second in the electoral college. Time to do away with that 18th-century relic? Not so fast. The American president is an elected chief of government in a continental federal republic. The electoral college assures each state a role in the process, however unequal, and requires candidates to campaign nationwide, however selectively. Eliminating it would drive the cost of elections up as candidates chased every vote and had to spend yet more in the largest media markets. It would also raise the incentives for fraud, since any vote stolen anywhere would count toward a win. Losers always complain (the Bush campaign had prepared appeals for electors to go rogue in 2000 if, as the polls wrongly predicted, Bush had won the popular vote but lost the electoral college). Better that losers take their licks and learn to campaign smarter than that we go all in for a national plebiscite.

‐ When the dust settled, Libertarian Gary Johnson had won over 3 percent of the vote, and Green Jill Stein a hair under 1 percent; Evan McMullin’s pop-up campaign won 20 percent in his home state of Utah. This is small potatoes beside the showings of Ross Perot (1992, 1996), John Anderson (1980), or George Wallace (1968). Johnson and McMullin, who polled better earlier in the race, fell back as antsy Republicans who had flirted with them returned to the fold. The third parties, however, seem to be here to stay, and in a race this close they had to be taken into the major parties’ calculations. Whether they can influence them, as third parties have sometimes done, is another question. The Greens have nothing to teach the Sanders wing of the Democrats, and the only place for Libertarians at Mar-a-Lago is the doghouse.

‐ “If you lose your money,” goes the old blues ballad, “learn to lose.” Disappointed Democrats didn’t, as they tweeted or declared on their T-shirts, Not My President. In half a dozen cities, disappointment took to the streets. Twenty-five thousand protesters swarmed Trump Tower in Manhattan; 8,000 (many waving Mexican flags) turned out in Los Angeles. Two cops were hit by rocks at an anti-Trump demonstration in Indianapolis, and Portland, Ore., declared a riot as anti-Trumpers smashed cars and store windows and lit fires. We tire of saying this, but if Republicans did this the media would etc. etc. What the media might do, instead of downplaying these stories, is report on who gets these demos up. Either the Left has organized a permanent march on demand (Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, now this), or some not-negligible slice of Americans are natural anarchists. Depressing either way.

‐ If there is anything more New Jersey than having a corrupt political figure create artificial traffic troubles to torment a political rival for no obvious end other than sadistic enjoyment, we do not know what it is. Governor Chris Christie, who has spent much of the past year acting as a campaign surrogate for Donald Trump, apparently has offended Donald Trump’s sense of propriety and finds himself cast into the outer darkness as his role in the “Bridgegate” scandal, which he has long denied, becomes undeniable. (There is another possible explanation for Christie’s alienation: Trump is close to his son-in-law, whose father Christie put away on tax-evasion and witness-tampering charges. Small world.) Christie has long claimed that he was unaware of the planned bridge closures before they happened, a claim now contradicted by, among others, defense lawyers for Christie underlings charged in the case. A judge has ruled that there is sufficient evidence to advance an official-misconduct claim against the governor. We could almost grudgingly admire the creativity of the scheme if not for the reminder that politicians, including too many Republicans, too often regard the people they purport to serve as pawns in their own games or props in their own dramas. There is impeachment talk in Trenton, and depending on the facts uncovered it may be warranted.

‐ Now that a Republican Congress and president have been elected together, Obamacare may finally be replaced with something respectful of markets, individual freedom, and federalism. Trump has said that he wants the replacement to make sure that everyone, especially those with preexisting conditions, is covered. Existing Republican plans go far toward this goal — although coverage for all cannot be assured without forcing people to buy it, which should not be done. Any replacement will face formidable legislative obstacles. Changes to Obamacare’s regulations are subject to filibuster in the Senate, where Republicans do not have a filibuster-proof majority. Under the circumstances, conservatives should insist that Republicans on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue act with resolve and dispatch while also understanding they need tactical flexibility.

‐ Promises, promises. If Trump won — Amy Schumer and Barbra Streisand vowed — they’d move to Canada. For Samuel L. Jackson, it’d be better to live in South Africa than in the U.S. under a President Trump. Ruth Bader Ginsburg said she’d head to New Zealand. Al Sharpton, Miley Cyrus, and Chelsea Handler all promised they’d leave, too (destinations unspecified). Yes, the Canadian immigration website crashed on Election Night — owing to shoddy Canuck IT design or an overload of histrionic inquiries from jet-setting Yanks, we’re not quite sure which — but no one is actually going to move to Queen Elizabeth’s Northern Dominion. Nor should he. No matter what they do at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, life will go on pretty much as it has in Berkeley and Haight-Ashbury and the West Village. Cher outdid everyone, picking Jupiter for her next home. Where’s Elon Musk when you need him?

‐ In the early days of the Republic, in some places, adherents of the Federalist and Republican parties rarely mingled: A loyal Federalist lived in a Federalist rooming house, drank at a Federalist tavern, and so on. As the nation grew, these customs fell by the wayside, but today the Internet and our mainstream media have created a situation where some people seldom encounter a contrary opinion and are shocked if they ever do. Hence a practice that sprang up after the election: Progressive Trump haters wearing safety pins as a sign to fellow progressive Trump haters that they are safe to talk to. They have made moral self-congratulation and political folly into a literal fashion statement.

‐ Matt Maloney doesn’t like to be disagreed with. Neither do most people, but in this case it’s a problem for employees of the online food-delivery service GrubHub, since Maloney is their CEO. In a rambling rant sent to employees the day after the election, Maloney rehashed some familiar arguments against Trump and then added this menacing remark: “If you do not agree with this statement then please reply to this email with your resignation because you have no place here.” Elsewhere in the memo he wrote: “I want to affirm to anyone on our team that is scared or personally exposed, that I and everyone else here at GrubHub will fight for your dignity and your right to make a better life for yourself and your family.” Unless you voted for Trump, of course.

‐ As the election results poured in, futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted 800 points; in London, the Financial Times Stock Exchange 100 dropped 147 points at the opening of trade. “Markets are plunging,” New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote in the heat of the moment. “When might we expect them to recover? . . . A first-pass answer is never.” By the end of the day, the Dow was up 256 points; the FTSE 100 had rallied to gain 69 points, or 1 percent. Global markets in general bounced back nicely. So did Krugman: After “listening to music, working out, reading a novel, basically taking a vacation in my head,” he was back at it later that day, referring darkly to “runaway climate change,” betraying no relief or gratitude that his doomsday economic forecast 17 hours earlier had turned out to be wrong.

‐ Expiring at the same time as the Clinton campaign was American TV comedy. Having perfected (as they thought) the art of making liberal points by mockery, Jon Stewart’s heirs — John Oliver, Trevor Noah — simply repeated the trick, over and over. Stephen Colbert apart from his Fox anchor persona: not funny. Samantha Bee: not funny. Even the venerable Saturday Night Live, which had two amusing candidate impersonators — Alec Baldwin and Kate McKinnon — offered as its post-election cold opening McKinnon/Clinton singing the lugubrious Leonard Cohen anthem “Hallelujah.” Cohen had just died, making the event a double wake. Comedy can tell bitter truths — who was angrier, or funnier, than Samuel Johnson? But you must not serve a party, left or right, and you must know that you, too, being human, are part of the problems you anatomize. If you cannot hit that stern note, be Jimmy Fallon, and keep us laughing. At least someone will be listening.

‐ Lost in the noise and excitement over the presidential election was the result of Colorado’s referendum on assisted suicide. Voters approved it by two to one, about the same as the ratio by which proponents of the measure outspent opponents. Doctors may now prescribe life-ending sleep medication for adults with terminal illnesses. Colorado joins five other states in legalizing assisted suicide, which has gained popular support even as bioethicists have argued that its logic will eventually lead to ending the lives of certain children and the mentally ill. European doctors in Belgium and elsewhere have already begun to slide down that slippery slope. Right-to-die advocates have succeeded in framing the issue as a choice between suffering and hastened death. Palliative care is more expensive than euthanasia, and more difficult to administer, but also more dignified and humane. Its role in the care of individuals at the end of life has receded in the public debate over assisted suicide. Pro-life advocates should put it front and center.

‐ Trump is coming for your birth control, some women warned one another breathlessly on social media in the wake of his surprise election. Mainstream media outlets and Planned Parenthood stoked the hysteria, warning that “reproductive rights” were threatened and advising women to procure long-acting intrauterine devices that would outlast the Trump administration. What is in jeopardy is a regulation promulgated in 2012 under Obamacare that required health-insurance plans to provide birth control at zero out-of-pocket cost to consumers. Should Republicans repeal or modify that law, or simply withdraw that regulation, some insured women may have to pay more for birth control. Some Republicans, including Trump, have also called for oral contraception to be made available without prescription. No rights are being trampled here, and birth control will remain ubiquitous.

charter-school debate has just begun.

Rolling Stone magazine has been ordered to pay a $3 million judgment to Nicole Eramo, a former assistant dean at the University of Virginia, for defaming her in its sensational — and, as it turns out, entirely fictitious — account of a rape on the college’s campus. Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s now-infamous story was a classic of bad advocacy journalism: She combed through the nation’s college campuses collecting sexual-assault stories until she found one that fit all her narrative needs (southern school, fraternity assailants, callous administrators) and published it without really bothering to check out whether it checked out. The details of the story strained belief in a way reminiscent of the baroque elaboration of fantasies by toddlers and mentally ill people: Among other things, the purported victim claimed to have been thrown through a glass table and gang raped on the shards but to have miraculously walked away with no sign of physical injury. As with the case of the Duke lacrosse team, fraternities and sports clubs were demonized as stand-ins for “patriarchy” and “male privilege” and the rest of it, while the impressions of society’s victims and “victims” are elevated to the condition of absolute truth even when they are absolutely false. One of the lessons that should be taken from this episode is that rape is a crime, that deans of students and Rolling Stone writers are poor criminal investigators, and that these matters should be entrusted to police at the earliest possible stage.

‐ A California woman, Mariza Ruelas, was recently summoned to court for an unlikely crime: selling a plate of ceviche. Ruelas was a member of a community Facebook group, “209 Food Spot,” which allows residents of Stockton, Calif., to organize potluck meals, share recipes, and sell or exchange food. As a hobby, the mother of six began to trade or give away meals via the group, and in July she was summoned to court on the charges of operating a food facility and engaging in business without a permit, after an undercover investigator ordered ceviche from her as part of a sting. Ruelas refused a plea deal and now is headed to trial, facing up to one year in jail.

‐ Pope Francis recently flew to Sweden to commemorate Martin Luther’s contribution to the Reformation. That he so honored a movement founded on hostile repudiation of the office he holds was, from a historical perspective, no less remarkable than the warm welcome Swedish Protestants gave him: As recently as the mid 20th century, Catholics were barred from various professions in Sweden, and the founding of Catholic monasteries was prohibited by law. In 1999, the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation signed a joint declaration of agreement on the doctrine of justification, formally settling a dispute near the heart of the split between the Reformers and Rome in the 16th century. Comity between the two churches has been the rule in recent decades. Meanwhile, in an interview published only days after he returned from a prayer service with Lutherans in Malmö Arena, Francis turned, as he often does, on members of his own flock who prefer the Latin Mass. He called them “rigid” and chastised them for lacking “true love,” maintaining that enthusiasm for traditional liturgy “always hides something, insecurity or even something else.” We commend the Holy Father’s embrace of non-Catholic Christians but would remind him that charity begins at home.

‐ Young people who are, under the law, mature enough to drink alcohol, engage in sex, have an abortion, and call it all a busy weekend are not adult enough to bear the results of a presidential election and the peaceful transfer of power in a democratic republic. Across the country, there has been a wave of dopey protests about Trump’s electoral victory, though that victory was achieved in the ordinary way with no suggestion of unfairness or foul play — the students are simply unhappy with having lost. Classes and examinations have been canceled because students are too “distraught” to attend them. The University of Michigan planned and then was shamed into canceling an event at which adult men and women would be invited to console themselves with Play-Doh, coloring books, and puppies. The 26th Amendment isn’t looking like an obviously good innovation just now.

‐ The day after the election, Teresa Sullivan, president of the University of Virginia, sent an e-mail to students that quoted Thomas Jefferson, the university’s founder. University of Virginia students, Jefferson wrote in 1825, “are exactly the persons who are to succeed to the government of our country, and to rule its future enmities, its friendships and fortunes.” Those words could have come today from UVA’s admissions office (or any other college’s), yet within two days after Sullivan e-mailed them, 400-plus students and faculty members signed a letter of protest against quoting anything written by Jefferson because — you guessed it — he was a slaveowner. To be sure, Jefferson was a man of his time and place, and his appetites were stronger than his principles; it might indeed have been unwise if Sullivan had held him up uncritically “as a moral compass” (in the protesters’ words). But objecting so strongly to such an innocuous sentiment because the writer owned slaves reveals an inability to assess people in the context of their times — something of which students, and especially faculty, at such a historic university should be particularly mindful.

‐ You would expect that students at America’s oldest university would know that the Internet is forever, but the Harvard men’s soccer team still thought e-mail would be a good place to distribute a lurid “scouting report” on the sexual prospects of the college’s female players. The document leaked, of course, and resulted in an unsurprising overreaction by administrators, who launched an investigation and canceled the team’s season. Harvard has no problem with the underlying behavior but does not want students talking about it frankly. You can see why the students might have been confused about the rules.

‐ The restoration of the right to keep and bear arms was the work of many people, but perhaps no one was as important to it as Donald B. Kates. A lawyer, academic, and activist, Kates spearheaded much of the successful Second Amendment litigation of the late 20th century; without Kates, it is possible that the groundwork that resulted in the seminal D.C. v. Heller decision would never have been laid. And yet it was his peculiar talent for coalition building and evangelism that marked him out from the rest. Ask an opponent of gun control how he first became interested in the question and he will more often than not say, “Kates.” Had one predicted in 1970 that all 50 states would enjoy some form of concealed carry, that a strict handgun ban would be considered politically suicidal in the United States, and that the Supreme Court would unequivocally affirm an individual right to bear arms, one would in most circumstances have been laughed out of the room. But not by Kates. He was a man of vision and of action, and he will be missed. R I P.

‐ By his own admission, Leonard Cohen was not much of a singer. Only in his home country, Canada, said Cohen, could he have won “Vocalist of the Year.” Perhaps; that flat, beloved baritone was an acquired taste, but his voice, in a broader sense, was something else, wry, detached, literate, sardonic, fiercely intelligent, sometimes terribly sad. Even the moments of happiness came with a catch: “You know that she’s half crazy but that’s why you want to be there.” A child of his time, he spent decades “limping along” after spiritual truth; a child of his ancestors (one of his grandfathers was a noted rabbinical scholar), he did so with seriousness, spending years in a Zen monastery. (With characteristic precision, he noted that the latter involved no worship or god, “so theologically, there [was] no challenge to any Jewish belief.”) Robbed by his manager, he stepped up the tempo of his career in his final decade to make the money back (and more), recording new songs and, dapper in suit and fedora, returning to the road, staging a long, long last waltz that was too much fun to be autumnal. Just weeks before his death on November 7, Cohen released his last album, read by some as his farewell. Not long after, he told an interviewer that he intended “to stick around until 120.” If only. R.I.P.


President-Elect Trump

He did it. Donald Trump has won the biggest upset in American political history. In September, we suggested that Republicans redeploy resources from the presidential race to the House and Senate races, in part because of polls that indicated that to win Trump would have to make up more ground more rapidly than any previous successful presidential candidate had done. He made up that ground, aided by Hillary Clinton’s recklessness with an e-mail server and her general inadequacy. Our congratulations to President-elect Trump, and provisional congratulations to the millions of Americans who have invested their hopes in him.

During the campaign, Trump made many pledges: to nominate conservative justices, to crack down on illegal immigration, to reform the tax code, to protect religious liberty, and to replace Obamacare. His liberal history and his evident lack of interest in these issues created doubts among many conservatives. We hope he now proves us doubters wrong. To do that he will have to show a self-control that was not uniformly present during his campaign but that characterized his most successful moments.

Congressional Republicans, who retained a majority in both chambers, should do what they can to reinforce Trump’s better instincts. They should take “Trumpism” seriously but also temper it. To the extent that the election was a referendum on any issue, immigration was that issue. Trump originally gave voice to a restrictionist impulse on the part of the public and eventually reached the right position: for an entry/exit tracking system, stronger barriers at the border, and sanctions for businesses that hire illegal immigrants — but without either mass deportations or, until these policies are in place, amnesty. On that issue he should stick to the position on which he campaigned in the general election.

On trade, Trump has also carved out a distinctive position, but one that has less to recommend it. Further reductions in trade barriers may no longer be in the offing, but Trump should consider whether ripping up existing trade agreements and levying new tariffs will really yield results that enhance either our economy or his popularity.

His foreign policy has seemed like a work in progress. He has said he wants to pressure allies to contribute more to the common defense; but he also rightly criticized President Obama for making those allies less confident in our commitment to them. Achieving both of Trump’s goals seems likely to require delicate diplomacy. But if one of those goals has to be sacrificed, the alliances are worth their budgetary price. Needless to say, we also hope he adopts a more clear-eyed view of Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Finally, rounding out our list of Trump’s major departures from conservative policy orthodoxy, there is the matter of entitlements. Trump has declared himself against cuts. So be it. But if we are to avoid middle-class tax increases or rising debt, we will have to restrain the growth of benefits.

Impressive as Trump’s victory was — and it was extremely impressive — he was elected by a country that questions his temperament and his honesty. It has been a long time since Americans believed that a president would govern in the interests of the entire people, not just his favored slice of it, and that distrust has crested in this election. Here too he should try to prove his critics wrong. He hit grace notes in his speech on Election Night and he should continue to endeavor to show humility in his moment of triumph.


End of an Era

All the years of preparation, after the years of preparing for her first run; the millions and millions of dollars raised, twice what her opponent spent; the legions of consultants and the blizzard of endorsements, from politicians and celebrities alike — none of it was enough. All the queen’s horses and all the queen’s men could not pull Hillary Clinton over the line.

Clinton herself blames FBI director James Comey. His last-minute announcement in late October that the Bureau was reopening its investigation of her home-brew server thanks to newly discovered e-mails “stopped our momentum,” she told a post-election conference call of donors. It certainly revived the server as an issue, after Comey had seemingly put it to rest in July. Comey’s last-last-minute announcement in early November that there was nothing prosecutable in the new e-mails only picked at the scab. But Clinton herself set the server up, to conceal dodgy Clinton Foundation ties to official business. She violated protocol and the law, and when she was caught she lied about it. If Comey flung the fatal stone, she had put it out there in the first place.

But a campaign that can be killed by one thing was already ailing. The Democratic coalition that backed Barack Obama twice was not enough. Minority turnout fell off in some key states, notably Michigan. And while Clinton picked up white urban and suburban voters unhappy with Trump, they were matched by white small-town and rural voters excited by him. The Democrat who saw this problem, and urged the Clinton campaign to address it, was Bill Clinton himself, whose two victories had rested on the support of just such voters. But Clinton’s advice was dismissed as oldthink by younger advisers mesmerized by demographic trends. 

The great problem of Clinton’s campaign, however, was her lack of message. It showed in Clinton’s multiple debuts. It showed in the internal e-mails revealed by WikiLeaks in which her advisers scratched their heads over how to frame her. It showed, most bizarrely, in the report that Team Clinton toyed with 85 different slogans before hitting on — what was it, again? Stronger weather? Longer together? If you have 85 slogans, you have none, and no hope of finding one. In a change election she could offer only more of the same. To voters who had real worries about jobs and health care, she could offer only herself and her sex. Bernie Sanders gave her an opportunity to come up with a message, but she neither contradicted nor outbid him, she only ground him down.

America’s long entanglement with the Clinton family is over. Goodbye.


An Impaired Legacy

Among the biggest losers of the election was President Obama, whose streak of not being able to transfer his personal popularity to other Democrats remains unbroken.

He hoped Hillary Clinton would be his third term, playing George H. W. Bush to his Reagan. He campaigned for her robustly, and begged and even tried to shame his supporters into turning out for her, all for naught. Obama’s enduring contribution to our politics was supposed to be the so-called coalition of the ascendant, the bloc of minority, college-educated, and Millennial voters assumed to have the country’s political future in a headlock. These groups are indeed growing parts of the electorate and a challenge for the GOP going forward. But they aren’t the only voters in the country. Democrats forgot that this year. They acted as if they didn’t want even to bother to appeal to working-class whites, who contributed more to Obama’s victories than commonly thought.

The Democrats had already suffered historic losses at the state level and in the U.S. House under Obama’s watch. With the latest Republican wave holding the GOP majority in the U.S. Senate and delivering the White House, it is a total wipeout.

The consequences for the president’s legacy are profound, and very welcome. Two of the biggest legislative accomplishments of his first term in office, Obamacare and Dodd-Frank, are susceptible to repeal. Republicans will likely undo most of the health-care law early next year, which would represent the most consequential rollback of welfare-state legislation in the nation’s history.

After Republicans took Congress in 2010, President Obama didn’t tack to the center like Bill Clinton after his midterm rebuke in 1994, but drifted even farther left and resorted to unilateral rule. Much of his work as the nation’s self-appointed lawgiver can now be reversed when President Trump picks up his own pen and phone. The immigration orders, the HHS mandate, the environmental rules, the impositions on college campuses — all of it can be unspooled by a determined executive. The same goes for the Paris Accords on climate and the Iran deal, although these are obviously more complicated because they involve foreign actors.

President Obama’s ideological fixity and high-handedness have come home to roost. He will always be remembered as the nation’s first African-American president. But his substantive legacy could soon get whittled down to a nub, and politically, he could look like a parenthesis between Republican presidents, depending on the GOP’s fortunes over the next several years.

Obama was always supremely confident that history moved in only one direction. It is another one of his presumptions that have crumbled upon contact with reality.

NR Editors includes members of the editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

In This Issue


Politics & Policy


Politics in the Context of Christianity Ian Tuttle’s article “The Religious Right’s Demise” (November 7) argues that what is needed is an authentic Christian voice independent of politics. I agree. The ...
Politics & Policy

The Week

‐ We usually only worry about audits when Democratic presidents get elected. ‐ “We are now all rooting for his success in uniting and leading the country,” President Obama said of ...

Most Popular